Cablegate: North Kordofan Stressed by Neighboring Darfur Conflict


DE RUEHKH #0322/01 0641351
P 041351Z MAR 08





E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (U) SUMMARY: According to numerous Sudanese contacts on a
recent trip to the North Kordofan cities of El-Obeid and An-Nahud,
the Darfur conflict clearly is stressing the neighboring state's
economy and infrastructure. Although North Kordofan shares many of
the same factors that bred violence in Darfur, opinions differ as to
whether that conflict will spread more significantly. Many praise
the Hamar tribal chief's reconciliation program for former Darfur
rebels, stating that it could serve as a model for other tribal
leaders. END SUMMARY.

2. (U) In a variety of meetings in El-Obeid and An-Nahud with
econoff from February 20-24, all contacts emphasized that Darfur's
crisis hurts the North Kordofan economy, infrastructure, and
government, specifically noting reduced trade, the influx of
internally displaced persons (IDPs), and the strain they place on
government services. On February 21, the manager of An-Nahud's
agricultural crop market, Othman Muhammad Ali, told EconOff that he
has seen volume at the market reduced as Darfurian crop and
livestock exports to Kordofan have declined. He complained that
Kordofan's exports to Darfur, especially of sorghum, peanuts, and
general goods, had fallen significantly and affected his business.

3. (SBU) On February 23, Abu Agala El-Zagil of the Nahud
Information Center told econoff that a number of banks in western
North Kordofan, most notably in Ghebeish, decided to close and move
away after rebels attacked nearby areas. (Note: After An-Nahud,
Ghebeish is the second largest city in West Kordofan. In December
2006, JEM forces attacked Ghebeish killing 45 members of the Popular
Defense Forces, after which the Sudanese Armed Forces increased its
presence. End Note.) El-Zagil added that some traders are afraid
to travel in Western Kordofan and that their purchases from the
region have decreased significantly.

4. (U) According to local An-Nahud town commissioner Al-Sharif
Al-Fadil economic and cultural ties between Kordofan and Darfur have
been significantly reduced. Al-Fadil noted that trade between the
two regions is natural, as Kordofan was occupied by the Fur people
for centuries as part of the Fur sultanate. Al-Fadil, like others,
added that before the conflict, trade was significant between the
South Darfur capital of Nyala and An-Nahud.

5. (U) Contacts also stated that the influx of internally displaced
persons from Darfur into Kordofan has strained its infrastructure,
social fabric, and level of government services. In a February 21
meeting with econoff, North Kordofan's Minister of Health, Abd
Al-Hamid Moneim Mansour, estimated that there are "tens of thousands
of internally displaced persons from Darfur." He stated that
Kordofan always has been a bridge between many different parts of
the country, but that it is struggling to provide services to these
new residents. "The budget is not enough even to pay for basic
services for the people of Kordofan, let alone those from Darfur,"
said Mansour. On February 20, Al-Rashid Othman Al-Sayyed Abd
Al-Baqi, the General Secretary for the Sudanese Businessmen's
Association in North Kordofan State stated that squatter camps have
started to form outside of El-Obeid consisting primarily of Darfur

6. (U) According to contacts, many of the same factors that
triggered the Darfur conflict exist in Kordofan, including tribal
diversity, unresolved issues over grazing rights and agricultural
areas, years of drought, and a real water shortage. "The lack of
development is the reason for the war in Darfur. If we want to stop
Darfur's problems from spreading into Kordofan, we need
development," said Abd Al-Hamid Mansour, the Minister of Health of
N. Kordofan State. Mansour specifically noted the stress on areas
such as Dam Gamad, Ghebeish, and Wad Banda, where tens of thousands
of Darfur IDPs and years of drought strain limited resources.

7. (U) Muhammad Gomma of An-Nahud's Veteran's Association ("The
Martyrs Organization") noted that although the levels of violence in
Kordofan are low compared to Darfur, the people of his state also
suffer from violence within their borders. According to Gomma, 17
of those killed in the August 2007 Wad Banda attacks by JEM rebels
from Darfur were from Nahud. According to Gomma, (who has worked
with some of the rebels after their reintegration into society) many
rebels told him that they set their sights on Kordofan as it
provides the only direct paved road to Khartoum. "For the rebels,
Kordofan is the only way to attack the capital," stated Gomma.

