Viewing cable 05BRUSSELS1549
Title: DARFUR - RHETORIC AND REALITY OF A COMPLEX CONFLICT

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
05BRUSSELS15492005-04-20 09:02:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Brussels
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 05 BRUSSELS 001549 
 
SIPDIS 
 
FOR D AND AF FROM P/DAS RANNEBERGER 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/20/2015 
TAGS: PREL PHUM PREF EAID AU SU US USEU BRUSSELS
SUBJECT: DARFUR - RHETORIC AND REALITY OF A COMPLEX CONFLICT 
 
 
Classified By: AF PDAS Michael Ranneberger.  Reasons 1.5 (b) and (d). 
 
¶1. (C) Summary.  The prevailing rhetoric on Darfur conveys 
the gravity of the humanitarian crisis, but does not capture 
the complexity of the changing situation on the ground. 
Though the violence emerged as a result of the political 
conflict between the GOS and the Darfur rebels, it had a 
ready base in traditional conflicts between Arab nomads and 
sedentary African tribes.  Local factors are important, and 
the lines are not always clearly drawn between African and 
Arab tribes.  The African Union is taking an impressive 
pro-active approach; its presence is directly responsible for 
the diminishing of large-scale organized violence since 
January.  Expansion of the AU to more areas quickly is vital 
to maintain momentum.  The AU can do more within its existing 
mandate, but more forces and heavier armament are needed. 
The AU still faces significant logistical constraints.  Steps 
to address these underway now should pave the way for 
expansion to begin in June.  The AU wants help in this 
process from the U.S., EU, NATO, and UN.  The GOS is 
continuing to provide support to the jinjaweed, though not 
through direct involvement in attacks.  Violence is 
continuing.  The jinjaweed have attacked some villages and 
may be massing for action against a rebel stronghold located 
near an AU operating base.  Rebel commanders claimed they are 
complying with all agreements, but virtually admitted 
attacking humanitarian workers and convoys because, they 
argued, the GOS is blocking humanitarian assistance to their 
areas.  They said they are in daily contact with their 
leaders outside of Darfur and would support whatever decision 
is made to return to the political talks.  Tribal 
reconciliation will not drive the political process.  Working 
on this now, however, will pave the way for eventual 
implementation of a political settlement.  Tribal leaders 
believe that traditional relationships can be reconstituted 
once there is peace and they return to their native villages. 
 They will then work out compensation and land usage issues. 
I followed up on Darfur issues in Addis Ababa with AU 
Chairperson Konare and his team, and in Brussels with the EU 
(septels).  End summary. 
 
¶2. (SBU) During April 15-17, following the Deputy 
Secretary,s visit to Sudan, I visited by helicopter six 
 
SIPDIS 
operating bases of the African Union in northern, southern, 
and western Darfur; talked with rebel field commanders; met 
with non-governmental groups; held discussions with local 
tribal leaders; and talked with the Sudanese government,s 
military commander for Darfur.  Taiya Smith of the Sudan 
Programs Group and U.S. Army Liaison Ron Capps organized the 
visit and provided invaluable support.  The U.S. military 
observers have forged close working relationships with the AU 
that help energize AU efforts.  Stationing additional U.S. 
military observers and advisors now and as the AU expands is 
key to drive the process. 
 
---------------------- 
The African Union,s Pro-active Approach 
---------------------- 
 
¶3. (C) At the six AU bases (at Muhajiriyah, Nyala, El Fasher, 
Kutum, Zalingei, Nertiti) we found an activist approach.  The 
AU commanders are generally impressive, with competent teams. 
 They are well-briefed on the situation in their areas of 
responsibility, demonstrating an appreciation of local tribal 
realities.  They have detailed information on the positions 
of the rebels, government forces, and Arab militias.  The 
commanders showed a good understanding of the AU mandate.  In 
addition to monitoring of the rebel-GOS ceasefire and 
carrying out timely investigations of incidents, they are 
engaged in outreach to local communities and their 
traditional leaders.  They meet with local GOS and rebel 
commanders, and say they are generally cooperating with the 
AU.  AU commanders also have contacts with the Arab militias 
where possible. The AU commanders and forces appear 
disciplined, and their camps have been well-constructed by 
the U.S. contractor PAE, often under enormous time pressure. 
(The fact that many of these AU troops are well-experienced 
in peacekeeping missions is reflected in their quality of 
life demands, like excessive requirements for bottled water!) 
All the AU commanders and staff with whom I met expressed 
enormous appreciation for U.S. assistance. 
 
