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Cablegate: North Darfur's Arabs: Playing the Victim, Wanting a Seat At

VZCZCXRO8396
PP RUEHGI RUEHMA RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #0463/01 0901356
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 301356Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0334
INFO RUCNFUR/DARFUR COLLECTIVE
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 0121
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KHARTOUM 000463

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR AF/SPG, S/CRS
DEPT PLS PASS USAID FOR AFR/SUDAN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM KPKO SOCI AU UNSC SU
SUBJECT: NORTH DARFUR'S ARABS: PLAYING THE VICTIM, WANTING A SEAT AT
THE TABLE, AND HEDGING THEIR BETS

REF: A. KHARTOUM 80

B. KHARTOUM 267

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: On March 27, Darfur's northern Arab tribal
leaders told emboff that they are victims that should be included in
any negotiations on Darfur's future. In separate meetings the week
of March 23, UN staff, local NGOS, and leaders from other ethnic
groups emphasized that many of Darfur's Arabs continue to "hedge
their bets," with some traditional leaders and former militiamen
(such as Musa Hilal and Mohammed Hamdan) accepting government
positions and others keeping the government at an arm's length. END
SUMMARY.

VICTIMIZATION
- - - - - - -
2. (SBU) On March 27, four Arab leaders of North Darfur told
emboff that they, like other ethnic groups, have suffered in the
Darfur crisis. Hammad Abdalla Gibriel (from the Ireiqat tribe,)
Ahmed Abdalla Judalla (of the Etafat,) Abdalla Safi Al-Nur, and
Abdulrahman Mohamed Eisa (of the Mahariya) emphasized that Darfur's
Arabs are victims of insecurity, marginalization, and rebel attacks.
Gibriel named specific instances, some as recent as last week,
where rebels attacked Arabs, stole their livestock, and killed their
Arab brethren. Gibriel stated that some actions of the rebels, such
as stealing a water drilling rig, show that they do not truly care
about the development of the region, but only about themselves.

NEGOTIATIONS
- - - - - - -
3. (SBU) Gibriel and the other Arab tribal leaders emphasized that
they have been marginalized in the political process by many rebel
groups and other ethnic groups. He added that the AU, the UN, and
any other body that engages in Darfur should include the Arabs in
negotiations. According to these leaders, the large number of Arabs
in Darfur make them an integral part of any discussion. According
to Gibriel, the Arabs are the majority in Darfur, comprising 62% of
the total population of Darfur, and between 30-55% of the population
in North Darfur. (COMMENT: These estimates appear very high, as
most analysts assert that the Fur comprise the majority of Darfur's
population but no one knows for sure. END COMMENT.)

4. (SBU) On March 22, Gerard McHugh, an officer for the African
Union-United Nations Joint Mediation Support Team in El-Fasher, also
told emboffs that the Arab leaders should be given a place at
negotiations. "If we [the UN] do not give the Arabs a voice, it is
going to come back to haunt us," stated McHugh.

RELATIONSHIP WITH GOVERNMENT
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
5. (SBU) In working with the Government of Sudan, Gibriel and the
other Arab leaders emphasized that their relationship with the GoS
is similar to other groups, where local and tribal leaders are
incorporated into the central government. They acknowledged that
the appointment of controversial figures to government positions
(such as Musa Hilal, see reftel A) may be perceived as an affront to
the international community. Nonetheless, these leaders said that
Hilal comes from a leading Arab family, and that tribal leaders have
always been incorporated into the government. Gibriel also
downplayed Hilal's involvement in Darfur's atrocities, stating that
"if you compare his crimes to others, it is nothing." The Arab
leaders also dismissed the idea that the government was trying to
buy off Musa Hilal's important (but internally divided) Mahamid
tribe, saying, "The only one that this affects is Musa."