8. (U) Other contacts were more optimistic, denying that widespread
conflict will spread into Kordofan. Dr. Salih Fadel El-Saeed, a
World Bank Projects coordinator and Kordofan native, told econoff
that the people of Kordofan are peaceful and their mentality differs
from those in Darfur. "We have confidence in the police, military
and security and they will stop the rebels from coming into
Kordofan," stated El-Saeed. Likewise, average citizens of El-Obeid,
such as three young unemployed college graduates (Nidal, Nizar, and
Muhammad) told econoff at a small tea stand in downtown El-Obeid
that although they are very frustrated with the economy and their
futures, they do not see the rebels gaining support from young men
such as themselves in El-Obeid.

9. (U) All Kordofan contacts knew of native rebel groups (such as
the Kordofan Alliance for Development (KAD) and the Sons of Kordofan
Alliance (SKA) - reftel A) as well as prominent rebel leaders
hailing from North Kordofan such as Abu Rannat (a native of
An-Nahud) and these groups' relationship to the Justice and Equality
Movement. The NCP-appointed commissioner of An-Nahud stated that KAD
consists mostly of youth who have concluded they must fight for
development. He said that KAD leaders lack a wide following, and
many of them only recently returned to Sudan after years of hard
labor in Libya. "When they came back to Sudan, they felt as though
they deserved something and so they took up arms," stated Sharif.

10. (U) Almost all contacts were familiar with Brigadier General
Ibrahim Abu Rannat, a military commander of the Sons of Kordofan
Alliance (SKA) who integrated his forces with the Justice and
Equality Movement (JEM) in January 2008. According to Muhammad
Gomma, Abu Rannat lacks extended tribal or familial network in the
region, but he does have valued military experience, personal
charisma, and local knowledge. Kordofan's Minister of Health Abd
Al-Hamid Moneim Mansour, downplayed Abu Rannat's connection to
Kordofan, stating that although his grandfather was a mayor of
An-Nahud, his family left the area long ago. Abu Agala El-Zagil of
the An-Nahud Information Center agreed, "Abu Rannat is not close to
the people of Nahud and will not influence them. He does not have a
following in the area."

11. (U) On February 25, Dr. Tahir Adam, the Speaker of the
Legislative Council of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), told
econoff by satellite phone (reftel b) that Abu Rannat's leadership
is an asset to his movement. Adam, also a native of An-Nahud, said
that Abu Rannat has been a lifelong friend and that Abu Rannat's
education, military experience, and knowledge of An-Nahud will help
JEM's activities in Kordofan. Adam also stated that JEM intends to
carry out more operations in Kordofan's oilfields, in the Nuba
mountains and near the cities of An-Nahud and El-Obeid.

12. (U) Many contacts praised a reconciliation effort led by the
local commissioner, the Hamar Tribal Chief (overseeing the largest
tribe in North Kordofan), and seventy other local leaders. On
January 21, An-Nahud held a public ceremony for eight rebels who
rejoined society after being pardoned by the State. According to
Muhammad Gomma, an individual who has worked to re-integrate former
rebels into society, the reformed rebels include: Hassan Hamad
Al-Neel, a former senior rebel leader (who after the signing of the
DPA defected from SLM-Minnawi to the JEM Collective Leadership of
Bahar Abu Garda); Mohamed Bilal, a former Secretary General of KAD;
Mohamed Abdel Ghani, a former military general in JEM; and several
other individuals. Gomma stated that there are five other reformed
rebels currently in Ghebeish, who have received a general pardon
from the state as well as a compensation package (including a car
for the group, property, and possible government jobs). Gomma
stated that these former rebels have been forgiven by their fellow
citizens, although some of them had participated in the Wad Banda
and Ghebeish attacks that led to the deaths of many individuals.

