Cablegate: Shifting Allegiances Among Sla and Janjaweed

DE RUEHKH #1859/01 3311238
P 271238Z NOV 07





E.O. 12958: N/A



1. (SBU) SUMMARY. Some rebel and political leaders on the ground in
Darfur are signaling a shift in the current political climate where
by some support for Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) faction leader
Abdelwahid al-Nur is shifting to Ahmed Abdelshafie and whereby some
Arab militias (encouraged by the rebel movements) are abandoning the
Government of Sudan (GoS) in favor of greener Darfur Peace Agreement
(DPA) non-signatory pastures. If predictions by SLA reps in El
Fasher prove true and the SLA factions in Juba announce their
consolidated political and military structure by November 30, then
we run the risk of seeing a commensurate response in the security
situation, which most contacts on the ground, especially in the
absence of functioning ceasefire monitoring mechanism, expect will
be violent. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) In separate conversations with FieldOff on November 21, 25
and 26 in El Fasher, representatives of the Justice and Equality
Movement (JEM)/Khalil Ibrahim, representatives from the SLA factions
of Abdulwahid al Nur and Ahmed Abdelshafie, the Darfur Forum and the
El Fasher Native Administration discussed recent trends emerging
among the SLA and janjaweed in the wake of the Sirte peace talks and
in the run-up to UNAMID deployment. All agreed that the unification
of the SLA faction allied to Abdelshafie, some member of SLA/Khamis
Abdullah, and other minor SLA factions, per the ongoing process in
Juba, was imminent, with the SLA/Abdelshafie rep predicting that an
announcement on the political and military structure of the emerging
group could be announced o/a November 30. Once this announcement is
made, the group will approach the African Union/United Nations Joint
Mediation Support Team to voice its concerns about timeframe, venue
and negotiation methodology for subsequent rounds of peace talks.
"Our aim is to avoid the mistakes of Abuja," the Abdelshafie rep

3. (SBU) Regarding splinter groups, most reps agree that none of
these factions poses a significant threat to SLA unification. SLA
faction leader Khamis Abdullah was dismissed as isolated (with his
forces defecting to Abdelshafie's ranks) and lacking in ground
strength. (Note: Per Ref. A, SLA/Khamis Abdullah's supporters have
split between the faction allied with Abdelshafie and the other
group in Juba. End note.) JEM and Darfur Forum reps also agree
that JEM/Idriss Ibrahim Azrag and JEM/Collective Leadership Banda
Abu Garda have insufficient vehicles and soldiers to pose a credible
threat. (Note: Sensitive reporting and UN/AU contacts report that
JEM/Collective Leadership maintains a formidable military capacity,
which JEM/Khalil Ibrahim has an interest in discounting. End note.)
JEM rep speculates that the GoS will seek to exploit the weaknesses
of these groups by offering its support to them (something which
most rebels consider it is doing already) as part of a broader
divide-and-conquer strategy against the SLA. Representatives of the
JEM, SLA/Abdelwahid and SLA/Abdelshafie shared Ref. B assessment
that SLA/Unity of Abdullah Yehia and JEM/Collective Leadership would
consolidate their movements, given their shared experience in
Haskanita, which JEM attributes squarely to this alliance.

4. (SBU) The SLA/Abdelshafie rep does not consider, however, that
such a consolidation will serve any faction well. He explained that
neither Khamis nor Yehia would agree to disband their respective
factions and to abandon their positions therein in favor of creating
a clean SLA slate. The first leader who had volunteered to do this,
he said, was Abdelshafie, who he expects to assume the political
leadership of the reconstituted SLA. (Note: Credible reports
indicate that Abdelshafie's political and military influence in
Darfur is limited, despite assertions from his supporters. End

--------------------------------------------- -
5. (SBU) The founder of the Darfur Forum, a Fur and a traditional
SLA/Abdelwahid supporter, was unambiguous in his assertion that he
"does not see a future for Abdelwahid." He says that Fur
intellectuals in particular no longer support Abdelwahid because "he
is leading us nowhere and is causing us to lose our lands" as a
result of what the rep considers Abdelwahid's opportunism and his
quest to serve only his own interests. The rep continued that
Abdelwahid's voice "is cooling down in the IDP camps," where IDPs
are "shocked" by his refusal to attend Sirte talks. The longer
Abdelwahid stays outside the political process, the rep warns, the
less faith IDPs will have in him so that even if he were to attend
subsequent negotiations, "it wouldn't do him any good."
SLA/Abdelshafie rep advised against the international community's
affording excessive attention to Abdelwahid's recalcitrance, warning
that to do so would only encourage other rebel leaders to follow

