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Cablegate: Goss Views On Abyei Violence, Concerns of Spillover Along

VZCZCXRO7505
OO RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #1792/01 3511357
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 161357Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2541
INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 KHARTOUM 001792

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

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PREF MOPS EAID ASEC KPKO UNSC SU
SUBJECT: GOSS VIEWS ON ABYEI VIOLENCE, CONCERNS OF SPILLOVER ALONG
NORTH-SOUTH BORDER

REFS: A. Khartoum 1786
B. Khartoum 1718
C. Khartoum 1767

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: During a December 13 meeting with the Juba
diplomatic corps, select Abyei Commissioners and GOSS Ministers
placed responsibility for the December 12 gun battle in Abyei town
(ref. A) on the Government of National Unity's (GNU) rejection of
international assistance for the Abyei Joint Integrated Unit (JIU)
and on Khartoum's own failure to fund the SAF JIU contingent.
Although forces are now separated, GOSS, Abyei, and UNMIS officials
expressed concern about possible SAF retaliation. UNMIS is
reviewing Sector Six tripwires in addition to contingency planning
for renewed violence in both Abyei and along the North/South border.
END SUMMARY.

--- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- ---
DESPITE TENSIONS IN ABYEI, SAF REJECTS CALL FOR JDB
--- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- ---

2. (SBU) On December 13, Abyei Chief Administrator Arop Mayok
joined UNMIS SRSG Ashraf Qazi, the Force Commander, and Southern
Sector Resident Coordinator David Gressly in Abyei in response to
concerns by UN Abyei staff about the likelihood of imminent
escalation. Both Benjamin and Deng similarly noted the GOSS remains
"gravely concerned" about potential retaliation following the death
of two SAF soldiers December 12. SPLA Deputy Chief of Staff for
Operations MG James Hoth told CG Juba on December 13 that SAF
counterparts are resisting SPLA Chief of Staff Oyai Deng Ajak's call
for an immediate session of the Joint Defense Board. SAF leadership
argued that it would be inappropriate to meet while National JIU
Commander Thomas Cirillo remained outside of Sudan.

--- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- ---
GOSS BLAMES FIREFIGHT ON ROADMAP FAILURE
--- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- ---

3. (SBU) That same morning, Abyei Agriculture Commissioner Kuol
Arop, GOSS Minister for Presidential Affairs Luka Biong Deng, GOSS
Minister for Regional Cooperation Barnabas Marial Benjamin, and GOSS
Minister for Gender and Social Welfare Mary Kiden met with Juba's
diplomatic corps to seek additional funding for the Abyei region
following the GNU's decision to allot less than $1 million to the
region in its 2009 national budget: 500,000 SDG for Abyei's
executive branch and 600,000 SDG for its legislative structures.
(NOTE: Both the GNU and the GoSS face sharp declines in oil
revenues (ref B). Transfers to states and to the GoSS are to fall
14 percent under the GNU's 2009 budget. The GOSS, citing falling
oil prices, will not be able to budget any funds for Abyei in its
2009 budget. However, the larger issue is the GNU's delay in
disbursing any significant amount of the substantial oil revenues
which have been set aside for the Abyei Administration under the
Roadmap Agreement. The GNU claims this is because the Interim
Administration does not yet have financial mechanisms in place; this
issue must be resolved immediately between the GNU and the Abyei
Interim Administration and the Embassy will continue to push for
this to happen. END NOTE).

4. (SBU) Agricultural Commissioner Arop charged that the December 12
Abyei incident was triggered by "SAF 31st Brigade entrepreneurs"
unhappy with the Abyei Administration's decision to relocate the
town market, and by Khartoum's discomfort with the continued
integration of Misseriya militias into the SPLA. (NOTE: Arop
contends the recent decision to move six SAF brigades into South
Kordofan was an attempt to intimidate Misseriya SPLA recruits,
though the GOS contends it is necessary to secure oil areas from JEM
attacks. END NOTE.) The Abyei Administration, in collaboration
with UNDP, has seized upon the May 2008 destruction of Abyei town to
initiate broad-based urban planning within the town and its
peripheral urban areas as a means to speed both economic growth and
IDP returns, while also limiting future tensions between townspeople
and transiting Misseriya pastoralists. Arop contends that much of
the current "regenerated market" in Abyei town is organized around
SAF 31st Brigade soldiers who shed their SAF uniforms shortly after
the May violence and established businesses on the remains of the
market area. (COMMENT: In other areas along the 1956 border, the
SPLA has accused such "SAF traders" of being SAF infiltrators
waiting to reactivate in case of renewed conflict between SAF/SPA.
END COMMENT.)

5. (SBU) According to both Arop and Minister for Presidential
Affairs Luka Biong Deng, on December 12 one SAF officer became
"belligerent" while Abyei officials spoke with traders about the
need to relocate the market. At that time, Abyei officials brought
in an SPLA JIU officer into the argument who ordered the SAF soldier

KHARTOUM 00001792 002 OF 003


to report to "local Abyei police." According to Deng, the SAF
soldier then became "problematic" for the police, and ran from a
physical altercation back to the SAF JIU barracks. He returned with
a contingent of JIU SAF soldiers on whom scared police opened fire,
at which point the SAF returned fire. Two SAF were killed and five
wounded, with two police and two civilians also injured during the
battle.

