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Cablegate: Cda Meets with Former President Mirghani

VZCZCXRO2665
OO RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #0605 1111042
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 201042Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0596
INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS KHARTOUM 000605

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR AF/SPG, A/S FRAZER, 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: CDA MEETS WITH FORMER PRESIDENT MIRGHANI

Refs: A. Khartoum 509
B. Khartoum 325

1. (U) On 17 April, CDA Fernandez met with former Sudanese President
(1986-89) and Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) Deputy Ahmed
Al-Mirghani, brother of DUP leader Mohamed Othman Al-Mirghani who
remains in self-imposed exile in Cairo. Ahmed Al-Mirghani stated
that the DUP (Mirghani faction) is keen to maintain strong relations
with the West, especially the United States. He emphasized the DUP's
roots in Sufi Islam (out of the Khatimiyya Order) as promoting a
tolerant, inclusive, and pro-Western form of Islamic politics.

2. (SBU) Mirghani, a trained economist, described the ruling
National Congress Party (NCP) as a colossus that has tremendous
power but is actually weak. He noted that Khartoum's surface flash
and growth masks a grimmer reality, the gap between the center and
the regions, the capital and the countryside. Despite the regime
being awash in money because of oil revenues, ordinary Sudanese feel
more and more squeezed by inflation and deteriorating services
provided by a kleptocratic state.

3. (SBU) The former President (who was overthrown in the coup that
brought Omar al-Bashir to power) noted that Northern opposition
parties should be able to confront the NCP but are constrained by a
lack of a financial base to challenge them, after almost 20 years of
NCP rule. He described the SPLM (who were the DUP's allies in the
"National Democratic Alliance" before 2005) as having finally "woken
up" in late 2007, after having ignored Northern opposition parties
for over two years after the signing of the CPA. He thanked Charge
Fernandez for pushing the message publicly that to transform Sudan,
to help in Darfur or South Sudan, the heart of the problem - and the
solution - is in Khartoum and reaching out to Northern opposition
parties much more than before.

4. (SBU) CDA Fernandez told Al-Mirghani that the USG will encourage
a level-playing field ahead of the elections. He urged Al-Mirghani
to ensure that the DUP keeps distance from the NCP and not fall prey
to its destructive "divide and conquer" tactics prior to the
elections. Responding to recent DUP member defections to NCP which
received considerable press coverage in the pro-regime media,
Al-Mirghani said, "these were not important people at all," noting
that one "leader" was 84 years old and almost unknown, and "it's
[the amount of press coverage] a bit of a joke." (Reftels) The CDA
agreed that because the NCP controls the media, among other
important resources, it has the ability to publicly play up such
things to its advantage. As a way of encouraging democracy in
Sudan, the CDA offered support to the DUP through continuous
dialogue. Al-Mirghani was grateful for this offer of support. It
was agreed that DUP would set up an event for the CDA to meet and
speak with a larger number of DUP members in the coming weeks.

5. (SBU) COMMENT: Divided now into three or four factions, the DUP
is probably the most fractured of Sudan's traditional parties but
probably still has adherents, especially in Sudan's East and North.
Any real electoral strategy for fully democratic polls in Sudan must
indeed seek to give historically Northern, Arab, Muslim opposition
parties a real chance to participate fully, speak out and challenge
the NCP's false claim to represent what is actually a heterogeneous
Arabic-speaking "Northern Sudan," not at all in NCP lock-step
against an also illusory, united anti-Arab, Southern Sudan. Africa's
largest country is much more complex than that. END COMMENT.

FERNANDEZ

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