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Cablegate: The Chadian Go-Between? Ex-Rebel Soubiane "Tells

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O 021500Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY NDJAMENA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7389
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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 NDJAMENA 000503

SIPDIS

STATE FOR AF/C
STATE FOR S/USSES
DECDEF FOR DASD HUDDLESTON
NSC FOR GAVIN
LONDON FOR POL - LORD
PARIS FOR POL - BAIN AND KANEDA
ADDIS ABABA ALSO FOR AU

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV MARR PHUM PREF PINR SU LY FR CD
SUBJECT: THE CHADIAN GO-BETWEEN? EX-REBEL SOUBIANE "TELLS
ALL" AND MAKES A LOT OF SENSE

REF: A. N'DJAMENA 499
B. N'DJAMENA 457

-------
SUMMARY
-------

1. (SBU) Ambassador and DCM met November 2 with Ahmat
Soubiane, who described his reasons for going into rebellion,
his reasons for returning to Chad, his intention to continue
to work to reconcile his former rebel comrades with the GOC,
his intention to devote himself initially to socio-economic
projects designed to attract Chadian emigres back to Chad
from other countries in the region rather than to engage
politically in a big way, and his views on how to end the
Chad-Sudan proxy war. He gave us a copy of the agreement
that governed his group's return (scanned copy sent to AF/C).
Soubiane's key points were:

-- He broke with the GOC in 2003 over President Deby's
successful amendment of the constitution to permit unlimited
presidential terms;

-- He decided to return to Chad because he soon became
convinced that a violent overthrow of the Deby Government by
the politically insincere or politically illiterate Chad
rebel chiefs would be worse than working from within Chad to
facilitate reform;

-- He appreciated his conversations with DAS Wycoff over the
past 20 months, which helped him arrive at his decision to
return;

-- He praised President Deby, FORMIN Faki and National
Mediator Abderamane Moussa for the honesty and transparency
of their dealing with him and his men;

-- The Libyans had played a key facilitating role in his
return to Chad, along with some 1700 ex-rebels, mostly his
own fighters but also defectors from other rebel formations;

-- The French had also been useful in facilitating his
group's return;

-- Some but not all of his fighters might enter the Chad
military, and his senior counselors would be offered civil
service positions if they were qualified;

-- Remaining Chad rebels were still well armed and well
equipped (some 450 armed vehicles) but were suffering from
very low morale -- individual rebel fighters from all groups
continued to present themselves at the border to re-enter
Chad, and rebel chiefs in Sudan had difficulty keeping their
fighters loyal;

-- The Sudanese had the means -- money, intelligence,
planning -- to "re-animate" the rebels, if they chose to
increase their investment in the rebellion;

-- The current bilateral Chad-Sudan effort aimed at detente
had a good chance of success, because such detente was in
Chad's interest and because Ghazi's involvement on the
Sudanese side guaranteed a degree of seriousness and honesty
in diplomatic approaches to Chad -- which was not the case
with the previous chief Sudanese interlocutors with Chad;

-- Soubiane had supported and tried to advance the current
bilateral negotiating track and would continue to do so; his
contacts within rebel groups and experience with the Sudanese
gave him the ability to play a useful role if the Deby
government chose to deploy him;

-- He had told the Sudanese that their support of Chad rebels
was a "diminishing resource" and that they should play the
rebel card by ending support for them sooner, rather than
later, because their hand was losing its value as rebels
defected;


NDJAMENA 00000503 002 OF 004


-- The next bilateral move was up to Sudan: Claiming that
the rebels had been "cantoned" at Ain Sirro and the rebel
chiefs called to Khartoum was not good enough: the rebel
chiefs themselves had moved their fighters to Ain Sirro
before Ghazi's visit to keep them from joining Soubiane's
defecting group;

-- Ending any "proxy war" would be tricky: neither side
wanted to be the first to lay down its "weapons";

-- President Deby's decision to move Oure Cassoni camp deeper
into Chad and away from the border was a clear signal to
Khartoum and to the JEM that Deby considered the JEM
"expendable," if his conditions were met;

-- Chad rebels had no/no international legitimacy, while JEM
was the object of negotiations by the international
community, invited to Doha, etc. -- so JEM had peaceful and
negotiated courses of action open to it that the Chad rebels
did not have;

-- This could give Deby "cover" for an eventual ending of
support for JEM in Chad as the JEM turned itself into more of
a political movement than armed group in contact and
negotiations with the international community;

-- Soubiane himself intended to devote himself initially to
socio-economic projects designed to attract Chadian emigres
back to Chad from other neighboring countries rather than to
engage in Chadian politics in a big way, at least at first.

