Cablegate: Jem Senior Leadership On Darfur Peace Process

DE RUEHKH #1613/01 3091017
O 041017Z NOV 08 ZDK




E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (SBU) Summary: Members of JEM senior leadership told poloff in
meetings in London on October 28-29 that JEM remains open to
negotiations. However, they noted JEM is withholding judgment on the
Qatar Initiative until it obtains more information about its nature
and scope. While predictably skeptical of the Sudan People's
Initiative and wholly mistrustful of the Arab League, JEM is
prepared to send a representative to Doha to find out more about the
initiative, but is not prepared to commit to or endorse it, they
said. They emphasized that UN/AU Joint Chief Mediator Bassole
offered the only legitimate auspices for peace talks, and urged him
to take control of the peace process and prevent others from
speaking on his behalf. The JEM leaders also welcomed the recent
meeting between Khalil Ibrahim and an SPLM delegation in Chad, but
lamented that the SPLM's engagement with JEM has been sporadic at
best, and that it still lacks any identifiable Darfur strategy. They
also noted that JEM Chairman Khalil Ibrahim is engaged in talks with
SLA-Unity aimed at increased coordination, and JEM has discussed
plans to call a meeting of all rebel movements in the field aimed at
finding common ground, though nothing has come of these discussions
just yet. JEM leaders were mum on any future military actions, but
predicted that if the peace process fails, JEM will focus solely on
targets outside of Darfur. End Summary.

2. (U) On October 28, poloff met with Dr. Gibriel Ibrahim, JEM's
Senior Economic Advisor and brother of JEM Chairman Dr. Khalil
Ibrahim. On October 29, poloff met with JEM spokesman Ahmed Hussein
Adam. Both meetings took place in London.


3. (SBU) JEM was predictably skeptical on the motives behind the
Sudan People's Initiative. "We believe the government convened it to
impose its own positions on Darfur in the name of the Sudanese
people," said Ibrahim. He added that the SPI was also a face-saving
measure to spare the government from having to acquiesce to the
demands of the rebels. "It shows that they gave into the people, but
not the movements," he said. Hussein questioned whether the NCP
would stand united if a consensus emerges from the SPI. Referring to
Presidential advisor and hard-liner Nafie al Nafie, Ibrahim said:
"His public rejection of one region for Darfur was as much a message
for his own colleagues as it was for the people of Darfur." Ibrahim
added that Nafie "will not accept anything," but Vice President Ali
Osman Taha recognizes the need for a solution to Darfur. Taha "might
not want the scope of a solution that we seek," but at least his
intentions are genuine, said JEM spokesman Hussein. When asked by
poloff whether JEM has any contact--official or unofficial--with the
GOS, both Ibrahim and Hussein stated they had not, for fear that
such conversations would be leaked to the media and manipulated for
political gain by the NCP, as they have been in the past.


4. (SBU) The JEM senior leadership maintained their willingness to
negotiate with the GOS, and noted that while wholly mistrustful of
the Arab League, they were withholding judgment on the Qatar
Initiative--until they find out more about what it is. "We don't
know what the Qataris are thinking, how they envision their role and
what role the Arab League will play," said Ibrahim. "We're ready to
listen, but they have no time to talk to us." Hussein stated that
"we've put a lot of questions to the Qataris [about the nature and
scope of the initiative], and unless we get some answers, we're not
going to endorse it." He was particularly concerned about
understanding the role of the UN/AU vis-`-vis Qatar, emphasizing
that the peace process must be led by UN/AU Joint Chief Mediator
Bassole. "These are the only legitimate auspices for peace talks,"
he said, adding that the parties must be involved in preparation for
such talks. "We don't want [Qatar] to be another Sirte," he said,
referring to the failed 2007 talks in Libya.

5. (SBU) Both Ibrahim and Hussein stated that JEM has told the
Qataris that it is prepared to send an envoy to Doha to find out
more about the initiative, but will not yet commit to negotiations.
"We're ready to go to Doha to listen, but are not prepared to offer
any commitment or endorsement," said Hussein. He stated that a
framework was needed along the lines of the Machakos protocol with
the SPLM to bring about a cessation of hostilities. "We need to tie
the demands of a ceasefire to the demands of people on the ground,"
he said, claiming that basic consensus exists among Darfuris on key
issues affecting the region including participation in the national

KHARTOUM 00001613 002 OF 004

government, compensation, security arrangements, resettlement and
returns, and land tenure.


