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Cablegate: Aec Plenary Exposes Weakened Commission

VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHKH #0191/01 0380846
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 070846Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9907

UNCLAS KHARTOUM 000191

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR AF/SPG, S/E WILLIAMSON
DEPT PLS PASS USAID FOR AFR, AND ALSO PASS USAID

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV EFIN ECON EAID SU
SUBJECT: AEC PLENARY EXPOSES WEAKENED COMMISSION


1. (U) SUMMARY: On February 6, the Assessment and Evaluation
Commission (AEC) held its 28th plenary session, a meeting consumed
with deliberating the terms of reference (TORs) for the mid-term
evaluation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). The SPLM
supported the use of outside consultants for drafting this document,
while the NCP stated that the AEC should only hire subject matter
experts for outstanding issues. The acting Chairman delayed
resolution on this, saying that the TORS should be taken "as a
starting place" which will be amended and formally adopted in the
March plenary. END SUMMARY.

CHAIRMAN'S REPORT
-----------------
2. (U) As is customary, the plenary session began with a report by
the acting AEC Chairman, Fridtjof Thorkildsen, covering the period
from January 9 to February 5. The Chairman presented a generally
positive report, commending the SPLA and SAF's redeployment efforts,
thanking the U.S. for its contribution for the AEC's new facility in
Juba, and stating that the relationship between the SPLM and NCP
"has moved towards normalization." The Chairman urged the parties
to accept a new AEC chairman as soon as possible and also to
consider allowing UNMIS observer status at the Joint Defense Board.
(Note: The agenda for the February 5 plenary, the Chairman's
report, and the draft terms of reference have all been sent to
AF/SPG. End Note.)

3. (U) Following the chairman's report, the parties commented that
they supported UNMIS participation in the joint defense board, but
wanted more information regarding their exact status as observers.
The Chairman requested that the UN representative submit a written
request to the AEC with respect to this. The parties also stated
that they are in favor of holding more AEC meetings in Juba. As
this would require substantial planning and expense, they agreed
that a meeting in Juba should be a more general orientation and
longer than the normal two hours allotted to the plenary sessions.
The SPLM stated that this would be particularly beneficial to their
party as some of their representatives to the AEC are based in Juba.


UPDATE FROM THE PARTIES
-----------------------
4. (U) The parties provided an update on their latest work in the
newly-formed political executive committee established after the
return of the SPLM to the Government of National Unity (GNU).
Muhammad Mukhtar Al-Hassan, representing the NCP, highlighted the
committee's work on redeployment from the 1956 border, progress on
the elections law, and planning for the census. He stated that the
next meeting of the committee will be on February 11. Kosti Manibe,
representing the SPLM, agreed that progress has been made in these
areas and that the committee is "slowly moving forward, even if it
is behind schedule." Sayed El-Khatib of the NCP added that in the
future it would be best if the Working Group coordinators, and not
the parties, gave updates on the status of CPA implementation.
(Comment: This would be difficult to achieve, as there are no
international observers at the joint political committee established
by the presidency. End Note).

TERMS OF REFERENCE
------------------
5. (U) The parties used the remainder of the plenary to debate the
terms of reference for the mid-term evaluation of the Comprehensive
Peace Agreement. The SPLM stated that outside consultants are
necessary because: the AEC secretariat currently lacks expertise and
support staff; drafting the report will require extensive time and
energy for both the parties and coordinators; and the deadline of
January 9 is quickly approaching. The SPLM also stated that the
consultant would work within the secretariat, be directed and
controlled by it, and only provide the first draft for the report,
which would later have to be agreed upon by the NCP and SPLM. The
NCP disagreed, stating that outside consultants should not replace
or "sideline" the AEC, and they should be used only when there is
disagreement or a lack of expertise on a particular matter. The NCP
stated "the AEC should be in charge from day one and it should be
written word-for-word with full involvement of the AEC." CDA
Fernandez stated that the resignation of former Chairman Tom
Vraalsen, the loss of the AEC's support staff, and continued
deliberation has created a hemorrhage which could impede important
work such as the mid-term evaluation. He said continued
deliberation over appointing a new chairman will hamper the work of
the AEC. He added that outside consultants would not replace the
AEC but would provide "intellectual manual labor" for the AEC
secretariat.

SIPDIS

6. (U) The Norwegian Ambassador ended the deliberation stating
that that the working groups first need to define what experts are
necessary for their groups. He also suggested the formation of a
steering committee of representatives for the drafting of the MTE
from the AEC secretariat, the four working group coordinators, and
the SPLM and NCP representatives. He said that the AEC should
consider using three types of consultants: 1) Expert consultants on
specific areas used for short term assignments; 2) Consultants for
drafting the Mid Term Evaluation; 3) Consultants seconded to the
AEC secretariat. [Note: Thorkildsen stated that the AEC will soon
receive another German legal advisor to replace the former advisor
who departed Khartoum in December 2007. End Note.] The NCP
responded to the chairman's suggestions saying, "We accept the TORS,
but we would like to add to them to make them more general. There
needs to be more emphasis on practical points as this will save us
headaches in the future." Khatib also stated that the Government of
National Unity is required to make funds available to the AEC for
its functioning. He suggested that funds could be attained from the
GNU for experts. Thorkildsen concluded that the AEC will work with
the current TORS as a starting point and formally accept a revised
edition of the terms of reference at a later date.

7. (U) Minutes from the AEC plenary will be forwarded to AF/SPG as
soon as they are received from the AEC. [Note: Typical functions
of the AEC have slowed noticeably since December 2007. End Note.]

COMMENT
-------
8. (SBU) The NCP's assertion that the AEC mid-term evaluation
should be produced by a drafting committee is unrealistic, as
experience working for two years on the CPA factual report clearly
demonstrated. [Note: Taking over 9 months to draft and described by
one working group coordinator "as a very painful process," the
factual report was plagued by unnecessary delays, often
uncooperative parties, and occasional outward hostility between the
parties. End Note.] The question of hiring an outside consultant
has not been resolved for the mid-term evaluation. If there is to
be a primary drafter, this individual or team of experts needs to be
identified as soon as possible as the original terms of reference
scheduled the submission of the first draft of the mid-term report
for April 15. If the terms of reference are formally adopted at the
next plenary in March, this will leave only one month to hire a
primary drafter and write the report.

9. (SBU) With its administration gutted, three canceled working
group meetings in February alone, delays in appointing a new
chairman, and another institution (the newly-formed NCP-SPLM
political executive committee) serving as the primary venue for
NCP-SPLM dialogue, this plenary session exposed a debilitated AEC.
The SPLM representatives appeared tentative and complacent, perhaps
afraid to rock the boat after just returning to the GNU. Meanwhile,
the NCP was at its best, obsessing over minutiae, dragging out the
process unnecessarily, putting form over substance, and appearing to
be amicable while firmly standing its ground.

FERNANDEZ

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