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Cablegate: Darfur Zaghawa Predict Another Rebel Attack On Khartoum

VZCZCXRO4605
PP RUEHGI RUEHMA RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #0857/01 1611104
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 091104Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0992
INFO RUCNFUR/DARFUR COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KHARTOUM 000857

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR SE WILLIAMSON, AF/SPG, S/CRS, DRL
DEPT PLS PASS USAID FOR AFR/SUDAN
ADDIS ABABA ALSO FOR USAU

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

SUBJECT: DARFUR ZAGHAWA PREDICT ANOTHER REBEL ATTACK ON KHARTOUM
SOON

REFS: A. Khartoum 842

B. Khartoum 847

KHARTOUM 00000857 001.2 OF 002


1. (SBU) SUMMARY. While El Fasher Zaghawa report that they have not
experienced increased harassment or threats against them since the
May 10 attack on Omdurman, they claim that Khartoum-based Zaghawa
still are targeted for arbitrary abuse. Despite the repercussions,
local Zaghawa civilians support JEM, and expect it to launch
another, larger offensive against Khartoum before the Darfur rainy
season begins in late June/early July. Other factions are joining
JEM, they claimed, and local government officials are too worried
about keeping their jobs to alert Khartoum to an impending attack.
While the Zaghawa optimism may be exaggerated, local Darfuris
nervously point out that the first attack showed that anything can
happen, and that JEM has gained rather than lost strength following
the May 10 assault. END SUMMARY.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Retribution Against Zaghawa in Khartoum, Not Darfur
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

2. (SBU) In a June 4 meeting, prominent local Zaghawa merchants told
FieldOff that although conditions for Zaghawa in Darfur have been
difficult since the start of the conflict five years ago, an
expected crack down on Zaghawa in Darfur following the May 10
Justice and Equality Movement(JEM) attack on Omdurman has not
materialized. Only three or four people have been arrested in
Darfur in the past month, they said, which is no more than usual.
Addressing reports of economic discrimination in Darfur (ref a), the
merchants said that they have not been subject to any specific
harassment or threats and are unaware of such incidents in other
parts of Darfur. However they did not rule out the possibility,
noting that "The GoS cannot see Zaghawa without seeing the [armed
rebel] movements."

3. (SBU) Instead, they said, the government has turned its attention
to the capital, where Zaghawa citizens have paid a heavy price for
the JEM attack. In addition to arbitrary arrests and beatings, the
El Fasher community leaders claimed that Zaghawa in Khartoum have
been, and in some cases are still, subjected to house searches as
often as three times per day. Although the searches are undertaken
ostensibly in order to find suspects who may be in hiding, in fact
the soldiers often use such searches to loot private property and
possessions, they charged. The hardest hit population are the
merchants who keep shops in Khartoum's Libya Market. There,
Sudanese Armed Forces soldiers have harassed and intimidated Zaghawa
vendors, forcing them to pay sums of between $15,000 and $20,000 in
order to avoid arrest. Many merchants have been bankrupted paying
these bribes, they claimed, but those who do not are either arrested
or disappear.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Factions Uniting for Attack on Khartoum
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

4. (SBU) Despite the repercussions, the Zaghawa community remains
supportive of JEM's attack. "Finally someone took the war to
Khartoum!" one exclaimed triumphantly. The El Fasher merchants, who
claimed to be unaffiliated with any armed movement but were clearly
supportive of JEM's Khalil Ibrahim, claimed that the May 10 attack
on Omdurman had been a "test run." According to these Darfuris, to
test the government's response capabilities JEM only had used a
small number of troops and trucks to stage the attack. The next
attack, which they predicted would occur before the rainy season
begins (normally in early July), will be much stronger, partly due
to the possible unification of other factions' forces with those of
JEM.

5. (SBU) In the absence of disarmament, demobilization and
reintegration activities, they said that some of the factions who
signed the Declaration of Commitment have no choice but to work with
JEM, hic can provide salaries, food and other necessities. In
addition, JEM has inspired other groups, such as Sudanese Liberation
Army/Unity faction, which previously thought that such an attack (on
the capital) could never occur, to potentially combine forces in a
similar operation. Rebel groups can also count on considerable
support on the ground, they claimed, as this time the Darfuris will
not allow themselves to be subjected to the retribution of the
Khartoum government. "What happened to Zaghawa the first time will
not happen again - we will either fight or die!" one declared.

6. (SBU) The Zaghawa representatives dismissed suggestions that such
an attack could not occur with the GoS at such a heightened state of
alert. They said that reports regarding rebel groups and their
movements sent from the National Congress Party (NCP) and National

KHARTOUM 00000857 002.2 OF 002


Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) functionaries in Darfur to
Khartoum are routinely inaccurate. "Everyone is afraid of being
fired - they say what Khartoum wants to hear, so that they can keep
their positions," one claimed. Geographical distance also hampers
communication and information flow, which works in the rebels'
favor, they claimed.

- - - -
Comment
- - - -

7. (SBU) While Zaghawa optimism is probably exaggerated, JEM's bold
attack on Khartoum set a new precedent for Darfur rebel movements.
JEM leaders have repeatedly threatened a second attack, and it is at
least possible that other factions, fed up with the stalled peace
process and nonexistent ceasefire, will join forces, either with the
JEM or among themselves, to make a similar run at the capital or,
perhaps more likely, other government installations. JEM's support
on the ground is stronger than ever, given continued defections from
SLA/Minni Minawai fighters and alliances of convenience with other
armed factions. With the GoS still knocked off balance by the May
10 surprise attack, the impassable rainy season looming on the
horizon, and the GoS' preoccupation with Abyei insecurity, this
could present an opportunity for the JEM to cash in on its post-May
10 attack popularity by seeking an opening to again hit a high
visibility target, perhaps even including another bid for Khartoum.

DATTA

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