Cablegate: Southern Sudan: Tensions Over Construction Of

DE RUEHKH #2665/01 3181240
P 141240Z NOV 06





E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Approximately 20 men armed with machetes,
knives, and other weapons stormed the construction site of
the new interim general headquarters for the Sudan People's
Liberation Army (SPLA) November 11 and threatened expatriate
staff. An SPLA soldier on site responded and called in
reinforcements, who repulsed the group. One intruder was
injured in the incident, the latest in a series involving the
SPLA and local villagers claiming rights to the land. The
headquarters is being built with USG funds, through the prime
contractor DynCorp and various sub-contractors. End Summary.

Armed Intruders

2. (SBU) The trouble began around 10:00 a.m. local time on an
otherwise quiet Saturday. A ragtag group of approximately 20
men entered the large SPLA construction site, brandishing
machetes, knives, and clubs. The group identified two
Lebanese engineers at the site, told them to stop working,
and threatened them with death if they "dug another hole."
The engineers are employed by the Millennium Group,
sub-contractors to the U.S.-based DynCorp. DynCorp is
constructing the headquarters with USG funding, part of a
larger program to assist in the transformation of the SPLA
from a guerilla army to a more professional force.

3. (SBU) After being threatened, the Lebanese engineers
alerted the single SPLA soldier on site, who attempted to
discuss the situation with the intruders. He also managed to
summon several other SPLA soldiers from a nearby site. Once
the SPLA was present in greater numbers, they forcefully
directed the intruders to depart. One SPLA soldier struck an
intruder on the head with the blunt side of a machete. The
intruders departed with no further injuries.


4. (SBU) ConGen staff contacted SPLA Chief of Staff Gen. Oyai
Deng by mid-afternoon November 11, immediately upon learning
of the incident. We stressed that the SPLA must provide
adequate security at the site and must resolve its
differences with the local population and the villagers'
political leaders and allies. Deng said he would inform GoSS
Vice President Riek Machar of the incident immediately. He
also promised to consult further with Central Equatoria State
Governor Clement Wani and to dispatch an SPLA delegation to
meet with community leaders. SPLA officials and a local
government leader conferred with villagers later in the day
on November 11 and made plans for follow-up consultations on
November 13.


5. (SBU) The dispute is one of several in the Juba area
between the local population and various land claimants,
including the Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS). ConGen
staff and the ARSO visited the SPLA site November 9. Work
was proceeding smoothly. Four SPLA soldiers were present at
the site to provide security. Three others were absent
fetching water and/or obtaining food. We underscored to the
soldiers the importance of their mission. We also encouraged
construction personnel to move quickly to refurbish a
wellhead damaged in an earlier incident of community
violence, so that there would be fewer reasons for SPLA
soldiers to be absent from the site.

6. (SBU) In the previous incident, on October 14, armed
intruders did tens of thousands of dollars worth of damage to
electrical equipment, fence posts, a wellhead, and other
equipment at the site. Subsequent to the incident, the SPLA
arrested three persons, including at least one community
leader. Custody of the detainees was later transferred to
the police after the intervention of Governor Wani. At least
two of the detainees are now said to have been released.

7. (SBU) Wani invited ConGen staff to view an alternative
site for the construction on October 29. We accepted the
invitation and viewed the site, approximately two kilometers
distant from the current construction. The current site is
bordered by a small village of perhaps 20 households. The
villagers are mainly ethnic Bari. In addition, there are
three homesteads of about a dozen ethnic Mundari still living
on the current construction site. According to Wani, the
SPLA has never visited the alternative site, and never

KHARTOUM 00002665 002 OF 002

consulted with him about the location of the interim
headquarters. The SPLA claim they consulted with Wani and
others at various levels of government, including the local
community, and that the site was accepted.

8. (SBU) ConGen urged Wani to consult directly with the SPLA
on all issues concerning the construction and ensure that all
stakeholders, including the SPLA, discuss the construction
project further with local residents. We later visited Gen.
Deng to urge him to talk directly to Wani, and to reinforce
SPLA efforts to reach out to the local community. We have
pointed out to all concerned that the site was selected after
a lengthy process and that significant funds have already
been expended to commence construction.

Next Steps

9. (SBU) DynCorp personnel and their subcontractors are
prepared to resume operations at the site, but only on the
condition that the SPLA maintain a force of no fewer than
seven armed soldiers at the site at all times. DynCorp will
also erect a sign identifying the site as intended for the
SPLA headquarters, rather than a private construction
project. ConGen staff has underscored the importance of
adequate security with the SPLA and stated that work cannot
continue at the site if adequate security cannot be provided.
A further evaluation of the security posture should be
undertaken after SPLA and GoSS representatives hold further
consultations with the affected community and its leaders.
There are currently approximately 20 SPLA soldiers on the
site providing security.

© Scoop Media

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