Cablegate: Nyala and Kalma Camp Update

DE RUEHKH #1387/01 2551415
O 111415Z SEP 08




E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (SBU) Summary: CDA Fernandez traveled to Nyala on September 9-10
to meet with officials from the GOS and UNAMID, IDP leaders and
humanitarian actors in the wake of the killing of dozens of IDPs in
Kalma camp by GOS forces. The unrepentant Wali of South Darfur
heaped scorn on the residents of Kalma camp while exhibiting no
remorse for the massacre of women and children. UNAMID officials
pointed to Kalma killings as evidence that its force is needed more
than ever, and urged for donors and supporters to increase troop and
logistical commitments. Meanwhile, sheikhs in Kalma camp denied that
the presence of weapons there, and welcomed UNAMID's impending 24-7
police presence in the camp with open arms. On the humanitarian
side, officials from the South Darfur HAC denied they were anything
but a facilitator, instead charging local NGOs with being
uncooperative and even subversive. Humanitarian actors painted a
drastically different picture, stating that harassment and obstacles
have continued to increase in recent months. Combined with the
flooding in Kalma camp and pervasive violence throughout the region,
August has been among the most difficult months in recent memory,
they said. Baggara Rizeigat (the sole Arab tribe to abstain from
fighting in Darfur's violence) leaders asked for greater American
engagement with the troubled region's Arab population. End Summary.


2. (SBU) CDA Fernandez began the meeting with South Darfur Wali
(Governor) Ali Mahmud by noting our long standing interest in events
in Kalma IDP camp, the second largest in the state. CDA had already
requested a visit to Nyala and Kalma, even before the August 25
killings, in order to investigate reports that the GOS was blocking
delivery of fuel to the camp required to run water pumps. Since that
request the killings have occurred and we are very angry at what we
considered a crime and a massacre by government forces against
civilians. The United States wanted to see accountability and
clarification of this very regrettable event.

3. (SBU) An unrepentant Mahmud launched into a long tirade against
Kalma Camp and its inhabitants. There are weapons and drugs
("bango" which is the local hashish) in the camp and it has become a
refuge for all sorts of criminality: vehicles and livestock are
stolen in Nyala and dismembered in the camp. The weapons are coming
in from the rebels. Kalma is a threat to the railroad tracks (just
outside the camp) running from Khartoum, to the road network,
communications and airport in Nyala. "There are over 80,000 people
in the camp, what would happen if they marched on any of these
sites?" he asked. There were 25 open criminal cases against people
in Kalma Camp and a judge had blessed the operation.

4. (SBU) The goal of the August 25 operation was "merely to search
for prohibited items." UNAMID had been informed of the operation
and was asked to participate in the search with the force which was
"only made up of local police." There was an exchange of fire and
some people were hurt and killed. Police were also wounded by the
demonstrators and you can visit them in the hospital.

5. (SBU) CDA responded that he was surprised that the Governor
seemed to be concentrating on a list of accusations against the camp
and not the loss of human life. This was a massacre and the
government is responsible. Even if there are criminals or weapons in
the camp, this does not excuse killing people. The Sudanese
Government should be transparent about Kalma and certainly should
not have gone into the camp by itself. CDA and other US officials
had warned the GOS (including the Wali) in October-November 2007
about just such a possibility, and not going into the camp by force
and seeking for divide it by force. At the time the GOS agreed that
steps in Kalma would be coordinated with the UN and donors. This had
not happened.

6. (SBU) Mahmud said that the Government regretted the loss of life.
49 victims were receiving the best of care (6 in Khartoum and 43 in
Nyala) completely free of charge. The people of the camp were
completely free to come and go as they please now. The fuel problem
was solved. The local police were now at a point one kilometer away
from the camp. As for transparency, the US Embassy had sent in
someone named Eric (POL/ECON officer Eric Barbee) shortly after the
incident who had met with some unknown persons and also with the
SPLM, the next day the SPLM withdrew from state government. Mahmud
added that if the Government "had really wanted to kill people on
purpose, the death toll would have been much higher and it could
have also used airpower." The GOS could not force UNAMID to
participate but it had every right to enforce law and order in
Darfur as it saw fit.

