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Cablegate: Aec Plenary Session of September 2, 2008

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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ASEC PGOV PREL KPKO SOCI AU UNSC SU
SUBJECT: AEC PLENARY SESSION OF SEPTEMBER 2, 2008

1. (U) SUMMARY: The 35th plenary session of the Assessment and
Evaluation Commission (AEC) was held at AEC headquarters in Khartoum
on September 2, 2008. Most of the session was devoted to lengthy
reports on the current situation in South Kordofan, and preparations
for national elections in 2009. The UNMIS head of the Section IV
office in Kadugli, Mr. Karen Tchalian, said he was "cautiously
optimistic" that demobilization of SPLM units and reintegration of
SPLM-controlled areas in the Nuba Mountains was making reasonably
good progress after a long delay. He expressed concern at the
availability of inflammatory misinformation on various internet
sites about tens of thousands of armed men massed in the area, and
criticized a recent Small Arms Survey report on the situation there.
The UNMIS Chief Electoral Affairs Officer in Khartoum, Ray Kennedy,
reported on the daunting challenges Sudan faces in attempting to
hold national elections in 2009, according to the schedule enshrined
in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). Kennedy refused to be
drawn into stating as much, but strongly implied that the two sides
may have no other choice but to postpone the elections from July,
2009 to December of the same year. END SUMMARY

ADMINISTRATIVE ISSUES
----------------------

2. (U) AEC Chairman Sir Derek Plumbly opened the monthly plenary
session with several administrative issues. He said the Government
of Switzerland has offered the services of a qualified individual to
head up the AEC's office in the Southern Sudan capital of Juba.
(NOTE: These offices are funded by the USG. End note.) This
individual should be in place within one month. He urged the AEC's
four working groups to continue tackling the various recommendations
in the AEC's recent Mid-Term Evaluation, suggesting that they aim
for monthly meetings. However, he acknowledged that even that
schedule can be difficult to meet due to the limited availability of
the two sides.

ELECTIONS
---------

3. (U) UNMIS Electoral Affairs Officer Kennedy presented a lengthy
briefing on the status of preparations for national elections, under
the auspices of the CPA. The CPA says that elections should be held
by July 9, 2009, but also gives the two parties the opportunity to
review the feasibility of that timeline and agree on a later date.
He stated that his office looks forward with great anticipation to
the appointment of the nine members of the National Electoral
Commission (NEC). His GNU contacts have indicated that the National
Assembly (legislature) will not be called into special session to
ratify the members of the Commission once the Presidency announces
the nominations. Instead, the Assembly will wait until their next
regular session which begins in October, following the month of
Ramadan. [Note: US Embassy poloffs, on the other hand, have been
informed by various NCP parliamentarians that the President will
call an extraordinary session of Parliament to review the nine NEC
candidates if the candidate list is released by the Presidency
before 13 October. End note.]

REVIEW OF FEASIBILITY OF ELECTION DATE
--------------------------------------

4. (U) Kennedy noted that under terms of the CPA, the NCP and SPLM
are afforded the opportunity to formally evaluate the feasibility of
election dates. That review should have taken place last January.
He said he hopes the two sides will undertake this review soon.
Kennedy implied that, due to the immense challenges in preparing for
elections, and in view of how little has been accomplished to date,
the two sides may have to postpone the elections until December of
2009. He seemed to imply that even the December date may prove too
ambitious. The CPA lists the various factors (including
resettlement, rehabilitation, etc) that can be taken into account in
setting the election date. UNMIS reviewed the various factors, and
concluded that due to logistical challenges and the lack of enough
dry season time before July 9, 2009, there is more than enough
justification to postpone the elections until December 2009.

TASKS FACING THE NEW NEC
------------------------

5. (U) Once nominated and ratified, the NEC will face various tasks
to get up and running, Kennedy said, beginning with setting up their
offices and bureaucracies in Khartoum, Juba and the various state
capitals. They will have to arrange for training for their new
staffs, and then establish procedures and regulations. The NEC will
face an array of policy decisions, including determination of the
accreditation requirements for national and international observers,
and determining how IDPs will be dealt with in the elections. The

KHARTOUM 00001346 002 OF 003


Commission will have to draft key voter education messages; it will
face a tight timeline on procurement of items for voter registration
and for the election itself. For example, it will have to determine
whether photo identification will be required for voter
registration, and then will have to procure the necessary materials
to produce the identification cards.

