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Cablegate: The Ceasefire That Never Was - Aerial Bombing Reported In

VZCZCXRO2175
OO RUEHGI RUEHMA RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #1669/01 3211219
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 161219Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2322
INFO RUCNFUR/DARFUR COLLECTIVE
RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KHARTOUM 001669

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: THE CEASEFIRE THAT NEVER WAS - AERIAL BOMBING REPORTED IN
DARFUR

REF: KHARTOUM 1651

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Multiple contacts from different rebel movements
claimed that the Government of Sudan (GoS) bombed areas of North
Darfur from November 12-14. UN sources told poloffs that the
reports appear credible, though UNAMID has not yet independently
verified these claims. If true, these GoS actions constitute an
almost immediate violation of the "unconditional ceasefire"
announced by President Bashir on November 12 at the closing session
of the Sudan People's Initiative (ref). Meanwhile, a Sudanese
Presidential Advisor clarified that while the intention for a
ceasefire is sincere, there is no mechanism yet to carry it out.
END SUMMARY.

MOST REBEL MOVEMENTS REPORT BOMBING
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
2. (SBU) On November 15, SLA/AW Field Commander Ibrahim Al-Helou
told poloff that several GoS Antonovs bombed the area northwest of
Kutum (specifically naming the villages of Kurbia and Om Rahik) on
November 12, 13, and 14. Al-Helou claimed the bombing occurred
between 7:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. and that approximately 10 bombs
were dropped, injuring two children and killing one other. (Note:
AFP and Reuters later reported this same information citing Al-Helou
as a source. End Note.) Al-Helou claimed that a GoS force of
approximately 50 vehicles then moved through the area following the
attack. The force did not engage the local population, and Al-Helou
claimed that the rebels did not want to attack the GOS force "as
they were moving through a civilian area." He said the GoS force
came from Tine and then passed through Kutum and on into El-Fasher.
Al-Helou called the announcement of a GoS ceasefire "propaganda
motivate solely by the ICC threat," and vowed that SLA/AW will
continue to fight the GoS.

3. (SBU) JEM, SLM/MM, and other SLA/AW contacts also reported
bombing and significant GoS and militia movements in North Darfur.
SLA/AW'S Abdulrahman Gadura told emboff via satellite phone on
November 16 that the attack on Kurbia and Om Rahik left three boys
wounded, one person dead, and two people missing. (Note: These
numbers roughly correspond to those provided by Al-Helou. End Note.)
SLA/AW's Muhammad Nimir also told emboff on November 16 that he
personally witnessed the Antonov bombing on November 14. Nimir also
reported that two government helicopters circled the area after the
attack, and GoS troops moved from Kutum to attack Dissa, Tarny, and
Khazan Tunjur. SLM/MM's Ali Traio also said that he had heard
several reports about the incident from Minnawi's fighters in the
region (though Traio was not able to give specific names or numbers
of individuals involved.) Local and international press also
reported that representatives of the Justice and Equality Movement
reported fighting and bombing in the area of Kutum and also along
the Chad-Sudan border south of Tine.

AND UNDSS REPEATS REPORTS AND BELIEVES THEY ARE CREDIBLE
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
4. (SBU) UNDSS sources based in El-Fasher labeled the ceasefire as
a "joke" and sarcastically noted that perhaps no one in Khartoum
told the GoS commanders in Darfur about the ceasefire (Bashir's
announcement has been widely reported locally). UNDSS sources told
poloff on November 16 that there have been significant troop and
militia movements and several clashes within the last week. This UN
source repeated reports of fighting northwest of Kutum at Kurbia
(between Ana Bagi and Abdel Shakur) on November 13 and 14 and said
that the GoS and its militias have driven SLA/AW and SLA/Unity out
of Tarny into the foot hills of Eastern Jebel Marra. This source
said another report from a UNAMID field assessment team claimed
there was a "systematic clearing" of villages between Sarafaya (east
of El Fasher) and Korma. Arab militia also reportedly moved from
east of Kutum to a new position north of Kutum. This militia,
according to this report, also entered Kutum to purchase material
for converting land cruisers to military "technicals" (i.e.
purchasing green and brown paint and metal cutting tools.)

