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Cablegate: Beja Congress: We Need Investment in the East

VZCZCXYZ0012
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHKH #1908/01 3380828
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 040828Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9426

UNCLAS KHARTOUM 001908

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR AF/SPG, AF/E

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL EAID SU
SUBJECT: BEJA CONGRESS: WE NEED INVESTMENT IN THE EAST


1. (SBU) Summary: In an introductory call with CDA on December 3,
Beja Congress president and Presidential Advisor Dr. Amna Dirar
stressed the need for investment in the eastern states of Kassala,
Gedarif and Red Sea to promote development in the impoverished
region ("Now, it's just us and the sun"). CDA concurred with the
need to increase awareness of the region, noting that issues in
Darfur and the south absorbed virtually all international attention.
Dr. Dirar also discussed the relatively positive status of ESPA
implementation during the meeting. End summary.

-----------------------
ESPA GENERALLY ON TRACK
-----------------------

2. (SBU) Dr. Dirar characterized implementation of the Eastern Sudan
Peace Agreement (ESPA) in generally positive terms, saying that the
three broad protocols agreed to were largely on track. The ESPA,
signed in October 2006 and the most recent of Sudan's peace
agreements, calls for cooperation in power-sharing, economic/social
and security arrangements. She said that the integration of former
Eastern Front combatants into the Sudanese armed forces and military
academies was proceeding, though development and reconstruction
plans had only been completed the day before. (Note: In previous
meetings with poloffs, presidential assistant and Eastern Front
chairperson Mousa Ahmed expressed similar views. End note.)

-------------------------------------
INVESTMENT CRITICAL FOR EAST'S FUTURE
-------------------------------------

3. (SBU) The ESPA also called for US 100 million in development
funding in 2007 (US 600 million in total through 2011), she said,
which was slowly forthcoming. Development priorities were being
decided by local administrators in the three states; key priorities
included primary healthcare, access to education and clean drinking
water. Dr. Dirar emphasized how barren and poor the region was,
quoting the late John Garang as telling her, "You don't even have
trees!" Women still died in childbirth, she said, and the mortality
rate for children under five was the highest in the country. CDA
agreed that it was essential to address basic economic needs in the
east, an area in many ways more destitute and marginalized than
Darfur. Noting Red Sea State's long coastline, Dr. Dirar said the
area was ripe for investment in fisheries, agriculture and even
tourism. She also thought that a free trade zone could be developed
there.

4. (SBU) CDA asked if U.S. sanctions in Sudan affected investment in
the east. Dr. Dirar said that sanctions had scared off potential
investors, and told CDA that the east should be exempt from
sanctions as were Darfur and the south. She admitted that Port Sudan
has seen development but that city "is really part of Khartoum" not
the east, especially the desperately impoverished rural east. She
compared Chinese investment in the area to a "giant rat that eats
everything." The east needs factories, skills/capacity building and
greater access to education, she said, adding that the east had the
potential to rival the Gulf.

5. (SBU) The lack of infrastructure and basic necessities had also
prevented many refugees from returning after the ESPA was signed,
she told CDA. Port Sudan was an exception to the poverty prevalent
in the region, she added. CDA noted that while the US provided
support in the east through NGOs, there was no direct funding. The
US should view the east as a distinct entity, like the south and
Darfur, and not just part of the "rest" of Sudan, he said, telling
Dr. Dirar that he hoped the US would develop special programs
targeted at the east although Darfur and the South would remain as
main concerns of the U.S.

-----------------------------------
FROM ARMED GROUP TO POLITICAL PARTY
-----------------------------------

6. (SBU) On the Eastern Front coalition of the Rashaida Free Lions
and the Beja Congress, Dr. Dirar said that it was very difficult to
make the transition from an armed group to a political party. She
said that the Eastern Front differed from other movements (like the
SLM and SPLM) in Sudan in that it was truly comprehensive; the party
included all the tribes of the east, she said, and not just Rashaida
or Beja. Both parties wanted to change their names so as to be more
inclusive to other eastern ethnic groups. When CDA asked whether the
Eastern Front had participated in any political party training, Dr.
Dirar said that it had been tried in Asmara, but "people were
afraid." This is a sensitive subject, she noted, but Eritrea is not
a good model for us because it is a one-party state. Eritrea had
played an influential role in the Beja Congress, she said; when the
CDA asked her about the Hadendewa tribe, she said that Eritrean
pressure had led them to be expelled from the congress in 1994
because they were seen as too Islamist. Islamism didn't depend on
ethnicity, CDA noted, but on ideology. Dr. Dirar agreed, saying
"We're proud of our democratic minds in the east."
7. (SBU) Comment: The most recent of Sudan's three peace agreements,
the ESPA seems not to have been plagued by the acrimony and distrust
associated with the CPA and DPA. This may be because the ESPA hasn't
benefited - or suffered - from the same international and domestic
scrutiny. While implementation has been slow, Eastern Front
representatives have taken up their allocated positions in local and
national government. The region is arguably the most underdeveloped
in the country, and it is critical that we begin to look at how we
can support its development. Post will reach out to additional
contacts in/from the east to deepen our reporting on this region,
which often gets sidelined due to Darfur and CPA reporting, while
realizing that our main focus will remain elsewhere. End comment.

FERNANDEZ

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