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Cablegate: Abyei Update: Unmis Observers Activities Restricted Before

VZCZCXRO5654
PP RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #0624 1141248
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 231248Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0631
INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS KHARTOUM 000624

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR S/E WILLIAMSON, AF/SPG
NESC FOR HUDSON AND PITTMAN
DEPT PLS PASS USAID FOR AFR/SUDAN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PREF EAID KPKO UNSC SU
SUBJECT: ABYEI UPDATE: UNMIS OBSERVERS ACTIVITIES RESTRICTED BEFORE
MANDATE ENDS

1. (SBU) The 14-day period during which UNMIS peacekeepers were
permitted to patrol outside of the town of Abyei ended on April 21,
without being renewed by Sudan's Joint Military Commission (JMC).
The JMC did grant UNMIS specific authority to travel from Abyei town
to Higlig in order to meet and escort convoys of returning IDPs
during the next eight weeks.

2. (SBU) Even during the 14 days period, UNMIS observers' ability
to operate north of the town was severely restricted by the SAF,
according to UN officials in Abyei. (One described it as
"negotiated access.") According to one UNMIS official, UN
peacekeepers were required to obtain clearance for patrols 24 hours
in advance and were restricted to travel along an agreed,
predetermined route. On patrol, observers were not able to
investigate immediately new reports of incidents. This severely
limited their ability to respond to reports in a flexible and timely
way.

3. (SBU) In response to the SAF's restrictions on UNMIS, the SPLA
responded by also restricting UNMIS' freedom to patrol to the south
of the town. SPLA officials told Juba Consul General Datta on April
21 that they were unwilling to provide access to their activities
without reciprocal access from the SAF. They further noted that the
current situation in Abyei is "normal", and stated that the SPLA is
not engaging in any unusual level of activity. Senior Misseriyya
Arab leaders told CDA Fernandez on April 21 in Khartoum that the
Charge's visit to Muglad had "bought some time" by calming
Misseriyya fears of being marginalized but that those "good
feelings" would not last forever.

4. (SBU) Comment: The announcement two weeks ago that UNMIS
observers would be able to patrol outside of Abyei town offered hope
that they would be able to reduce local tensions by providing some
transparency to the security situation there. There does seem to
have been an improvement in the overall atmosphere in Abyei, for a
variety of reasons. The failure to extend this mandate, plus the
restrictions imposed on UNMIS before it ended, means that
uncertainty and the resulting potential for conflict, either
intended or unintended, will continue. It is important for the
United States to keep highlighting the issue of Abyei and to
continue to counsel patience and progress on the ground to both the
Misseriyya and Ngok Dinka.

FERNANDEZ

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