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Cablegate: One Dead in Abyei After Jiu and Jipu Clash, Situation Now

VZCZCXRO5720
PP RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #1786 3491344
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 141344Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2535
INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS KHARTOUM 001786

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

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

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL EAID ASEC KPKO UNSC SU
SUBJECT: ONE DEAD IN ABYEI AFTER JIU AND JIPU CLASH, SITUATION NOW
QUIET, BUT TENSE

REF: A. KHARTOUM 1767
B. KHARTOUM 1777

1. (U) Over the course of two days, clashes between security forces
in Abyei town are reported to have left one soldier dead, and nine
individuals wounded. The first incident at 12:30PM on December 12
reportedly began with a dispute between a Southern Joint Integrated
Police Unit (JIPU) policeman and an ethnic-Misseriya butcher in the
town market place. According to one account, the butcher stabbed
the policeman. When the JIPU fired into the air to disperse a
gathering crowd, they were fired on by panicky Joint Integrated Unit
(JIU) soldiers from the SAF, who thought they were under attack.
Another version has it that the dispute escalated when the northern
JIU soldiers intervened on the side of the butcher in his argument
with police. The circumstances surrounding the noon December 13
gunfire (a separate reported incident) are unclear, but it may have
begun when a group of JIU soldiers approached a police station in
the market area.

2. (SBU) In the first incident one JIU soldier was killed, and five
other JIUs, two JIPUs, and two civilians were wounded. All of the
wounded were medevaced by UNMIS to Kadugli. There were no known
casualties in the second incident, according to UNMIS. Delegations
from the Abyei Joint Military Commission quickly deployed to both
Agok and Diffra in an effort to head off any attempt by either the
SPLA or SAF to intervene in the conflict. The town is currently
under a 6:00PM to 6:00AM curfew and UNMIS reports it is "extremely
tense."

3. (SBU) As was true at the start of the outbreak of fighting in
May, most or all of the key decision makers were away and unable to
intervene when the trouble started. UNMIS's immediate reaction to
the gunfire was to withdraw to its compound. All of the principals,
however, immediately returned to Abyei in order to regain control of
the situation. These included Abyei Administrator Arop Mayok, JIU
Commander Valentino, and UN Head of Office Christine Johnson. UNSYG
Special Representative Ashraf Qazi also traveled from Khartoum to
Abyei on December 13. UN South Sudan Humanitarian Coordinator David
Gressly left Juba for Abyei on December 13 to assess the
situation.

4. (U) According to Mercy Corps and Save the Children/U.S. staff,
several hundred civilians fled from Abyei to Agok following the
shooting incidents. Relief workers report that the several hundred
civilians who left Abyei in recent days had only just returned to
Abyei after leaving during the May 2008 clashes. However, the
humanitarian impact of the recent insecurity is likely to be minimal
as most of Abyei's IDPs remain displaced in Agok, south of the Kiir
River, since May. Those IDPs who did return to Abyei have left
family members behind in Agok. Aid agencies have suspended
activities in Abyei until the security situation improves, but
continue to operate in Agok. USAID will continue to monitor the
humanitarian impact.

5. (SBU) During a meeting with a visiting Congressional staffdel
December 14 (septel), MFA U/S Mutrif Siddiq also reported that the
situation in Abyei is now calm and characterized the events as an
"isolated incident." Siddiq said the GOS is more concerned with
JEM. He said that given its recent build-up of vehicles in North
Darfur (currently amassed in Kariari, according to Siddiq), JEM may
be planning an attack on oil installations/pipelines in South
Kordofan. To provide additional protection to oil installations and
"prevent infiltration," the SAF has sent an additional six
battalions to South Kordofan, according to Siddiq.

6. (SBU) Comment: The incident proves once more that Abyei remains
a flash point between North and South, as well as local ethnic
groups. As the May conflict demonstrated, a minor incident can
easily flare out of control, especially if key leaders are not
available to take prompt action. Bitter ethnic feelings and
tensions in the region might be significantly reduced were the
newly-installed Abyei Administration to begin significant
development projects and have peace dividends to show to the
population. However, recovery and development activities require a
certain level of stability in order to implement projects that will
make a difference in the lives of Abyei's citizens. This will
require that the GNU start distributing the revenues to which the
Administration is entitled under the Abyei Roadmap agreement. Post
will continue to press GNU and NCP officials for the speedy release
of these funds.

ASQUINO

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