2. (SBU) Soubiane was relaxed, poised and quite willing to
explore his political past and future as well as his
perspective on the Chad-Sudan "proxy war" and the
possibilities of Chad-Sudan detente. He is obviously
well-informed and capable of nuanced analysis of his
political friends and enemies.

3. (SBU) If we had to bet, we would wager that his defection
from the Chadian rebellion was based strictly on a
cost-benefit analysis: that is, on his judgment that the
Chad rebellion is in decline and going to lose eventually,
and that he should throw in his hand with the eventual
winning side before it is too late, as DAS Wycoff had been
telling him for some time. END SUMMARY.

-------------
U.S. INSPIRES
-------------

4. (SBU) Soubiane described his democratic ambitions for
Chad as having been formed to a certain extent during his
tenure as Ambassador to the U.S. He stressed that his
seven-year "quest" as a rebel leader and his ultimate
decision to return home this summer were inspired by hopes
for African democratization and improvements in rule of law
and human rights. He said that he had been motivated by the
Chadian constitution, which had been abrogated by President
Deby, but which he hoped to be able to teach "Chadian people
at all levels" to respect and understand. He said that he
had never been a proponent of armed conflict, pointing out
that units loyal to him had not taken part in fighting in
N'Djamena in 2008 or in Am Dam in 2009. He offered that
leaving Chad had been relatively easy, but that coming back
had required time and reflection -- "and if there had been
more receptivity from my old friends here, I would have come
back sooner." Soubiane pointed out that his daughters, who
remained in school outside Washington DC, were anxious about
his welfare and safety, which he was now trusting to the GoC.
He said that the daughters were not shy about insisting that
he adhere to their American-born ideals as he pursued
reconciliation with the GoC. He added that his conversations
over the past seveal months with AF DAS Karl Wycoff had been
very valuable in shaping his thinking, and that the French
and Libyans had also been helpful in facilitating his return.

------------------
HOME IS THE SAILOR

NDJAMENA 00000503 003 OF 004


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

5. (SBU) Soubiane described his initial contacts upon
return with President Deby, "a schoolmate from childhood," as
cordial. The two had spoken of Soubiane's desire to help
with restabilization of Chad, including reintegration of
military units formerly loyal to Soubiane into the Chadian
National Army (ANT). Soubiane said that he and President
Deby had also discussed jobs for his supporters in the
Chadian bureaucracy and assistance packages for Chadian
refugees who had fled to Sudan, CAR and Libya when he had
broken with the Deby regime. "Some of my vision for Chad is
economic," said Soubiane; "I want to create projects that
will help Chadians who supported me." This might not happen
for a year or so, Soubiane conceded, but "I'll see what I can
accomplish little by little to rebuild confidence over time."

6. (SBU) Ambassador made clear that the U.S. was pleased at
Soubiane's decision to return to Chad, and supportive of the
intra-Chadian reconciliation process that had been going on
for some time (Refs A-B). In 2008, at the time of rebel
attacks on the capital, we had recommended GoC outreach to
figures such as Soubiane. Former CEMGA al-Jineidi had
returned, and now political dissidents including Nahor
Ngawara Mahamout were coming back from exile as well.

--------------------------
ROLE IN ELECTORAL PROCESS?
--------------------------

7. (SBU) Ambassador advised Soubiane that the U.S. hoped he
would play a positive role in Chad's upcoming electoral
process. Soubiane said that he intended to do so, adding
that he had always been a strong proponent of peaceful
transfer of power. One of the factors that had complicated
his return, he continued, was the fragmented nature of the
Chadian opposition. "I don't agree with the government here
or the government in Khartoum," said Soubiane. "Here a state
exists and there are systems and institutions and secure
borders, but there is also injustice and no social planning."
Soubiane cautioned that political change in Chad would not
necessarily be change for the better -- "we could easily go
the way of Somalia, and I am saying this to both the
government and opposition."

8. (SBU) "I want to be discreet in my role here," continued
Soubiane. "I want to rebuild relations with the government
first, I have not yet said this to President Deby, but I
don't have political ambitions for the moment. I won't have
time to mount an electoral campaign."

