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Cablegate: Violence Flares Again Along 1956 Border

VZCZCXYZ4245
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHKH #0308/01 0630720
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 030720Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0085
INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS KHARTOUM 000308

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR AF A/S FRAZER, SE WILLIAMSON AND AF/SPG
NSC FOR HUDSON AND PITTMAN
ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958:N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV PINS MOPS KDEM SU
SUBJECT: VIOLENCE FLARES AGAIN ALONG 1956 BORDER

REFS: A. KHARTOUM 256
B. KHARTOUM 298

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Violence has erupted again along the Kiir River in
Northern Bahr el Ghazal state, where supposedly non-Misseriya
Northern Popular Defense Forces have reportedly launched
simultaneous attacks against three separate SPLA positions.
Although calm returned after five hours of fighting, the SPLA Chief
of Staff canceled his international travel plans to address the
issue. According to SPLA sources, PDF commanders from outside of
Southern Kordofan state directed this latest violence, while a Ngok
Dinka-Misseriya peace pact withstood the fighting. The SPLA plans
to protest the attack at the March 4 Joint Defense Board, and
discuss possible UNMIS deployment to the area with appropriate UN
officials. Misseriyya leaders and local media paint a radically
different view of these events, claiming that they are the victims
of an aggressive SPLA. END SUMMARY.

"Significant and Worrisome" Attacks
-----------------------------------
2. (SBU) According to SPLA sources, On March 1, the SPLA sustained
simultaneous assaults against three of its positions along the Kiir
(Bahr el Arab) river in Northern Bahr el Ghazal state. SPLA Chief
of Staff General Oyai Deng Ajak termed the attacks "significant and
worrisome," and cancelled planned travel to Uganda to remain in
Southern Sudan and address the issue. Ajak told ConGen PolOff that
Popular Defense Forces launched the attacks from El-Meriam and
Muglad, Southern Kordofan, and that the SPLA sustained heavy
casualties during successive waves of attacks, but claimed "we
repulsed them completely following the fourth assault."

Local Peace Agreement Intact
----------------------------
3. (SBU) SPLA Major General Kuol Diem Kuol, Chairman of the Joint
Defense Board's Technical Secretariat, told ConGen PolOff that the
attacks were not orchestrated by Misseriya but consisted exclusively
of "mujahadeen" recruited from elsewhere in the North. He claimed
the forces were led by a Khartoum resident who worked as a
journalist for (radical, pro-Al-Qa'ida, virulently anti-SPLM) Al
Intibaha newspaper. He insisted that Misseriya were not involved in
the March 1 fighting, and described a recently brokered pact between
Misseriya chieftains and Ngok Dinka chieftains about transit and
grazing rights within the Muglad-Abyei-Agok corridor.

4. (SBU) Kuol asserted that Misseriya chiefs involved in recent
SAF-supported attacks against the SPLA have abandoned their
agreement with the Northern army, and cemented their defection "from
the ranks of war-mongers to supporters of peace" with a "peace
agreement" with Ngok Dinka chieftains the week of February 25. Kuol
said that joint delegations of Misseriya and Ngok Dinka chieftains
are currently holding briefing sessions with local affected
populations and erstwhile Misseriya militias throughout the western
region of Southern Kordofan state. In addition to explaining the
inter-tribal pact, Misseriya chiefs are advising people to refrain
from violence and "reject untrustworthy offers from Khartoum."

Massive Census Migration
-----------------------
5. (SBU) Asked about the possible motivation for fresh PDF
offensives, Kuol told ConGen PolOff that Southerners in Khartoum had
been planning a massive overland return to the Bahr el Ghazal region
in the weeks immediately preceding the national census. These
mainly are Southerners with school-age children who want to be
present in the South for the census, but who do not intend to remain
permanently, lest they interrupt their children's education. (NOTE:
Road connections between Southern Kordofan state and Northern Bahr
el Ghazal state remain one of the few easily traversable roads
connecting the North and South. The International Organization for
Migration (IOM) reported that Northern and Western Bahr el Ghazal
saw 240,000 returnees during the 2007 dry season. END NOTE.)

Situation Stabilized
--------------------
6. (SBU) SPLA Chief of Staff Ajak told ConGen PolOff that the
situation has stabilized along the river following five hours of
sustained attacks. Casualty reports reaching Ajak by 10:00PM on
March 1 indicated that at least a dozen SPLA soldiers required
medevac, and that at least 25 PDF had been killed. SPLA death tolls
had not yet been reported. Asked whether the SPLA Darfur brigade
from Aweil would be dispatched as reinforcements, Ajak responded
negatively, noting that "such action still would greatly complicate
their integration into the SPLA." (NOTE: Ex-PDF forces from South
Darfur were brought into the SPLA last October and are currently
being maintained as a separate unit co-located with the SPLA
division in Aweil. END NOTE.) Ajak noted that there are two
battalions in the vicinity of the attacks that remained unaffected
and could serve as reinforcements as necessary. In response to
questions about whether UNMIS deployment to the area would be of
value, the Chief of Staff agreed that it was an avenue that should
be explored and committed to raising it with CJMC Chairman General
Lidder directly - in addition to tabling it at the March 4 Joint
Defense Board.

7. (SBU) Meanwhile Misseriyya leaders in Khartoum totally rejected
the SPLA depiction of events (septel). They described themselves as
victims of aggressive, well-armed SPLA units seeking to create facts
on the ground in the contested Abyei region. They claim the fighting
was along the Kiir River in Abyei not in Bahr al-Ghazal state and
that the presence of SPLA units is a clear violation of the CPA.
Sudanese newspapers, especially "Akhbar al-Yawm" on page one on
March 3 printed details and photos of the 33 "martyrs" and 34
wounded (being cared for at Omdurman Military Hospital and the
Police Hospital) among Misseriyya herders killed and injured in the
clashes.

COMMENT
-------
8. (SBU) GOSS President Kiir has previously noted that violence
along the 1956 border has coincided with Joint Defense Board
meetings - the latest NCP tactic to control the meeting's agenda and
probe SPLA response to violence while many senior SPLA commanders
are outside of the South. More broadly, the March 1 attacks
coincide with organizing meetings for the SPLM National Convention
that have brought party luminaries from Foreign Minister Deng Alor
to Deputy Secretary General Yasir Arman to Juba - adding another
layer of stress to the already taxed GNU "junior partner." The shift
from Misseriya chieftains to "Northern muhajadeen" is significant,
if accurate. Not only does it suggest a more hard-line commitment
to violence by elements in Khartoum, but also shows the degree of
difficulty the NCP faces in recruiting local forces grown weary of
broken promises. The actual facts on the ground in distant Abyei,
however, remain murky. Misseriyya leaders in Khartoum and press
coverage depict ill-armed Misseriyya herders as victims of an
aggressive, well-armed SPLA operating north of the 1956 border

FERNANDEZ

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