6. (U) Two of the most time-consuming processes that lie ahead on
the road to elections are voter registration, and determination of
boundaries of the many single member districts. The NEC will have
to determine boundaries for 270 single member districts for the
National Assembly, 100-150 seats for the Southern Sudan Legislative
Assembly, and approximately 750 districts for the various state
assemblies. Based on UNMIS experience in other countries, such as
Liberia, drawing constituency boundaries will take from three to six
months. Then the NEC should allow time for public hearings and
comment. Determining single member districts containing
approximately the same number of voters in turn must await results
of the recent national census; Kennedy said latest indications are
that the census results may not be available until January 2009.
Following the initial determination of constituency boundaries, the
country's political parties will need about one month to select
their slates of candidates.

7. (U) The Commission will also require sufficient time to review
the estimated 1300 various "ballot styles" that will need to be
produced for the elections. This review must be completed before
the ballots are sent to the printer. One month will be required to
move the ballots from the warehouse to the country's many voting
centers.

ADDITIONAL LEGISLATIVE REFORMS
------------------------------

8. (U) The UK Ambassador inquired about the various other
legislative reforms stipulated by the CPA to create a suitable
political context for free and fair national elections, such as a
new Media Law, Security Act, etc. Kennedy merely observed that if
the election date is postponed until December 2009, the National
Assembly would have time to hold a Spring 2009 session to pass the
required legislation. The SPLM representative asked directly
whether UNMIS deems the current target election date, July 9, 2009,
to be feasible. Kennedy replied that his office has been warning
for some time now that to achieve the July 9 date, "the NEC would
have had to be in place for some time now."

SOUTH KORDOFAN
--------------

9. (U) The AEC next heard a detailed report from the UNMIS Office
Head for Sector IV (stationed in Kadugli), Mr. Karen Tchalian. The
official pronounced himself "cautiously optimistic" that
developments were tending in the right direction. Three years into
the CPA, the redeployment and demobilization of SPLM armed units in
South Kordofan and the re-integration of the SPLM "closed areas"
into the State was long overdue, he said. He reviewed the progress
to date of naming SPLM candidates to the State's civil service corps
(some 4,000 have been identified). The process of GOS police taking
over previously SPLA police stations was "going well, with no
reports of any unpleasantness," he said. Tchalian said a big
challenge was avoiding a security vacuum in the closed areas. The
JIUs, for all their faults, are trying to fill the vacuum in the
areas vacated by the SPLM police, he said. He added that much
remains to be done, specifically citing the challenge of integrating
the two judicial and educational systems.

10. (U) Tchalian addressed the issue of "spoilers," or individuals
or political formations trying to take advantage of the changing
political and security situation in the State. He specifically
rebutted the most recent Small Arms Survey report (No. 12), titled
"The Drift Back to War." Tchalian said that while SAS analysis "is
usually quite good," this particular report is "a wealth of
misinformation" and "highly irresponsible." (Note: The SAS report
is quite critical of UNMIS performance in South Kordofan. End
note.) He noted the challenge posed by various web sites reporting
such misinformation as up to 40,000 irregular armed forces "prancing
around Kadugli," as he put it. He said he could guarantee that such
reports are not true, but they are "unhelpful, irresponsible, and
quite dangerous."

IMPORTANCE OF NUBA MOUNTAINS TO THE CPA
---------------------------------------

11. (U) Concluding his briefing, Tchalian stressed the importance
of South Kordofan/Nuba Mountains region for the success of the CPA.

KHARTOUM 00001346 003 OF 003


The Abyei problem is fairly simple in comparison. In contrast, "the
Nuba Mountains (region) is the linchpin of the CPA - if we succeed
there, the CPA will succeed," he said. "The reintegration of South
Kordofan is the only way to establish peace in the Nuba Mountains."
US DCM Asquino stated that the USG wants to encourage continued
integration of the police, public health services, judicial system
and teacher corps in Southern Kordofan. Chairman Plumbly agreed,
asking that the international community consider "how they can
support this (integration) process" in South Kordofan.

12. (U) Plumbly brought the meeting to a close, saying that the
next AEC plenary session would be on or about Tuesday, October 7,
2008.

13. (U) COMMENT: The September 2 session was particularly valuable
for the briefings on preparations for the 2009 national elections,
and the state of play in South Kordofan. The AEC was left with the
impression that a long, complicated and time-consuming process
remains ahead before elections will be held, and that, realistically
speaking, the two parties will have little choice but to agree on
delaying the election date until at least December 2009, after the
end of the 2009 rainy season. The two CPA partners were put on
notice of the urgency of their task, and that the international
community is watching and is concerned. The AEC international
partners, and the donor community generally, stand ready to help,
but little can be done until Sudan finally establishes a National
Electoral Commission. Free and fair elections also cannot take
place without radically different National Security and Press Laws,
both of which have yet to be taken up by the legislature. Similarly,
much remains to be done in process of reintegration of the state of
South Kordofan before the area can be declared one of the CPA's
success stories. Emboffs plan a visit to that region the week of
September 14, and will report their observations.


FERNANDEZ

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