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Cablegate: Splm Takes the High Road in Abyei

VZCZCXRO7738
OO RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #0772/01 1401518
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 191518Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0871
RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KHARTOUM 000772

DEPT FOR AF A/S FRAZER, SE WILLIAMSON, AF/SPG
NSC FOR HUDSON AND PITTMAN
DEPT PLS PASS USAID FOR AFR/SUDAN
ADDIS ABABA ALSO FOR USAU

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PREF EAID KPKO SU
SUBJECT: SPLM TAKES THE HIGH ROAD IN ABYEI

REFS: A. KHARTOUM 737
B. KHARTOUM 745

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: The SPLM is using the current humanitarian and
security crisis in Aryei town"tk highlighd NCQ intrajsigefce"of thQJAbiai kssue"ane pmucD gvrnbu3t$~dg^qsvQh4 eQu)ktfb&'bl$XalQ
ibmtneIa.aAa%jQjnQwxo 'cYb@,aQhd]cm"~7Qkdf.oth+,sFQ_px(hV\Q^"G"ldtr ies to
respond to the humanitarian crisis, and engaging the Government of
South Sudan to do the same. With insecurity still present North of
Abyei town, and fresh SAF deployments reported by UNMIS, the South
also is becoming the operating base for relief to Abyei. END
SUMMARY.

2. (U) One day after returning from touring the disputed area, GOSS
Minister for Presidential Affairs Luka Biong Deng and SPLM
Administrator for Abyei Edward Lino briefed assembled foreign
nationals on the evolving Abyei situation. GNU Minister for
Humanitarian Affairs Haroun Run Lual, GOSS Minister for Regional
Cooperation Barnaba Benjamin, and Southern Sudan Rehabilitation and
Relief Commissioner Simon Koon also participated.

Extended Humanitarian Crisis
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
3. (SBU) Presidential Affairs Minister Deng forecast an extended
humanitarian crisis exacerbated by continued SAF presence in and
near Abyei town, the coming rainy season, and because the majority
of the estimated 106,000 affected people (an estimate shared by the
UN) are predominantly Southerner returnees to Abyei (the majority
women and children) with weak social networks in the surrounding
areas. Logistical challenges exacerbated by inclement weather have
placed IDPs along the River Kiir momentarily out of reach of any
humanitarian assistance, according the Lino. He worried that they
may move northward in search of better conditions and find
themselves entangled in fresh SAF deployments to the region.

SPLM Takes the Lead
- - - - - - - - - -
4. (SBU) SPLM Chairman Salva Kiir excused (SPLM) GNU Ministers of
Health and Humanitarian Affairs from the May 18 session of the SPLM
National Convention in order to galvanize their ministries and curb
what Humanitarian Affairs Minister Haroun termed "a resistant civil
service." Haroun has ordered that relief flights are to receive
immediate clearances into Abyei and Kadugli, Southern Kordofan. He
is working with the NCP Governor of Southern Kordofan state to relax
the "security bottleneck" along the Kharasana/Heglig corridor, and
HAC Commissioner Hassibo has been ordered to coordinate closely with
the Southern Sudan Rehabilitation and Relief Commission (SSRRC).
SSRRC Commissioner Simon Koon briefed NGO workers on SSRRC response
efforts to date, and on a planned GOSS monetary contribution to
relief efforts. Haroun stated that SPLM pro-activeness within the
GNU may be hampered by the depth of distrust and anger at the North
by Abyei's IDPs. Ministers fear Northern support may be rejected.
However, Lino noted that while people will remain suspicious "they
will be grateful for any assistance."

Assistance Needed Now
- - - - - - - - - - -
5. (SBU) All five SPLM officials pressed for immediate deployment of
humanitarian assistance, arguing against additional assessments and
GZ!9pQon with Darfur.
"Khartoum actively kills the civilian population while saying
nothing is happening," he maintained. "We are accused of
exaggerating the situation, but it is time the international

KHARTOUM 00000772 002 OF 002


community pushes for an overarching political settlement for Abyei,
to include the full implementation of the CPA's Abyei Protocol."

