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Cablegate: Darfur - El Geneina's Northern Corridor at Risk

VZCZCXRO1641
PP RUEHGI RUEHMA RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #1213/01 2171410
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 051410Z AUG 07
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8088
INFO RUCNFUR/DARFUR COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHRN/USMISSION UN ROME

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KHARTOUM 001213

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

AIDAC
SIPDIS

STATE FOR AF/SPG, PRM, AND ALSO PASS USAID/W
USAID FOR DCHA SUDAN TEAM AND AFR/SP
NAIROBI FOR USAID/DCHA, USAID/REDSO, USAID/SFO AND FAS
GENEVA FOR NKYLOH
NSC FOR PMARCHAM, MMAGAN, AND TSHORTLEY
ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU
USUN FOR TMALY
BRUSSELS FOR PBROWN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID PREF PGOV PHUM SOCI UN SU
SUBJECT: DARFUR - EL GENEINA'S NORTHERN CORRIDOR AT RISK


KHARTOUM 00001213 001.2 OF 002


1. (SBU) Summary: During a recent USAID visit to El Geneina, West
Darfur, U.N. staff alerted USAID to serious security problems and
human rights abuses in the northern corridor of West Darfur. Arab
nomadic groups and armed militia are terrorizing the residents of
Abu Sorug, Sirba, Silea, and Bir Dagig, and they are operating
without any significant intervention by Sudanese government police.
Bir Dagig is particularly vulnerable to attack due to the complete
absence of police, and the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for
Human Rights (OHCHR) has issued a public call to the Government of
National Unity (GNU) to protect residents of the village. End
summary.

--------------------------------------------- ---------
PATTERN OF ABUSE MOVING SOUTHWARD IN NORTHERN CORRIDOR
--------------------------------------------- ---------

2. (SBU) On July 19, USAID staff met with the U.N. Mission in
Sudan-Human Rights (UNMIS-HR) Team Leader in El Geneina to discuss
events in the northern corridor connecting El Geneina to Kulbus.
UNMIS-HR reported that this area, which includes the villages and
internally displaced person (IDP) settlements of Jebel Moon, Sirba,
Silea, Abu Sorug, and Bir Dagig, has experienced serious violence
during the past two years. OHCHR reported that a brutal Arab
militia attack on Aro Sharow IDP camp in Jebel Moon in September
2005 resulted in the deaths of 27 people and the burning of 40
homes; Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) soldiers stationed 2 km away did
nothing to intervene. Three of the worst attacks took place in
Jebel Moon, Sirba, and Silea in late 2006. On October 29, 2006,
Arab militia attacked the villages and IDP camps around Jebel Moon,
an area predominantly inhabited by the Jebel Messeriya ethnic group,
killing 50 civilians. (Note: The Jebel Messeriya is an African
group that is distinct from the Arab Misseriya group. End note.)


3. (SBU) The Sudanese government believes the population in this
area supports the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and Justice and
Equality Movement (JEM), and UNMIS staff reported that subsequent
investigation has shown SAF involvement in some attacks. On
November 11, 2006, SAF and Arab militia attacked the village of
Sirba, killing 11 civilians and destroying 100 homes. SAF and Arab
militia allegedly deliberately targeted young and old men in the
incident, reportedly in retaliation for a JEM attack on an SAF
convoy. On December 9, 2006, Arab militia attacked a civilian
convoy traveling on the El Geneina-Silea road south of Sirba,
killing 28 out of 50 civilians, many of whom were IDP teachers from
Abu Sorug. The attackers set their victims on fire with the
apparent intent of burning them alive. UNMIS-HR has also documented
other smaller-scale human rights abuses in the area.

4. (SBU) UNMIS-HR believes the situation in the northern corridor
has recently worsened. Human rights monitors are documenting
increased attacks on the Erenga, an African ethnic group. The
pattern of attacks appears to be moving south toward El Geneina,
with more Erenga villages drawn into the conflict. UNMIS-HR said
that previously the government did not consider the Erenga to be
supportive of the armed opposition groups, but that government's
perception seems to have changed. The GNU may be attempting to keep
the Erenga from interacting with the Jebel Messiriya, as the JEM
commander Abdul Magid, who is Jebel Messeriya, is active in Jebel
Moon.

------------------------------------------
CONFLICT RAGING WITH IMPUNITY IN BIR DAGIG
------------------------------------------

5. (SBU) The villages and IDP settlements in the northern corridor
are extremely vulnerable. In Abu Sorug, Silea, and Sirba, the
police are very weak, and the African Union Mission in Sudan is not
patrolling. According to UNMIS-HR, the residents have formed "local
defense forces" to protect themselves from attack. Nomads reportedly
cannot even enter the markets in these areas.

6. (SBU) Other U.N. staff told USAID that Central Reserve Police are
targeting young men in the northern corridor. When UNMIS officers
visit the villages, the youth beg to be taken out of the town for
fear that they will be killed. U.N. staff also reported that people
in these areas who have attempted to register cases of human rights
abuses with police have been chased away from the police stations.

7. (SBU) The village of Bir Dagig, located 30 km north of El Geneina

KHARTOUM 00001213 002.2 OF 002


town, with a population of 4,500, is particularly vulnerable to
attack. Village residents have been complaining that Arab nomads
have harassed and abused residents, particularly women and girls,
since January 2007. The GNU initially deployed additional police to
the village, but in April 2007, all of the police withdrew from the
town, according to UNMIS-HR. Whether the police withdrew due to
fear of attack or to punish the residents is unclear.

8. (SBU) Since July 1, 2007, nomads and militia have accused
villagers in Bir Dagig of stealing livestock. In retaliation,
nomads and militia beat and abducted the residents and looted their
property. Militia have encircled Bir Dagig. As there is no well in
the village, women have to go outside to get water, at which time
the militia rape and assault the women. On July 5, a government
official traveled to Bir Dagig to mediate between the militia and
residents. The Bir Dagig community members agreed, under threat of
future militia attacks, to pay 30,000 Sudanese Pounds (USD 15,000)
in compensation for the cattle. The militia members received no
sanctions for their abuse of the villagers. Subsequent UNMIS-HR
reports indicate that local government officials have agreed to
mediate between the groups, redeploy police, and pursue registered
complaints, but to date none of this has occurred.

--------------------------------------------- ---------
UNITED NATIONS ISSUES PUBLIC CALL TO PROTECT CIVILIANS
--------------------------------------------- ---------

9. (SBU) During a U.N. interagency mission to Bir Dagig on July 18,
UNMIS-HR observed 15 to 20 armed men who had come to collect money
from the villagers, and no police presence in the village. The
villagers indicated that they did not have the money. The U.N.
mission was advised to leave the area due to the tense situation,
and withdrew.

10. (SBU) OHCHR subsequently issued a statement calling on the GNU
to "act immediately on pledges it has made to re-establish a
permanent police presence in Bir Dagig and to provide effective
protection to civilians living in the village and surrounding area."
OHCHR urged the government to "fulfill its responsibility and its
stated commitment by 1) investigating complaints of livestock theft
and human rights abuses, and 2) bringing to justice in fair trials
perpetrators of human rights abuses in Bir Dagig." To date UNMIS-HR
and OHCHR have reported no action on the part of the GNU in relation
to the situation in Bir Dagig.

11. (SBU) Comment: USAID supports two groups of human rights
lawyers in El Geneina who take on cases for the most vulnerable
victims of human rights abuses. However, only registered cases can
be prosecuted, and few have been registered in the northern corridor
due to fear of retribution or police intimidation.

FERNANDEZ

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