13. (U) According to Abd Al-Gadir Moniem Mansour, his position as
the Nazir (Tribal Chief) of the Hamar Tribe makes him the best
negotiator with these rebels, giving him the added authority
necessary to gain their trust. "Darfur's problems are due to the
lack of local authority and weak government systems that have
attempted to replace the traditional system. The traditional
authority needs to be empowered." Separately, Gomma of the
Veteran's Association agreed saying, "Traditional leaders have a
role to play in reconciliation. They are respected, but are not too
closely associated with the government." Gomma cautioned, however,
that the official pardon and the compensation package must first
come from the state.
14. (U) Mansour said that after the initial success of his
reconciliation program, he has continued his work by calling rebels
on their satellite phones, meeting them in person, and providing
religious, tribal, and civic justifications for them to turn away
from violence. Mansour stated that he has convinced hundreds of
rebels to lay down their arms. While he has received some state
support, Mansour said that he could do more if the government
provided more financial, moral, and logistical support. "What
people forget," stated Mansour, "is that forgiveness has to be an
important part of the solution to Darfur's problems."

15. (U) Abu Agala El-Zagil of the An-Nahud Information Center
criticized the reconciliation program, charging that the Nazir is
overstepping his authority. "Security is not the role of the Nazir,
and this is much bigger than anything he can do," said El-Zagil.
According to El-Zagil, most of the rebels are greedy individuals,
and the compensation packages they receive will only encourage
others to join rebel movements. Dr. Abdel Daiem Abdel Salam of the
Information Media Department at Western Kordofan University agreed,
saying "The reconciliation efforts are just propaganda, and these
rebels should not be rewarded for what they have done, especially
with money, land and jobs. For every eight that return to society
in this program, another 16 will join the movement."

16. (U) Some rebel leaders have rejected these small initiatives,
seeking a more comprehensive reconciliation program. On February 25,
2008 "Akhbar Al-Youm" reported that KAD military leader Mohamed
El-Balil Eisa speaking in Chad, tentatively agreed to begin a
dialogue with the Government of Sudan. Although recognizing the
efforts of the Hamar Nazir, Eisa stated that the effort should be
bigger than selective negotiations with individuals like Hassan
Hamad El-Nil and others who defected from KAD. Eisa stated that
North and South Kordofan should be looked at holistically ("from the
south in Abeyi to the north in Sodari, and the east in Jabra to the
west El-Toboon,") and not just from the perspective of the Hamar
tribe. According to Eisa, the people of Kordofan do not seek power,
but they do not want to be neglected while peace agreements (such as
the CPA, DPA and ESPA) provide support to other regions of Sudan.

17. (U) Dr. Tahir Adam, the Speaker of the Legislative Council of
the Justice Equality Movement (JEM) also criticized the
reconciliation program saying, "It is not going to work. It is
bigger than getting one or two individuals reintegrated into
society. The only option for the youth is to topple the

18. (SBU) COMMENT: Darfur's problems clearly put an economic and
social burden on Kordofan. However, measuring the exact extent of
that impact is difficult across this huge region. Some of our
contacts seemed to exaggerate this burden, believing that their
pleas will lead to more aid and attention. With respect to
security, El-Obeid is far from the Darfur border and rebel
operations conducted east of An-Nahud appear unlikely. If Darfur
rebels attempt to conduct operations this far into Kordofan, this
would be a significant development in the Darfur conflict - and
JEM's attempt to spread it into neighboring Kordofan. For it's
part, An-Nahud appears to be a dusty backwater, with an
underdeveloped water, electrical, and transportation network. If
infrastructure projects promised to An-Nahud are not delivered in
2008 (including the completion of the El-Obeid to An-Nahud road and
twenty-five kilometers of paved internal roads) An-Nahud could
inspire more young men from Kordofan to follow in the steps of their
native rebel leaders Abu Rannat and Tahir Adam.

19. (SBU) COMMENT CONTINUED: Mansour, the Hamar Tribal Chief,
should be commended for his reconciliation efforts and overall role
in Kordofan. Although until now he has not succeeded in returning
large numbers of rebels to society, he has been able to recruit
significant individuals within rebel movements. As president of the
Sudanese Tribal Association, Mansour may be able to encourage other
tribal leaders to follow his lead in bringing rebels back into


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