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Cablegate: Darfur - Fighting in Gereida

VZCZCXRO6724
PP RUEHMA RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #2420/01 2751432
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 021432Z OCT 06
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4821
INFO RUCNFUR/DARFUR COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHRN/USMISSION UN ROME

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 KHARTOUM 002420

SIPDIS

AIDAC
SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

STATE FOR AF/SPG, PRM, AND ALSO PASS USAID/W
USAID FOR DCHA SUDAN TEAM, AFR/SP
NAIROBI FOR USAID/DCHA/OFDA, USAID/REDSO, AND FAS
GENEVA FOR NKYLOH
NAIROBI FOR SFO
NSC FOR JBRAUSE, NSC/AFRICA FOR TSHORTLEY
USUN FOR TMALY
BRUSSELS FOR PLERNER

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: MOPS EAID PREF PGOV PHUM SOCI SU
SUBJECT: DARFUR - FIGHTING IN GEREIDA

REF: KHARTOUM 02225

KHARTOUM 00002420 001.2 OF 003


-------
Summary
-------

1. (SBU) On September 29, unknown assailants attacked the Sudan
Liberation Army (SLA)/Minawi faction based in Gereida, South Darfur.
Despite hosting the largest concentration of internally displaced
persons (IDPs) in Darfur, the humanitarian impact of the attack in
Gereida appears to be minimal at this time. Non-governmental
organizations (NGOs) working in the area have not reported
significant casualties or displacements. Most NGOs, however, have
evacuated Gereida and temporarily suspended humanitarian activities.
The ability of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), which is the
Gereida camp coordinator, to operate in Gereida is directly
threatened by the evacuation, as many expect that the Sudanese
government Humanitarian Aid Commission (HAC) will not allow the NGO
to return.

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----------
Background
----------

2. (U) Gereida is a town of 30,000 to 50,000 people located 105 km
south of Nyala, South Darfur, that is currently host to 131,000 IDPs
- making Gereida the largest IDP camp in all of Darfur. Gereida is
in an area dominated by the non-Arab Massalit ethnic group and is
controlled by the Minni Minawi faction of the SLA (SLA/MM),
affiliated primarily with the Zaghawa ethnic group. Gereida lies
along the Nyala to Buram road, an area the Sudanese Armed Forces
have previously pledged to clear of all SLA presence.

-------------------
Conflict in Gereida
-------------------

3. (U) UN sources report that an attack by unidentified assailants
resulted in heavy fighting in Gereida town from approximately 0630
to 1630 on September 29. The violence was concentrated on the
northern side of town near to the wadi, and appears to have targeted
the SLA/MM compound. According to USAID partners, the fighting is
believed to have involved heavy machine gun and mortar fire.

4. (SBU) The identity and motives of the attackers have not yet been
confirmed. Initial reports indicated that Justice and Equality
Movement (JEM) forces perpetrated the attack; however, this
explanation is unlikely given that JEM was not known to have a
presence in the area and has no plausible motivation for attacking
Gereida.

5. (SBU) The most likely scenario is that the recent fighting in
Gereida was between Massalit and Zaghawa portions of the SLA
controlling the area. The first report of this tension between
these groups was on September 1, when the Massalit attacked the
Zaghawa motivated by the belief that the Zaghawa were sidelining the
Massalit within the movement and not acting in the interests of the
local population. Such reports have continued to accumulate since
that time. The tensions are reportedly due to frustration among the
Massalit that the Zaghawa-dominated SLA is not protecting the people
of Gereida effectively from attacks by Arab nomads on the outskirts
of town.

6. (SBU) According to UN sources, other possible explanations
include attacks by Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) non-signatories,
such as National Redemption Front (NRF) or SLA Free Will. Finally,
SLA/MM representatives have alleged Sudanese government involvement
in, or support for, the attack.

-----------------------
The Humanitarian Impact
-----------------------

7. (U) Solid information about the humanitarian impact of this
skirmish is not yet available. The UN Office for the Coordination
of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is working with the UN Department of
Safety and Security (UNDSS) to organize an assessment mission as
soon as safety permits.

