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Cablegate: Se Williamson Meeting with Darfuri Civil Society Leaders

VZCZCXRO7646
OO RUEHGI RUEHMA RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #1210/01 2240915
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 110915Z AUG 08 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1565
INFO RUCNFUR/DARFUR COLLECTIVE
RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 KHARTOUM 001210

DEPT FOR AF/SPG, A/S FRAZER, SE WILLIAMSON
NSC FOR BPITTMAN AND CHUDSON
ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU
DEPT PLS PASS USAID FOR AFR/SUDAN

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ASEC PGOV PREL KPKO SOCI AU UNSC SU
SUBJECT: SE WILLIAMSON MEETING WITH DARFURI CIVIL SOCIETY LEADERS

REF: A) KHARTOUM 1108
B) KHARTOUM 1167

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: On August 10, Special Envoy Williamson held two
separate meetings with Darfuri civil society leaders to discuss the
peace process in Darfur, humanitarian concerns and insecurity in the
region. The leaders painted a dire picture of the situation on the
ground, underscored by rampant violence and a severe food shortage
that could result in famine. In the search for a political solution,
they argued that rebel leaders do not adequately represent the
citizens of Darfur. They told Special Envoy Williamson that a
broader spectrum of Darfuris must be involved in the peace process.
The leaders asserted that civil society groups in particular are
intellectually and morally better equipped than the rebels to
promote peace and reconciliation. They also emphasized the need for
indigenous methods of reconciliation, in accordance with Darfuri
customs and traditions. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) On August 10, Special Envoy Williamson held two separate
meetings with a diverse group of Darfuri civil society leaders,
including: Ahmed Abd Rahaman Rejal, the Maqdoom (viceroy) of South
Darfur; Idriss Yusuf Ahmed, Secretary of the Darfur Shura Council;
Suliman Ishag, SPLM Head of South Darfur and Secretary General of Al
Tajuma Al Ahli, a largely Fur civil society group; Dr. Waleed
Madibbo (from the Baggara Rizeigat Arab tribe), President of
Governance Bureau, a consultancy; Dr. Musa Adam Abdul-Jalil,
Associate Professor of Sociology and Anthropology at the University
of Khartoum; former General Siddig Mohamed Ismail, Secretary General
of Sons of Darfur Forum for Dialogue & Peaceful Coexistence; and
Aisha Abubakr Subaira Adam, Coordinator of Peace and Development at
the Community Development Association. Though the participants came
from different segments of Darfuri society, they shared many similar
views in regard to the situation on the ground, the rebel
leadership, the role of civil society, and the path to peace and
reconciliation.

DIRE SITUATION ON THE GROUND
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

3. (SBU) The civil society leaders painted a dire picture of the
situation on the ground, one characterized by increasingly rampant
insecurity. Dr. Madibbo noted that "areas considered relatively
secure (such as parts of South Darfur) are in fact not secure at
all," adding gangs of bandits operate there with impunity. Of
greater concern, according to the leaders, is the severe food
shortage resulting from the decrease in food aid and absence of
local production as farmers are afraid to cultivate their fields.
Prices of food have skyrocketed, and the civil society leaders
stated there was imminent danger of increased hunger, especially for
groups of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) who are cut off from
humanitarian aid. Waleed Madibbo also expressed concern about the
deepening ethnic divide in Darfur between the Zaghawa and the
region's other tribes stoked by the regime (Reftel A). Special Envoy
Williamson replied that the U.S. maintains its strong political and
financial commitment to achieving peace in Darfur, and will continue
to advocate full deployment of deployment as the best option to
increase security and facilitate humanitarian efforts.

DIM VIEW OF REBEL LEADERS
- - - - - - - - - - - - -

4. (SBU) Responding to Special Envoy Williamson's question on how
they view Darfur's rebel leaders, the civil society leaders shared
the view that the rebel leaders are "sons of Darfur" but not
adequately representing citizens of Darfur. They characterized the
rebel leaders as out of touch with the pain and suffering felt by
ordinary people. "Abdul Wahid has fought for our cause," noted the
Maqdoom, "but he does not speak for people on the ground." And no
matter how powerful rebel leaders are, said Dr. Madibbo, they
"cannot force their views on grassroots communities." Furthermore,
the civil society leaders do not view rebel groups as competent to
produce a peaceful solution to the conflict. "People who are armed
are never going to be a part of the peace process," said Idriss
Yusuf Ahmed, and Dr. Abdul-Jalil wryly predicted that "at some point
there will be another peace agreement signed between the parties to
manipulate violence" in Darfur.

