Cablegate: Abyei Administration After Two Weeks: So Far, so Good

DE RUEHKH #1714/01 3311139
P 261139Z NOV 08




E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (SBU) SUMMARY: According to the UN Head of Office for Abyei,
the new Abyei Administration has made a good start since its arrival
in the area two weeks ago. The Administration has drafted a budget,
but is still not receiving the oil revenues promised in the Roadmap
Agreement. It also is preparing for the annual Misseriya cattle
migration, which is starting early this year. Relations between the
Ngok Dinka and Misseriya remain tense after the May fighting. The
Joint Integrated Police Unit (JIPU) is seeking to establish its
presence throughout the Abyei Roadmap area, but also is seriously
under-resourced. IDPs displaced in May are returning, but only very
cautiously. END SUMMARY.

Good Start After Two Weeks
- - - - - - - - - - - - - -
2. (SBU) In a conversation with econoff on November 23 and during
a briefing to the AEC Three Areas Working Group November 24, UN Head
of Office for Abyei Christine Johnson provided an update on Abyei
Roadmap agreement implementation and the initial progress of the
Abyei Administration. Johnson credits the Abyei Interim
Administration with making good progress, given it has been there on
the ground only two weeks. She reported that SPLM-appointed
Administrator Arop Mayok and his NCP-appointed Deputy, Rahama al
Nour, appear to cooperate well, at least in public. (According to
another source, Mayok and al Nour are old acquaintances who get
along well together.) The two have traveled through the Roadmap
area, making direct contact with traditional leaders, who had begun
to lose confidence in the Administration during the lengthy delay
between their appointment and arrival on the scene (reftel). The
Administration also began to focus immediately on what Johnson
called its "core areas" of responsibility: budget, security, and
the provision of social services.

A Budget, But Still No Revenues
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3. (SBU) An early Administration priority was drafting a budget; in
fact two - an immediate emergency budget and a 2009 budget.
According to Johnson, the drafting process focused on key areas such
as health, education, and social welfare. With technical support
from the UN and from Bearing Point advisors, working groups for each
of these areas drafted the corresponding budget section. The
exercise brought the Abyei Administration into working contact with
the international NGOs on the scene, and the SPLM together with the
NCP. The finished drafts now must be approved by the Abyei Council.

4. (SBU) Although the Administration has drafted a budget, it still
is living hand-to-mouth, according to Johnson, begging supplies from
traders in the town market place. Oil revenues allotted to the
Administration and the local population by the Abyei Protocol and
the Roadmap still are not being disbursed. The reason for the delay
remains unclear. (Note: Separately, NCP negotiator Dirdeiry Ahmed
Mohammed, claimed to polchief November 26 that the money has indeed
been disbursed, but that the Administration does not have the
capacity to spend it yet. We tend to believe Johnson, and will
continue to press the GOS on the status of the funds. End note.)

An Early Challenge - the Misseriya Cattle Migration
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5. (SBU) One of Mayom's first acts was to appoint Deputy
Administrator al Nour to deal with the annual winter (dry season)
migration of al Nour's fellow Misseriya cattle herders through Abyei
to the grasslands in Bahr al Ghazal further south. Johnson reports
that the migration has begun early this year, and has already
reached Abyei's northern boundaries. The Abyei Joint Integrated
Unit (JIU) is deploying to provide security. She said that while
the cattle ("hundreds of thousands") are moving, the Misseriya
herdsmen are waiting, on the instructions of their traditional
leaders. (According to Johnson, the cattle move spontaneously in
search of fresh grass and the herders travel along with them.) A
major issue for the SPLM will be if and how the Misseriya are armed
for the migration. Anything other than small arms is likely to cause

6. (SBU) Negotiations also are underway between the Misseriya and
the SPLA on the conditions for the herders' movement south of the
1956 border. The Misseriya seek to bring their weapons along or
receive guarantees of security from the SPLA, while the SPLA demands
the herdsman come south unarmed. Johnson believes that a compromise
will be reached along the lines of prior years, with herdsmen
allowed to bring a limited number of weapons with them (on the order
of two automatic rifles per cattle camp) for self-defense.
Dirdeiry, who is Misseriya, told polchief he would travel to
Southern Kordofan next week to meet with community leaders to
attempt to prevent conflict this year and discuss the terms of that

KHARTOUM 00001714 002 OF 003

migration, along the lines of what Johnson described (the migration
through South Kordofan parallels the one through Abyei). Dirdeiry
and SPLM SG Pagan Amun traveled together to the Abyei region last
year to mediate several conflicts.

