INDEPENDENT NEWS

Cablegate: Misseriya Migration Becoming a Crisis

Published: Mon 18 Jan 2010 10:19 AM
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SUBJECT: MISSERIYA MIGRATION BECOMING A CRISIS
REF: 09 KHARTOUM 862; 09 KHARTOUM 1389; KHARTOUM 54
1. (SBU) Summary: In a conversation with Poloff on January 12,
Seth Kumi, United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) Civil Affairs
Chief for Sector VI (Abyei), stated that many Misseriya are
collecting in Abyei, unwilling to continue their southern
migration. The Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), attempting
to enforce a zero-arms policy, is requiring that the Misseriya
disarm before crossing into Southern Sudan, but the Misseriya are
unwilling to do so under these conditions. UNMIS reported a clash
in Unity State on January 11 in which two Misseriya were killed by
SPLA forces after refusing to disarm. The current crisis
increases the already high risk of violence in Abyei, jeopardizing
sensitive national issues such as April elections, Abyei referendum
preparations, and boundary demarcation. Post recommends that
Washington support the long-proposed Five Governors Conference,
bringing together executive leadership from Southern Kordofan,
Unity, Warrap, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, and Abyei to create a
unified security policy governing the Misseriya migration. End
Summary.
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Misseriya Collecting in Abyei
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2. (SBU) Misseriya herders, making their annual dry-season
migration south, and already in a high state of agitation over the
Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) ruling on Abyei, which they
view as an unjust taking of their land (Refs A, B), are collecting
in Abyei. The Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), attempting to
enforce a zero-arms policy, is requiring that the Misseriya be
disarmed before they cross into Southern Sudan as part of their
annual migration. In a conversation with Poloff on January 12,
Seth Kumi, UNMIS Civil Affairs Chief Sector VI, stated that many
Misseriya fear that the SPLA either cannot adequately protect their
cattle or will steal the cattle for themselves, and are refusing to
disarm in order to enter Southern Sudan. Kumi reports that many
Misseriya have refused to proceed with the migration beyond Abyei,
while others have returned to Abyei after facing SPLA soldiers in
Southern Sudan. Kumi also reports that some heavily armed
Misseriya-constituted People's Defense Forces (PDF) militia have
been reported in Abyei. (Note: The SPLA's stated position on
disarmament is consistent with that in prior years. Typically,
however, the Misseriya and Dinka conduct a migration conference and
arrive at a compromise by which the Misseriya are permitted to
carry their weapons into Southern Sudan as long as they keep their
weapons concealed and do not enter villages or towns armed. This
year, due to political tensions, a migration conference did not
take place. End Note.)
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Two Misseriya Killed; Media Inflaming Tensions
--------------------------------------------- -
3. (SBU) On January 12, local media reported that SPLA soldiers
killed two Misseriya shepherds while they tended their sheep and
injured others before fleeing the scene. The attack reportedly
took place in the Abyei Special Administrative District, about 30
miles north of Abyei town. In a conversation with Poloff on
January 13, David Raikow, Political Officer for UNMIS, stated that
UNMIS had received an unconfirmed report from Misseriya tribesmen
in the area that they had been harassed by SPLA soldiers and
impeded in their migration south. However, no fighting or
casualties were reported. (Note: It is unlikely that SPLA soldiers
were so far north of Abyei town, though the forces could have been
a southern affiliated militia. End Note.) UNMIS Military Affairs
did report a Misseriya-SPLA clash in Unity State on January 11 in
which two Misseriya were killed in a fire-fight with SPLA forces
after refusing to disarm. (Note: It seems probable that the media
KHARTOUM 00000096 002 OF 002
source conflated the two incidents and added local rumors. The
unfortunate result is a story that is extremely inflammatory. The
editor-in-chief of the media source is President Bashir's uncle.
End Note.)
4. (SBU) Comment: The dangers arising from the situation in Abyei
are severe. An outbreak of violence in Abyei could be more
destructive than that which occurred in 2008 because the Misseriya
feel abandoned by the GoS and betrayed by the CPA and the PCA.
Furthermore, April elections, referendum preparations, and boundary
demarcation are all sensitive national issues and would all be
seriously disrupted by any outbreak of violence.
5. (SBU) Comment Continued: If a solution is not found to the
disarmament issue, many Misseriya cattle will not survive this dry
season, which is especially arid and compounded by an insect
infestation which killed the grass in the Misseriya's northern
grazing lands, resulting in an early southern migration. In
addition, the Misseriya cattle are already weak due to last year's
failed migration resulting from fighting that took place in Abyei
in 2008. If the Misseriya suffer significant losses of their
cattle, this will weaken traditional Misseriya leadership, while
strengthening Misseriya militia forces and armed youth who are more
radical and for whom land ownership and border demarcation are
paramount issues. Post recommends that Washington support the
long-proposed Five Governors Conference, bringing together
executive leadership from Southern Kordofan, Unity, Warrap,
Northern Bahr el Ghazal, and Abyei to create a unified security
policy governing the Misseriya migration. Alternatively or
additionally, the quick formation of a joint or third-party
security force to accompany Misseriya herds may be a solution to
the impasse. End Comment.
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