6. (SBU) Ibrahim and Hussein were initially skeptical about the
appointment of Bassole (Ref A), but this time around they struck a
more conciliatory tone. "We have nothing against Bassole, and want
to give him the chance to show what he can do," said Ibrahim. "But
I've never met him, and I can't say I know much about him." Hussein
(who has met Bassole) characterized Bassole as "a good listener,"
but noted that his efforts are still very much in the exploratory
stage. "He's trying, but up until now he hasn't put anything on the
table." He added that JEM has fully cooperated with Bassole and was
willing to give him some time, but then hinted that its patience
with the lack of progress might be wearing thin. He also expressed
doubts about Bassole's team. "Peacemaking takes a lot of effort, and
I'm not sure he has the people in place to be successful," he said.
He also urged Bassole to be more outspoken and take control of the
peace process. "There are many people speaking on his behalf," and
it's difficult to know what he's thinking, he said. "He needs to
find his own voice."


7. (SBU) Both Ibrahim and Hussein lauded the meeting between Khalil
Ibrahim and the SPLM delegation led by Secretary General Pagan Amun
in Chad, but lamented such engagement has been sporadic at best, and
that the SPLM still has no identifiable Darfur strategy. The Chad
meeting "is welcome, but it came out of the blue," said Hussein. "We
wish they'd leverage their position in the GNU to help resolve the
crisis." Ibrahim noted that JEM has been pursuing cooperation with
the SPLM for some time, recalling how in March 2006 in Paris he
asked Salva Kiir why he did not travel to Darfur and visit IDPs.
"[Kiir] told me that he would like to visit, but was very busy, and
he did not want to go empty-handed," he said. "But in three years, I
see his plane only flies between Juba and Khartoum." Hussein noted
that the SPLM is beset by its own internal problems, and spoke of a
need to empower those within the party who are advocating unity.
Ibrahim added that JEM has nothing against the SPLM, and considers
the CPA a breakthrough agreement. "We support their right of
self-determination, but we wish they'd stay," he said.

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

8. (SBU) JEM maintains that it is serious about trying to unite
Darfur's rebel movements (Ref B). Ibrahim stated that JEM is
contemplating a bottom-up approach to rebel unification by calling a
meeting of all movements in the field to search for a common ground,
but plans have not yet materialized. JEM has, however, been engaging
in discussions with SLA-Unity to step up potential coordination.
"[Khalil] is talking with Suleiman Jamous and Abdallah Yahia," said
Ibrahim, though nothing has come of those discussions yet. (Note:
UNDSS and SLM/MM contacts have both reported increased coordination
and a possible alliance between a weakened Jamous and JEM. End
Note.) Hussein stated that increased cooperation between the two
movements on humanitarian issues--as agreed upon in Geneva under the
auspices of the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue--has unfortunately
been very ad hoc, because the statement they signed contains no
mechanism for implementation. But he confirmed that discussions for
improved political coordination are ongoing. Ibrahim also stated
that JEM talks to Ahmed Abdulshafie from time to time, but nothing
has materialized there either. Hussein added that while Abdulshafie
maintains some stature from his earlier role in the struggle, he
currently has little to offer in terms of political or military

9. (SBU) Both Ibrahim and Hussein had given up on Abdul Wahid Nur.
"He doesn't speak to anyone. Not even to his own people," said
Hussein. With regard to Minni Minnawi, both Hussein and Ibrahim
emphasized that JEM "does not want to exclude anyone," but noted
that Minnawi had lost legitimacy since signing the DPA. Hussein also
criticized Minnawi for his erratic behavior and his failure to
articulate the reasons that led him to return to the field. "We
eventually realized it was essentially to stop defections from his
movement," he said.


10. (SBU) Ibrahim stated that "the GOS believes it cannot solve the

KHARTOUM 00001613 003 OF 004

problem of Darfur without regime-change in Chad," noting that JEM
has received information that the GOS has supplied Chadian
opposition with more advanced weaponry. Referring to Chad's rebels,
he said: "They are not small in number, but they lack political
cohesion." Hussein seconded the notion that the Chadian opposition
has received new military equipment from the GOS. "Nafie will not be
content with any real political solution [in Darfur]", he said. He
only wants to topple the regime in Chad." Hussein insisted that
"there was no strong love" between JEM and President Deby, arguing
that their relationship was a product of circumstance. "Khartoum
wants to overthrow Deby and replace him with a puppet regime in Chad
and squeeze Darfur from both sides." He acknowledged that there was
"no question JEM has participated" in assisting Chadian rebels, but
argued that it did so in its own self-interest. "We are not
mercenaries," he said.