¶4. (C) The AU commanders understand the central importance of 
their role in helping stop violence.  They are deploying 
their military observers and protection forces in patrols to 
towns and villages within their areas of responsibility; 
patrolling roads; and visiting camps of internally displaced 
persons.  The presence of the AU in the areas we visited has 
constrained violence.  The AU commanders generally want to do 
more, and are frustrated by logistical impediments.  (In one 
case the AU learned of jinjaweed abduction of 8 women from an 
IDP camp. They pursued the group and the women were released 
when the jinjaweed fled.)  The base at Muhajiriyah, for 
example, has 130 troops and 13 military observers, but only 4 
vehicles and one Thuraya phone.  At many of the bases vehicle 
and base station radio frequencies are incompatible. (VSAT 
and internet communications were also initially disrupted due 
to introduction of viruses caused by the downloading of 
pornography at a number of the AU bases; the AU command 
cracked down and this is no longer a major problem.) 
Logistical difficulties limit the number of patrols that can 
be sent out to cover hundreds of square miles.  As a result, 
one still sees some troops lying in their tents in the middle 
of the day with nothing to do. Each of the 8 AU sectors in 
Darfur has access to helicopters, and these are used for 
reconnaissance and patrolling, in addition to providing 
logistical support for AU bases. 
 
¶5. (SBU) The AU is sensitive to the need to help facilitate 
humanitarian access.  They are developing close liaison with 
UN agencies and non-governmental groups to share information 
on the security situation and to offer assistance.  In some 
cases, the AU is escorting humanitarian convoys.  However, in 
most cases, the humanitarian organizations do not want to be 
directly associated with the military.  Consequently, the AU 
either patrols the road before the convoy departs, or places 
a patrol a short distance in front of the convoy. 
 
¶6. (SBU) The AU is also occupying villages if information is 
developed that an attack may be imminent.  U.S.-provided 
fly-away kits facilitate quick AU reaction.  The AU cannot do 
this in all cases due to the limited size of the mission and 
logistical problems. 
 
¶7. (C) Progress is being made in addressing logistical 
issues, and command and control problems.  Some of the 
recommendations of the recent EU/US/UN/AU Joint Assessment 
Mission have already been implemented.  The AU has agreed on 
the need to establish a planning cell in Khartoum responsible 
to AU Special Representative Kingibe, and the AU has 
identified a candidate to be a new deputy to Kingibe, who 
will be responsible for ensuring coordination in Darfur. 
These steps now and over coming weeks are essential to 
facilitate expansion of the AU mission to 7,447.  The AU 
expects the expansion to be approved at the end of April and 
hopes to have additional personnel on the ground beginning in 
June. 
 
¶8. (C) The recent addition of civ-pol elements to each of the 
AU sites, as the mission continues to expand, holds promise. 
The civ-pol are just starting to monitor the activities of 
the GOS police, particularly with respect to investigations 
of rapes and other abuses against civilians.  However, we 
found the civ-pol teams not properly trained for this work 
and not sensitized to the local context in which the GOS 
police are in fact part of the problem.  The AU recognizes 
the need for training and is working with the UN, the UK, and 
Canada (all of whom have offered to train the civ-pol) to 
increase civ-pol capacity. 
 
¶9. (C) AU commanders were frank in discussing the limits of 
what they can do.  Several commanders pointed out that AU 
units do not have the heavy weaponry that would be necessary 
to react should an AU base be attacked or should the AU find 
itself in immediate proximity to an attack on a village orconvoy.  They believe 
their existing mandate enables them to 
be even more active.  Commanders pointed out, for example, 
that if they are stopped by a rebel roadblock or jinjaweed 
group, all they can do is try to persuade the groups to let 
them pass.  Their preferred approach would not be to ask 
permission.  They believe that patrols with heavier weaponry 
(with battalion-sized units at AU operating bases) would not 
be challenged, would strengthen AU credibility as a 
deterrent, and would bolster morale. 
 
-------------------------------- 
Violence Reduced in Scope But Continuing 
-------------------------------- 
 
¶10. (SBU) Those Arab militias referred to as the "jinjaweed" 
have not stopped burning villages, but they do so more 
sporadically, and not in areas where the AU is present. 
Flying over Darfur, I saw many burned and abandoned villages, 
but also many villages still occupied, some with cultivation 
evident.  The diminishment in large-scale, systematic 
destruction has occurred not so much because all villages 
have been destroyed, but because the AU acts as a deterrent 
where it is present.  That said, the jinjaweed militias 
remain very active, particularly in southern Darfur, where 
there are now few rebel strongholds remaining.  AU commanders 
and NGO representatives associated most of the violence with 
either GOS-supported jinjaweed or the rebels, but also said 
that there are growing indications of some banditry not 
associated with either.  The AU provided details of attacks 
by the rebels and jinjaweed. 
 
