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Cablegate: South Darfur Fighting Takes New Turn

VZCZCXRO5065
PP RUEHGI RUEHMA RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #0680 1260715
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 050715Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0719
INFO RUCNFUR/DARFUR COLLECTIVE
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 0196
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS KHARTOUM 000680

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 SU
SUBJECT: SOUTH DARFUR FIGHTING TAKES NEW TURN


1. (SBU) SUMMARY. A traditional rivalry between two clans in South
Darfur erupted in Sheiria, South Darfur, on April 30, with the
introduction of mortars into fighting between the sides in an IDP
camp. UNAMID leadership acknowledges this is the first time it has
heard of use of this type of weaponry in such a skirmish, and the
Ceasefire Commission initiated an investigation on May 1. Initial
reports of this incident point to Sudan Liberation Army/Minni Minawi
(SLA/MM) forces as the perpetrators. This movement was also
implicated in reports of fighting on the same day with janjaweed
elements, also in South Darfur, that led to the displacement of some
2,700 families. SLM/Minawi denies these allegations, attributing
the violence to Government-inspired retribution related to the
refusal of IDPs to participate in the census and Arab migrations in
South Darfur. END SUMMARY.

UNAMID CALLS USE OF MORTARS A "FIRST"
------------------------------------
2. (SBU) The United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID)
reported in its May 1 briefing that "heavy shooting" had occurred on
April 30 between Government of Sudan (GoS) forces and SLA/MM
fighters around Sheiria in South Darfur. UNAMID said mortars were
used in this incident, with one landing 200 meters from UNAMID
company headquarters located in that town. As a result of the
fighting, two people were killed in the Sheiria IDP camp, with
another ten wounded there, and an additional seven from Sheiria town
also wounded.

3. (SBU) UNAMID Chief of Staff said this is the first time he has
seen the use of mortars in this type of fighting. A representative
of the Ceasefire Commission told FieldOff after the briefing that
this was the first he had heard of the incident but that an
investigation would begin immediately.

SLA/MM DENIES INVOLVEMENT
-------------------------
4. (SBU) SLA/MM representatives in El Fasher (North Darfur) and
Nyala (South Darfur) adamantly deny any involvement in this
incident. Both El Fasher and Nyala reps confirmed the use of
mortars for shelling in the Sheiria IDP camp but noted that this
weapon was typically used by the GoS or by SLA/Free Will (with which
SLA/MM has been fighting in South Darfur and which is allegedly
equipped by the GoS). They also confirmed the number of IDPS killed
(two, including one woman) and wounded (ten).
5. (SBU) The El Fasher rep reported that an Arab militia from the
Birgit tribe (Popular Defense Forces/janjaweed) led by a retired
police general named Musa Jalis attacked the Sheiria IDPs, with
support from SLA/Free Will. This rep attributed the attack to a
form of "payback" for an attack by SLA/Unity against Birgit tribe
members in the village of Um Safati in Sania Afandu southeast of
Kalma IDP camp outside Nyala, South Darfur, three days earlier,
which led to the displacement of some reported 12,000 people (2,700
families) to Kalma.
6. (SBU) The Nyala rep, however, said the shooting was an extension
of the traditional rivalry between the Birgit and the Zaghawa
tribes, especially in South Darfur. He reported that those IDPs
killed and wounded were all Zaghawa. Both reps noted that the
incident happened in the vicinity of a GoS police station in the
camp but that the GoS did nothing to intervene, as was their
experience with the GoS in Sheiria. According to the Nyala rep, the
situation in Sheiria is now calm and under UNAMID control. UNAMID
military observers succeeded in negotiating IDP access to the
Sheiria water point, which the GoS had seized during the fighting.
The preliminary report of the Ceasefire Commission (CFC) on this
incident is expected May 4, to be reported septel, although CFC
interlocutors have already warned FieldOff that the report's
findings are "disappointing."
7. (SBU) In a May 3 conversation with Poloff, SLA Chairman Minni
Minawi claimed that the fighting in Sheiria was inspired by the
Birgit tribesman, with support from the GoS, as retribution for the
refusal of Sheiria's IDPs to participate in the census. He also
noted that fighting between the Arab Maalia tribe and the Zaghawa
south of Nyala has resumed in the recent weeks.
8. (SBU) Comment: Maalia-Zaghawa tensions in this area occur
annually before the rainy season as the Maalia migrate south and
impinge on Zaghawa land. This fighting may be linked to the
instability that caused the recent displacements to Kalma camp. In
addition, census non-participation seems to be a popular excuse for
GoS action against rebel movements resulting in civilian collateral
damage during the past week throughout Darfur, not only in the
Sheiria incident in South Darfur but in aerial bombardments in North
Darfur as well (septel).
FERNANDEZ

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