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Cablegate: Splm Mp On Possible Abyei Agreement, Border Clash

VZCZCXYZ2284
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHKH #0328/01 0651448
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 051448Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0123
RUCNFUR/DARFUR COLLECTIVE
RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS KHARTOUM 000328

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR AF S/E WILLIAMSON, AF/SPG
NSC FOR BPITTMAN AND CHUDSON
DEPT PLS PASS USAID FOR AFR

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PREF PHUM SOCI MOPS SU
SUBJECT: SPLM MP ON POSSIBLE ABYEI AGREEMENT, BORDER CLASH

REF: A. KHARTOUM 313

B. KHARTOUM 308
C. KHARTOUM 256

1. (SBU) Summary: According to ethnic-Misseriya SPLM MP Mohamed
Gour, the most recent armed clash in the Abyei region was the result
of growing friction between poorly disciplined local SPLA units and
young Misseriya herdsmen. He confirmed that the SPLM and NCP have
reached agreement on a joint administration of Abyei and said he
will help SPLM-appointed administrator Edward Lino hold workshops in
the area to inform the public and reduce ethnic tensions. He
asserted that there is no fundamental conflict between Abyei's
Misseriya and Ngok Dinka and that a long-term resolution will be
worked out locally between the two groups and not between Khartoum
and Juba. End Summary.

NCP and SPLM Agree on Abyei Administration
------------------------------------------
2. (SBU) On March 4, Econoff and Political FSN met with Mohamed
Gour, an ethnic Misseriya from Abyei and an SPLM member of the
National Assembly representing the region. Gour confirmed reports
that the NCP and the SPLM have reached an agreement on the disputed
administration of Abyei and that Pagan Amun and Deng Alor have flown
to Juba to brief GoSS President Salva Kiir.

3. (SBU) Gour stated that he did not know the specifics of the
agreement, but said he hopes that it will lead to peace. (Note:
Other sources indicate that the agreement provides for an
SPLM-appointed administrator (Edward Lino) and an NCP-appointed
deputy. SPLM and NCP will divide positions in Lino's cabinet. As
far as we know there is no agreement yet on Abyei's northern border,
which Deng Alor told SE Williamson last week was the sticking point.
End Note.) Gour added he will assist Edward Lino in organizing a
workshop in Abyei to inform the population and reduce tensions.

Escalating Provocations Lead to Violent Clash
---------------------------------------------
4. (SBU) Gour blamed the most recent, March 1 clash along the 1956
border (refs. a and b) on gradually escalating mutual taunts and
provocations between local SPLA units and young Misseriya herdsman.
According to Gour, this culminated on March 1 when poorly
disciplined SPLA soldiers began shooting Misseriya cattle, provoking
a violent response from the herdsmen.

5. (SBU) Tensions between herdsmen and the SPLA have been growing
for some time, however, as local SPLA commanders have been demanding
that Misseriya, migrating south with their cattle, surrender their
arms (consisting mostly, Gour said, of hunting weapons) and pay 5
Sudanese Pounds per cow before crossing the border to graze in Bahr
el Ghazal. The herdsmen refused both, saying they need the arms to
protect themselves and their cattle. They also strongly suspect
that the money was going into the pockets of the SPLA commanders and
not to the Government of South Sudan.

We can Get Along If Left Alone
------------------------------
6. (SBU) According to Gour, there is no fundamental conflict
between Abyei's ethnic Misseriya and Ngok Dinka. The two groups
have lived side-by-side for decades, often caring for each other's
children. Gour blamed outside interference for the decline in
relations. He said that the NCP, alarmed by the SPLA's success in
recruiting Misseriya, have been inciting the tribe against the Ngok
Dinka with claims that their access to grazing lands south of the
1956 boundary will be blocked and that the "infidels" will push them
off land further north. To counter SPLA recruitment, the NCP also
has been paying 1000 Sudanese Pound (500 US dollars) bounties to
volunteers for the Popular Defense Force militias.

7. (SBU) Gour asserted that the interests of the Misseriya lie with
the SPLM and the South, rather than with the NCP and the North. The
Misseriya spend nine months a year grazing their cattle south of the
1956 border. Gour and others originally were attracted to the SPLM
by John Garang's vision of a united, democratic Sudan that can
accommodate marginalized groups. No one has been more marginalized
in Sudan than the Misseriya.

Only a Locally-Achieved Solution Will Stick
-------------------------------------------
8. (SBU) Gour repeated his view (ref c) that any long-term solution
to the Abyei issue must be based on a local understanding between
Ngok Dinka and Misseriya. He is confident that, using traditional
means of consultation, the two groups will be able to find a means
to accommodate each other's concerns. He contended that Khartoum
and Juba cannot reach an independent agreement based on their own
interests and expect to make it stick in Abyei.
Comment
-------
9. (SBU) Gour provides yet another version of the immediate causes
of the March 1 violence: essentially a clash of trigger-happy young
hotheads with guns. (This tracks with ref. a statement that the
Misseriya casualties "were just children.") This is a situation
which could well recur anytime in the future. (Also worth noting is
his insight that any SPLM-NCP accommodation on Abyei that does not
take into account the views and interests of the local population
will not endure for long.) Gour's account differs from continued
SPLA reports in Juba that the clashes are caused primarily by
Misseriya PDF armed by the SAF. That certainly seems to have been
the case in the last two months when fighting began, caused in part
by seasonal migration of the Misseriya herdsmen. However Gour
himself is a member of the SPLM, and provides a more nuanced view of
the most recent fighting there, which appears to have been caused by
unruly SPLA soldiers north of the 1956 border.

FERNANDEZ

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