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Cablegate: Aec Plenary: Disagreement Over Abyei and Census

VZCZCXRO7662
RR RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #0547/01 1001524
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 091524Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0510
INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KHARTOUM 000547

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL KSCA OTRA EAID CDC SU
SUBJECT: AEC PLENARY: DISAGREEMENT OVER ABYEI AND CENSUS

REFS: A) KHARTOUM 508
B) KHARTOUM 524
C) KHARTOUM 472

1. (U) SUMMARY: The Assessment and Evaluation Commission (AEC) met
in plenary session April 8. Highlights included disagreement by the
two sides over an Administrator for the Abyei area, and over
inclusion of questions on ethnicity and religion in the upcoming
census. CDA Fernandez briefed on his recent trip to Abyei (REFS A
and B), in the process joining others in urging the two sides to
come to an agreement on naming an Administrator for the neglected
area. The Italian Ambassador briefed on the Power Sharing Working
Group's field visit to Juba the previous day (April 7), at which the
Census was the featured topic. The SPLM reiterated its insistence
on amending the census questionnaire, without conceding that the
change would force postponement of the census. END SUMMARY.

CHAIRMAN'S REPORT
------------------

2. (U) AEC Chairman Amb. Derek Plumbly reported on his introductory
meetings with various international observers of the CPA process.
He said that everywhere he received assurances of renewed focus on
and support for the CPA process. The Vice Chairman (the Kenyan
Ambassador who had led the Kenyan Delegation to the recent African
Union ministerial visit to Khartoum, REF C) told the meeting that
the African ministers had explored ways to mobilize the
international community in support of the CPA and Darfur peace
processes, discussed how the upcoming census could be carried out in
Darfur, and agreed on the urgent need to provide capacity building
assistance for Southern Sudan.

ABYEI: INCONCLUSIVE DISCUSSION ON ADMINISTRATOR
--------------------------------------------- ---

3. (U) The Dutch Ambassador briefed on the current situation in
Abyei. As Coordinators of the Three Areas Working Group, the Dutch
are planning a field visit to Abyei, but postponed scheduling of it
until after April 9, when the Presidency is to discuss the area.
U.S. CDA Fernandez then gave a readout of his recent trip to Abyei.
He noted that the U.S. is looking for ways to increase development
and humanitarian assistance in the Abyei and Muglad areas. The
single most important step forward would be for the parties
immediately to agree on a fixed border and a mutually acceptable
administrator. He noted the controversy surrounding the presence of
Edward Lino, but said he had brought with him much needed technical
expertise that have been sorely lacking. Absent an agreement, he
appealed for UNMIS to be granted unfettered access in the area.

4. (U) Further, CDA Fernandez stressed the need for balanced media
reporting and for an end to inflammatory language (such as use of
the word "jihad") on both sides. Finally, he said both sides should
facilitate and stop interfering with NGOs working in the area.

5. (U) The two sides then engaged in a lively discussion of the
status of Edward Lino (REF B), and the situation in Abyei. The SPLM
rep said the Lino appointment was only made ad interim, to fill the
vacuum until the Presidency could confirm an appointment to the post
of Administrator. The two sides are getting closer to finding a
solution to the Abyei situation, she said. The NCP insisted that
only the Presidency could name an Administrator, and that any other
party usurping that function only added to confusion in the region.
He charged that there were reports of armed SPLA elements
accompanying Lino into Abyei. Finally, he denied that there was any
"vacuum" in Abyei to be filled, insisting that there remained a
lawful (i.e., Khartoum-appointed) administrator in the area who
could fill this function until the Presidency names a replacement.


6. (U) Chairman Plumbly attempted to foster consensus, pointing out
that access for UNMIS is very important and that the parties should
rely on the political process to forge a compromise. He said the
two sides need to "reduce the temperature" on what is said and done
on the ground. He noted the vacuum on the ground with regard to
services and urged "if our goal is to make unity attractive, then
it's vital to make the three areas a success."

7. (U) After further squabbling over the Abyei situation, Charge
Fernandez cited an example to illustrate the current situation:
Abyei town will have electricity for the first time next month as a
result of U.S. developmental assistance. "We want to do more, but
we've refrained from doing so because there is no government there
to work with," he said. That effectively brought the Abyei
discussion to a close.

CENSUS: ETHNICITY-RELIGION QUESTION GOES NOWHERE
--------------------------------------------- ---

8. (U) The Italian Ambassador briefed on the Italian-sponsored
Power Sharing Working Group visit to Juba April 7 (which included a
PolOff from the U.S. Embassy). The group had been briefed by the
heads of both the Northern and Southern census bureaus. He noted

KHARTOUM 00000547 002 OF 002


that there was still disagreement over inclusion on the census form
of the questions on Ethnicity and Religion. The SPLM rep
reiterated, as she had in Juba, the SPLM position that there was no
point in going through with the census if the two questions are not
included. In turn, the NCP rep noted that the SPLM had earlier
agreed to the census form as it was being distributed, without the
two contentious questions.

9. (U) NOTE: At the Juba session, the CBS Director General noted,
with no disagreement from his southern counterpart, that there was
no time remaining to print up an "appendix" form to include the two
questions. Doing so, he said, would mean postponing the census
until after the rainy season. END NOTE.

10. (U) Chairman Plumbly brought the census discussion to a close
by noting, inconclusively, that "it is hard to reconcile the demand
to adjust the questionnaire with the pressing need to move ahead on
the census."

WORKING GROUP STATUS REPORTS: SLOW PROGRESS ON MTE
--------------------------------------------- -----

11. (U) The Coordinators of each of the working groups reported on
their group's activities, most of which relate to the Mid-Term
Evaluation. CDA Fernandez noted that the U.S. is close to
completing a first draft of the Wealth Sharing Working Group's
contribution to the MTE. He noted that the WSWG has arranged two
upcoming events to provide input for the MTE: a return appearance
before the WSWG of the Chairman of the Fiscal and Financial
Allocation and Monitoring Commission (FFAMC) on April 10, and then a
field visit April 16 to Juba to hear presentations by GoSS
officials.

Other Business
--------------

12. (U) Amb. Plumbly said the next AEC plenary may be scheduled for
May 1 (not a holiday in Sudan), to avoid conflict with the
Consortium meeting May 3-5. The meeting ended with the two sides
pledging their commitment to provide the resources to ensure
finishing the MTE on time. The NCP rep was the most categorical,
stating that at every meeting, they would have a representative
empowered to make decisions. The rep of the SPLM (from which most
of the scheduling difficulties have come) was not as forthcoming in
her assurances, but said her party would do likewise.

13. (SBU) COMMENT: The AEC plenary session highlighted the
currently discouraging state of play on CPA implementation, with the
disagreement over the census the most immediate problem. However
Abyei remains the most serious and intractable issue on CPA
implementation. Both parties noted that the Presidency will discuss
Abyei April 9, though neither seemed very optimistic that an
agreement would be reached any time soon.

FERNANDEZ

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