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Cablegate: Unamid Chief of Staff Leaves Mission

VZCZCXRO1913
PP RUEHGI RUEHMA RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #0840/01 1570936
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 050936Z JUN 08 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0966
INFO RUCNFUR/DARFUR COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KHARTOUM 000840

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

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

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL KPKO SOCI AU SU ER ET UNSC

SUBJECT: UNAMID CHIEF OF STAFF LEAVES MISSION

REF: KHARTOUM 650

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. After months of uncertainty about his possible
PNG-ing, UNAMID Chief of Staff Patrick Davidson-Houston left the
Mission on May 27, lamenting that he "left much undone." The
majority of UNAMID officials acknowledge that Davidson-Houston's
departure is a blow to the Mission, and none as vociferously as
Force Commander Martin Luther Agwai himself, who avers that without
Davidson-Houston, "Transfer of Authority never would have happened."
Davidson-Houston's premature departure leaves the critical Chief of
Staff position vacant. Top contenders to succeed him reportedly
hail from Troop Contributing Countries (TCCs) Kenya, Gambia, Egypt,
Ethiopia and Pakistan. Neither Agwai nor Davidson-Houston sees the
position being filled before at least August, and Agwai himself does
not consider those candidates in the running to add value to the
Mission's leadership. While two months is a long time to be without
a key UNAMID player, it does afford some time for the international
community to weigh in with the UN to consider other candidates for
the job. END SUMMARY.

"LIKE REPLACING A V8 WITH A PRIUS HYBRID ENGINE"
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
2. (SBU) May 27 marked the last day on the job for Brigadier General
Patrick Davidson-Houston (UK), Chief of Staff to the United
Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) Force Commander.
Since February credible rumors have circulated of the Government of
Sudan's intent to declare Davidson-Houston persona non grata and
expel him from the country as a violation of the "predominantly
African character" of the UNAMID peacekeeping operation. (NOTE: The
GoS ignored that such an expulsion also conflicts with the Status of
Forces Agreement it signed with UNAMID, also in February, which, in
paragraph 7, stipulates that the GoS "undertakes to respect the
exclusively international nature of UNAMID." END NOTE).

3. (SBU) Davidson-Houston will transfer to Addis Ababa as Acting
Force Commander overseeing the closedown of the UN Mission in
Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE), and he noted to FieldOff in a May 27
farewell courtesy call that Addis was only a short plane ride from
Sudan, adding that his Sudanese visa (one of at least three issued
to him by the GoS) was still valid. He reiterated the regret with
which he is leaving the Mission, as he feels he is "leaving much
undone."

4. (SBU) UNAMID Force Commander Agwai (Nigeria) told FieldOff that
he had lobbied hard for Davidson-Houston's initial appointment as
Chief of Staff, explaining that he brought to the Mission a "fresh
perspective" that others did not. Agwai was emphatic that "had
Patrick not been there to tie up so many loose ends for me, Transfer
of Authority never would have happened." He doubted that any
successor could fill Davidson-Houston's shoes from an operational
standpoint. Davidson-Houston's Military Assistant Marc Lawson (UK)
concurred, saying that Davidson-Houston's acting successor, Chief
Operations Officer Col. Joseph Prah (Ghana), as is akin to
"replacing a V8 with a Prius hybrid engine."

VIABLE ALTERNATIVE UNLIKELY
- - - - - - - - - - - - - -
5. (SBU) Davidson-Houston did not expect his ultimate replacement to
arrive "for at least two to three months, knowing the UN." He noted
that UN Headquarters in New York had closed the nominations for
candidates for the position on May 26 but had not yet begun
interviews, and he claimed not to know who was on the short-list.
The Force Commander, however, told FieldOff that candidates under
consideration are from Kenya, Gambia, Egypt, Ethiopia and Pakistan.
(NOTE: The Egyptian and Ethiopian candidates come as no surprise,
as the additional battalions pledged by those two TCCs pushed them
to the top of the list of UNAMID contributors and justified their
seeking such an appointment, as reported reftel. END NOTE.) Agwai
does not expect any new ideas from any of these candidates, noting
that he had pushed UN Headquarters to expand the candidate pool.
The UN balked in the face of the GoS' perceived resistance to any
non-African appointment.

6. (SBU) Agwai noted he had had lobbied hard with AU leadership for
Davidson-Houston's initial appointment, including with former
Commission Chairperson Konare and former Commissioner for Peace and
Security Djinnit, but he doubted that any European would be
subsequently considered for any senior UNAMID post. "We will just
have go on with what we get" from this more limited candidate pool,
Agwai sighed.

COMMENT AND RECOMMENDATION
- - - - - - - - - - - - - -
7. (SBU) Davidson-Houston's departure is a blow to the Mission,
paired as it will be by mid-June with the departure of another key
player, COL Murdo Urquhart, Chief of Planning. Agwai's lack of
faith in the candidates put forward for Chief of Staff should be
reason enough for the international community to weigh in with the
UN on this appointment. We could take advantage of the expected
delay in New York's deliberations on a candidate and use this time
to push the UN to re-open nominations to expand the pool TCC
candidates. Better still would be to make our own proposal, perhaps
in conjunction with the P3. It doubtless will be a sensitive, but
crucial, task given the high-profile of the post and the potentially
damaging precedent that could be set if TCCs are allowed to dictate
UNAMID leadership appointments.

POWERS

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