6. (SBU) Discussing another prominent leader Arab militia leader,
Mohamed Hamdan (aka Hamati, reftel B), UNAMID's McHugh stated that
although Hamati is currently aligned with the government, he could
switch loyalties at any time. "Hamati is a tactical thinker, not
much of a strategist," said McHugh. McHugh said that one of the
UN's local employees and former Sudanese intelligence operative told
him that he knows Hamati quite well and that he is never loyal to
anyone but himself.

7. (SBU) Ahmed Bahr, of the North Darfur Legislative Council and a
supporter of SLM-Minnawi, claimed to emboff on March 27 that despite
representing "only five percent" of Darfur's population, the Arabs
have an incredible influence on the region and the state and
national governments. (Note: Although precise statistics are not
available, the five percent figure is far too low. The actual
figure is probably closer to forty percent in all of Darfur, and as
much as fifty percent in South Darfur where there is a large
concentration of Baggara Rizeigat. End note.) Bahr stated that the
Arabs are more heavily armed than any other group, and that the
government must therefore continue to cooperate with them in a very
cautious and pragmatic manner.


KHARTOUM 00000463 002 OF 002


8. (SBU) After naming a litany of rebel aggressions against their
tribes, Arab tribal leader Gibriel stated that the government needs
to come in with a stronger hand "to stop this chaos." All the Arab
tribal leaders strongly criticized the rebel movements, saying
"these so-called movements have more satellite phones than weapons."
They added that if the international community only let the GoS act
as it wishes, it could put an end to all of Darfur's problems once
and for all.

"HEDGING THEIR BETS"
- - - - - - - - - -
9. (SBU) UNAMID's McHugh emphasized to emboff that the Arab tribes
continue to "hedge their bets, as they are not sure whether they
will align with the government or join a devil's alliance with the
rebels." McHugh stated that the most natural ally for the Arabs are
the Fur, given their historical and cultural relationship with this
group. McHugh stated that many of the Arab tribes have very
informal alliances with other rebel groups, some of which are as
simple as "we will live in proximity and not attack one another."

10. (SBU) McHugh gave numerous examples of how Arab groups are
starting to assert themselves politically. He stated that in
El-Geneina a committee representing dozens of Arab tribes from the
region recently formed. In McHugh's analysis the creation of this
group signals that the Arabs of this region feel the pressure to
unite and put forth one voice. McHugh also said that the Habaniya
leadership in South Darfur, the Arab IDPs in Zalingi, and the North
Darfur Arab tribal council have all started to have a growing public
presence.

11. (SBU) Ahmed Adam Yousif, Manager of the Ajaweed Oraganization
for Peace and Reconciliation in El-Fasher, told emboff on March 19
that most of the Arabs who have turned against the GoS have migrated
to JEM or SLM-Nur. Like McHugh, Yousif stated that the Fur have had
close interaction with the Arab tribes and these cultural and
traditional affiliations may have attracted some disaffected Arabs
to the predominantly Fur SLM-Nur. Yousif claimed that all of the
Arab Rizeigat tribes hate Musa Hilal except for his own Mahamid
tribe. Yousif also asserted that the Arab tribes are not united and
have longstanding rivalries and grievances against one another.

COMMENT
- - - -
12. (SBU) The Arab leaders' call for a "stronger government hand"
in the region is perhaps the most telling indicator of their
relationship with the regime. Although North Darfur's Arabs fear
being made the ultimate scapegoats for Darfur's recent past and may
not be entirely satisfied with their situation, unlike many ethnic
groups they see a stronger government military presence in the
region as directly benefiting them. Although it is necessary to
include some Arab leaders in the peace process, giving them a seat
at the negotiating table will be a delicate endeavor. Although not
all Arabs were involved in Darfur's atrocities, some were, albeit at
the behest of their masters in Khartoum. However, Arab tribal
leaders need to be part of an overall solution, and we will continue
to urge the JMST and UNAMID to include the Arabs in their planned
(though as yet nascent) outreach to civil society groups in Darfur.

FERNANDEZ

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