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Cablegate: Surprise Census Delay by Splm Exposes Internal Fissures

VZCZCXRO6589
PP RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #0566/01 1050404
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 140404Z APR 08 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0541
INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 KHARTOUM 000566

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR AF/SPG, S/CRS, S/E WILLIAMSON
ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU
DEPT PLS PASS USAID FOR AFR/SUDAN

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL KPKO KDEM SOCI AU UNSC SU
SUBJECT: SURPRISE CENSUS DELAY BY SPLM EXPOSES INTERNAL FISSURES

REFS: A. KHARTOUM 562
B. KHARTOUM 547
C. KHARTOUM 493
D. KHARTOUM 477
E. KHARTOUM 473

--------
SUMMARY
--------
1. (SBU) Just one day after GoSS President Salva Kiir Mayardit
publicly supported the upcoming national census and urged all
Southern Sudanese to participate in it, the GoSS Council of
Ministers, led by Kiir, voted to unilaterally "postpone" the census
in Southern Sudan. GoSS officials cited a lack of funding,
security, the unresolved issue of border demarcation, the inability
of some IDPs to return to Southern Sudan, and the absence of
questions on ethnicity and religion on the census forms as the
biggest issues warranting a postponement. A dismayed international
community is vigorously attempting to convince the GoSS to reverse
its decision, but senior GoSS officials have indicated that a
reversal is not likely. End Summary.

--------------------
AN UNWISE DECISION
--------------------
2. (SBU) Over the past two months, some SPLM officials such as GoSS
Vice President Riek Machar and GoSS Minister for Agriculture Samson
Kwaje, have called for the South's boycott of the census,
specifically over the exclusion of questions on religion and
ethnicity on the census questionnaires. At the same time, other
SPLM officials, such as GoSS President Salva Kiir Mayardit, GNU FM
Deng Alor and GoSS Minister for Presidential Affairs Luka Biong
Deng, publicly supported the census going forward despite minor
obstacles related to funding, form shortages, and questions on
religion and ethnicity.

3. (U) In an extended GoSS Council of Ministers Meeting in Juba on
11-12 April, GoSS ministers voted to postpone the census in the
South. This decision came less than 24 hours after GoSS President
Salva Kiir publicly encouraged Southerners to participate in the
census and asked churches to preach a message of census
participation on Sunday, 13 April. SPLM officials cited the
following reasons for postponement: exclusion of questions on
ethnicity and religion on census questionnaires, inadequate security
and NCP incitement in multiple locations such as Malakal, Jonglei,
Bentiu, Warap, Lakes, Equatoria and Abyei (although Abyei is
technically not in the south, yet, per the CPA), the alleged
blocking of IDP returnees to the South by the SAF, and the start of
the rains (refs B, C, D).

4. (U) GNU President Omar al-Bashir publicly slammed the SPLM for
its decision on 12 April. Press reports indicate that the Director
of the Central Bureau of Statistics, Dr. Yasin Abdeen, will meet
with the Population Census Council in the next two days in Khartoum
to discuss whether the North will proceed with the census given the
South's extra-constitutional pull-out.

----------------------
ESTIMATING THE DAMAGE
----------------------
5. (SBU) Upon learning that the GoSS Council of Ministers had voted
to postpone the census in the South, Chairman Isaiah Chol Aruai of
the Southern Sudan Commission for the Census, Statistics, and
Evaluation (SSCCSE) was "devastated." O 12 April, the Chairman
wrote letters to the governors and statistical directors of the
southern states asking for them to call back all enumerators (all
11,000 of them) and census material. This message has already
reached the state level and enumerators have begun to return to
their homes.

6. (U) On 12 April, UNFPA staff in Juba hurriedly put together a
brief report on the technical and financial implications of
postponing the census in the South. To date, the GNU, the GoSS and
donors have spent approximately USD 68.8 million on preparation for
the census in the South. Multi-Donor Trust Fund (MDTF) resources
were entirely committed to procurement, delivery and distribution of
questionnaires and enumerator training. Some GNU funds were already
paid out to census enumerators upon deployment. A significant
portion of GoSS funds were used for advocacy. If the census is
delayed in the South and goes forward in the North, the bulk of
those resources would be wasted as a national census would not be
possible. While maps produced for the census will be useful for
other purposes, most pre-enumeration products do not serve other
purposes. If the North and South agreed on a new census date
without changing the questionnaire, current questionnaires and
training materials could be re-used as they do not reference
enumeration dates.

