Cablegate: Abyei Border Demarcation Committee Facing Hurdles; Will Not

DE RUEHKH #1067/01 2660528
O 230528Z SEP 09




E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Abyei Border Demarcation Committee Facing Hurdles; Will Not
Meet Deadline

REF: Khartoum 862

1. (SBU) Summary: Poloff met with members of the Abyei Border
Demarcation Committee on September 7 and again on September 12 to
introduce a U.S. demarcation expert tasked with providing technical
assistance to the Committee, and to discuss the Committee's needs
and readiness. Committee members in attendance expressed readiness,
but significant technical and political hurdles exist. It is near
certain that the initial deadline to complete demarcation will be
missed by a wide margin. End Summary.

Difficulty Meeting NCP Committee Members

2. (SBU) The six member Abyei Border Demarcation Committee was
formed by Presidential decree on August 27 to implement points of
agreement signed by the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM)
and National Congress Party (NCP) on August 14. The Committee was
given thirty days to demarcate the boundary of Abyei as described by
the July 22 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The
Hague (Ref). At the request of U.S Special Envoy for Sudan, Scott
Gration, demarcation expert John Gates met with Deputy Chair Kuwal
Beyong (SPLM) and Committee members Ring Kuol Arop (SPLM) and
Valintino Molweev (SPLM) on September 7. The three NCP members of
the Committee, including the Chair, were not available to meet Gates
during the week of September 7, despite numerous requests by U.S.
Embassy staff in the days prior to and after the September 7
meeting. Committee Chair, Abdel Rahman Adel Wahab, refused to meet
without direction from the Presidency. U.S. Embassy staff contacted
more senior government officials, and on September 12 Gates met with
two of the Committee's NCP members.

Committee's Technical Ability Weak

3. (SBU) Deputy Chair Beyong stated that he has no experience
demarcating boundaries, while the two other SPLM members are
engineers with experience setting boundaries for residential
property. When discussing whether a line of longitude on the ground
needs to curve to account for the curvature of the earth, Committee
members at the September 7 meeting initially disagreed with Gates'
advice that a curved line is required. They ultimately left the
question unresolved. At the September 12 meeting, the NCP members
of the Committee stated that they had experience demarcating Sudan's
state boundaries. After the September 12 meeting, Gates assessed
the technical capability of the NCP members as weak, but better than
that of the SPLM members.

Demarcation To Start at Heglig Oil Field

4. (SBU) Deputy Chair Beyong said the Committee planned to fly to
the facilities at Heglig oil field on September 10 to begin their
work. Beyong stated that the plan was to fly around the proposed
boundary in a United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) helicopter on
September 11 and begin demarcation a day or two later. Beyong was
not concerned that, in the past, UNMIS helicopters had not been
allowed to land at Heglig, stating that in this instance it had been
arranged and would not be a problem. Regarding the suggestion that
Abyei town or Kadugli might be a better base from which to receive
support from UNMIS, Beyong replied that the demarcation team will
not have a base, instead remaining in mobile tent camps. He added
that the 60 person demarcation team, aside from the Committee
members, had already left for Heglig.

Boundary To Be Marked in Concrete, Steel

5. (SBU) Beyong told Gates that the Committee was considering
marking the border by clearing a path with a bulldozer, but
acknowledged that this could create concern in the local
communities. He said the Committee was not wedded to this idea. He
stated that physical demarcation of the boundary will consist of one
concrete pillar every 10 kilometers and one steel post every
kilometer. He stated that the materials had already been procured,
and that the Committee has all the equipment that it needs. Beyong
said that the SPLM members of the Committee want the pillars to be
placed with an accuracy of within two millimeters, and that the
posts should have an accuracy of within two centimeters. Gates
noted that this would be a stricter demarcation standard than that
used for any other border on which he had worked. When asked how

KHARTOUM 00001067 002 OF 002

the team would travel along the border to do their work during the
current rainy season, Beyong agreed it would be very difficult, but
indicated he was hopeful of being given access to track vehicles by
someone, perhaps Greater Nile Oil Company. (Note: The rainy season
in Abyei ends in October, but mud remains until the end of November,
making vehicular travel impracticable. End Note.)

--------------------------------------------- ---
NCP Members Acknowledge Deadline Will Not Be Met
--------------------------------------------- ---

6. (SBU) The September 12 meeting was attended by Committee members
Mohamed El-Nour Yagoub (NCP) and Bakhiet Mohamed Musa (NCP), as well
as Dr. Mohamed El Mukhtar Hassan (NCP) from the office of the
Presidency. Although expected, the Chair of the Committee never
arrived at the meeting. Dr. Hassan stated that the oversight
committee called for in the points of agreement was unnecessary, as
demarcation disputes could be submitted to the Presidency. The
Committee members from the NCP stated that they would fly to Heglig
on September 14 or 15 and start work soon after. Dr. Hassan
acknowledged that half of the thirty days allocated for demarcation
had already passed. He did not dispute Gates' assertion that
demarcation would necessarily continue well into 2010.

--------------------------------------------- ---
Concerns About Misseriya Reaction to Demarcation
--------------------------------------------- ---

7. (SBU) Dr. Hassan expressed concern about the intention of the
SPLM members of the Committee to place a steel post every one
kilometer along the boundary. He said that placing a post every
kilometer will create tension with the Misseriya, who would view it
as the first step to creating a border fence. He said that if this
plan is implemented, he expects that the Misseriya will gather and
obstruct the work. When asked by Poloff about security arrangements
for the demarcation team, Dr. Hassan stated that security would be
provided by forces from the Joint Integrated Unit in Abyei. He
rejected the idea of UNMIS providing security.

UNMIS Demarcation Expert Anticipates Delays

8. (SBU) UNMIS border demarcation expert Sokol Kondi met with Gates
and Poloff on September 7. Kondi and Gates agreed that the most the
demarcation team can reasonably hope to achieve prior to the
Misseriya's annual migration is an air reconnaissance of the
proposed border and the insertion of the two northern pillars of the
border via helicopter. Mr. Kondi said that UNMIS is willing and
able to provide security for the operation, but that he was not
aware of such a request. He said UNMIS had already agreed to
dedicate a helicopter for a month and to provide two trucks and some
cars in Abyei town. He said UNMIS had also provided satellite maps
of the proposed boundary to the Committee. (Note: Committee members
in both meetings told Poloff that they had not received any maps,
were not aware of any vehicles provided by UNMIS, and did not intend
to use Abyei as a base of operations. End Note.) Kondi expressed
doubt that the Committee already had the materials and equipment
needed. Kondi said the Misseriya do not want the demarcation to
start before December, when they will have migrated into Abyei, and
that the Presidency was under pressure to delay starting until

9. (SBU) Comment: Demarcation of the Abyei boundary will be
technically challenging given the remote location and seasonal
impassibility. These meetings also raise concern as to the
organizational and technical ability of the Committee. The greatest
hurdles, however, appear to be political. The NCP and SPLM members
of the Committee do not appear to have a coordinated approach. The
political sensitivity of Abyei to the northern and southern
governments, and their constituents, the Misseriya and Ngok Dinka,
respectively, threatens to make the demarcation process difficult
and contentious, and bodes ill for the much larger task of
demarcating the North/South border. End Comment.


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