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Cablegate: Icc Indictments: The Timing Is All Wrong Say Sudanese

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OO RUEHGI RUEHMA RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #1219/01 2251412
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 121412Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1583
INFO RUCNFUR/DARFUR COLLECTIVE
RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 KHARTOUM 001219

DEPT FOR AF/SPG,
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: ICC INDICTMENTS: THE TIMING IS ALL WRONG SAY SUDANESE
SCHOLARS AND AFRICAN DIPLOMATS

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: As Sudan awaits a decision by the International
Criminal Court (ICC) on whether to issue an arrest warrant for
Sudan's President Bashir, Sudanese scholars and African diplomats in
Khartoum we have spoken with predictably believe that while
atrocities have been committed in Darfur, the present time is too
sensitive to pursue such a high profile and dramatic action against
Sudan's President. They believe the indictments may have pushed the
regime to try and forestall ICC action by seeking a solution on
Darfur - or at least, to make the appearance of doing so. However,
our interlocutors agree that an ICC decision to issue an arrest
warrant for President Bashir risks throwing Sudan into turmoil and
renewed violence, with dire implications for the North-South
Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) as well. END SUMMARY.

INDICTMENTS WARRANTED - BUT NOW IS NOT A GOOD TIME
--------------------------------------------- -----

2. (SBU) Poloff spoke in recent days to two Sudanese political
science professors and to two African diplomats from bordering
states. All agree that President Bashir probably deserves to be
brought to justice for his role in Darfur. However, they also argue
- unanimously and predictably - that the ICC action comes at a very
inopportune time, and an arrest warrant should not be issued while
Bashir serves as president. They say the ICC indictments have
painted Bashir into a corner - along with everyone else working for
peace in Sudan.

3. (SBU) In a conversation with the CDA, Ethiopian Ambassador Ali
Abdo Sulieman said his country, as part of the AU, had spoken out
against the ICC indictment, because it unnecessarily complicates the
delicate political situation inside Sudan. The Kenyan DCM, Lindsay
Kiptiness agreed, calling the indictments "ill timed;" the ICC
prosecutor obviously did not take into account the consequences on
the ground in Sudan, he said. In fact, the Kenyan Government issued
a statement against the indictments. Kiptiness cited a Kenyan
proverb that it is better to sacrifice one sheep than risk losing
the whole flock - in other words, it is preferable to allow Bashir
to get away with his crimes than risk provoking a flare-up of
violence. The Kenyan government believes atrocities have been
committed in Darfur, but justice must be pursued peacefully - even
it takes another 15 years, and not by taking the rash step of arrest
warrants. Kiptiness said Bashir could be brought to trial after he
leaves office.

4. (SBU) Dr. Mukhtar al Assam, a political science professor at the
University of Khartoum (and regular contributor of commentary to
Khartoum newspapers) told poloff that the situation now is "very
serious for Sudan" as it awaits an ICC decision. The ruling NCP
knows that other African countries are helpless to get them out of
this predicament. (Note: in this regard, the Kenyan DCM told us
that even though the AU and IGAD countries are giving Bashir vocal
support, the member governments have to deal with the fait accompli
of the indictment, and can't ignore it in their dealings with Sudan.
End Note.) The NCP is hoping that the Security Council will vote
to postpone the decision; "that's the best they can hope for," al
Assam said. Otherwise, "our only hope is that the three judges do
not uphold the indictment."

5. (SBU) Dr. Adlan al-Hardeloo, another Khartoum University
political science professor, largely agreed with his colleague's
assessment. He characterized the ICC indictment as "morally
correct" in that "it seeks justice for those involved in the
atrocities" in Darfur. However, "politically, it is wrong - the
timing is wrong. It will just lead to further complications for the
peace process," which is bogged down on a number of very sensitive
issues right now, including Abyei, UNAMID deployment, and formation
of the National Electoral Commission and subsequent planning for
elections.

ICC ACTION PUSHES REGIME TO SEEK DARFUR SOLUTION
--------------------------------------------- ---

6. (SBU) Our interlocutors agree that the ICC crisis at least seems
to have had the positive effect of pushing Bashir and the NCP to
pull out all the stops in looking for a solution to Darfur.
Professor Al Assam said the ICC action has left the NCP anxiously
casting about for a fix. The party "wants to send a message to the
whole world" by finally showing good faith in the search for peace,
he explained. However, he cautioned, the situation is not now
amenable to a solution. Many of Darfur's armed groups see that the
ICC indictment has left Bashir vulnerable, and consequently are now
even less interested in making the necessary concessions for a peace
agreement. Even if the GNU were to want to accede to what the
rebels want, the rebels themselves are unable to agree on demands.

