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Cablegate: "Now Is the Time," Turabi Tells Williamson

VZCZCXRO1037
OO RUEHGI RUEHMA RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #0836 1561345
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 041345Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0962
INFO RUCNFUR/DARFUR COLLECTIVE
RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS KHARTOUM 000836

DEPT FOR AF/SPG, A/S FRAZER, SE WILLIAMSON
DEPT PLS PASS USAID FOR AFR/SUDAN
ADDIS ABABA ALSO FOR USAU

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM KDEM SU
SUBJECT: "NOW IS THE TIME," TURABI TELLS WILLIAMSON

REF: KHARTOUM 423

1. (SBU) On May 30, Special Envoy Richard Williamson called on Dr.
Hassan Abdalla al-Turabi, founder and leader of the People's
Congress Party (PCP). Turabi was a founding member of the National
Islamic Front (NIF), predecessor of the current regime, the National
Congress Party (NCP). Turabi was at the peak of his power in the
1990s, but fell out of favor with the regime in 1999 and was jailed
until 2003. Turabi's influence is still not insignificant, as many
of his protgs are now senior leaders in the NCP regime. Alert and
erudite but occasionally off-topic, Turabi held forth for 90 minutes
in his Khartoum home.

2. (SBU) A strong supporter of a united Sudan, Turabi treated his
guests to an overview of Sudanese history to emphasize his point
that the future of Sudan rests on the establishment of a strongly
federated democratic state. He expressed support for the Sudanese
elections scheduled for 2009, describing them as an absolute
necessity, but he also expressed wariness. "You can't conduct an
election under a dictatorship which can restrict campaigning,"
Turabi said. "If the government controls the money, they will be
the only party elected to power." After recounting recent election
fiascos in Zimbabwe and Kenya, Turabi then questioned USG commitment
to free and fair elections in the Middle East.

3. (SBU) Turabi spoke with only slightly restrained glee of the May
10 assault on Omdurman by the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM),
seeing it as a "quid pro quo from (Chadian President) Deby." Turabi
complimented JEM on the assault: "Their approach was nice - they
told locals they weren't targeting them, and they paid for
everything." Turabi saw the assault as a pedagogical exercise for
the Government of Sudan (GoS), saying JEM hit Khartoum to bring
attention to the desperate plight of Darfur. The assault "showed
the need for balance from the center." Arrested after the attacks,
but released twelve hours later, Turabi was sentimental about his
jailing; after 11 years in jail, he said he manages his time quite
well under imprisonment.

4. (SBU) SE Williamson remarked that the Sudanese regime appears
shaken following the JEM attacks. Asked how internal stresses are
affecting the regime, Turabi expressed confidence that Sudanese
President Omar al-Bashier will "get the message." "No one is
happy," said Turabi. "There is a need to change our society."
Gauging interest in negotiations following the attacks, Turabi said
most rebel groups are "prepared to negotiate." Williamson
questioned Turabi further, as Khalil Ibrahim, head of JEM, had told
SE Williamson he was not ready to negotiate. Turabi insisted
Ibrahim will negotiate in the proper venue. "What will he do
besides negotiate? Khalil Ibrahim can hit Omdurman but he can't
take it over."

5. (SBU) Turabi reassured SE Williamson that the NCP regime is
willing to listen. Asked how to encourage the regime to reach out to
its opponents, instead of lashing out at them, Turabi said that
outside, direct pressure is required. "The President is a soldier
but can be persuaded. He is shaken. It's easy to persuade him to
do the right thing - he is not dogmatic." Turabi advised SE William
not to challenge the NCP directly, and approach moderates like Ali
Osman, Sudan's "de facto foreign minister" and a "conciliatory
fellow." Turabi's final significant point stressed his personal
newfound faith in democracy, saying "Now is the time ... this is no
way to govern a country. You must do it democratically."

6. (U) SE Williamson's delegation reviewed this message before
transmission.

POWERS

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