BUILDUP A LONG TIME IN THE MAKING
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
5. (SBU) On November 13, visiting UK military officers (returning
from El-Fasher and Nyala) told poloff that even before the
ceasefire, SAF continued to push rebels further northwest from
El-Fasher into Kutum. (Comment: Given the concentration of rebels
in this area, it is not surprising that the GoS chose to bomb sites
around Kutum regardless of how poor the timing of such attacks were
following the announced ceasefire. End Comment.) According to
these sources, SAF continues to hold the crescent-shaped belt from
Malha to El-Fasher to Kabkabiya. SAF also occupies oases in North
Darfur used by JEM during their movement to Omdurman in May 2008.


KHARTOUM 00001669 002 OF 002


6. (SBU) Rebel leaders previously told emboffs that SAF and
militia movements and activities did not correspond with an
impending unilateral ceasefire. SLA/AW and SLA/Unity contacts
reported earlier during the week of November 9 that SAF conducted
operations and built up its forces in Simanga, Furdu, Bir Maza, Nat
Geiza, and near Jebel Marra. SLA/AW's Nimir stated that GoS bombing
was aimed at intimidating the vulnerable population in Jebel Marra
and distracting SLA/AW from large SAF movements. SLA/AW's Gaddura
also told emboff that the bombing south of Jebel Marra and in the
areas of Dar Eisa, Jebel Eisa, and Malha continued throughout the
week of November 9. Gaddura claimed that the GoS was not only
building up its presence in its military camps, but also entering
many villages and civilian areas.

7. (SBU) CDA Fernandez met with Presidential Advisor Abdallah Ali
Masar on November 16 and pressed him on the ceasefire question.
Masar frankly admitted that the ceasefire is indeed "immediate and
unconditional" once there is a mechanism in place and it is accepted
by others. So it is not exactly in place yet. CDA harshly criticized
this explanation, noting that "his advisors have done President
Bashir a tremendous disservice by having him announce this without
an enforcement mechanism, making him sound like a liar." Masar
agreed that without such guarantees in place it would be imposible
to ascertain if the rebels were in violation, which rebel groups,
and whether SAF was fighting bandits (as the regime claims in this
current round of skirmishing) or rebel movements and innocent
civilians. Masar asked for American and UN help in showing that
Sudan was sincere about a ceasefire. CDA Fernandez promised to
respond within the week after consultations with Washington.

8. (SBU) Masar, an influential Darfuri Arab civilian instrumental in
the founding of the janjaweed, added that the Sudanese were worried
that both UN/AU Chief Mediator Bassole and DDDC lead Abdul M}hamad-Q2h!d good$intejioNs Rw4 m!ck c!xasaty" |nr{i@boTh {keplcQ
Dm|laQ waph(t`i reb{k/i-D"Ns%~-YbXejubaHal.7s$Q]Quyk#tzy,p4uS \$fGQpKe,YQvUud+Epe;"PQ&E},!?HJY_3QbSyfoq?o press President Bashir
on this and related issues.

COMMENT
- - - -
9. (SBU) Multiple sources from different rebel movements (not to
mention the UN's own reporting) give credibility to the claims that
aerial bombing did occur following the ceasefire announcement on
November 12. It also appears as though the GoS has already admitted
to some level of military activity in the region, as local press
reported that SAF spokesman Brigadier Osman Al-Agbash said that SAF
did conduct operations against bandits near Kurbia. This appears to
come directly from the GOS' playbook, as it made similar claims of
tackling banditry on UNAMID's behalf in Birmaza and Diza in early
September, (claims that were later proven false both by UNAMID's and
its own actions on the ground.) Senior GoS officials will also
likely tell UNAMID and Western diplomats that Khartoum's central
command did not give its military commanders in Darfur notification
of the ceasefire or the permission to carry out the attack.
However, SAF's use of Antonovs would require a senior-level decision
within its military structure, so any such claims at lack of
notification are most likely false. Furthermore, given the news
coverage, publicity, and significance of Bashir's much-touted
speech, it is not plausible that these military commanders would not
have known about the ceasefire. Skepticism regarding Bashir's
ceasefire appears to have been well-founded, and we expect that
Darfur could witness increasing levels of violence in the period
leading up to potential negotiations and a likely ICC indictment,
due in part to GOS attempts to strengthen its position prior to
negotiations. Darfur rebels appear to be in a somewhat weakened
state at the moment, due to a lack of supplies from Chad during the
rainy season and possibly owing to attrition. CDA Fernandez and
polchief will travel to El Fasher during November 18-19 to discuss
possible cease-fire modalities and other monitoring mechanisms with
UNAMID. They will also meet with senior GOS officials during
November 16-17 to press the regime on adherence to the cease-fire.

FERNANDEZ

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