¶11. (C) The spotlight that the AU sheds on Darfur coupled 
with international pressure has caused the GOS to cease use 
of helicopter gunships and antonov bombers for offensive 
purposes (there have not been any confirmed attacks involving 
the use of GOS air assets since January 2005), but it appears 
that the GOS has not cut ties to the jinjaweed and continues 
to support these militias.  AU commanders and 
non-governmental observers were emphatic on this point. 
There is a strong indication that the GOS is using the 
jinjaweed as a proxy for its own involvement.  The local 
governors, even if they wanted to, have no ability to control 
the jinjaweed.  For example, Tijani, the head of jinjaweed 
associated with the Misserya tribe, is a prominent 
personality in Nyala, the capital of southern Darfur, boasts 
of his activities, and frequently talks to the governor 
(Wali) of South Darfur.  Tijani is viewed locally as 
significantly stronger than the Wali; both the Wali and the 
GOS Western Area Commander claim that they cannot control 
Tijani.  The AU has reports of GOS continuing to provide 
weapons and support for the militias. 
 
¶12. (SBU) Rapes frequently occur against women, especially 
when they leave IDP camps to collect firewood.  The GOS 
practice of forcing women to file a police report before 
being able to receive medical attention continues.  The GOS 
does not investigate these reports, and in a number of cases 
women have been arrested or have disappeared after filing 
rape reports. 
 
-------------------------------- 
Revealing Conversation With Western Area Military Commander 
-------------------------------- 
 
¶13. (C) The Western Area Commander of Darfur sought to 
portray violence as purely a tribal problem, and emphasized 
the importance of GOS efforts allegedly to promote tribal 
reconciliation (i.e. a GOS-orchestrated process run by the 
Wali).  He stressed the need for rebel forces to be cantoned, 
and claimed that the GOS is determined to control all militia 
groups.  However, in one exchange he admitted that the 
Misserya tribal group is beyond his control. 
 
¶14. (C) I found two things the commander said particularly 
interesting.  He told me that Vice President Taha recently 
met privately with him in Darfur and gave strict instructions 
not to undertake military offensive actions and to control 
the militias.  In the next breadth, however, the commander 
admitted that the GOS had recruited Arab tribes because black 
tribes supported the rebels, but the commander then claimed 
that these Arab tribal recruits are actually now a 
disciplined part of the GOS military, wearing uniforms and 
regularly coming in from the field to get supplies.  (This 
tracks with other reports that some of the jinjaweed militias 
have been loosely incorporated into the Popular Defense 
Forces.)  The GOS appears to have adopted this dual approach 
of absorbing some of the jinjaweed while claiming that other 
jinjaweed who commit violence are simply beyond the GOS, 
ability to control. (An NGO representative with whom I met 
characterized the Arab militias as a combination of full-time 
PDF, others more loosely associated as "auxiliaries" to be 
called upon as needed, and really local militias/bandits not 
strictly linked to the GOS.) 
 
------------------------ 
Rebel Commanders 
------------------------ 
 
¶15. (C) Muhajiriyah, east of Nyala, is one of three rebel 
strongholds (along with the Jebel Mara mountains in central 
Darfur, and Jebel Moon in northwest Darfur).  I met with the 
following Sudan Liberation Movement military commanders at 
Muhahiriyah:  Bakhet Abdel Karem Abdullah, Deputy Commander 
for the Southern Region; Abdel Majed El Nour, Commander of 
the Southern Region; Zakeria Arga, Secretary of Information; 
and Fadel Hussain, Chief of Logistics.  The commanders were 
from three tribes (Fur, Zhagawa, and one other).  (With their 
sunglasses, turbans, and bandoleers, they were right out of 
central casting.) The rebels appeared well-briefed on the 
UNSC resolutions and Oslo donors conference.  I laid out the 
U.S. view of the situation in Darfur and emphasized that the 
rebels are equally liable under the UNSC resolutions if they 
violate the ceasefire and commit violence.  They claimed they 
respect all the agreements they have signed, yet then said 
they have no choice but to rob humanitarian supplies since 
the GOS is blocking humanitarian access to their areas.  I 
explained that we are pushing hard for unrestricted 
humanitarian access, but that there can be no justification 
for attacks on humanitarian workers or convoys. 
 
¶16. (C) I emphasized the need for the rebels to return to the 
AU-sponsored political talks with unity of leadership and a 
realistic negotiating position, and described the meetings 
Senior Representative Snyder held with rebel leaders in Oslo. 
 The rebels claimed that they are in daily contact with SLM 
leaders Abdul Wahid and Mini Menawi, among others.  They 
argued that jinjaweed violence should be stopped as a 
precondition for political talks, but said they would support 
whatever approach is adopted by their leaders. 
 