KHARTOUM 00001387 002 OF 005


7. (SBU) After his meeting with the Wali, CDA Fernandez met with
representatives of the Humanitarian Affairs Commission (HAC) of
South Darfur led by its Secretary General Nagm Eldeem Al Hadi. Al
Hadi seconded the notion that the restrictions on the delivery of
fuel to Kalma camp had been lifted, claiming that this happened as a
result of a comprehensive discussion between the HAC, National
Security and humanitarian community. He stated that NGOs were now
slated to receive the agreed-upon 14 barrels per week to power the
camp's water pumps. When pressed by CDA Fernandez, he reluctantly
acknowledged that there was no evidence that fuel had been siphoned
off to rebels, admitting that leakage or common theft was more
likely. CDA Fernandez expressed satisfaction that the fuel issue had
been resolved, and queried Al Hadi as to any other restrictions on
NGO camp material. Al Hadi asserted that "since I arrived, we've
never restricted anything to the camps, we merely ask for
clarification of the project." This assertion was strongly disputed
by NGO representatives in subsequent meetings.

8. (SBU) Al Hadi lamented the fact that NGOs continue to mistrust
the HAC and refuse to cooperate with its initiatives. He stated that
the flow of IDPs to Al Salaam Camp could be curbed if NGOs would
deliver food to the drought-stricken areas from which the new
entrants are arriving, but that that NGOs refuse to do this. "They
claim it's not in their mandate," he said. "This type of mentality
frustrates us," noting that he himself comes from an NGO background.
(Note: Al Hadi was allegedly dismissed with the International Rescue
Committee for financial improprieties. End Note). He expressed
similar frustrations at lack of NGO support to relocate of IDPs from
Kalma camp, noting that maintaining so many residents in the
flood-prone camp is a recipe for continued disaster. CDA Fernandez
replied that the issue was largely one of mistrust and urged the HAC
that any action undertaken in Kalma should be done in concert with
the international community as HAC and the current Wali had promised
to do in late 2007. (Note: The GOS desire to disperse Kalma camp has
been well-known. End Note.) Al Hadi questioned why the
international community remained "obsessed" with Kalma camp, and
stated that some in the GOS believe that humanitarian workers are
fermenting dissent among its residents. CDA noted that Kalma was
highly politicized but strongly denied that humanitarian workers
were engaging in any political activities. It is the regime which
obsesses about Kalma because of SLM leader Abdul Wahid Nur's
strength there. Al Hadi was at the airport to see the Americans off
and CDA bluntly emphasized to the HAC "you need to back off on Kalma
and never do this again. Don't go in without the UN or international


9. (SBU) CDA Fernandez met with Fernando Arroyo, Team Leader of the
Nyala Field Office of UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian
Affairs (OCHA), who expressed alarm at the rapid deteriorating
environment for humanitarian operations in South Darfur. He stated
that recent HAC inspections of NGOs, while relatively unobtrusive in
North and West Darfur, were "a nightmare" in South Darfur (Ref A).
Expatriate humanitarian workers were subjected to police-style
solitary interrogations for up to eight hours with coarse language
and threats of violence and expulsion, he said, noting that South
Darfur HAC Secretary General Al Hadi was particularly abusive. In
conjunction with the interrogations, Fernando asserted that HAC
officials had forcibly gained access to sensitive computer files in
NGO offices, including depositions from victims of sexual- and
gender-based violence in which the accused were affiliates of
National Security (NISS). These trends were extremely worrying, he

10. (SBU) Arroyo stated that the August 25 killings at Kalma camp
occurred during the HAC inspection of NGOs, noting that the camp was
half empty of humanitarian staff. Combined with the weakened state
of the camp due to flooding, he speculated that "perhaps the
government saw a window of opportunity" to launch a raid. Arroyo
noted that while "there are no saints" in Kalma camp, there were
numerous questions about the government's actions, not least of
which was why two-thirds of the dead were women and children. He
noted that humanitarians were refused access to the camp for several
days, and that 60 to 70 "technicals" remained around the camp for
several days, though fears of another attack never materialized. On
a positive note, he stated that "I hear the wounded are being
treated very decently and humanely."