--------------
CHADIAN REBELS
--------------

9. (SBU) Soubiane indicated that so long as the Deby regime
continued to send the signal that former opponents were
welcome to return voluntarily, "others will come back." "But
even dictators can say they are in favor of transparency," he
observed. Rebel leader Timan Erdimi, for his part, was
poorly placed to take part in any sort of democratization or
reconciliation processes in Chad because he had no political
credibility. The Chadian rebellion was definitely losing its
steam. Little by little, Chadian rebels were discovering
that the rebellion lacked ideals. As they came to see that
the rebellion had no positive goals, they concluded that
there was little point in continuing the fight. Chadian
rebels still in Sudan "don't like Deby, but beyond that they
don't know what they want: they don't know what a state is
or what a democratic process is."

10. (SBU) Still, the Chadian rebels had a certain degree of
military strength, as well as equipment furnished by Sudan,
Soubiane cautioned. Their vehicle strength was around 450
SUVs. They also had the support of Sudan's "powerful,
wealthy intelligence assets," who could raise or lower
Chadian rebel morale at will. Khartoum itself "didn't really
care about Chad," said Soubiane. President Bashir was

NDJAMENA 00000503 004 OF 004


worried about his own political opponents.

---------------------------------------
CHAD-SUDAN CONFIDENCE-BUILDING MEASURES
---------------------------------------

11. (SBU) Asked about the "congress of rebels" in Sudan
that National Mediator Abderahmane had indicated the GoS
might be organizing, Soubiane advised that the GoS was trying
to "keep the Chadian rebels busy" in innocuous ways while
waiting to see what the GoC would do with the JEM. "I think
that President Bashir wants to give up on them, but he has no
confidence in the Chadian government." Asked whether
Sudanese claims that the Chadian rebels were now cantoned at
Ain Sirro should count for the GoC as fulfillment of Sudan's
initial confidence-building measure, Soubiane pointed out
that the Chadian rebels had been at Ain Sirro all summer
long, "on the far side of a ouaddi that will soon dry up,
allowing them to go wherever they want." What was more, "I
told them to go there," asserted Soubiane. The Chadian
rebels were in Ain Sirro voluntarily, awaiting the end of the
rainy season. The Chadians were sure to see a Sudanese
attempt to declare the status quo as fulfillment of a pledge
to be disingenuous and unacceptable.

12. (SBU) When the two sides had actually taken steps to
reassure each other, "we will help both sides with
verification," said Soubiane. Asked what the GoC could do to
divest itself of the JEM, Soubiane said that this was a
question he had posed of President Deby, and also of the
Libyans. When speaking with the JEM directly, Soubiane noted
that he advised "finding political solutions," including
through negotiation at Doha and efforts to transform the JEM
into a political force. Soubiane offered that the
international community would have to help the JEM find a
suitable role, on grounds that the IC had negotiated with
Khalil Ibrahim and in doing so helped to "internationalize"
him. Soubiane described meetings he had recently had in
Libya with Djibril Ibrahim, whom he had told to travel to
Doha for negotiations. "The JEM's political capital is like
a debit card running down," said Soubiane. Opportunities
were disappearing, so the JEM should use what remained of the
international community's tolerance for it to good purpose.

13. (SBU) Soubiane told us that he had offered advice to
both the GoC and GoS at the time of the visit of Presidential
Envoy Ghazi to Chad in mid-October, to the effect that both
sides should find peaceful means to resolve their
differences. Ghazi was "more or less interested in
reconciliation," said Soubiane, but the Sudanese side
remained suspicious of Chadian motives. Sudan appreciated
S/E Gration, whom they felt understood their point of view.
The Chadian offer to move the Oure Cassoni refugee camp away
from the border, and away for easy access by the JEM, would
surely be seen as a confidence-building measure by Khartoum.

-------
COMMENT
-------

14. (SBU) Soubiane was relaxed, poised and quite willing to
explore his political past and future as well as his
perspective on the Chad-Sudan "proxy war" and the
possibilities of Chad-Sudan detente. He is obviously
well-informed and capable of nuanced analysis of his
political friends and enemies. If we had to bet, we would
wager that his defection from the Chadian rebellion was based
strictly on a cost-benefit analysis: that is, on his
judgment that the Chad rebellion is in decline and going to
lose eventually, and that he should throw in his hand with
the eventual winning side before it is too late, as DAS
Wycoff had been telling him for some time.
NIGRO

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