7. (SBU) Benjamin contended that UNMIS is unable to control the SAF,
and is constrained by Khartoum's violation of SOFA provisions
governing UNMIS movement. Benjamin stressed, with emphatic
agreement from all SPLM officials in the room, that unfettered
access from Abyei to Muglad and beyond to Baba Nousa was a right
enshrined in the CPA. "Yet SAF is reinforcing as we speak, and we
cannot come in without being characterized as a belligerent party,"
he said.

Unmet Security Commitments
- - - - - - - - - - - - -
8. (SBU) Presidential Affairs Minister Deng reviewed the security
status of Abyei following the May 15 and 17 Area Joint Military
Committee (AJMC) meetings. In UNMIS presence, the SAF and SPLA
agreed that only Joint Integrated Unit (JIU) forces should monitor
and protect the town, and should be the only armed elements in
Abyei. "SPLA police" and SAF forces were to move South and North
respectively, establishing a buffer zone of at least 18 kms on
either side of the town. These decisions followed a commitment by
President Bashir that the 31st SAF Brigade would be removed from
Abyei for the first time 1964.

9. (SBU) SPLM Abyei Administrator Lino maintained the reality has
not matched SAF commitments. In accordance with AJMC directives,
the "SPLA police" withdrew five kms south of the River Kiir, and now
are serving as a de facto protection force for IDPs in the area. In
contrast, SAF have remained in Abyei town, and according to Deng and
Lino, the JIU/SAF contingent looted the main market square before
joining fellow SAF in the "barracks" (a former school) in the center
of the town. Additionally, UNRC's office reported that, in addition
to SAF troops remaining in the town, SAF and alleged Misseriya
reinforcements were sighted traveling south towards Abyei from Baba
Nousa. According to Deng, JIU Commander LTG. Thomas Cirillo told
him that Cirillo's SAF counterpart said he no longer controlled
SAF/JIU soldiers operating in Abyei.

"Extremely Fragile" Security Situation
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
10. (SBU) Deng asserted that the SAF 31st Brigade remains in Abyei
town illegally, because the CPA holds that only JIU forces are
permitted in the region. He termed the situation "extremely
fragile," and allowed that he believed there could be "imminent
confrontation" should the SAF fail to move out of Abyei. GOSS
President Salva Kiir has worked "tirelessly to restrain SPLA troops
who have been forced to sit and watch their citizens suffer," Deng
stated. Regional Cooperation Minister Benjamin underscored the
point, "A second Darfur is about to occur in Abyei - where Khartoum
actively kills the civilian population while saying nothing is
happening. In the meantime, the international community treats
Khartoum like a spoiled child, while the SPLA - which has done
nothing - must defend itself from unsubstantiated rumors."

Putting the Onus on the SAF
- - - - - - - - - - - - - -
11. (SBU) Privately, Deng and Lino told CG Juba that that Kiir has
been actively engaged in restraining the SPLA JIU force as well,
micromanaging command decisions within the SPLA made by JIU
Commander Thomas Cirillo. Per Deng, Kiir has decided to resist SPLA
deployment to prevent the SPLA from being mistaken as one of the
belligerent parties. The SPLM's desire to highlight the SAF role in
the current conflict also precipitated the withdrawal southward of
"SPLA police" from Abyei town. The decision has been decidedly
unpopular. The May 16 Convention session ended abruptly as it
deteriorated into a shouting match, imploring the SPLM Chairman to
prevent the "butchering of the innocent."

COMMENT
- - - -
12. (SBU) The May 18 briefing demonstrated the level of SPLM
frustration ad impatience with the NCP, but also with the
international community. For three years, the NCP has effectively
voided the CPA's Abyei protocol through procrastination - rejecting
the Abyei Boundary Commission report while failing to implement an
alternative administration for the region. The SPLM believes that
this has happened with nary a murmur of protest from an
international community distracted by Darfur. While the SPLM is far
from blameless in playing games in Abyei, it now appears to be
taking the highroad to highlight the NCP's failings and to marshal
international support for its cause. Embassy Khartoum encourages
greater engagement on Abyei linked to our bilateral talks with the
NCP.

FERNANDEZ

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