11. (SBU) Arroyo also informed CDA Fernandez that he has recently
been declared persona non grata by the Wali of South Darfur

KHARTOUM 00001387 003 OF 005

(Arroyo's predecessor had also been expelled by the state's
officials). The situation arose when HAC had requested agencies to
assist the voluntary returnees in the village of Amakassara in South
Darfur. One NGO partner who requested a travel permit to assist the
UN assessment was denied the permit however the UN partners traveled
for the assessment. Arroyo stated the UN partners were stopped at
the checkpoint by national security officials and forced to return
to Nyala Arroyo wrote a letter of protest to the HAC commissioner
mentioning this refusal to facilitate the provision of humanitarian
assistance was a violation of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA)
with the GNU. (Note: The UN maintains that under SOFA, all of its
staff may work and travel throughout Sudan without the permits
required for NGO movement. End Note.) He stated that his letter,
along with a string of false accusations, was used as an excuse to
declare him persona non-grata. Arroyo stated that OCHA has
threatened the GOS not to replace him if he is PNG'd, and given
heightened sensitivities following the August 25 killings at Kalma
and the ICC controversy he is reasonably confident that he'll
eventually be allowed to remain. Arroyo felt he has support of the
South Darfur's Deputy Wali, whom he credited with single-handedly
resolving the Kalma camp fuel issue, to push back against his
expulsion. At the same time, he lamented that such positive
relations did not occur with the HAC. "Humanitarians shouldn't be
discussing issues with politicians," he said.

12. (SBU) Arroyo stated that one NGO was evacuating staff from a
remote area of South Darfur back to Nyala as the result of a GOS
military offensive in east Jebel Marra. He stated that he'd heard
rumors that SLA/Abdul-Wahid, SLA-Unity and JEM/Collective Leadership
(formerly URF) forces had united locally to repel the government
attacks, and that the fighting was spreading south. Two other NGO
partners also have quietly evacuated Shearia area due to recent
increased insecurity and attacks on compounds. The recent fighting
is just the latest threat to the NGO community he said, and combined
with continued attacks on humanitarian workers, vehicles and
compounds it is pushing danger indicators and stress of humanitarian
workers to new levels. "In four years in Darfur, this is the closest
we've ever come to an agreement on redlines or thresholds," he said.
Violence and HAC harassment have dealt a "massive, massive blow" to
the NGO morale in South Darfur, he said. Depending on how the GOS
reacts to a potential ICC arrest warrant against President Bashir,
the NGO community may have no choice but to "switch off the lights
and go home."

13. (SBU) Following his meeting with OCHA, CDA Fernandez meet with
South Darfur representatives of IRC, CHF, UNICEF, OXFAM, WVI and
CARE, who echoed many of Arroyo's concerns. The consensus was that
August was among most difficult months for NGOs in South Darfur
recent history. The flooding in Kalma camp destroyed the majority of
water and sanitation infrastructure, particularly latrines, as well
as foodstuffs and other materials. They noted that while they had
finally received the full allowance of fuel delivery to operate
water pumps in the camp, they were increasingly facing bureaucratic
impediments to the delivery of building materials. In order to
rebuild sanitation facilities destroyed by the flood "We're going to
be bringing in huge quantities of materials in the coming months",
stated one partner. "I hope this is not a precursor of what's to
come." They urged CDA Fernandez to continue to pressure the
government to curb bureaucratic impediments and stop harassment of
NGOs, noting that it was enough work just to keep Kalma from
self-destructing. "With 30 births a week in the camp we're barely
hanging on as it is." They also observed a changing demographic in
South Darfur in South Darfur, as foreign migrants from Chad and
Libya repopulate areas whose inhabitants move into camps. CDA
Fernandez noted that such migrations occur spontaneously but in some
cases are abetted by the GOS and their proxies in countries like

