Cablegate: Jury Still Out On Implications of Sla-Abdel Wahid Ouster

DE RUEHKH #1943/01 2280415
P 160415Z AUG 06





E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Summary: Several Fur activists in South Darfur, including
an SLA commander, justify Abdel Wahid's ouster as Chairman on the
basis of his lack of leadership and increasing distance from
Darfurian popular opinion. The SLA faction now led by Ahmed Abdul
Shafi is organizing itself in Asmara and intends to return
imminently to Darfur and hold a general conference. Some Fur
leaders conveyed cautious support for Shafi, but highlight that it
is still too early to determine a majority Fur view on the SLA
split. UNMIS Civil Affairs in South Darfur contend that with Abdel
Wahid in a weakened position, the moment is ripe for the
international community to extend him an olive branch to sign the
DPA. The further division of the SLA may add to the complexity of
the security, political, and humanitarian situation on the ground in
Darfur. End summary.


2. (SBU) Active Response Corp (ARC) Officer and Embassy Poloff met
August 8 with LTC Ahmed Fadul in Nyala, South Darfur, to discuss the
recent ouster of Abdel Wahid as Chairman of his faction of the Sudan
Liberation Army (SLA). Fadul, now aligned with Shafi, previously
supported Abdel Wahid, and has worked with the African Union Mission
in Sudan (AMIS) since July 2004. He remarked that the split with
Abdel Wahid had been contemplated for at least a year, but because
of timing and internal politics, the decision was delayed.

3. (SBU) Fadul articulated several key reasons for Abdel Wahid's
dismissal. First, Abdel Wahid failed to lead the movement
effectively,demonstrating little administrative or organizational
capacity, which constrained his ability to negotiate with the
Government of Sudan and international actors. Second, the former
SLA leader only provided limited support to his fighters, neglecting
their logistical requirements and trying to command from abroad
rather than from Darfur. As a result, many within the movement
perceived Abdel Wahid to be unconnected to his base, particularly to
his commanders in the field. Third, Fadul held that Abdel Wahid's
increasingly "selfish" actions isolated him from the movement. The
former Chairman's unwillingness to consult field commanders and
establish meaningful subsidiary positions within the faction
provided additional impetus for his removal. (Note: septel provides
translation of an August 1 letter from Shafi's group with a fuller
explanation for the ouster. End note.)


4. (SBU) Responding to ARC officer's queries on the views and
anticipated next steps of the new faction, Fadul explained that
Shafi's appointment is only temporary, pending an "SLA general
conference" where members will be selected for key positions. Shafi
is currently in Asmara, organizing his supporters and refining their
agenda. Shafi's intent is to return to Darfur within the "next week
or so," though logistical issues pose problems. Fadul expects the
general conference to occur soon after Shafi's return, possibly in
the vicinity of Jebel Mara.

5. (SBU) Fadul repeatedly stated that peace is a strategic goal of
the new faction. Explaining why Shafi's group, then, had not signed
the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA), he noted their dissatisfaction
with the provisions on compensation and Janjaweed disarmament, as
well as the inadequate allocation of executive authorities for the
position of Senior Assistant to the President. Ninety percent of
the agreement is acceptable, he remarked, but full support would not
be possible until these outstanding issues are addressed. The
commander offered that the Darfur-Darfur Dialogue and Consultation
(DDDC) could serve as a useful tool for generating popular buy-in to
the DPA, but that international community involvement would be
necessary for the process to produce a meaningful outcome. Fadul
reiterated that SLA-Shafi remains committed to upholding its
obligations under the 2004 Ndjamena Humanitarian Ceasefire Agreement
(HCFA), and that the new group wants to bridge the gap on unresolved
provisions with the international community. (Comment: Based on
Fadul's discourse and conversations ARC officer had with other
SLA-Shafi commanders, it appears that many previous Abdel Wahid
supporters felt that the former Chairman had lost too much
credibility within the Fur population and the international
community to remain an effective negotiator. For this reason, among
others, a re-branding of the SLA was needed. End comment.)

6. (SBU) Fadul contended that Shafi's faction had no intention of
joining the National Redemption Front (NRF). He explained that the
group's focus was on Darfur, and did not extend to the national
agenda espoused by members of the NRF (i.e., those affiliated with
JEM). Fadul added that the Abdel Wahid's ouster was well known
throughout the Fur community, though many had not yet formed

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opinions on the development. He held that there were no "hard
feelings" toward Abdel Wahid, who would remain part of the movement
and could even regain the Chairmanship should the commanders so
decide at the general conference. (Comment: A general conference
convened by Shafi, filled with his supporters, and following an
agenda established by the new Chairman, would not likely lead to a
favorable outcome for Abdel Wahid. End comment.)

7. (SBU) Fadul, who speaks fluent English, was optimistic that
differences between his new SLA-Shafi faction and the international
community could be bridged. Like most other Darfurians, he strongly
supports the rapid deployment to the region of UN peacekeepers, who
he believes would create the necessary security conditions to
facilitate returns of internally displaced persons (IDPs). Fadul
appeared realistic regarding the unlikely prospect of re-opening the
DPA, but held firm that Shafi's group would not sign unless their
concerns with the accord were addressed.


8. (SBU) ARC Officer and Poloff spoke with other prominent Fur
political activists in Nyala, including Dr. Mohamed Ahmed Abdulla
Abaker, Mahdi Bosh, and Dr. Mohamed Eisa Alaj, all of whom had
previously met with the CDA in late June. (Biographical Note: Dr.
Mohamed Ahmed is a physician currently working at the teaching
hospital in Nyala. He is Chairman of the Fur Committee in Nyala and
a key player in its efforts to organize politically. He has strong
ties to both Abdel Wahid and Shafi. Originally from the Jebel Mara,
he has one brother working as a lawyer in Saudi Arabia. Mahdi Bosh
is the Executive Officer of the GNU-sponsored Commission for the
Eradication of Abduction of Women and Children and a former
prosecutor general in Darfur. Dr. Mohamed Eisa Alaj is a pharmacist
-- who owns at least one pharmacy in Nyala -- with strong ties to
Abdel Wahid. He has one brother in New Jersey. All three
individuals speak English. End note.)