A Longer-Term Challenge - Dinka-Misseriya Reconciliation
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7. (SBU) Johnson said that a longer term issue will be
reconciliation between the Ngok Dinka and Misseriya in the aftermath
of the May fighting. The Dinka remain bitter about looting by
Misseriya during and after the outbreak of fighting in Abyei in May.
Johnson said that for their part, the Misseriya are very unhappy
and insecure. Both Misseriya herdsman and younger Misseriya are
unhappy with their tribal leaders. She described the situation as

Establishing Security
- - - - - - - - - - -
8. (SBU) UNMIS now is able to patrol throughout the Roadmap area,
but so far the SAF continues to refuse it permission to move north
(outside) of the provisional boundary established in the Roadmap.
Such access is important because that is where contact between Dinka
and Misseriya is most common and, therefore, violent clashes are
most likely to erupt. Johnson said she is more concerned about
events outside the Roadmap boundary spilling over, than about
problems within the area itself. While UNMIS Sector IV can maintain
security in Southern Kordofan to the east, she described Meriam to
the west as a "blind spot," and especially worrying because it
borders Darfur.

9. (SBU) Johnson reported that the Joint Integrated Police Unit
(JIPU) is working to establish a three-level security system in the
Roadmap area. First, it has identified six villages outside of
Abyei town where it plans to establish stations. The second level
will be to institute mobile patrolling in the countryside,
especially to the north, where trouble is most likely to breakout
between Ngok Dinka and Misseriya. The third level will be to
establish a reaction team to respond quickly to incidents. This
will include an information element to dispel rumors and
misinformation. Johnson said that minor incidents frequently are
blown out of proportion as word spreads, leading to potentially
dangerous confrontations.

10. (SBU) Johnson praised both the JIU and JIPU the leadership, but
said that serious problems, especially lack of resources, continue.
Both units lack communications equipment and vehicles (the JIPU,
shockingly, has only one vehicle.) Johnson said the JIU appears on
its way to slowly making up its shortfalls through bilateral
donations. The JIPU, however, remains seriously under resourced and
constrained in its ability to carry out its mission. Both the JIU
and JIPU continue to be seriously under-funded by the GoS in

Pushing for a Final Troop Withdrawal
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11. (SBU) An additional issue is the continued presence of SPLA
military police in Agok to the south and a SAF unit reputedly
providing security in the Difra oil field to the north. Each uses
the presence of the other as an excuse to remain. Administrator
Mayok is trying to persuade the SPLA unit to make the first move and

IDPs Returning, But Slowly
- - - - - - - - - - - - - -
12. (SBU) Johnson said that the tens of thousands displaced by the
May fighting are returning to Abyei, but very gradually. The IDPs
are very conscious of the tenuous security situation and have been
cautious about going home. She said that many families appear to be
keeping multiple options open. While one family member remains in
Agok with school-age children, another may return to Abyei to
reclaim land, while a third may travel to Juba or elsewhere in
search of work. In sum, Johnson concluded, we are not at a stage
where IDPs can be returned to Abyei en masse. A better approach is
to create an environment - security, infrastructure, social services
- conducive to voluntary IDP returns, and let people decide for
themselves when to do so.

- - - -
13. (SBU) Johnson's report that the Abyei Administration is up and
running is welcome news. Abyei has been without an administration
for three years and, therefore, without government services,
development assistance, and security. Arop Mayok and company appear
to be seeking to address these issues quickly. However, their work
and that of the UN continues to be hampered by their own limited
capacity, and by GoS resistance and foot-dragging, notably in terms

KHARTOUM 00001714 003 OF 003

of disbursal of the agreed oil revenues and refusal to allow UNMIS
to patrol the potential trouble area north of the roadmap boundary.
Although the danger has lessened, Abyei remains a potential
flashpoint between the NCP and the SPLM. The risk of confrontation
will increase as the migration season progresses and other political
factors such as the ICC, elections planning, and border demarcation
- not to mention the announcement of the result of the Permanent
Court of Arbitration on Abyei's borders, anticipated in June 2009,
come into play. This volatile combination of sensitive issues
promises to make 2009 a potentially especially destabilizing year
for Abyei and Sudan, which will need to be managed carefully by the
Sudanese and the international community.


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