--------------------------------------------- -------

14. (SBU) On the morning of September 10, CDA Fernandez was briefed
by UNAMID's team in South Darfur on the August 25 events at Kalma
Camp and the status of UNAMID operations in South Darfur. Ismail
Zain, UNAMID Human Rights Officer in South Darfur, confirmed that at
05:00 on August 25, Kalma camp was surrounded by approximately 1,000
heavily armed military personnel, and the shooting began at
approximately 08:30. He stated that he was able to visit Kalma camp
on August 26 on the following day, and asserted that 30 people were
killed on site, including 13 men, 10 women (one of whom was
pregnant) and seven children. A 75 year old woman died while trying
to flee, and two people died of injuries at Nyala teaching hospital,
bringing the total death count to 33. He stated that UNAMID was
unable to confirm the presence of arms in Kalma camp, nor was UNAMID
able to confirm rumors that women and children were being used as

KHARTOUM 00001387 004 OF 005

human shields (these are two charges made by Sudanese authorities
about the incident). Marcel Akpovo, UNAMID Human Rights Officer and
Acting Head of Office in South Darfur, was dismissively told by a
local police commissioner that only 5 to 6 IDPs had been killed in
Kalma, and that 7 police officers had been wounded by IDP sticks,
stones and knives. UNAMID's Deputy Police Commissioner in Nyala
noted that UNAMID received notice of the GOS incursion into Kalma in
the form of a letter delivered to UNAMID headquarters in Nyala (in
Arabic) at 07:00 on August 25, approximately 1.5 hours before the
shooting began. He said he desperately tried to get in touch with
GOS liaison officers but to no avail. He said that despite the
delivery time by GoS authorities, the letter authorizing the weapons
search by the court was dated on August 21 and the large government
force had begun to gather at the site at 5 AM so the issue of "the
GOS letter delivered to UNAMID" was a regime fig leaf to cover up a
unilateral action against the camp.

15. (SBU) While expressing dismay at the killings, UNAMID
representatives expressed hope that Kalma would underscore how
critical its mission and presence is in South Darfur. A UNAMID Civil
Affairs officer went so far as to call it "a blessing in disguise,"
noting how the killings raised UNAMID's profile not only among NGOs
but IDPs in Kalma, many of whom were previously skeptics. He stated
that several IDPs told him "if you were not here, we'd have all been
wiped out." Akpovo added that Kalma has "sent a powerful political
message to the world about the importance of UNAMID" that needs to
be seized by its UNAMID leadership, donors and supporters to push
for more funding, troops and logistical commitments. UNAMID is
"very, very handicapped," he said. "If we are going to succeed here,
we're going to need more troops and more police."


16. (SBU) The morning of September 10, CDA Fernandez traveled with a
UNAMID escort along the waterlogged roads to 93,000 person camp,
accompanied by the newly arrived Bangladeshi FPU (Formed Police
Unit) Commander, Brigadier Muhammad Mesba Nebi. In a very unusual
occurrence, the convoy was waived through both security checkpoints.
A newly erected GOS police camp was seen approximately 1 kilometer
from the camp, comprised of 12 or so tents and at least one
"technical". The convoy passed the nearly complete new UNAMID Police
Headquarters at the foot of the camp, which was an impressive
structure. Upon arriving in the camp, CDA Fernandez and the
Bangladeshi FPU commander were warmly welcomed by Kalma camp
sheikhs. The sheikhs broadly asserted that government accusations of
weapons in Kalma camp were lies, and that Kalma camp contained
neither rebels nor aspiring politicians, just IDPs. They welcomed
the presence of UNAMID and urged a 24-7 police protection force,
which the commissioner asserted would go into force as soon as the
police headquarters construction was completed in a matter of days.
"Without you, the government would have finished with us along time
ago," said one, urging that UNAMID strengthen its presence.