11. (SBU) Ibrahim asserted that JEM "is not receiving any
substantial assistance from the Government of Chad," adding that
most of JEM's equipment was captured from the SAF. "We also import
[Toyota] Landcruisers and other equipment from time to time," he
said. He noted that the primary damage resulting from the Omdurman
attacks was in the form of "our colleagues we left behind," and not
equipment. "We think we're better off now," he said. Conversely, he
admitted that in terms of funding, JEM is "in pretty bad shape." He
noted that in the past, they received popular support in the form of
food and livestock, but this has dwindled. JEM also collects duties
from areas it controls, he said, but such resources are limited.

12. (SBU) Hussein stated that JEM is stronger both politically and
militarily since the attack on Omdurman, crediting it with inspiring
popular support all over Sudan. He touted the fact that JEM carried
out this operation in compliance with international humanitarian
principles, and strongly denied accusations that JEM has used child
soldiers in the attack. He asserted that such military offensives
"are conducted in accordance with our political strategy," and
characterized Omdurman as "a political operation designed to incite
third party intervention" spurred by the low morale in the IDP camps
and "slow motion genocide."

13. (SBU) With regard to its combatants captured in the Omdurman
attack, Ibrahim stated that JEM "has made it very clear we consider
them prisoners of war, and they should be treated in accordance with
the Geneva convention." He predicted the GOS would not execute
captured JEM fighters because "they know the cost" of such an
action, implying that a similar fate would await GOS soldiers held
by JEM. Hussein stated that JEM had been contacted by the British
about a possible prisoner exchange through unofficial channels. He
added that Khalil Ibrahim had approved the idea in principle, but to
date nothing had come of the proposed exchange.

14. (SBU) Ibrahim claimed no knowledge of JEM's military plans, but
stated that "I don't think JEM will spend much time in Darfur" any
more. Hussein seconded the notion, adding that if political
solutions fail, JEM will not fight in Darfur any longer because
"[the GOS] doesn't give a damn about fighting in Geneina or El
Fasher." Ibrahim also dismissed rumors of his brother Khalil's ill
health as media fabrications, noting that he reads each report with
amusement. "At least they haven't reported that he's pregnant yet,"
he joked.

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

15. (SBU) JEM strongly disavowed any connection between their
organization and the kidnapping and subsequent deaths of Chinese oil
workers in Southern Kordofan. "This particular incident has nothing
to do with JEM," said Hussein, who reiterated JEM's commitment to
international humanitarian principles. He added that while JEM does
have a presence in Kordofan "it is very structured, and no one can
do or say anything without permission from senior leadership." He
stated that while JEM condemns the killings of innocent civilians,
it is nonetheless unhappy with China for propping up the NCP regime
with political and financial support.


16. (SBU) Ibrahim stated that some elements of former Eastern Front
rebels--both in the diaspora and the Eastern States--have approached
JEM about their grievances regarding lack of implementation of the
2007 Eastern Sudan Peace Agreement (ESPA). He stated that while JEM

KHARTOUM 00001613 004 OF 004

maintains a small contingent in the border region between Sudan and
Eritrea, "we don't want more bloodshed." He noted that the
discontent points to the need for a more holistic approach to
Sudan's problems, as advocated by JEM, rather than a piecemeal one.
(Note: Hussein estimated that JEM's forces in the East number around
500. End Note.)


17. (SBU) Hussein's and Ibrahim's comments on JEM's military
strength, independence from Deby, and military plans for Khartoum
cannot be entirely trusted. Hussein and Ibrahim are two of JEM's
most educated, sophisticated, and wily characters. They know how to
use the media for their own purposes, what to tell the diplomatic
community, and what messages to provide for external consumption.
JEM's reservations about the Qatari Initiative relate primarily to
process, but nonetheless deserve honest answers given the role of
Qatar and the Arab League in their attempt to secure an Article 16
postponement should there be an ICC indictment against President
Bashir. JEM has nothing to lose and everything to gain by waiting
for the next step in the ICC process. For this reason, this is a
good time for the USG to engage with JEM and other rebel movements
to prepare the stage for inclusive peace negotiations. This could
address problems raised by the failed Sirte talks. JEM's generally
positive disposition towards Joint Chief Mediator Bassole is
encouraging, but its concerns about his assertiveness over the
process are equally worrying. The next month is critical for Bassole
to engage with the parties and assert his own role in the process.
The GOS will of course attempt to manipulate him, but we must
continue to make clear to the regime, the rebels, and to the Qataris
that Bassole must play a central role in the process. However it is
also up to Bassole himself to prove his mettle and remain engaged
and relevant.

18. (U) Embassy London cleared this cable prior to transmission.


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