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Cablegate: Movements Expect Gos Retaliation in Darfur

VZCZCXRO4360
OO RUEHGI RUEHMA RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #0736/01 1351536
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 141536Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0817
INFO RUCNFUR/DARFUR COLLECTIVE
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 0216
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 KHARTOUM 000736

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

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

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM KPKO SOCI AU SU CD UNSC

SUBJECT: MOVEMENTS EXPECT GOS RETALIATION IN DARFUR

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. Darfur representatives of Sudan Liberation
Army/Minni Minawi (SLA/MM) expect Government of Sudan (GoS) to
retaliate against Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) positions in
Darfur for JEM having exposed the GoS' military weakness,
particularly by allegedly killing officers at the Wadi Sayedna
military base. Airports in the three main Darfur cities were closed
until 1500 hours May 13, after the GoS claimed to have intercepted
communications indicating that the governments of Chad and Libya
would attempt to airlift JEM leader Khalil Ibrahim from Sudan. A
prominent El Fasher representative of the Popular Congress Party
speculated that JEM's brazen attack would buy a reprieve for
Darfurians after weeks of attacks, with further assaults against
Khartoum if GoS officials do not agree to talks with the movements.
Conversations with JEM imply that field commanders will be back in
JEM's Jebel Moun stronghold by May 14, and JEM reps continue to
insist that their movement is in a "good position." END SUMMARY.

SLA/MM UNSURPRISED AND IMPRESSED BY JEM ATTACK
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

2. (SBU) In a May 13 meeting, El Fasher and Khor Abeche
representatives of SLA/MM told FieldOff that it was only a matter of
time before JEM launched an attack on Khartoum, especially in the
wake of attacks by Chadian rebels in N'djamena earlier in the year.
With Chadian President Deby firmly in power, largely due to JEM
support, the time was right for the GoC to take the offensive by
using JEM to destabilize the GoS, as that regime had used Chadian
rebels to destabilize the GoC.

3. (SBU) Like other Darfur movements, SLA/MM reps were impressed by
JEM's ability to strike at the heart of the GoS in its first try,
something that they claimed is leading to a "superiority complex"
among arrogant JEM members. One rep relayed a recent sentiment
among Darfurians that the SLA first had to take El Fasher
(overrunning the airport in 2004) before moving onwards and upwards
to Khartoum, whereas Khalil went straight to Khartoum in his first
attempt, skipping the Darfur step. Both reps believed that Khalil
had never intended to take control of Khartoum in this first go,
since JEM lacked the support of the Arab regime there and of the
three main Nile Valley Arab tribes, all necessary for a successful
coup attempt. If Khalil is to retain control of Khartoum, the reps
said, "he is going to need Sudan Armed Forces' and militias'
complicity," implying that JEM would have to infiltrate military
ranks and exploit GoS contacts, as it is already assumed to be
doing.

4. (SBU) Reps agreed with FieldOff's speculation that JEM might
actually be doing the process in reverse, going for Khartoum as a
diversion, while concentrating efforts on overrunning Darfur or
Kordofan next [NOTE: UNAMID leadership, including the Force
Commander, Deputy Force Commander and Chief of Staff all consider
this to be the case. The Force Commander also theorizes that the
GoS consciously let JEM get as close as it did in order to expose
and purge its own military ranks and security organs of potential
JEM infiltrators and sympathizers. END NOTE]. JEM reps indicated
to FieldOff on May 13 that JEM field commanders would be back in
Jebel Moun by May 14, likely in preparation for a forthcoming attack
in West Darfur.

5. (SBU) Both reps consider the JEM attack a success, as it conveyed
the message to the GoS that Darfuris are able to threaten Khartoum
and that the GoS needs to take the peace process more seriously.
FieldOff noted the inherent contradiction in JEM's using military
means to advance the prospects for negotiation, but the rebel reps
asserted that military force is the only way to get the Government's
attention. JEM's success in doing so, they insisted, empowers other
rebel movements to follow JEM's lead: not by joining JEM's ranks,
but rather by consolidating under a common umbrella (the Minni reps
thought it would be under SLA), coordinating (but not joining) with
JEM, and then confronting the GoS. SLA/MM reps noted that some SLA
non-signatory movements and commanders had expressed their support
for JEM after the May 9-10 attacks, pointing out that in times like
these, "ideologies are flexible." The reps expressed concern that
defections from SLA/MM's own ranks to JEM would increase after JEM's
"success." The reps doubted that JEM is actually against other
movements, as it has claimed in the press, but rather against the
proliferation of movements, which would complicate prospects for
peace talks.

