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Cablegate: Reports of Spla Clashes with Misseriya Arabs

VZCZCXRO1126
PP RUEHGI RUEHMA RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #2060 3621021
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 281021Z DEC 07 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9630
INFO RUCNFUR/DARFUR COLLECTIVE
RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS KHARTOUM 002060

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR AF/SPG, S/CRS, AF SE WILLIAMSON
ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU
DEPT PLS PASS USAID FOR AFR/SUDAN

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL KPKO SOCI AU UNSC SU
SUBJECT: REPORTS OF SPLA CLASHES WITH MISSERIYA ARABS

1. (SBU) Summary: Sudanese news media reported December 24 that
Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) forces clashed with nomadic
Misseriya Arab tribesmen on December 22 and December 23 along the
Kordofan-Bahr al Ghazal border. Newspapers quoted Misseriya sources
claiming 30 SPLA soldiers and nine Misseriya tribesmen killed, while
SPLA sources reportedly claimed 20 SPLA soldiers and 30 Misseriya
tribesmen killed. An SPLA spokesmen in Juba told emboffs December 27
that the reports were exaggerated and claimed that while a Misseriya
cattle herder was involved, there was no clash between SPLA and
Misseriya tribesmen. End summary.

2. (SBU) The clash, first reported by a local daily Al-Sahafa
December 24, reportedly started when SPLA soldiers arrested a Dinka
cattle herder working for Arab Misseriya tribesmen on December 22,
accusing him of carrying weapons. This reportedly resulted in an
altercation which left four Arab tribesmen dead. The following day,
Misseriya tribesmen reportedly attacked an SPLA camp in Grenti in
northern Bahr Al-Ghazal with the assistance of Sudanese Armed Forces
(SAF) and Popular Defense Forces (PDF). The SAF has denied they or
the Popular Defense Forces (PDF) took part in any attack.

3. (SBU) An international NGO in Abyei told poloff on December 27
that a UN security briefing in Abyei confirmed the reports of
clashes between SPLA forces and SAF supported tribesmen. The UN
reported that a joint military team composed of SAF and SPLA forces
will travel to the area tomorrow which the UN identified as being
230 kilometers north of Abyei. According to the UN, fighting
continues.

4. (SBU) Separately, SPLA contacts told emboffs December 27 that 100
Misseriya tribesmen attacked a platoon-sized element of the SPLA on
December 22 in an area near Grenti, killing 22 SPLA soldiers. During
an SPLA counterattack, the Misseriya suffered an unknown number of
casualties. According to the SPLA, there was no further fighting
after December 24 and the situation is stable. The SPLA contact
opined that the SAF encouraged the Misseriya to attack the SPLA to
destabilize the area around the 1/1/56 border. The contact said
that a committee, which includes SPLA Major General Paul Malong, is
heading to the Aweil area on December 28 to prevent further conflict
between the two forces.

5. (SBU) Comment: Due to the scarcity of reliable observers in the
area, there are a number of discrepancies in these reports.
However, multiple reports to date indicate that a high-level joint
SPLM-SAF team will travel to Grenti to assess the actual situation
and attempt to prevent further conflict. Given the impending
redeployment of both SAF and SPLA forces to their respective sides
of the 1/1/56 border, this incident may offer either side a pretext
to delay or halt further troop movements, at least in this
particular area close to the oil fields. Observers note that there
have historically been seasonal skirmishes between Arab Misseriya
herders and SPLA (predominantly Dinka) soldiers in this region, as
the herds move south in search of better grazing.

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