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Cablegate: Rizeigat, Misseriya Tribal Fighting in South Darfur

VZCZCXRO9632
OO RUEHGI RUEHMA RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #1302/01 2401234
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 271234Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1730
INFO RUCNFUR/DARFUR COLLECTIVE
RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KHARTOUM 001302

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

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL EAID KPKO SOCI AU UNSC SU
SUBJECT: RIZEIGAT, MISSERIYA TRIBAL FIGHTING IN SOUTH DARFUR
SUBSIDES, BUT QUESTIONS REMAIN

1. (SBU) Summary: Fighting that began on August 20 between
Misseriya and Rizeigat herders resulted in the deaths of more than
60 people in South Darfur. Misseriya elder Kamil Nimir downplayed
the violence, characterizing it as a dispute over access to water
that spiraled out of control due to the high-powered weaponry
involved. However, Mohammed Issa of the Rizeigat stated that such
clashes over scarce water resources have occurred in the past and
will continue unless a border is delineated between Misseriya and
Rizeigat areas and secured by GOS military forces. Although both
report that the situation is now calm following the intervention by
the GoS and tribal leaders, questions remain over the underlying
causes. End Summary.

2. (U) According to press reports, a clash between Arab Misseriya
and Rizeigat tribesmen over access to water in South Darfur, left 67
dead. Both the Misseriya and the Rizeigat are semi-nomadic herdsman
who dwell in Darfur and Southern Kordofan, and migrate south with
their cattle to graze during the summer rainy season. A local-USAID
advisor reported that on August 20 a group of Rezeigat killed one
Misseriya herder, whose companions retaliated by killing several
Rezeigat. Fighting escalated from there. According to UNAMID on
August 26, the latest GoS reports confirm that the incident took
place at Umm-Hazura, about 36 km east of Abu Jabura in South Darfur,
near a UNAMID Military Base. 18 from the Misseriya tribe were
killed and 49 from the Rizeigat.

3. (SBU) On August 25-26 Poloff spoke with Kamil Babo Nimir, a
senior member of the Misseriya tribe, and Mohammed Issa, head of the
Rizeigat Shura Council. Nimir expressed alarm at the media
portrayal of the events as a clash between the Misseriya and
Rizeigat tribes. "The Misseriya and the Rizeigat are brothers," he
said, noting that the two have historically enjoyed good relations.
He characterized the fighting as a clash between two isolated groups
in a remote area. He stated that an initial skirmish over grazing
rights between several young tribesmen spiraled out of control due
to the weaponry involved and lack of government intervention, as
relatives of the dead sought revenge. He claimed that the situation
flamed out quickly and is now calm. Nimir expressed hope for peace
and reconciliation, noting that he had just returned from a meeting
in the parliament called by National Assembly speaker Ahmed Ibrahim
Al-Tahir in which tribal elders on both sides had reaffirmed their
commitment to dialogue.

4. (SBU) According to Mohamed Issa of the Rizeigat Shura Council,
however, the fighting near Abu Jabura was only the latest
manifestation of the conflict between the Misseriya and Rizeigat
over scarce water resources in the region. Such clashes over have
happened in the past, he said, and would continue to happen if there
is no delineation of borders between Rizeigat and Misseriya areas.
"I think it is very important to renew the borders" and create a
buffer zone between the two tribes, he said. He stated that the
border must be secured by GOS forces if future clashes are to be
avoided. He noted that with 50 people killed it was "very early --
and difficult -- to speak about reconciliation."

5. (SBU) National Assembly Spokesperson Ahmed Ibrahim Al-Tahir in a
statement blamed "unnamed foreign elements" for instigating trouble
between the Rizeigat and Misseriya tribes, and confirmed the GOS'
efforts to reconcile the tribes in coordination with the states of
Southern Kordofan and South Darfur, according to press reports. He
added that a reconciliation conference will convene next month. The
USAID advisor reports that the conference, consisting of ten
Misseriya representatives, ten Rizeigat, and six from the South
Kordofan state government, will meet September 5.

6 (SBU) Comment: Many questions remain in the wake of last week's
fighting. While inter-tribal conflict is frequent and bloody across
Sudan (at the same time as the Misseriya-Rizeigat battle, 13 died
and 32 were wounded in a cattle raid in Jonglei state in south
Sudan), the toll in this dispute was particularly high. It also
seems strange that the two groups clashed over water in the rainy
season, when water is relatively plentiful. The Misseriya and the
Rizeigat share a common way of life and are traditional allies
(Rizeigat volunteers rode to assist the Misseriya during the May
fighting in Abyei). Both have served in GoS' infamous Popular
Defense Force militias, but in recent years have turned away from
the NCP in large numbers and have permitted Darfurian rebels to pass
through or operate in their territory. Drawing a boundary to be
policed by the GoS ought to be an anathema for the two nomadic
groups. The conflict may have begun as two marginalized groups
driven to compete over Sudan's stressed resource base, but the push
to create formal borders with the GoS in between smacks of
Khartoum's effort to manipulate the situation to its advantage
through "divide and rule."

KHARTOUM 00001302 002 OF 002

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