KHARTOUM 00001219 002 OF 003


7. (SBU) Hardeloo is somewhat more optimistic about the
indictment's prospects for Darfur. The fact of the indictments is
causing Sudan's leadership to deal with Darfur more constructively.
Bashir has already shown more flexibility on Darfur. However,
Hardeloo said, it is unclear whether Bashir's stance is simply a
tactic, or whether it represents a genuine change of policy. If the
international community is able to delay ICC action, the resulting
situation could be very conducive to a solution on Darfur. The
country's only option is to press for a delay of the arrest
warrants, to work for a quick solution to the Darfur problem, to
address the demands of Darfuris, and to implement the letter and
spirit of the CPA, particularly the reform of the media and security
laws in a push for a real transition to democracy. The political
jockeying that will take place in pursuing a Darfur settlement
"could even lead to a genuine, inclusive national unity government,"
he said.

8. (SBU) In particular, Hardeloo said the government must come up
with a concrete plan for Darfur - but he agreed with al Assam that
the ICC decision has just stiffened the inflexibility of the Darfur
rebels. Also, the rebels are too divided among themselves to agree
on a settlement. One solution the GNU may try would be to grant
Darfuris their own region, and then create another vice presidency
for Darfur - but Darfuri leaders would never agree on who gets to
fill that position, the professor said.

POLITICAL IMPLICATIONS FOR LEADERSHIP
-------------------------------------

9. (SBU) The two political science professors disagree to some
extent on the implications for Sudan's president of an ICC arrest
order. Al Assam believes that the NCP is too frightened to consider
replacing Bashir - even though the present situation would seem to
provide an excellent opportunity to show Bashir the door. There is
no one available on whom the NCP could agree to take his place.
If an arrest warrant is issued, al Assam speculated that the NCP
could ask Bashir to step down, but, he added, "Bashir is not without
friends." Asked what the alternatives to Bashir are, the professor
shook his head and said "the only alternatives to Bashir are the
ethnic rebels of Darfur - and they're even worse!"

10. (SBU) By contrast, Professor Hardeloo argues that the ICC
actions have ended up strengthening the regime. Moreno-Ocampo's
charges and request for an arrest warrant have united Sudanese
behind Bashir, despite the fact that "a majority of people in Sudan
hate this regime - it has done many bad things; they have no
legitimacy," he said. Many of Sudan's political forces have
rejected the referral to the ICC, not because they like Bashir, "but
because the Sudanese people are very sensitive to foreign
interference," Hardeloo said. The Government has been successful at
encouraging the public to view the threat to the President from the
ICC as "an attempt at foreign conquest" - especially on the part of
the U.S. Arguments that the U.S. is not involved with the ICC are
not convincing to Sudanese, he said.

11. (SBU) Kenyan DCM Kiptiness disagreed with Hardeloo's
assessment. He said his impression, from talking with Sudanese, is
that a majority of Sudanese actually support a possible ICC arrest
warrant against Bashir, and feel that "it is a good thing," he
said.

DIRE CONSEQUENCES OF AN ICC ARREST ORDER
----------------------------------------

12. (SBU) Our academic and diplomatic contacts suspect probable
dire consequences of an ICC decision to issue an arrest warrant for
Bashir. Al Assam fears such a decision will send the country
spiraling into instability and renewed violence. "The threat is
very imminent," he said. Hardeloo agrees with his colleague's
gloomy assessment. An ICC decision to issue such a t warrant could
lead to the destruction of the entire political system in Darfur,
including a collapse of the government, he said. In the ensuing
chaos, he predicted, Darfur could come under the control of
religious extremists. Another casualty would be the "destruction of
the whole peace apparatus," including the CPA process. The NCP has
promoted this "nightmare scenario" of bad behavior by hosting visits
by the terrorist groups Hamas and Hizballah offering Sudan political
support in its struggle with the ICC.

13. (SBU) COMMENT: Our panel of professors and African diplomats
expressed unanimity: while President Bashir deserves to stand trial
for crimes against humanity in Darfur, an ICC decision to issue an
arrest warrant would upset the various chess boards at play in the

KHARTOUM 00001219 003 OF 003


country. Others disagree - Ugandan President Museveni expressed
support for the ICC and Darfuri IDP leaders told CDA Fernandez on
August 11 that they believe the indictment was long overdue. No one
is sure of what the exact chain of events would be, but many agree
the likely consequences are instability, potential chaos, and an
upsurge of violence. Behind these predictions is an uncertainty
about just what Bashir might do and how far he might go to save his
own skin, but no one believes he would behave like a statesman and
step aside for the good of the country. Of course, it is to
Bashir's advantage to encourage those uncertainties, among both
Sudanese as well as the international community. The ICC
predicament, or "crisis" as it is often called here, has left the
Sudanese feeling rather powerless: the most the regime can do is
make nice on Darfur, and hope the international community notices.
The regime has done precious little thus far, apart from President
Bashir's empty promises in Darfur and numerous diplomatic
initiatives. This won't be enough, and time is running out.

FERNANDEZ

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