Cablegate: Hassan Al-Turabi On Ncp Dynamics
DE RUEHKH #0423/01 0811052
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 211052Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0275
INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KHARTOUM 000423
DEPT FOR AF S/E WILLIAMSON, AF/SPG
DEPT PLS PASS USAID FOR AFR/SUDAN
ADIS ABABA ALSO FOR USAU
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL SU
SUBJECT: HASSAN AL-TURABI ON NCP DYNAMICS
REFTELS: A) KHARTOUM 410
B) 07 KHARTOUM 2007
1. (SBU) Summary: According to PCP leader Hassan al-Turabi, the
ruling National Congress Party lacks any base of popular support and
is under stress as it tries to deal with multiple challenges (most
of its own creation). Al-Turabi said that President al-Bashir's
indecisive leadership compounds these problems. The NCP is both
duplicitous and afraid that a critical mass of problems in Darfur,
in South Sudan, and economic pressures and corruption coupled with
the possibility of greater hostility from the United States could
rattle its hold on power. End summary.
2. (U) On March 17, CDA Fernandez called on Dr. Hassan Abdalla
al-Turabi, founder and leader of Peoples' Congress Party (PCP). Dr.
Al-Turabi was a founding member of the National Islamic Front (NIF),
which led to the current regime, until he was forced out in the late
1990s when he tried to consolidate his own power in the regime.
Many of his former proteges are now senior leaders in the NCP
regime. When Turabi left the party he formed his own rival PCP
party, which may not have much support, but is viewed with great
suspicion by a nervous NCP regime.
The Unloved NCP
3. (SBU) CDA Fernandez remarked that while the National Congress
Party (NCP) appears to be going into the 2009 national elections
wielding a preponderance of power based on its long-established
control of the government in Khartoum, with the resulting access to
patronage and control of the security forces, the NCP lately appears
weak, indecisive and not in full control of events. Recently, it
has faced strong popular discontent stemming from increases in the
prices of bread, sugar, and electricity. The NCP often seems to
resemble the biblical "giant, with feet of clay."
4. (SBU) Dr. al-Turabi agreed, saying that the NCP is fundamentally
weak. It has no base of popular support. "No one loves the NCP,"
he remarked. While people continue to join the NCP, it is for
cynical motives of advancing their own personal interests or
ambitions, not for idealistic or ideological reasons.
5. (SBU) Turabi said that all Northern opposition parties, including
his own (which is the most anti-NCP party in the North), do talk and
negotiate with the NCP, because there are no better options. The PCP
is trying to get 28 activists released from prison, "perhaps in the
next few days," and to push for - at the very least - greater press
freedom. He noted that targeted censorship on anything related to
Chad (and Sudan's support for Chadian rebels) is "particularly
fierce right now." He also laughed about the regime's recent
hysterical reaction to the Charge's bland comment on democratic
elections in Sudan. He urged CDA to be even more aggressive, "they
are unlikely to expel you despite their threats."
6. (SBU) Turabi continued that the NCP is being stressed by
multiple, simultaneous challenges and is frightened about a
potentially dangerous future. First, it is facing the first
competitive elections in its history. Second, it is dealing with
multiple problems within the Government of National Unity. After
sidelining the SPLM and taking it for granted since the GNU was
created, the NCP was shaken by the SPLM's walkout from the Council
of Ministers in October. The NCP is worried that this could happen
again. Third, it is faced with the ongoing conflict in Darfur and
the international pressures that has created. "Darfur and the South
have not worked out as they planned," he noted. Al-Bashir is also
made nervous by events such as in Pakistan, where Musharraf is
ceding power, because he sees himself as a similar figure. Finally,
the regime recently has had to contend with popular discontent
stemming from rising prices, despite having the richest budget in
Sudanese history as a result of oil revenues.
Real power but Indecisive Leadership
7. (SBU) Turabi remarked that the NCP's problems are compounded by
weak leadership. President al-Bashir has real power but is
indecisive and his decisions reflect the views of the last person he
talked to, rather than any ordered analysis of the problem. The
competing NCP power centers, although appearing powerful, are thus
reduced to acting as errand boys carrying out instructions over
whose drafting they had no real say. Senior officials prepare
documents and meticulously set the stage for policies only to have
their careful plans sidelined by a whisper in the President's ear at
the last moment. "This is the military mentality at work, which
we've never been able to get away from."
8. (SBU) Comment: It is interesting that Turabi's remarks do not
fully track with comments made by his own son (Ref A) last week.
KHARTOUM 00000423 002 OF 002
While the bitter Hassan al-Turabi sees President Bashir as
indecisive (many observers have told us the same thing), his own son
and many other observers see President Bashir as having greatly
consolidated his power over the last several years with the NCP
operating as a well-oil machine. Perhaps the difference between the
two generations in analyzing the regime is less deep than it
appears: both see a regime which is fragile but much more powerful
than any rival in the country, which is somewhat disciplined but
less so than it appears, which is both ruthless but insecure.
However both of them are correct in identifying the many external
pressures with which the regime is confronted and which could
actually worsen over the next two years. The regime is constantly
in a state of crisis-control as it seeks to manage its various
relationships (both internal and external) and retain control of
Sudan and its booming economic interests.