9. (SBU) The prevailing sentiment of the Fur leaders was one of
frustration with Abdel Wahid's leadership and his inability to
advance Fur interests more effectively. They noted the glaring
absence of a "political plan" for the SLA and expressed confidence
that Shafi would be able to provide greater direction and
organization for the movement. The activists highlighted oft-cited
"shortcomings" in the DPA, to include the insufficiency of
international oversight and lack of credible mechanisms to ensure
GNU compliance. Dr. Mohamed Ahmed, in particular, provided a cogent
six-point discourse on means to improve the DPA. He argued that:

-- An acceptable UN official should be appointed to impartially
mediate between Darfurians and the GNU.

-- The GNU must quickly make public its disarmament plan of the
Janjaweed, whose dismantlement must be overseen and verified by the
international community and the rebel movements. (Note: ARC officer
informed Dr. Mohamed Ahmed that a plan had been delivered to AMIS,
which was reviewing it. Additionally, the DPA provides for rebel
involvement in the verification of Janjaweed disarmament. End

-- Adequate compensation must be paid expeditiously to Darfurians.
(Note: ARC Officer stressed that the initial GNU $30 million
contribution was only a down payment and would very likely be
increased as payments were disbursed. End note.)

-- Darfurians deserve greater political representation at both the
state and national levels. Ahmed held that only thirty percent of
the legislative and executive positions in Darfur should be filled
by non-Darfurians, rather than visa-versa.

-- The DDDC, to be viewed as a legitimate process, must be organized
under the auspices of the UN. Ahmed proposed that the first stage
of the DDDC should be a discussion among "educated" Darfurians
inside and outside of Sudan to better define the nature of the
relationship between Darfur's states and the central government.
Later stages of the dialogue could then address issues of regional
reconsolidation, intertribal reconciliation, and resolution of land

-- The Senior Assistant to the President position currently filled
by Minni Minawi provided insufficient executive authorities. Ahmed
argued that the Special Advisor has no power to directly influence -
politically or fiscally - the Walis of Darfur and, furthermore, is
excluded from key decision-making processes on security and military

10. (SBU) Dr. Mohamed Ahmed remarked that he is leading an effort to
create a Fur "working group" in South Darfur to promote political

KHARTOUM 00001943 003 OF 003

and humanitarian objectives. The group consists of four committees
and thirteen sub-groups, but he did not provide detail on the
mission or tasks of the various components. The doctor noted that
more than 23 tribes are represented in the working group, which
includes IDP, student, and women constituencies. (Comment: When
pressed to provide greater detail about the working group or its
plan to become more public, Ahmed was evasive. This may be due to
its inchoate form or sensitivities about organizing such a group
given the intolerant political environment created by the GNU. End


11. (SBU) In a separate conversation, Ali Hassan, Head of UNMIS
Civil Affairs in South Darfur, echoed Fadul's assertion that the
Fur, including those in the IDP camps, were well aware of the recent
SLA rift. Based on his interaction with Fur IDP representatives,
there was no clear majority opinion in terms of which rebel leader
to favor. He outlined the UN position that in order for the DPA to
truly work, those outside the accord would have to be brought on
board. Notwithstanding Abdel Wahid's removal, the former Chairman
continues to hold sway and serve as a symbol for many Fur, which
suggests that efforts by the GNU, Minawi, and international
community must continue to gain Abdel Wahid's support for the DPA.

12. (SBU) Hassan opined that recent developments have had a mixed
effect on Abdel Wahid's position. On the one hand, he has been
strengthened by the obvious lack of DPA implementation and the
on-going violence in Darfur. On the other hand, Abdel Wahid has
been obviously weakened by his ouster as Chairman, the creation of
new rebel factions, and the ascendancy of Minawi to Senior Assistant
to the President. The change of circumstances for Abdel Wahid
suggests that the international community may now have more leverage
to pressure him into signing the DPA. Hassan posited that the UN
and other key stakeholders should make a public pronouncement
denouncing Shafi's faction, as it only complicates the situation on
the ground and undermines Fur solidarity (and, in return, could
prompt Abdel Wahid to give support to the DPA). ARC officer
responded that it may be more prudent to determine where Shafi stood
on the DPA before making definitive statements, especially given
Abdel Wahid's recent silence and diminished stature.


13. (SBU) While the Fur leaders and UNMIS officials with whom ARC
Officer and Poloff spoke generally believed that Abdel Wahid's
marginalization was a positive development for the SLA, there
remained some ambiguity on the extent of field commander support for
Shafi. Fadul remarked that the July 27 letter revealing the SLA
split listed a number of supporters who, in fact, had not endorsed
the ouster. He added that the August 1 declaration was the
definitive list of SLA military and political officials who endorse
Shafi's chairmanship. Still, UNMIS Ali Hassan and UNDSS in North
Darfur, who have been in touch with various Abdel Wahid military
leaders, intimate that some influential commanders remain loyal to
Abdel Wahid. With his leadership challenged and significant support
lined up behind Shafi, Abdel Wahid appears weakened, which may
present an opportunity for the international community to be in a
stronger position to encourage his support for the DPA. The further
division of the SLA may very well add to the complexity of the
security, political and humanitarian situation on the ground in
Darfur. End comment.


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