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Cablegate: Overview of Darfur Rebel Positions, Relative Strength, And

VZCZCXRO8332
OO RUEHGI RUEHMA RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #1434/01 2661415
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 221415Z SEP 08
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1950
INFO RUCNFUR/DARFUR COLLECTIVE
RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 KHARTOUM 001434

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

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ASEC PGOV PREL KPKO SOCI AU UNSC SU
SUBJECT: OVERVIEW OF DARFUR REBEL POSITIONS, RELATIVE STRENGTH, AND
POTENTIAL COORDINATION

REF: A) KHARTOUM 1232

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: In two recent visits to El-Fasher and Nyala, UN
security provided an overview of Darfur rebel group's positions,
relative strength, and potential for coordination. Sources stated
that areas of control are fluid and prone to change, especially
following GoS operations in North Darfur and East Jebel Marra. END
SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) (Note: Representatives of UN Security from several
different offices in both El-Fasher and Nyala provided four separate
briefings to poloffs the week of August 24 and September 14.
Charged with ensuring security for visits to remote rebel locations
and investigating security incidents, these UN sources are some of
the most informed and connected observers on the ground in Darfur.
Sources names and positions are available via siprnet
communications. Due to the complexity of Arab transliteration and
inconsistent spelling in UN Maps, spelling of villages are
approximate. End Note.)

JEM
- - -
3. (SBU) UN sources noted that they expected a JEM attack in Darfur
building on the May 10 attack on Omdurman. According to this
contact, in late May and early June, JEM positioned several hundred
vehicles in three different locations within striking distance of
El-Fasher. "JEM threatened that that they were going to stage
another attack, and given their locations, it was actually
surprising that it did not happen," stated this contact. He
continued by saying JEM most likely decided to pursue the political
track and shortly after, Khalil Ibrahim gave an ultimatum to the GoS
to negotiate by the end of July, or JEM would return to staging
attacks. This UN source said that although JEM may have been in
discussions with SLA/Unity and SLA/AW in the past several months,
"they probably just want to use their areas of control as a rest
stop." One UN contact speculated that recent fighting in far North
Darfur near Birmaza and Deisa, was designed to block potential
routes of passage from the north to Khartoum.

4. (SBU) According to another UN Security contact, the Justice and
Equality Movement is the only serious, organized, and
politically-coherent rebel movement. This contact noted that in
late August, UN Security met senior JEM field commanders on the
Sudanese border town of Bahai including: JEM Deputy Chief of Staff
Suleiman Sandal Hagar, Political Consultant Abu Baker Hammid, Chief
of Staff Tajiman Dino Hagar, JEM's Eritrea Representative Dr.
Mohammed Ali Mostaf (recently expelled from Cairo after giving a
lecture on the Omdurman attack,) and Ibrahim Almas Deng (a JEM Dinka
tribesman from South Sudan). According to this source, JEM's
positions in Bahai appeared well supplied and well organized, and
are reflective of the Chadian-supported movement as a whole. "Bahai
now feels like it is in the middle of Dar Zaghawa," noted this
contact.

5. (SBU) A separate UN source stated that JEM likely retreated
from the Omdurman attack to Chad, its Darfuri mountain stronghold in
rugged Jebel Moon, and two other positions. This source
specifically mentioned JEM positions in Um Sammango where he claimed
JEM forces have approximately 100 vehicles. Another group of
approximately 25 JEM vehicles is allegedly positioned outside of
Shangil Tobaya, according to UN sources.

SLM/UNITY
- - - - - -
6. (SBU) SLM/Unity may still receive limited supplies from Chad as
"elements of their movement used to be Chadian President Deby's
private bodyguard force," stated one UN contact. Another source
asserted that SLM/Unity has a lack of political leadership in
Darfur, which has led to much banditry, disorganization, and the
absence of command and control structures. Contacts from the UN and
the Joint Mediation Support Team had a low opinion of some Unity
commanders, with one representative calling SLM/Unity's Ali Karbino
"a thug" and another saying "he does his own thing." (Note: Ali
Karbino is a former commander of SLM who defected from Minnawi a few
months after the signing of the Darfur Peace Agreement. According
to locally-engaged staff, Karbino has the reputation for being one
of the fiercest Zaghawa commanders on the frontline of every battle.
End Note.) UN contacts stated that with recent fighting in
Birmaza and Deisa, the GoS appears to have "secured a foothold in
some areas previously controlled by SLA/Unity."