ROLE OF CIVIL SOCIETY
- - - - - - - - - - -

5. (SBU) In contrast to their views of the rebel groups, the civil
society leaders said their grassroots efforts articulate the needs
and wants of the citizens of Darfur. They pointed to the recent Dar
Es Salaam Declaration (Reftel B), which offers recommendations on
power sharing, wealth sharing, land issues, and restitution by an

KHARTOUM 00001210 002 OF 003


impressive group of local leaders and intellectuals representing all
of Darfur's peoples. They urged a greater role for civil society in
future negotiations, noting its capacity for voicing the concerns of
ordinary citizens. For example, Aisha Abubakr Subaira spoke of how
civil society efforts have focused on the desire of Darfuri women to
be considered in any prospective peace agreement. The latter must
consider compensation for women who have lost properties and/or have
been the victims of rape and other abuse. Subaira said that it was
unlikely without such neither the rebels or government would be
willing to acknowledge and address such gender-based issues. Civil
society can also "fill the gaps" on what is needed in peace
agreements, said Dr. Madibbo, citing perceived vagueness relating to
compensation in the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA).

6. (SBU) The leaders claimed that despite the potential of their
civil society groups to promote peace and reconciliation, such
activities were still stifled by security forces through
restrictions on freedom of speech, assembly and other intimidation.
"Right now, there is no civil society as such, but there are agents
for civic action," said Dr. Abdul-Jalil. These restrictions have
driven civil society organizers to hold conferences abroad, such as
the Dar Es Salaam Conference and similar events held in Heidelberg,
Germany and the United Kingdom. But as the Maqdoom pointed out, "If
there's anything to be done [in Darfur], we need to be free. Free to
meet, to move around, and to consult our people." The leaders urged
the international community to support efforts to build civil
society by providing resources and the auspices under which they
could meet and organize. They noted, if Darfur is to stabilize
soon, we need to acquire some of the essential tools for nation
building." They strongly urged that some international assistance
for Darfur needs to be development and not just humanitarian aid,
starting in some relatively stable communities like El-Daein.

INDIGENOUS SOLUTIONS
- - - - - - - - - - -

7. (SBU) The civil society leaders strongly believe that although
the trouble in Darfur originated with outside influences ("the
international community underestimates the NCP's capacity for
manipulation"), the solutions for such problems must come from
within. Dr. Abdul-Jalil noted that there is evidence that local
communities have come to recognize this, citing pacts made in
several communities between nomadic former militias and local
cultivators with regard to grazing rights. The Maqdoom recalled how
disputes had been handled during the country's Condominium period.
(Note: "Condominium" refers to British-Egyptian colonial rule in
Sudan dominated by Britain with Egypt reduced to a largely symbolic
role. Begun in the late 19th century, the "condominium" lasted until
Sudanese independence in 1956) He said that disagreements were
handled outside of state courts by tribal elders, and suggested
current intertribal conflict and grievances could be settled in a
similar fashion, perhaps in a gathering of tribal leaders under the
auspices of the UN or AU. In contrast to indigenous efforts,
government-orchestrated reconciliations were, in the view of the
leaders, basically ineffective.

DISTRUST OF THE NCP
- - - - - - - - - - -

8. (SBU) Throughout their discussion with Special Envoy Williamson,
the civil society leaders expressed a deep distrust of the National
Congress Party (NCP). The elderly but feisty Maqdoom noted that the
NCP's disarmament of the Fur tribe in the 1990s sowed the seeds for
the current conflict, while Idriss Yusuf Ahmed maintained that
everyone in Darfur, even the Arabs, realize that "it is the
government's policy to keep Darfur unsettled." They did not view
the NCP regime as a reliable signatory, citing its lack of
implementation of the DPA and its wavering on CPA commitments. Due
to this lack of trust between Darfurians and the regime, Suliman
Ishag suggested that the Darfur file be transferred to the SPLM,
which he noted already has relations with the rebel factions in
Darfur. He argued this would also give a chance for the SPLM to
re-attempt to unify the movements, or at least their armed forces.
(Note: Ishag is the SPLM Chairman of South Darfur. End Note.)

9. (SBU) COMMENT: If they can be properly mobilized, civil society
groups may be able to provide a forum for the voices of Darfur's
citizens and allow them to play a role in peace negotiations and
reconciliation efforts. This is a role, according to the civil
society leaders, that rebel groups and their leaders are unsuited to
play. A solution to Darfur that focuses solely on warlords and
rebels, and not on Darfur's people (especially alienated IDPs), will
probably fail.

10. (U) SE Williamson cleared this cable prior to transmission.

KHARTOUM 00001210 003 OF 003

FERNANDEZ

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