6. (SBU) GoSS Minister for Regional Cooperation Barnabas Marial
Benjamin and Presidential Affairs Minister Biong Deng both argued
that this latest incident is not a reflection of issues between
Abyei residents, but rather is rooted in frustration due to
Khartoum's failure to implement the Abyei Roadmap. "If the Joint
Integrated Units were appropriately catered to by the Government of
National Unity we would not have seen violence yesterday," Biong
Deng asserted. "We continue to supply the SPLA JIU contingent with
direct assistance through the SPLA, despite the fact this is a duty
of the national government in Khartoum. They maintain it is a
question of funding priorities, yet continue to reject offers of
assistance from the like of Norway and the United Kingdom."

7. (SBU) Local officials continue to make progress despite a lack
of assistance from Khartoum, they said. The December 5 meeting
between Ngok Dinka and Misseriya traditional leaders (ref. C)
culminated in the group's joint condemnation of the May violence and
subsequent looting in Abyei, in addition to agreement that Misseriya
pastoralists would travel into Abyei region unarmed. (NOTE: For
the purposes of this latest agreement the region is defined as the
totality of the ceasefire zone, including Former Western Kordofan --
an area not included in the Abyei Roadmap, but included in the CPA's
Abyei Protocol. UNMIS notes that SAF continues to refuse to permit
UNMIS to patrol north of the Abyei Roadmap area (which is a
reduction of the area delineated by the Comprehensive Peace
Agreement) and so UNMIS' ability to monitor Misseriya commitment to
this agreement is constrained. END NOTE).

--- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- -- ---
PROGRESS IN ABYEI MOVES FLASH-POINTS ELSEWHERE
--- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- -- ---

8. (SBU) Deng fears that Khartoum's unhappiness with reconciliation
at the Abyei local level will lead it to use Misseriya elsewhere
along the 1956 North/South border to a "trigger a situation" that
would provoke direct SAF/SPLA confrontation. UNMIS Civil Affairs
Acting Head Diane De Guzman endorsed this concern, noting a recent
decision by SPLA to pull back from Abiennmon County in Unity State
rather than risk confrontation with Misseriya groups that allegedly
had recently been visited by NISS ersonnel assigned to the Unity
oil fields. Regional Cooperation Minister Benjamin also underscored
Deng's point, saying that he had just left a meeting of the Southern
Sudan Defense Council focused on the early-morning December 13
arrival of 3,000 armed Misseriya in Northern Bahr el Ghazal (NGEG)
north of the state capital of Aweil. Minister Benjamin reported
that this group is equipped with gun-mounted vehicles, heavy and
light weapons, and wear military uniforms. According to Benjamin,
the GOSS received reports of limited attacks on the (recently
disarmed) civilian population and initial displacements, and that
while the Area Joint Military Committee was set to convene shortly,
"it is important that we have immediate international engagement on
the issue because, while we are already reaching out to the NCP, we
believe they will attempt to downplay the situation as usual."
Commissioner Arop opined that Khartoum may have encouraged early
Misseriya migration to NBEG in an attempt to undermine the agreement
to transit the Abyei region unarmed. (NOTE: Others we have talked
to, including Abyei Commissioner Mayok (ref. C), blame the early
migration on the early end of the rainy season. END NOTE.)

9. (SBU) UNMIS military observers (protect) assigned to Aweil told
Acting CG on December 13 that reports of "armed Misseriya in
uniform" are credible, and that the AJMC would be meeting "shortly"
despite protests from SAF representatives that nomad migrations are
outside of its mandate. UN humanitarian agencies are assessing
displacement levels, but are confident that contingency plans for
natural disasters would allow for rapid and appropriate rollout of
support to affected civilian populations, assuming the situation
remains restive.

10. (SBU) Acting CG met with SPLA D/COS (Operations) James Hoth to
ascertain what measures the SPLA would take to protect civilian
populations given the recent civilian disarmament in the area. Hoth
allowed that discussion with SPLA CoS MG Oyai Deng Ajak are still
ongoing, but that GOSS President Salva Kiir Mayardit already had
ordered the SPLA to exercise maximum restraint until a Joint Defense
Board meeting could be convened.


KHARTOUM 00001792 003 OF 003


--- ---
COMMENT
--- ---

11. (SBU) The December 12 incident shows clearly that Abyei remains
a dangerous flashpoint and underscores the urgent need for credible
implementation of the Roadmap. In order to obstruct Dinka-Misseriya
reconciliation, the NCP continues to hobble the capacity of the new
Administration: withholding revenues (now estimated to be at least
$20 million) to which the Administration is entitled under the
Roadmap, thwarting offers from Norway and the UK to assist the Abyei
JIU, and refusing to allow UNMIS to monitor all of Southern Kordofan
state as stipulated in the CPA. While we are skeptical of GoSS
suspicions that Khartoum wants to provoke a major incident that
could lead back to war at this time, that the GoSS harbors such
serious concerns shows just how tense the situation is and the
limits of President Kiir's ability to restrain increasingly
dissatisfied front-line SPLA. The greater danger is that even a
minor incident in Abyei could quickly draw nearby SAF and SPLA units
into a general melee, as happened in May. Embassy Khartoum will
continue to urge restraint and will push the GNU to disburse funds
to the Abyei Interim Administration immediately.

ASQUINO

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