KHARTOUM 00000566 002 OF 003

--------------------------------------------- ----
DARFUR REBEL LEADERS SUPPORT THE SPLM'S DECISION
--------------------------------------------- ----
7. (U) SLA leader Abdel Wahid al-Nur and JEM spokesman Ahmed Hussein
Adam have applauded the SPLM's decision to postpone the census. SLM
leader Minni Minnawi has also spoken out previously against the
census (septel). This comes as no surprise, as the region's largest
rebel movements have never been in support of conducting the census
this April and are capitalizing on the South's move to justify their
own reasons for postponing the event. These reasons include
widespread displacement, the fear that third-country Arabs will be
counted as Darfurians, insecurity, and the belief that a political
solution to Darfur must come before a census or elections (refs d
and e).

--------------
DONORS REACT
--------------
8. (SBU) On 12 April in Juba, CG Datta called together the
international donor community to develop a joint donor statement on
the GoSS decision to delay the census. The community supported
presenting a unified front to the GoSS on this issue and requested a
meeting with GoSS President Salva Kiir to express concern about
census postponement in the South and to plead with the GoSS to
reverse its decision. Donors demarched GoSS Minister for
Presidential Affairs Luka Biong Deng and GoSS Undersecretary in the
Ministry of Regional Affairs Dr. Cirino Hiteng Ofuho on 12 April.
They expressed concern that the GoSS decision could have negative
impacts for the implementation of the CPA and urged the GoSS to move
forward with the census despite present challenges. Donors
emphasized the large amount of financial, logistical, and human
resources invested by the international community in the Southern
Sudan census effort and expressed concern that these efforts would
be futile if the census is postponed. They further warned that this
delay played squarely into the NCP's hands, handing them the
opportunity to cast the SPLM as the party that first abrogated a
major CPA milestone. The Norwegians specifically warned the
Minister that this decision might also discourage donors from
attending the upcoming Donors Consortium planned to be held soon in
Oslo. Minister Biong Deng was somber and stated that he understood
the donors' position and said he would speak with Kiir to see if a
meeting could be arranged. Biong Deng requested a joint statement,
which donors provided to him.

9. (SBU) CG Juba spoke with Minister Luka Biong Deng again on 13
April. Minister Biong Deng said that at the Council of Ministers
meeting he argued forcefully for going forward with the census, but
was outvoted. He confessed that he knew that the USG/joint donor
position was the right one, but he believes the decision will not be
reversed.

10. (SBU) In an ambassadorial dinner on 12 April, AEC Chairman Derek
Plumbly and SRSG Qazi said that they had both spoken with Salva Kiir
in the past 72 hours and had been assured by him of the GoSS'
unenthusiastic, but real participation in the census. CDA Fernandez
urged both to provide "a graceful way out for the SPLM to back out
of this political mistake", if they are willing to do so. Both CDA
Fernandez and SRSG Qazi spoke to Presidential Advisor Mustafa Othman
Ismail to urge a relatively measured, low-key response by the NCP to
the GOSS decision. The NCP's public criticism after a late-night
emergency meeting was relatively muted. On 13 April, the EC is
convening an ambassadorial-level discussion on the census with SRSG
Ashraf Qazi to determine how to influence the GoSS to reverse its
decision, while the Assessment and Evaluation Commission (AEC) will
also be mobilized.

--------
COMMENT
--------
11. (SBU) The GoSS' bombshell decision to "postpone" the census in
the South just three days before the nation-wide census makes it
appear as though the SPLM is abrogating its commitment to the CPA,
and effectively surrenders the moral high ground to the NCP. The
SPLM's move plays squarely into the NCP's hands. The NCP is already
claiming that it is ready and willing to implement this key CPA
benchmark. The blame for its nation-wide failure will rest with the
SPLM. It is even more embarrassing coming just one day after FVP
Salva Kiir's call for widespread southern participation in the
census.

12. (SBU) The GoSS' decision also shows that the SPLM suffers from
deep internal fissures among high-ranking party leadership which
threaten the ability of the party to be an effective player against
the NCP. The SPLM's constant waffling over whether to boycott or
not, President Kiir's statement encouraging all Southerners to
participate, and the GoSS Council of Minister's vote immediately

KHARTOUM 00000566 003 OF 003


following to delay the census raises questions about both Kiir's
leadership of the party on critical issues and internal intrigue
between the party's "unionists" and "separatists". Generally, SPLM
leaders in the GNU seemed to have been more positive about the
census than those in the GOSS. We have already seen similar
flip-flops in SPLM strategy on the electoral law, which has
complicated its passage.

13. (SBU) While we can understand that the SPLM is nervous about a
census result showing less than thirty percent of Sudan's population
in the South, and the possible implications this would have for
their strength vis-`-vis the NCP before and after elections, a
calculation to deviate from the CPA by postponing the census is even
riskier, as it undermines the path of full CPA implementation -
which is the surest path to protecting southern interests. It also
plays into the hands of an NCP happy to see international attention
diverted to the missteps of its rival.

FERNANDEZ

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