SLA/AW
- - - -
7. (SBU) The majority of Abdul Wahid Al-Nur's force is based in

KHARTOUM 00001434 002 OF 004


Jebel Marra with another group located in remote northeast Darfur,
according to UN security. Without a significant number of vehicles,
SLA/AW relies on transportation by foot, horse, and donkey around
and near Jebel Marra. In addition to this area, SLA/AW Northern
Command operates in a wide area of northeast Darfur (from the
village of El Helif to Targambot on North Darfur's border with North
Kordofan). One UN source stated that he spent a day with one of
SLA/AW key Northern Command leaders, Suleiman Marjan. According to
this source, Marjan (from the Meidob tribe) has less than a dozen
vehicles, and "it is a bit of stretch" to think that Marjan could
stage successful attacks on the GoS in North Darfur as was reported
on August 10 and 11 in international media (reftel). Despite one UN
Security officer's skepticism, another stated that he has found
Marajan to be overall "reliable" and that he provided good security
for UNAMID visitors. This contact said he last saw Marjan near
Helif (at geocordinates 14043' 25023'). This contacted added that
SLA/AW has another small force near Zur (located west of Kabkabiya
at geocoordiantes 13035' 23041')

SLA/MM
- - - -
8. (SBU) UN contacts stated that the areas under Minni Minnawi's
control have shrunk rapidly in 2007 and 2008. According to these
sources, the GoS supplied and reinforced the SLM/Free Will splinter
group to attack SLM/MM from late 2007 to mid 2008. These clashes
centered around Kafoud, but spread out along supply routes, where a
struggle over taxation rights occurred between SLM/MM and SLM/Free
Will. Another UN contact emphasized that this SLM/Free Will-SLM/MM
conflict has turned into an ethnic power struggle between the
Zaghawa and SLM/Free Will's dominant ethnic groups (i.e. the Tunjur
in North Darfur and the Bergit in the South). These sources claimed
that SLM/MM and SLM/Unity (both overwhelmingly Zaghawa movements)
have worked together to combat these SLM/Free Will attacks, and
others (as recent as last week) by the Ma'aliya Arab tribe near
Agabullah (east of Ed Daein). UN sources appeared dismissive of
reported security arrangements and demobilization, disarmament, and
reintegration (DDR) programs in South Darfur. UN sources also
reported that much of the Bergit population in South Darfur is
against this integration of SLM/Free Will into the SAF forces, as it
will leave many Bergit villages vulnerable to attacks by SLM/MM.

9. (SBU) UN sources stated that Minnawi met Khalil Ibrahim in Chad
and proposed that JEM and SLM coordinate under Minnawi's leadership,
"something that was clearly rejected." Minnawi has lost fighters
and commanders to rival movements, especially JEM following its much
celebrated (in Darfur) attack on Omdurman in May 2008, according to
UN sources.

10. (SBU) UN contacts downplayed recent fighting between SLM/MM
and the GoS. For a long time, the GoS has used proxy forces to
attack SLM/MM positions, and although the GoS now uses its own
forces in direct attacks, "this is not a major change to the
government's strategy." UN sources said that they see GOS/SAF
deployment to South Darfur as preparation for targeting SLM/MM's
positions in South Darfur. According to these sources, the GoS
recently moved 40 vehicles near Bulbul (west of Nyala) and more to
Shearia and Haskanita. UN contacts stated that the GoS also moved
more of its troops close to SLM/MM positions near Tabit on September
12.

SLA/ABDUL SHAFIE
- - - - - - - - -
11. (SBU) UN contacts repeated, but could not confirm, rumors that
Ahmed Abdul Shafie recently received a new shipment of cars from
South Sudan. (One contact speculated that this rumor started with a
poorly researched UNAMID report that was intercepted by the GoS and
later propagated to the international community. Another UN contact
thought that the report had more credence saying, "The SPLA has long
had political ambitions in Darfur, and now it is finally starting to
move into Darfur militarily [through supplying vehicles to Abd Al
Shafie.]") Abdul Shafie does have a small force east of Melit
composed primarily of Bertit and Meidob, led by field commander
Dicta Salih, asserted UN contacts. Shafie has another small
position near Daba Dunga, and is responsible for much of the
carjacking in these two regions, stated UN contacts.

ARAB TRIBES
- - - - - -
12. (SBU) UN contacts described the area around Kabkabiya in North
Darfur as "a stronghold of disaffected Arab tribes." The Al-Jund
Al-Mazloom ("oppressed soldiers") control much of this area,
occasionally traveling into El-Fasher and clashing with the local
security forces there. This UN contact stated that these restless
Arab militias "completely dominate the area" and have established

KHARTOUM 00001434 003 OF 004


checkpoints between Kabkabiya and Tawila. This source described
these semi-autonomous Arab tribes as focusing on banditry, and "in
terms of taking land or fighting against the GoS, they are much less
motivated than the rebel movements."

