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Cablegate: Sla/Unity and Sla/Aw Appear Internally Divided

VZCZCXRO0020
PP RUEHGI RUEHMA RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #0983/01 1861223
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 041223Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1214
INFO RUCNFUR/DARFUR COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KHARTOUM 000983

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

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

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PREF PHUM SU
SUBJECT: SLA/UNITY AND SLA/AW APPEAR INTERNALLY DIVIDED

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. On June 26, the SLA/Unity's erratic spokesman,
Mahjoub Hussein, told poloff in London that his rebel movement is
planning a massive attack ("the flood") on Khartoum. In a separate
meeting with Hussein's colleague, SLA/Unity's Humanitarian
coordinator Suliman Jamous said he was not aware of any plan, and
cautioned that Hussein is "often doing his own thing." Meanwhile,
in a separate meeting with poloff, SLA/Abdul Wahid (SLA/AW) London
representative Yahia Bashir stated that the international community
should empower voices other than Abdul Wahid's as "the future of the
Fur people cannot be decided just by one person." These examples
demonstrate significant internal division in SLA/Unity and SLA/AW,
especially in comparison to the organized and integrated Justice and
Equality Movement. END SUMMARY.

SLA/AW
- - - -
2. (SBU) On June 26, Yahia Bashir, the London political
representative for SLA/Abdul Wahid, stated that although he supports
Abdul Wahid Al-Nur and still considers him to be the legitimate
leader of SLA, that the international community and the media need
to listen to and empower other voices in the movement. "The
international community has built up Abdul Wahid by only asking for
his opinion and that is one of the reasons why we are stuck in this
place. The future of the Fur people cannot be decided just by one
person" stated Bashir. Bashir said that there are some SLA field
commanders and political leaders who constitute an important element
of SLA that need to be consulted. Bashir stated that the AU/UN and
the wider international community need to share information about
meetings and their plans more widely. He stated that "if we all
know what is going on, we might be able to change Abdul Wahid's mind
on some things."

3. (U) BIO NOTE: Yahia Bashir is from Wadi Salih in southwest
Darfur. He studied business administration in Khartoum University,
and became active in student politics. Since 2005 he has been in
London working for SLA/AW.

SLA/UNITY
- - - - - -
4. (SBU) On June 26, poloff met the spokesman for SLA/Unity
Mahjoub Hussein. Hussein claimed that he would be traveling to
Paris on June 27 to meet French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner in
a private meeting. (Note: Attempts to contact Hussein after June 27
to see if the meeting took place have not been successful. End
Note.) After strongly criticizing all other rebel movements,
Hussein claimed that SLA/Unity is coordinating a massive attack on
Khartoum under the operational name, the "flood" (toufan). "I can't
tell you the date, but it is coming," stated Hussein. Hussein was
not optimistic about the prospects for negotiations saying, "the
rifle is currently the only way right now." Mahjoub stated that
"this will be the last operation we undertake, whether it is for
good or for bad. We will either be free or be slaves."

5. (SBU) (NOTE: Although a prominent rebel leader since the
beginning of the conflict and still widely interviewed by
international journalists, Hussein appeared eccentric, imbalanced,
and erratic. Hussein was 1.5 hours late for the meeting with
poloff, made many exaggerated statements, and smelled of alcohol.
Poloff asked the Joint Mediation Support Team's Boubou Niang and
Muin Shrim about their opinion of Hussein and they replied that that
they no longer consulted Hussein due to his lack of credibility.
Other rebel leaders from JEM and the London Sudanese expatriate
community stated that Hussein has an alcohol problem. END NOTE.)

6. (SBU) On June 28, Suliman Jamous, the Humanitarian Coordinator
for SLM/Unity, urged caution with respect to Mahjoub's claim of an
impending attack and his upcoming meeting with Foreign Minister
Kouchner, saying "I don't always know what Mahjoub is up to."
Contrary to Hussein's militaristic vision, Jamous stated that "there
is no military solution to the problems of Darfur - the only
military way is to remove Bashir, and that is not realistic at this
point." Jamous stated that SLA/Unity is ready for negotiations with
the government, and that he has conveyed this message to the Joint
Mediation Support Team. Jamous stated that "the Government of Sudan
puts forward the idea that no rebel movement is ready for
negotiations, even though that is not true."

7. (SBU) Jamous stated that his current priority is unifying the
rebel movements. Jamous stated that there are only four significant
movements at this point (JEM, SLA/AW, SLA/Unity, and URF.) He stated
that URF is quickly losing influence. He stated that Adam Bakhit
has run out of fighters and that the GoS bought out groups of URF
fighters to participate in the attack in Chad. According to Jamous,
it is likely that the remaining movements in the URF coalition will
join SLA/Unity. Jamous stated that he occasionally speaks with JEM's
Khalil Ibrahim, but that Abdul Wahid refuses to speak with him. He
did note, however, that he is in direct communication with many of
Abdul Wahid's field commanders.

KHARTOUM 00000983 002 OF 002

8. (SBU) Jamous characterized (his distant relative and rival)
Minni Minnawi as a selfish leader "whose time is done." Jamous said
that he is not in communication with Minnawi, but that many of
Minnawi's field commanders have joined SLA-Unity in recent months.
For example, stated Jamous, the top field commander for SLA-Minnawi
in Muhajariyya, Babiker Salah Abdalla, recently defected and joined
SLA-Unity.

9. (SBU) Jamous stated that he has more influence within SLM-Unity
than its leader Abdallah Yahia (who is currently in Libya, stated
Jamous). Jamous stated that Unity's Othman Bushra has a terrible
relationship with Sharif Harir, the SLA/Unity External Relations
chief. Jamous stated that his own focus will be to "lead SLM/Unity
for the time being until it is stable and then I will go back to
focusing on humanitarian affairs." Jamous stated that many of the
movements' field commanders are very simplistic people "who only
think of a car, house, and a pistol in their hand" and that these
individuals require much attention from the political leadership.
"We need to get our people thinking about the greater political
goals of our movement," stated Jamous.

10. (SBU) Jamous said that his movement is almost self-reliant for
supply, gaining weapons from raids on GoS installations. He did
admit, however that "We get insignificant support from Libya and
Chad and some support from private Chadian businessmen." Jamous
stated he is going back to the field after the humanitarian seminar
led by the Center for Humanitarian Dialogue in Geneva scheduled in
July. He said that he is in good health and that he will travel
through Chad as "the GoS has some troops posted along the border
with Libya."

COMMENT
- - - - -
11. (SBU) Experienced Darfur observers such as the JMST's Muin
Shrim have characterized SLA/Unity as "very well placed" to take a
leading role in Darfur. This assessment was not apparent in the
meetings with Hussein and Jamous. Although we should not downplay
SLA/Unity based on one erratic personality, it is significant that
Hussein serves as SLA/Unity's representative to the outside world,
and that other more respectable leaders such as Jamous have not
stepped up to correct or "rein in" Hussein. (Despite his rebel
involvement, respected international leaders such as Desmond Tutu
have lavished Jamous with praise calling him "a champion of
humanitarian principles and human rights.")
Jamous also admitted (as stated in para 9) that SLA/Unity continues
to have internal leadership struggles. JEM leaders and other
competing movements continually point to this leadership struggle
when describing SLA/Unity, and while their criticisms are often
exaggerated, there does appear to be some truth to their claims.
Yehia Bashir's call for greater inclusivity within SLA/AW makes
sense and should be supported, as the arrogant and stubborn Abdul
Wahid continues to reject interaction with the international
community and other rebel movements.

FERNANDEZ

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