8. (SBU) According to one NGO, no war wounded have been seen in
either the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) clinic or

KHARTOUM 00002420 002.2 OF 003


the local hospital, and this may suggest an active attempt to
conceal the facts of the situation from international actors. While
another NGO staff member reported seeing one dead and two injured,
USAID has received no reports of large numbers of civilians or
combatants injured by the fighting.

9. (SBU) No lasting displacements appear to have occurred as a
result of the skirmish. Indications are that civilians residing on
the north side of Gereida near the scene of conflict temporarily
moved closer to the center of town for safety. UN sources also
report that Gereida town residents moved into IDP centers in the
eastern and southern portions of town to avoid the fighting. It is
worth noting that the people of Gereida are primarily Massalit and
support the Massalit SLA forces. If this group is in fact
responsible for the military offensive against the Zaghawa SLA, it
is not expected to create displacement among either the Gereida town
or camp population.

--------------------------------------
Implications for Humanitarian Programs
--------------------------------------

10. (SBU) On September 29, a combination of UN Humanitarian Air
Service (UNHAS) and UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) helicopters
transported 55 NGO and UN staff from Oxfam, American Refugee Council
(ARC), ZOA Refugee Care, Merlin, Action Contre la Faim (ACF), NRC,
the International Organization for Migration, the UN Food and
Agriculture Organization, and the UN Population Fund. The UN sent
an additional flight on September 30 to relocate two remaining
Merlin staff members and some employees of the Sudanese government
Office of Water and Environmental Sanitation (WES). The UN followed
up with a final evacuation flight on October 1 for the remaining WES
staff.

11. (SBU) The September 29 to October 1 evacuation of Gereida left
only two agencies with response capacity on the ground. ICRC has
retained its full team in Gereida, and ACF has left a smaller team
of approximately nine people. ZOA and Oxfam evacuated Gereida and
temporarily suspended activities. Staff members of the three UN
agencies were only visiting the area, as the UN does not maintain a
presence in Gereida. Program status on each of the three USAID
Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance partners is as follows:

--ACF--

12. (SBU) ACF conducted only a partial evacuation on September 29,
leaving a team of two expatriate and seven national staff. The
agency reports the intention to return all staff as soon as local
SLA commanders give the agency an assurance of safety. As the UN
World Food Program cooperating partner in Gereida, ACF reports
having adequate stocks for October rations, but has delayed plans to
conduct general food distributions from October 1 - 8.

--ARC--

13. (SBU) ARC withdrew seven staff members that were originally from
Nyala. While ARC has 32 locally recruited clinic staff still in
Gereida, ARC management reports that the ability for the program to
continue will depend on the general security situation. ARC will
participate in the upcoming OCHA-led humanitarian assessment mission
and make a determination to return based on mission findings.

--Merlin--

14. (SBU) Merlin withdrew all of the agency's 17 staff members,
leaving the program in a state of complete suspension. Security
permitting, Merlin is planning to send in an advanced team by road
on October 3 to assess the situation and depending upon the team's
findings will return a medical team on October 9 via the next
regularly scheduled UNHAS helicopter flight.

-------------------------
Gereida Camp Coordination
-------------------------

15. (SBU) In late August, NRC officially assumed camp coordination
responsibilities for Gereida. On September 19, however, the HAC
announced that the suspension of NRC's camp coordination role in
Kalma camp (reftel) also extends to Gereida. Since that time, HAC
has prevented the movement of NRC staff and supplies into Gereida,
but has not had the authority to force the departure of NRC staff

KHARTOUM 00002420 003.2 OF 003


because the area is under the control of the SLA/MM.

16. (SBU) Since NRC evacuated Gereida with other NGOs on September
29, the HAC may use this opportunity to prevent NRC from returning
to Gereida. Therefore, it is probable that NRC will be unable to
continue camp coordination activities in Gereida. USAID field staff
will monitor NRC's ability to return, the humanitarian implications
of the lack of camp coordination, and the response of the
international community.

HUME

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