Cablegate: Eastern Sudan - in Any Other Country, It Would Be The

DE RUEHKH #0701/01 1281155
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1. (U) SUMMARY: Charge Fernandez traveled to Kassala, in eastern
Sudan, May 4-5 to meet with local political representatives and tour
two locations ripe for USAID help: the flood-prone Al Gash River and
the horrifically rundown Kassala hospital. This was the first trip
to Kassala by a U.S. chief of mission in years. As noted in reftel,
there continue to be loud rumblings of discontent and renewed talks
of war among members of the Eastern Front. END SUMMARY.

2. (U) BACKGROUND: The poverty in eastern Sudan is striking, even
compared to other parts of the country with malnutrition, health and
education levels worse than war-torn Darfur and undeveloped South
Sudan. The Eastern Sudan Peace Agreement (ESPA), signed in 2007, is
often overshadowed by the CPA and the crisis in Darfur. The
agreement, signed in Asmara between the Government of Sudan and the
"Eastern Front" rebel group, promised USD 600 million in development
over five years, the approximate amount that had been spent on war
in the east, but little of that has appeared. END BACKGROUND.

3. (SBU) On May 4, Charge Fernandez began his visit to Kassala by
meeting with Mohamed Salih Abid, the deputy governor of Kassala
State and the State Minister of Health and Ali Awad Mohamed Musa,
State Minister of Finance. Abid immediately noted that "90 percent
of the ESPA" has been implemented, and that USD 35 million of the
East Construction Fund will soon to be awarded for building schools
and medical centers.

4. (SBU) Next up was the meeting with the local NCP representatives,
Zohair Abu Sin and Ali Awad Mohamed Musa, Chair of the Consultation
Council. Abu Sin and Musa reiterated the NCP's "commitment to fully
implement all peace agreements" and said their party had "no benefit
or interest being an enemy of the U.S."

5. (SBU) As expected, this meeting with the NCP contrasted sharply
with the Charge's next two meetings, with the local DUP and SPLM
representatives. Mohamed Medani, Chair of the SPLM for Kassala
State, and Mustafa Hassan Mustafa, Minister of Culture and
Information for Kassala State, said there was "no coordination
between the NCP and the SPLM" on the rebuilding of the region and
made specific mention of the NCP's "policy of deception and
mockery." "The NCP gave us half a Ministry - only the Minister and
his car - we are deprived from any resources to deliver services to
the people." The SPLM representatives did note, however, that they
had "excellent relations" with the Eastern Front and voted together
in local councils but underscored that the NCP had given the Eastern
Front nominal control while retaining firm control on the region's
purse strings. A particular complaint is how the NCP has rigged the
membership of the board that will decide how to spend the chimerical
600 million dollars in its favor.

6. (SBU) May 4 ended with a meeting with the Eastern Front. Salah
Barkwin, the Eastern Front Secretary of Kassala State, was adamant
about the "real political conflict between the NCP and all the other
parties." Also in attendance were other local representatives from
the Beja Congress and the Free Lions Movement who make up the front:
"from 1958 (when the Beja Congress was founded) until now, we have
had the same complaints about poverty and marginalization and
nothing has really been addressed. The conditions that have led to
war in the past are still with us." Speaking to the urgent need of
development, the representatives of the Eastern Front focused on the
basics: health care, education and infrastructure. (As if on cue,
the power then cut out and the rest of the meeting was lit by the
headlights of a truck.)

7. (SBU) Of particular concern to the Eastern Front are the DDR
concerns of their former fighters. The NCP now says that "the donors
didn't come up with the money for reintegration" and Khartoum can't
do anything. "We didn't read the fine print," noted one chagrined
leader. Rebels who staked everything on a political cause now face a
future of poverty and marginalization, while their former oppressors
wax fat on State-sanctioned corruption that is remarkable by
Sudanese standards. In the former rebel-controlled enclave of Hamesh
Koreib, the NCP and Sudanese intelligence have reinstalled
traditional sheikhs with resulting plummeting education rates: one
percent of girls in the region attend school and 4 percent of boys.
"What progress we made in liberated zones is erased," one mourned.

8. (SBU) Like the SPLM, the Eastern Front fears it is being "set up"
to fail by the NCP. It has authority but no real power and no
resources to deliver a tangible development dividend to desperate
people. Many of its leaders, both in Khartoum and in the East, feel
trapped. The Eastern Peace Agreement is indeed being fulfilled but
it has also not definitively changed the balance of power. Barkwin
noted to CDA, "we have peace and we are not arrested or prevented
speaking by the security services, but in the end, is not enough."
All meetings with political parties were attended by the jovial
local NISS representative, a level of monitoring not seen even in

KHARTOUM 00000701 002 OF 002

9. (U) Beyond the political meetings, the American delegation also
toured the banks of the Al Gash River, where rising sediment creates
crippling annual flash floods in a usually parched landscape. A
visit to Kassala's teaching hospital was also part of the agenda; a
very basic, dirty and forlorn facility, it is nonetheless the best
in the state. Education, flood control, health and creating
livelihoods dominated the discussion and dialogue between local
officials and USAID.

10. (SBU) COMMENT: In any other country, the status of Kassala and
the rest of the east would easily be considered an emergency-level
humanitarian crisis. This being Sudan, however, eastern Sudan gets
only 3rd billing, when it is remembered at all. Largely ignored by
the international community but relatively stable, for the moment,
the region presents a unique opportunity for development. Done
quickly and done well, a reinvigorated East could serve as a model
for the rest of war-torn Sudan. Such support would also have a
significant political dimension, it would empower former rebels -
allied with the SPLM - in a much needed electoral and political
alliance of Sudan's marginalized peoples. End comment.


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