13. (SBU) Another UN source stated that the GoS has successfully
persuaded many of these Arab groups to rejoin government forces
after a long hiatus. The GoS has allegedly wooed the Arab tribes
(and even the Al-Jund Al-Mazloom) by re-supplying and delivering
money to many of the tribes. Most contacts asserted that the GoS
led its attacks on Birmaza, Deisa, and East Jebel Marra with an
integrated force composed of Arab militia (Janjaweed), Central
Reserve Police, and regular SAF troops. (Note: This corresponds
with our previous reporting. End Note.)

14. (SBU) In South Darfur, break-away groups from former Arab
opposition leader Mohamed Hamdan ("Hemeti") have a small force of
approximately six vehicles near Tulus. Another semi-autonomous Arab
group controls an area south of Ed Daein and rules with
approximately 15-20 vehicles, with more forces controlling locations
near South Darfur's border with Northern Bahr El-Ghazal. UN sources
see former Hemeti fighters as responsible for recent security
incidents near Firdus.

15. (SBU) UN sources acknowledged that some of the bloodiest
clashes in 2007 and 2008 have been between regime-armed Arab tribes.
One source stated that he has just received reports that this year
the Abbala (camel-herding) Rizegat have returned south two months
earlier than usual, and that he expects this change in migration
could result in significant tribal conflict over land and water.

CHADIAN ARMED OPPOSITION GROUPS (CAOG)
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
16. (SBU) UN sources stated that Chadian Armed Opposition Groups
(CAOG) have moved from two separate locations to one position north
of El-Geneina. (Note: This also corresponds with previous Embassy
reports. End Note.) Chadian armed opposition are responsible for a
large amount of hijacking and banditry along the Western border,
stated these sources.

OTHER POSITIONS
- - - - - - - -
17. (SBU) According to UNDSS maps, the following smaller movements
are located at these corresponding locations.

- SLA/Jabbar Mohamed Bakhit - Tabur Was
- JEM /Collective Leadership - Miski and between Um Baru and Kutum.

- JEM/Khamis Adam - Sheria
- SLA/Peace Wing - Mohajirriah, Ma'aliah, and Sharif
- SLA/Adam Bakhit and JEM/CL (NMRD) - around Kutum

FUTURE COORDINATION
- - - - - - - - - -
18. (SBU) In addition to widespread reports of coordination
between SLM/MM and SLA/Unity, a statement appeared on
Sudaneseonline.com on September 7 calling for rebel unification.
Adam Ali Shogar, a longtime Zaghawa commander and "General
Coordinator of SLM/Field Command," called for "political and
military unification... for the sake of Darfur, its future, and its
IDPs and refugees." The statement also calls for a conference
composed of Abdul Wahid Al-Nur, Khamis Abdullah Abaker, Adam Ali
Shoggar, and other well-known SLM leaders including Sharif Harir,
Suleiman Ibrahim Marjan, and Suleiman Jamous. (Full text of this
statement will be sent to SPG and office of the SE.)

19. (SBU) Rebel and UN contacts appeared dismissive of this
message. URF's AlHadi Agabaldour told poloff that the statement as
a whole is positive, but that URF can "never accept Abdulwahid
AL-Nur as chairman of SLM." JEM's Dr. Gibril Fidail (and brother of
JEM Chairman Khalil Ibrahim) also told poloff that JEM "will be
pleased to have a united SLM," however he appeared skeptical that
SLM will ever be able to achieve unity or "get a response from a
person like Abdulwahid." UN contacts responded that statements such
as these have been made before without any tangible results. "The
recent surge of activity by the GoS in Eastern Jebel Marra and the
north could have the short- term effect of bringing SLA factions
together, but this would be an act of survival and not unification,"
stated one UN security contact.

COMMENT
- - - - -
20. (SBU) UN contacts elucidated a number of important themes
which, if accurate, will lead to a more volatile and militarized

KHARTOUM 00001434 004 OF 004


Darfur. Disaffected Arab tribes are returning to the GoS following
a concerted recruitment effort by the regime. SLM/MM and SLM/Unity
coordination is significant, but long-term coordination across other
rebel lines is unlikely. SLM/MM's loss of both land and commanders
in 2007-2008, threatens the movement's very existence in many areas
of Darfur. GoS deployment to South Darfur may be used eventually to
directly attack SLM/MM's positions. These themes and many others
(including the division of many movements along ethnic lines,
ongoing Chad-Sudan conflict, and the lack of a single and coherent
peace process) will continue to drive the violent, volatile, and
chaotic dynamic in Darfur.

FERNANDEZ

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