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Cablegate: Splm's Shifting Response to Jem Attack

VZCZCXRO3150
OO RUEHGI RUEHMA RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #0729/01 1341520
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 131520Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0807
INFO RUCNFUR/DARFUR COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
RUEHTRO/AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI 0360

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KHARTOUM 000729

DEPT FOR AF A/S FRAZER, S/E WILLIAMSON AND AF/SPG, AF/C
ADDIS ABABA ALSO FOR USAU
NSC FOR PITTMAN AND HUDSON

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV MOPS KPKO AU UN SU CD
SUBJECT: SPLM'S SHIFTING RESPONSE TO JEM ATTACK

REF: KHARTOUM 718

KHARTOUM 00000729 001.2 OF 002


-------
Summary
-------

1. (SBU) The SPLM's reaction to the May 10 JEM attack on Omdurman
has shifted from private glee to deep concern. Any admiration for
JEM's ability to achieve what eluded the SPLA during 21 years of war
with Northern Sudan Party has been muted by fears of a National
Congress Party (NCP) backlash against Darfuris and continuing
divisions within the SPLM about the role--if any--it should play in
the aftermath of the crisis. The SPLM continues (unsuccessfully) to
attempt to contact JEM leader Khalil Ibrahim and denies JEM's
assertions that the two parties discussed a post-NCP administration
prior to the attack. End summary.

----------------------------
Private Glee to Deep Concern
----------------------------

2. (SBU) Less then 24 hours after First Vice President and
Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS) President Salva Kiir Mayardit's
return from a brief visit to Khartoum following the May 10 rebel
attack on Omdurman, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement's
(SPLM)'s attitude to the Justice and Equality Movement's (JEM)
assault had turned from private glee to deep concern. With news of
Popular Congress Party (PCP) leader Hassan al-Turabi's arrest and
the detention of Zaghawa civilians in the capital, SPLM officials
are preoccupied with fears of a National Congress Party (NCP)
backlash against Darfuris and continuing divisions within the party
about the role--if any--it should play in the aftermath of the
crisis. On the heels of the SPLM's National Convention, party fault
lines are appearing over the degree of SPLM engagement: should Kiir
seize a chance to be presidential or is this a problem of the NCP's
own creation?

--------------------------------------
Kiir's Initial Rebuff of National Role
--------------------------------------

3.(SBU) Kiir has not yet chosen a set course of action and has
remained open to select intra-party counsel. On May 10, he rebuffed
Vice President Ali Osman Taha's request for the Sudan People's
Liberation Army (SPLA) to deploy north of the 1956 border, citing
the Comprehensive Peace Agreement's (CPA) security provisions. He
also requested that the NCP prove that Chad supported the rebel
attack before severing relations with N'djamena. Kiir similarly
turned down two requests to serve as acting president while Omer Al
Bashir was in Mecca, noting to advisors his concern that the SPLM
would be drawn into a fight against Darfuris.

--------------------
Intra-SPLM Divisions
--------------------

4. (SBU) GoSS Vice President Riek Machar's increasingly bold
machinations within the SPLM have colored Kiir's calculations,
according to party insiders. Concerned that Machar would use Kiir's
departure from Juba on May 11 to further his own political agenda,
he initially opted against travel to Khartoum. On the night of May
10, Blue Nile Governor and SPLM Vice Chairman Malik Agar, SPLM
Deputy Secretary General Yasir Arman, SPLM Deputy Secretary General
Abdelaziz el Helou and Foreign Minister Deng Alor spent three hours
pressing Kiir to reconsider. El Helou used a separate meeting with
Kiir to encourage outreach to Senior Assistant to the President and
Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) leader Minni Minawi, a Zaghawa.
GOSS Minister for Presidential Affairs Luka Biong Deng later told
Acting CG that he was unhappy with Kiir's decision to travel to
Khartoum on May 11, following Bashir's return to Sudan. Others from
within the party's secessionist wing expressed similar concerns,
underscoring their belief that the SPLM Convention and the effort to
amend the party's constitution (septel) had a far greater order of
importance than the troubles in Khartoum.

5. (SBU) With intra-party divisions sharpening slightly along
"activist-Northerner" and "isolationist Southerner" lines, small
developments have occurred that appear to give those "New Sudanists"
within the party an edge. Advisors state that Kiir has referred
with pride to Bashir's second trip to the podium following his May
11 press conference to single out and thank Kiir for his leadership
and assistance during the crisis. Arman said Kiir's May 12
appearance in Khartoum has helped the SPLM to "reassert its appeal
among Northerners." (Note: SPLM Northerners such as Yasir Arman are
desperate to see the party maintain its national vision. End note.)

--------------------

KHARTOUM 00000729 002.2 OF 002


SPLM Outreach to JEM
--------------------

6. (SBU) The SPLM has not succeeded in facilitating a peace process
with JEM. While Kiir continues to support Agar's outreach to JEM
leader Khalil Ibrahim, Agar's calls have not been answered or
returned. Agar believes that Ibrahim fears that the security
services will trace his location and is unlikely to take a call from
"those already under active surveillance" like so many within the
SPLM. (Note: Since the May 10 attack, Ibrahim has taken calls from
several journalists, based both in and outside of Sudan. End note.)
Helou's contact with JEM has been limited to Ibrahim's brother (and
money man), Gibriel. El Helou told Acting CG his relationship with
Gibriel was easier to maintain: Ibrahim remains resistant to SPLM
overtures because of ideological differences, while Gibriel explains
his contact with the SPLM to Ibrahim in a "less threatening
(manner)--wise, elder, familial counsel." El Helou and Gibriel last
spoke in mid-April while Gibriel was in Ndjamena. Though JEM has
claimed since the attack that it contacted the SPLM prior to May 10
to plan for a post-NCP political transition, El Helou reports that
Gibriel did not mention the plot during that conversation.

------------------------------
Concern for Civilian Reprisals
------------------------------

7. (SBU) El Helou in particular remains concerned about forthcoming
SAF reprisals against "any and all Zaghawa" and pressed Kiir to meet
privately with Minawi but in a way that made the NCP aware of the
meeting. (Note: According to Minawi, his first conversation with
the SPLM about the JEM attack occurred on May 11. Kiir did not meet
with him privately during his May 11 visit to Khartoum. End note.)
"You have to be aware of how these people think," El Helou said,
referring to the NCP. "They can be effortlessly brutal." He
recalled the 1976 attack on the capital when Darfuri mercenaries
held Khartoum for three days. El Helou described this incident as
the playbook for Ibrahim's recent operation and expressed concern
about the potential for NCP retaliatory operations based on the
Government's reaction in 1976. Following that attack, the security
services detainees 6,000 Darfuris, dug a pit, and buried them alive,
according to Helou.

8. (SBU) Recent actions by the security organs in Khartoum have
pushed the SPLM to talk publicly about "shielding Minawi and his
people" from reprisals. Some within the party, including Jonglei
Governor Kuol Manieng, Interim Administrator for Abyei Edward Lino,
and Lakes State Governor Daniel Awet said on the margins of the May
12 SPLM Interim National Council meeting in Juba that the party--"as
protectors of the marginalized"--must both speak out and act against
further violence or arrests targeting innocent civilians in the
capital.

9. (U) Tripoli minimize considered.

FERNANDEZ

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