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07KHARTOUM155 2007-02-01 16:26:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Khartoum
Cable title:  

DARFUR: COMMANDERS CONFERENCE IN FLUX

Tags:   PGOV PREL MOPS AU SU CD UN 
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1. (C) The African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) again
postponed the conference of Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA)
non-signatory commanders in North Darfur to February 5 due to
logistical problems in transporting the commanders to the
event site, having already moved 24 commanders to North
Darfur on January 29. According to the U.S. representative
to the Cease-fire Commission (CFC) in El Fasher, there is no
indication that an alleged January 30 Sudanese Armed Forces
(SAF) bombing near Jebel Marra caused the postponement.
However, SAF troop and Arab militia movements near the
conference location, as well as mixed signals from the
Sudanese government on security guarantees for the event,
continue to complicate the situation.



2. (C) The internal maneuvering of the commanders themselves
also remains obtuse, and as reported reftel, which commanders
attend the conference will determine its impact. At present,
three outcomes could result from the conference, if it is
held: 1) A new, unified rebel movement could emerge that
would participate in a viable political dialogue with the
Sudanese government; 2) A new, unified rebel movement in
North Darfur could merge with rebel elements based in Chad
and pursue a policy of regime change in Sudan, backed by
funding from Chad; and 3) A new movement, composed of a
handful of rebel commanders with limited support and
resources, could meet in North Darfur and form yet another
faction in the ongoing conflict with the Sudanese government.



3. (C) Reports indicate that the fighters allied with Abdel
Wahid Al-Nur, who number approximately 1500, and Ahmed Abdul
Shafi, who number approximately 300, have tired of the
ongoing conflict and stalled political process and plan to
attend the conference. Given their lack of resources and
estranged political leadership, it is unlikely that this
would result in a viable movement that could engage in
substantive negotiation with the Sudanese government. Sudan
Liberation Movement/Minni Minawi chief of staff Jumaa Hagar,
however, is now in North Darfur and engaging in discussions
to unite with these groups. Though suffering from the same
lack of resources that has plagued SLM/Minawi since the
signing of the DPA, Hagar still commands some public support.
Recent first-hand Department of Defense (DoD) reporting
noted that crowds numbering in the thousands greeted Hagar at
various points as he moved from South Darfur to North Darfur
for the discussions on the conference. His union with Abdel
Wahid and Abdul Shafi's forces might energize a new movement
in the short term, but it would not be sustainable due to the
shortage of resources.



4. (C) The "swing vote" in the plan for non-signatory
unification will be Sudan Liberation Army (SLA)/G-19
commander Adam Bakhit. There are indications that Bakhit has
allied with the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), led by
Khalil Ibrahim; the Sudan Liberation Army led by Adam Ali
Shoggar; and the Federal Democratic Alliance, led by Sharif
Harir and Ahmed Ibrahim Diraig -- in an attempt to revitalize
the now-defunct National Redemption Front (NRF). (Note: All
of the above leaders are in Chad or along its border. End
note.) The "new NRF" would be enhanced by Bakhit's 2500
fighters, bringing the movement's approximate strength to
3700, and benefit from significant Chadian financing. Though
at present it is unclear whether Bakhit will attend the
conference in North Darfur, he and other SLA/Unit-G-19
leaders, such as Khamis Abdullah and Suleiman Marjan, may use
it as an opportunity to entice other commanders and fighters
to their new movement, with the promise of Chadian backing.
Despite the numbers of fighters and resources, however, this
"new NRF" would lack a Fur in its political leadership, which
would limit its public appeal in Darfur.



5. (C) Comment: Despite the logistical problems that AMIS
has confronted in moving commanders to the North, it plans to
continue the operation for the coming days. Some commanders
within the SLA remain opposed to the machinations of Chad and
its proxies. They may continue to resist the temptation of
greater resources in exchange for the possibility of a
constructive dialogue with the Sudanese government and may
yet attract support from the SLA/Unity-G-19 in a cross-tribal
alliance to pursue peace. We have urged the non-signatory
commanders to make a public statement in support of peaceful
dialogue with the Sudanese government at the beginning of the
conference. Until the conference begins -- and the attendees
make their intentions known in public -- it will be difficult
for us to assess the state of the shifting rebel alliances.

KHARTOUM 00000155 002 OF 002


End comment.
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