¶17. (C) The rebels and the AU said that jinjaweed have been 
massing to the west of Mahajiriyah, and that there are 
indications they plan an imminent assault on this rebel 
stronghold.  They alleged the GOS recently gave jinjaweed 
leader Tijani 29 vehicles.  The AU is closely monitoring the 
situation.  In Darfur and later in Addis I emphasized to the 
AU the need to disseminate such information on a timely basis 
so that the U.S. and other international partners can help 
the AU by weighing in with both sides if major attacks appear 
imminent. 
 
-------------------------- 
Tribal Reconciliation 
-------------------------- 
 
¶18. (SBU) I explored prospects for tribal reconciliation in 
all conversations.  The AU is developing close contacts with 
tribal chiefs, Imams, and other community leaders in their 
areas.  In some cases, they have been able use these contacts 
to prevent greater violence resulting from genuine local 
disputes -- usually involving theft of cattle.  One AU 
officer described how during an unannounced visit to a 
village he found African and Arab tribal leaders engaged in a 
discussion aimed at resolving a local problem. 
 
¶19. (SBU) A lively meeting with about 100 tribal leaders 
(Fur, Zhagawa, Messalit) at the IDP camp at Kutum in northern 
Darfur was enlightening.  Many of them have been at the camp 
for 13 months.  They said that their tribal authority remains 
generally intact, but that traditional structures might break 
down if they remain in the camp indefinitely.  They stressed 
their desire to return to their native villages, but only 
once the violence ends and their security is assured.  While 
the tribal leaders did not seem particularly political, they 
did maintain that the Darfur rebels "are protecting blacks." 
They repeatedly characterized the violence in Darfur as Arab 
efforts to remove them from the land and destroy their way of 
life.  One tribal leader made a distinction between black 
Arabs and white Arabs, and suggested that in places where the 
two groups appear to be cooperating, the GOS has paid off the 
black Arabs. 
 
¶20. (SBU) The tribal leaders said that they believe the 
traditional contacts they had with Arab chiefs in their 
native areas can be reconstituted once there is peace, but 
they see no possibility of doing so until the violence hasbeen stopped.  Once 
there is peace, they said, traditional 
tribal mechanisms should be used to work out issues related 
to compensation and usage of the land and water.  When 
pressed, they said that they would be willing to meet with 
Arab chiefs under AU auspices, but they strongly believe that 
nothing can be accomplished until the Arab militias are 
disarmed and there is peace. 
 
¶21. (C) Representatives of UN humanitarian agencies and NGOs 
with whom I met also said they believe peace is a 
prerequisite for developing a meaningful tribal 
reconciliation process.  Neither they nor the AU feel that 
authentic Arab and black tribal leaders can place serious 
pressure on the GOS or rebels to stop violence.  They 
maintained that political talks are the only means of 
achieving peace.  Tribal reconciliation will then be key to 
implementing the peace accord and returning Darfur to 
normalcy.  They agreed that, in this context, encouraging 
tribal contacts now could be useful. 
 
¶22. (C) The SLM military commanders with whom we met said 
that GOS emphasis on the need for "tribal reconciliation" is 
merely an attempt to go around the political process.  They 
also maintained that the Arab chiefs have been completely 
compromised by the GOS.  They claimed, for example, that 
about a month ago the GOS Minister of Foreign Trade came to 
Darfur and paid Arab chiefs to attack several villages in 
southern Darfur. 
 
----------------------------- 
Grave Humanitarian Situation 
----------------------------- 
 
¶23. (SBU) Representatives of UN agencies and NGOs expressed 
grave concern regarding the humanitarian situation.  One 
official in southern Darfur said that the UN will soon have 
to cut rations to one-half or even one-fourth of normal due 
to insufficient humanitarian supplies being received.  He 
also described continuing obstacles to achieving full access 
and discussed the looming danger of famine.  The GOS 
continues to use Arab militias as a means to impede 
humanitarian deliveries to rebel-controlled areas.  He 
described how 150 trucks carrying supplies are currently 
stopped south of Nyala by militias extorting money.  He and 
others with whom I spoke, however, warmly praised the AU for 
its assistance in interceding in such situations, in sharing 
information, and in providing escorts. 
 
------------ 
Comment 
------------ 
 
¶24. (C) We are on the right track in maintaining pressure on 
the GOS and rebels, emphasizing the need for specific actions 
to end violence, supporting political talks, encouraging 
tribal reconciliation, pressing for unrestricted humanitarian 
access, and expanding the AU presence in order to protect 
civilians and end the violence.  This approach is changing 
the situation on the ground in a positive way, though our 
visit highlighted the enormity of the problem and what 
remains to be done.  Continued vigorous U.S. leadership is 
essential in terms of resources but also as a catalyst to 
maintain and strengthen a concerted multilateral effort 
involving the AU, EU, UN, and others. 
 
SCHNABEL 
.