PCP: FORCE MUST BE DEFEATED BY FORCE
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
6. (SBU) In a separate May 13 meeting, a prominent Popular Congress
Party (PCP) representative in El Fasher agreed that JEM had not
aimed to take the capital with its brazen offensive. Instead, he
reasoned, Khalil wanted to send the message that he is perfectly
capable of taking the Darfur fight to the GoS' own backyard, and is

KHARTOUM 00000736 002 OF 003


no longer content for Darfurian suffering to remain hidden in the
desert. The PCP rep seemed delighted by the results of the attack
and reveled in recounting a 2004 incident, during which he explained
he had run into a visiting GoS official after a bombing attack in
Darfur. The PCP rep said he had not yet washed his own hands from
burying relatives when the GoS official smugly told him that no one
in Khartoum was affected by the death and destruction in Darfur.
"Maybe now they are affected!" the PCP rep roared. Although his
party officially disavowed violence, he respected Khalil's efforts
to bring about change in a "brutal" regime, stating bluntly, "Force
must be defeated by force." JEM leader Ibrahim was once the protg
of PCP leader Hassan al-Turabi.


EXPECT GOS RETALIATION IN DARFUR
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
7. (SBU) Emboldened JEM reps told FieldOff the evening of May 12
that JEM planned to "attack everywhere in Darfur," and SLA/MM reps
did not discount this possibility, particularly in West Darfur,
where they suspect the GoS would round up militias and target JEM
areas in retaliation for JEM's killing of several officers at the
GoS military base Wadi Sayedna, an especially humiliating defeat for
the GoS. Airports in the three main Darfur cities were closed after
the GoS claimed to have intercepted communications between Chad,
Libya and JEM leader Khalil Ibrahim indicating the two governments
would attempt to airlift Khalil from Sudan. They doubted that JEM
would launch significaQttacks in either El Geneina or El Fasher,
as that would result in civilian casualties/collateral damage for
which JEM would prefer to see the GoS take the blame.

8. (SBU) In addition to likely aerial strikes, SLA/MM reps predicted
that GoS detention of alleged JEM supporters would continue. The
reps noted that they had a list of approximately 18 Furs and
Zaghawas (the tribe to which Deby, Minni and Khalil all belong) who
had been arrested in Khartoum as a result of the GoS crackdown after
the JEM attack (actually, many more were arrested). They noted that
Popular Congress Party leader and closet JEM supporter Hassan
al-Turabi, who was arrested in Khartoum on May 12, was released only
"because he is Arab." One of the reps further explained that it is
not politically advantageous for President Bashir to detain Turabi
because Bashir needs "as much political support as he can get right
now" and accordingly does not want to be seen as cracking down even
on opposition parties. Therefore, they speculated that the GoS will
renew its "honeymoon" with Minni in the coming days [NOTE:
Addressing rumors of collaboration between Turabi and Khalil, the
PCP rep denied that the two had spoken "in recent memory." He was
less adamant when asked about more general ties between the two,
refusing to confirm or deny links between his party and JEM. END
NOTE].

9. (SBU) The SLA reps also speculated that the GoS propaganda
campaign would continue as part of its effort to discredit Darfuris
and minimize the effects of JEM's offensive. They noted that
television footage of the Khartoum events featured those taken
prisoner in the aftermath of the JEM attack as "Africans," in order
to play to an allegedly racist Khartoum-Arab audience that would
never deem these "black" prisoners, who came from the field and who
could not speak Arabic (only Zaghawa in some cases), capable of
leading the Sudanese government. The reps said the GoS similarly
exploits the Chadian elements it has captured by parading them in
front of TV cameras to show that JEM's ties are closer to Chad than
to Sudan, as it had to resort to using foreign fighters in its push
on Khartoum.

CHAD STILL "OWES" GOS
- - - - - - - - - -
10. (SBU) The PCP rep was not convinced that any group, GoS or
rebel, would attack targets in Darfur. Every Darfurian knows that
the GoS directly engaged in and supported three separate attacks on
the Chadian capital, he said. Even if Chad did assist with the
attack on Khartoum, GoC still "owed" the GoS two further incursions
before the score would be settled. In its weakened state, he
reasoned, the GoS would not risk clashing with Chad, which is still
supporting and supported by JEM efforts. As such, Darfurians would
benefit from a badly needed, although possibly brief, respite. The
PCP rep believed that JEM would wait to see if its assault would
bring the GoS to the negotiating table, and if not, it would resume
attacks on the capital rather than in Darfur.

COMMENT
- - - -
11. (SBU) Darfuri conspiracy theories abound in the absence of
concrete, credible information about JEM's next move. That the JEM
offensive could have the unintended consequence of doing what myriad
mediators could not - unite the rebels - is enticing, but not likely
to extend beyond the imaginary realm. It is one thing to

KHARTOUM 00000736 003 OF 003


consolidate under a common umbrella on the battlefield, but quite
another to do so on issues of power -- and wealth-shQg. The idea
the movements have about the power of JEM's offensive to force the
GoS to the negotiating table seems illogical, as the Government
would be loathe to talk peace while still licking its war wounds.
There is little doubt that the Khartoum regime will respond to JEM
and Chad. The international community can do much to deter this
confrontation from visiting even more misery on the long suffering
people of Darfur and Eastern Chad in a crisis between two unsavory
regimes and their equally dubious surrogates. END COMMENT.

FERNANDEZ

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