17. (SBU) CDA and party then returned to UNAMID HQ for meetings with
Baggara (cattle-herding) Rizeigat leaders. The large and well-armed
Southern Rizeigat, whose land lies around the town of Ed Daien, are
the single largest Arab tribe in Darfur not drawn into the
government-encouraged violence against Darfur's African population.
CDA told the leaders that the U.S. wants good, close relations with
Darfur's Arabs and does not hold them responsible for the actions of
a few, this is especially true of the Baggara Rizeigat "who did the
right thing" in Darfur over the past years.

18. (SBU) The leaders welcomed American outreach and said that "all
the people of Darfur are oppressed" but won't get their rights by
fighting. The biggest enemy in Darfur is ignorance. The Arabs were
uneducated and receive no services or development assistance from
Khartoum. "The devil descended between the tribes of Darfur" because
of ignorance. Even though they are "defenders of peace," the
Rizeigat are under tremendous pressure from the regime and from
other tribes - 48 tribes currently have a presence on Rizeigat land.
The Bergo, Zagawa, Bergid and Tama (all African farmers) have
squatted on Rizeigat land and even though the Rizeigat haven't
fought them or expelled them, this is a major problem because of the
lack of services and natural resources.

19. (SBU) Comment: There is no doubt that the Kalma massacre was not
the action of a rogue, unsupervised commander acting on his own.
This was a major operation, carefully planned - at least at the
state level - to abuse and terrify IDPs. The laughable claim of the
regime of wanting this to be a joint operation with UNAMID is a
farce. The difficulties for NGOs created the Kalma killings,
flooding, violence and hostile treatment by government authorities
have caused a potentially devastating blow to humanitarian morale.

KHARTOUM 00001387 005 OF 005

These constraints have forced partners to scale back operations in
South Darfur. With no political solution in sight and a possible ICC
arrest warrant of President Bashir on the horizon, there is an acute
possibility that this withdrawal could multiply, with dire
consequences for the thousands of residents of Darfur's IDP camps.
Certainly in South Darfur, there is no NCP "charm offensive" to gain
favor for ICC deferral but the regime's usual mix of shameless
dishonesty, constant violence and corrupt incompetence. At the very
least, an urgent accounting of responsibility for the Kalma massacre
should be a small but insistent demand of policymakers in dealing
with Sudan.


© Scoop Media

World Headlines


ADC: Statement On The Assassination Of Shireen Abu Akleh

Early this morning in Jenin, Occupied Palestine, revered Palestinian voice Shireen Abu Akleh, a Palestinian American journalist for Al Jazeera, was assassinated by Israeli Occupation Forces snipers...

Ukraine: UN Rights Office Probe Spotlights Harrowing Plight Of Civilians

Almost 76 days since Russia invaded Ukraine, countless civilians remain caught up in the horror and destruction of war, UN rights investigators said on Tuesday... More>>

UN: Michele Bachelet On Inter-religious Clashes In Ethiopia

I am deeply distressed by the recent violent clashes between Muslims and Orthodox Christians in Ethiopia in which at least 30 people were reportedly killed and more than 100 others injured... More>>

Access Now: Elon Musk’s Twitter Buyout Must Not Come At The Expense Of Human Rights

Following today’s announcement that Elon Musk will acquire complete ownership of Twitter in a cash sale of around 44 billion USD, pending shareholder approval, Access Now urges Twitter’s Board, employees, and shareholders... More>>

UN: Biodiversity And Ecosystem Protection Highlighted On Mother Earth Day

Marking International Mother Earth Day, UN General Assembly President Abdulla Shahid urged on Friday, for collective action to safeguard biodiversity and protect ecosystems... More>>

Ukraine: Hundreds More Reach Safety After Fleeing Besieged Mariupol
In Ukraine, humanitarians said on Wednesday that hundreds of people have managed to reach safety after fleeing Mariupol, where there’s also been condemnation for the killing of Lithuanian filmmaker Mantas Kvedaravicius... More>>