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Cablegate: Fighting in Bentiu Raises Concerns Over Private Armies In

VZCZCXRO2039
OO RUEHROV RUEHTRO
DE RUEHKH #1122 2781616
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 051616Z OCT 09
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4511
INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RUEHGG/UN SECURITY COUNCIL COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS KHARTOUM 001122

NSC FOR MGAVIN, LETIM
DEPT PLS PASS USAID FOR AFR/SUDAN
ADDIS ABABA ALSO FOR USAU

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: MARR MOPS PGOV PINR SU
SUBJECT: FIGHTING IN BENTIU RAISES CONCERNS OVER PRIVATE ARMIES IN
SOUTHERN SUDAN

1. (SBU) Summary: On October 2, Sudan People's Liberation Army
(SPLA) forces loyal to Deputy Chief of Staff Paulino Matip and
bodyguards of Governor of Unity State, Brig. Gen. Taban Dang Gai
clashed in the town of Bentiu resulting in the death of sixteen
people and twenty-one injured. GOSS press statements claim the
clashes between the units were a "misunderstanding." A number of
GOSS and UN officials visited Matip on October 2 to request he get
control of the SPLA forces loyal to him. The situation is now calm
in Bentiu, but there are reports that different SPLA units may be
reorganizing. End Summary.

2. (SBU) On October 2, clashes between SPLA forces acting as
bodyguards to the Deputy Chief of Staff of the SPLA, Paulino Matip
and the Governor of Unity State, Brig. Gen. Taban Dang Gai erupted
resulting in the deaths of sixteen people-twelve SPLA soldiers and
four civilians, including one child-and twenty-one injured -
seventeen SPLA soldiers and four civilians. Tensions in Bentiu
remained high on October 2, although the situation calmed down over
the weekend. The airport in Bentiu was closed, and all UN and other
organizations locked-down and elevated to Level IV.
3. (SBU) Reasons behind the clash are still speculative. Minister
of Interior Paul Mayom told the press that the clashes were a result
of a "misunderstanding between the SPLA forces guarding Matip and
those guarding the governor." Matip publicly stated that he
believed the governor was trying to bribe SPLA troops loyal to him
(Matip) in Bentiu and bring them over to the governor's side. Some
claim that the clash was a result of pressure and attempts to remove
the current governor. While others believe Matip's continued
reliance on a large private army for protection incited the clash.


4. (SBU) On October 3, SPLA Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations
General Mabutu Mamour led an SPLA delegation to Bentiu to try and
resolve the dispute between the two SPLA factions. UN officials in
Bentiu report that the delegation failed, as they were unable to
persuade the commander of Matip's forces to come to Bentiu for a
meeting to resolve the crisis. The UN reports that the commander
and his forces refused to return to Bentiu for talks for fear of
their lives as the SPLA made no guarantee for their safety. Mamour
and his delegation returned to Juba on October 5 without success.


5. (SBU) UN officials have been meeting with Matip since October 2
to try from Juba to resolve the problem . However, they believe
that Matip's position is hardening, following statements by Salva
Kiir on October 4 regarding a need to move forward with SPLA
transformation and the disbanding of all private armies, including
Matip's. UN officials expressed serious concern as they believe any
attempts to go after private armies in Bentiu, Mayom, Mankien, and
similar locations will have direct repercussions on security in
Juba.

6. (SBU) Comment: Recent clashes in Jonglei and Unity states
continue to raise concerns over armed militia and private armies
throughout southern Sudan. While the GOSS is attempting to disarm
the civilian population, they need to also consider how to bolster
police presence in strategic areas that can respond and quell these
eruptions. It is also imperative that the GOSS actually implement
their policy to disarm and/or integrate the remaining private armies
and militias into state security forces. If not, they will continue
to pose a destabilizing effect for the GOSS.

ASQUINO

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