KHARTOUM 00001859 002 OF 002

6. (SBU) In a surprising reversal, the Darfur Forum chief stated
that the intellectuals of the SLA are now firmly behind Abdelshafie,
who they consider open-minded and supported by strong SPLM ties.
He, like the SLA/Abdelshafie rep, claims the IDPs, especially in
Kalma, are turning from Abdelwahid to Abdelshafie, bolstered by
lobbying efforts by the Abdelshafie faction to get word out in the
camps that Abdelwahid is not the only one making contributions to
the Darfur process. "He who speaks for the people," the chief
declared, "will win Darfur." (Note: A generational divide exists
between Darfur's elites--represented in the Darfur Forum--and the
region's youth, which has resulted in considerable resentment among
IDPs for the traditional leadership. End note.)

7. (SBU) Dimlig (a Fur word for district chief) General of the El
Fasher Native Administration, however, disagrees that Abdelshafie is
that spokesperson. He refutes the theory that IDP sentiment is
shifting toward Abdelshafie, insisting instead that Abdelwahid is
still fighting for the rights of Darfur people and is right to hold
out for UNAMID deployment to ensure IDP safety before committing to
participate in peace talks. "The IDPs have already waited four
years for peace," he explained, "and they can wait another two."
[NOTE: There is often a disconnect in perceptions between those
representatives on the ground who are involved closely tied to El
Fasher political life, such as the head of the Darfur Forum, and
those who with more traditional ties to the populations on the
ground, such as the Native Administration rep. END NOTE].

8. (SBU) Despite differences of opinion about the leadership of SLA,
one common theme among all groups was the reality of Janjaweed
disillusionment, which is now driving Arabs (mostly of the
camel-herding Rizegat and mostly in northern North Darfur, southern
South Darfur, El Geneina and Kabkabiya) to "desert" their government
benefactor and to seek alliances with the very DPA non-signatories
they were originally instructed to persecute. Fear of persecution
is a justification given by the JEM and SLA factions for this
janjaweed defection: fear of persecution by the International
Criminal Court and by UNAMID are the most commonly cited, and other
rebels speculate that these "converts" are trying to get a piece of
the Darfur reconciliation pie before peace talks proceed any

9. (SBU) According to JEM and SLA reps, these Arabs are tired of
unfulfilled GoS promises of money, land, posts in Native
Administrations and integration into the SAF, police and NISS (and
are evidently vulnerable to JEM and SLA/Abdelshafie intimations
about GoS manipulation), and they are making their demands known to
the GoS. In what reps on the ground admit is a first-time
occurrence in the Darfur conflict, janjaweed fighters are seeking
refuge among the ranks of the very groups they were once ordered to
attack, including the SLA. The SLA and Native Administration, which
represent the Fur populations, regard the janjaweed defectors with a
healthy dose of skepticism, stating that these groups must "prove
their sincerity" before confidence and trust can be rebuilt within
the IDP populations to welcome these elements into SLA ranks. A
healthy dose of paranoia pervades as well: Fur tribe members suspect
the GoS is using certain of these Arabs to "infiltrate" rebel ranks
and destroy the rebel movements from the inside out.

10. (SBU) For its part, the GoS is reportedly taking measures to
protect against the potential threat of janjaweed turncoats. The
JEM rep claims the GoS is on the lookout for new recruits (whom he
called "mujahedin") and has 12,000 military IDs ready to distribute
to them among the three Darfur states, as well as 500 military
positions earmarked for them at the rank of Major and above.

11. (SBU) COMMENT. It is hard to know how much of the rhetoric
surrounding SLA shifting allegiances is accurate, as all factions
and groups are positioning themselves as robustly as possible ahead
of rebel consolidation in Juba and ahead of resumption of
negotiations with the GoS. However, one thing that all groups did
not dispute was the janjaweed convert trend. While it is hard for
many of these rebels to resist the urge to use conspiracy theories
to explain this trend, given their violent history with these
janjaweed fighters, it is worth noting that the SLA might even
consider joining forces with them. Whether SLA motives behind their
decision to entertain this possibility are entirely genuine (a true
"spirit of comprehensive reconciliation") is another question. We
have not yet seen significant Janjaweed fighting alongside SLA
forces on the battlefield (although rumors are rife that this is
imminent), so for now this is all speculative. END COMMENT.

12. (U) Tripoli minimize considered.


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