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Cablegate: Unamid Struggles to Bridge Gaps Within Civil Society

VZCZCXRO1772
PP RUEHGI RUEHMA RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #0723/01 1331241
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 121241Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0792
INFO RUCNFUR/DARFUR COLLECTIVE
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 0211
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KHARTOUM 000723

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR AF/SPG, S/CRS, SE WILLIAMSON
DEPT PLS PASS USAID FOR AFR/SUDAN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PREF PHUM KPKO SOCI UNSC SU
SUBJECT: UNAMID STRUGGLES TO BRIDGE GAPS WITHIN CIVIL SOCIETY

REFS: A) KHARTOUM 333

B) 07 KHARTOUM 1172

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. As local civil society institutions begin to
emerge in Darfur, tensions between traditional government-supported
institutions and newer donor-funded non-governmental organizations
(NGOs) are rising. Resentment and distrust have hampered the
development of a cohesive civil society movement and raise questions
about who, if anyone, will have both the credibility and capability
to represent civil society interests at future peace talks.
UNAMID's Civil Affairs unit, which should be well-placed to fill the
leadership gap, has instead positioned itself as a passive
moderator. UNAMID's hands-off approach has not allowed civil
society groups to find common ground or build trust, and risks
deepening existing divides. Without leadership, the civil society
movement in Darfur is likely to suffer a fate similar to that of the
rebel movements - fractionalization and marginalization - and may
eventually become a spoiler to the peace process in which it has
fought so hard to participate. END SUMMARY.

--------------------------------------------- ---------
UNAMID Acknowledges Divide, Pushes "Organic" Process
--------------------------------------------- ---------

2. (SBU) According to local NGO sources, civil society institutions
that existed in Darfur before the current conflict began in 2003
were largely used as mechanisms for directing financial and material
support to GOS supporters. As such, those organizations that still
exist today, such as local trade and labor unions, are viewed with
skepticism by the fledgling group of independent NGOs that have
sprung up in the past 5 years. The GOS, both directly and through
the civil society organizations it sponsors, is equally skeptical of
the new civil society movement, carefully monitoring NGO staff,
activities and influence. The resulting mutual distrust has created
a disjointed civil society environment in which it is difficult to
identify community leaders and the interests they represent.

3. (SBU) Wariara Mbugua, head of the UNAMID Civil Affairs (CA) team,
is acutely aware of the divisions within civil society. She admits
that her early efforts have focused disproportionately on
interaction with GOS officials and organizations. "The government
made it clear early on that it would not accept the Civil Affairs
office engaging in any activities designed to undermine the
government, or to incite civil society groups against it," Mbugua
said. As such, CA has had to walk a fine line, promoting
independent civil society development, while carefully managing its
own relationship with the GOS and dispelling lingering suspicions.
"The key is transparency - everyone is invited to all of our
events," she said.

4. (SBU) Mbugua admitted that her open-door policy had meant that
many early participants in CA activities were "briefcase" NGOs -
groups that were less interested in real civil society activities
and more interested in advancing their own political agendas.
However, she hoped, as the Political Affairs office gains traction,
those political parties will be drawn away from civil affairs and
into legitimate political activities. Mbugua said it had been
difficult to avoid being sucked into societal fractures. However,
she claimed that the CA team's approach had been successful, and
that GOS interference had declined as more officials participated in
CA activities.

5. (SBU) The most visible of CA sponsored activities is a weekly
meeting open to all NGOs. CA's Mbugua explained that her office
does not dictate agendas for these meetings, but instead allows the
NGOs themselves to "raise issues organically, the issues that are
important to them." Mbugua emphasized that it was important for
local groups to dictate the agenda, to ensure that issues which
affect them are kept in the public dialogue.

------------------------------------
Independent NGOs Critical of UNAMID
------------------------------------

6. (SBU) While CA may be effectively managing its relationship with
GOS, it has not fared as well within the independent NGO community.
Independent NGO leaders visibly bristle at the mention of the CA
office, and many no longer participate in CA-sponsored activities.
The respected Ahmed Adam Yousif, head of the Ajaweed Organization
for Peace and Reconciliation, told fieldoff that he had attended a
few of the initial UNAMID Civil Affairs organized events. However,
he claimed that the CA team did not distinguish between the "real" -
i.e. independent - NGOs and those supported by the government. In
fact, most of their events and meetings were dominated by GOS-backed
organizations, including other NGOs and the university peace center.
Yousif claimed that the CA team was "a partner to the GOS - it has
no interest in hearing other voices." If UNAMID continues down this

KHARTOUM 00000723 002 OF 002


path, he warned, they would fail.

7. (SBU) Mansour Osman, head of the Sudan Social Development
Organization (SUDO), called CA's organic approach "amateur." He
noted that effective NGOs do not work in all areas of civil society,
but rather focus on a particular element or issue. "How can I know
if a meeting will be interesting or useful to me if I have no idea
what is on the agenda?" he wondered. With so many GOS
representatives present, and such a high degree of skepticism
between them and independent civil society groups, Osman also
questioned how open or honest any dialogue could actually be. He
speculated that the only independent local groups who would attend
such meetings were new NGOs which hadn't yet established their
mission or goals, and were only looking for funding.

---------------------------------
Identifying Civil Society Leaders
---------------------------------

8. (SBU) Mbugua said that beyond encouraging dialogue, the weekly
meetings had a more important goal. As key issues began to emerge,
she reasoned, so also would local leaders. CA could then work with
those leaders to develop the skills necessary to effectively
participate in peace talks, Mbugua said. "We have worked with JMST
to identify specific issues that will arise in any future peace
talks," she noted, and CA plans to organize workshops and seminars
for leaders to discuss these topics in more detail. (Comment: This
approach will force Mbugua to develop an agenda, which will appeal
to the independent NGOs but will raise alarms for the GOS. End
comment.)

9. (SBU) Mbugua admitted that the older, government-supported groups
had a leadership advantage, as they tended to have better internal
organizational structures. CA had shied away from targeted
assistance to independent NGOs, citing transparency concerns, but
Mbugua hoped to push the Darfur Community Peace and Stability Fund
(DCPSF) to help support the development of weaker NGOs, and to even
out capacity levels between the two groups. The newer independent
groups, after all, are "stronger on substance," she added.

---------
Comment
---------

10. (SBU) CA clearly does not want to be seen as a leader on civil
society issues, but rather as a mediator. It suffers from the same
weaknesses, passivity and careerism of much of the entire UNAMID
operation in Darfur. Given the internal political dynamics, this
may be the only role that is acceptable for the office to play under
the watchful eye of the GOS. However, CA must become more assertive
in using its position to shape the development of the civil society
community by setting the parameters for discussion - especially if
it is to regain the confidence of the independent NGOs. Few issues
in Darfur are not politicized, though perhaps Mbugua could start
with merely controversial issues such as education, then move on to
explosive issues such as water access, before touching on
radioactive issues such as governance that will link slightly better
with organized JMST efforts.

FERNANDEZ

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