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Cablegate: Sudan People's Initiative: No Substance Yet

VZCZCXRO8319
OO RUEHBC RUEHBZ RUEHDE RUEHDU RUEHGI RUEHJO RUEHKUK RUEHMA RUEHMR
RUEHPA RUEHRN RUEHROV RUEHTRO
DE RUEHKH #1532/01 2911226
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 171226Z OCT 08 ZDK CTG NUMEROUS REQUESTS
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2088
INFO RUCNFUR/DARFUR COLLECTIVE
RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE
RUEHZO/AFRICAN UNION COLLECTIVE
RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KHARTOUM 001532

DEPT FOR AF A/S FRAZER, SE WILLIAMSON, AF/SPG, NEA
NSC FOR PITTMAN AND HUDSON
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: SUDAN PEOPLE'S INITIATIVE: NO SUBSTANCE YET

REF: A) KHARTOUM 1528
B) KHARTOUM 1521

1. (SBU) Summary: The Sudan People's Initiative commenced in
Khartoum October 16 with a show of solidarity among Sudan's current
and former leaders; two former Sudanese heads of state (Suwar al
Dahab and Sadiq al Mahdi) joined President Bashir on the dais along
with FVP and GOSS President Salva Kiir and DPA Signatory Minni
Minawi. No rebels attended the opening ceremony, nor will they
attend the week-long conference in Kenana which is expected to
produce a matrix of possible solutions to the Darfur crisis.
Overall, the first day of the SPI - a tedious succession of fifteen
speeches - came across as more of a political rally and show of
support to President Bashir rather than a commitment to resolving
the Darfur crisis. In his speech, President Bashir touched on all
the right topics (an end to conflict, land rights, compensation, and
protection of IDPs) but did not offer any concrete proposals, nor
did he offer to negotiate directly with rebels. Participants headed
to Kenana late in the day October 16 but no date has been announced
for the commencement of talks in Doha. End summary.

2. (SBU) Without any rebels in attendance at the opening of the SPI
(not expected given the security concerns of any rebel coming to
Khartoum) DPA signatory Minni Minawi used his speech as an
opportunity to push for DPA implementation and complain about
promised but still undelivered funding for the Darfur Reconstruction
and Development Fund. Minawi publicly welcomed the SPI and
particularly the Qatari initiative, and the support of the Arabs in
ending the Darfur crisis, which he said was "better late than
never."

3. (SBU) FVP and GOSS President Salva Kiir called for an immediate
ceasefire in Darfur and in perhaps the most damaging comment of the
day, said that the SPI should be more than just "self dialogue" and
public relations. He pointed out that rebels and civil society must
participate and that the SPI must address the root causes of the
conflict in Darfur. Kiir also pointed to the proliferation of
initiatives and said that the SPI must be combined with the Qatari
initiative. Kiir said that Sudan also must "put right" its
relationship with its neighbors and make peace with Chad.

4. (SBU) Pursuing a personal agenda, Sadiq al Mahdi gave the most
eloquent and politically-savvy speech, calling on the government to
hold elections and broaden participation in the GNU, which as he
pointed out currently excludes all political voices other than the
NCP and SPLM. Al Mahdi said that the Comprehensive Peace Agreement
complicates finding a solution to Darfur, since the CPA "puts
ceilings" on participation in government. Al Mahdi called for an
end to impunity but said that it was not right for to seek an ICC
indictment of President Bashir. Al Mahdi said the international
community has a role to play in ending the conflict, but "the
Sudanese must define their needs." "The U.S. committed grave
mistakes in Sudan," said Mahdi, but had also shown a willingness to
help find solutions to Sudan's problems. Al-Mahdi was the only
speaker to directly refer to the United States and, not
surprisingly, President Bashir seemed to strongly favor Al-Mahdi's
clever and hypocritical spin on Sudan's current dilemma.

5. (SBU) Using a teleprompter, a solemn President Bashir spoke in an
authoritative, militaristic voice as he recounted his skewed version
of history in Darfur. He pointed out that the seeds for the
conflict began even before the NIF took power in 1989. He claimed
that, at the time, his government had made an effort to resolve
tribal disputes and open pastoral routes. Bashir touched on many of
the right points required to solve the crisis in Darfur
(compensation, land rights, protection of IDPs, rule of law, and an
end to hostilities) but did not lay out any specific proposals and
did not commit to anything in terms of concessions to rebels.
Bashir described a number of development projects that had been
attempted in Darfur, but admitted that some of them were stymied by
the conflict. However he committed himself to additional
development projects including road construction and promised $250
million in development in Darfur over the next year. Bashir also
said that he is committed to the deployment of UNAMID "according to
its mandate." He committed himself to finding a "final, durable
solution" to Darfur, and called on all parties to attend the talks
in Doha. Most of the speech seemed a rehash of remarks he made in
early August during his Darfur tour.

6. (SBU) UN/AU Chief Mediator Djibril Bassole gave the most
substantive speech of the day in terms of pressing for negotiations
with rebels. He expressed skepticism in the SPI and urged that the
process must lead to "direct dialogue with the movements" and should

KHARTOUM 00001532 002 OF 002


"address modalities to end the conflict." The Qatari State Minister
of Foreign Affairs gave a particularly flaccid speech calling for
reconciliation between the Sudanese. The Qataris did not announce a
date for the commencement of talks in Doha.

7. (SBU) Arab League Chairman Amr Moussa called for an end to the
conflict "which has gone on too long," while African Union Secretary
General Jean Ping urged that the SPI take into account the views of
the Darfurians. Libyan Foreign Minister Treiki gave a highly
politicized, anti-western speech announcing that "we must stand
against the conspiracy to divide Sudan," and expressing support for
the people of Palestine and Iraq, victims of similar unnamed
conspiracies. The Egyptian and Eritrean foreign ministers gave
balanced, thoughtful speeches about the need for comprehensive
solutions that took into account the needs of the people in Darfur
and ensured stability in Sudan. CDA Fernandez expressed cautious
skepticism about the meeting to the assembled Arab and Sudanese
press noting that "substantive change" Darfur would be proof of the
credibility of any initiative.

8. (SBU) Paricipants flew to Kenana, White Nile State, the
afternoon of October 16 to begin work in six committees that will
propose solutions to the Darfur crisis while Bashir named an NCP
loyalist as rapporteur for the Kenana discussions. No date has been
announced for the commencement of talks in Qatar, though NCP
officials continue to look toward the end of the month. JMST
officers told polchief that Bassole and his team had not been
invited to Kenana for the next phase of the SPI. Chief of Staff
Yasser Sabra said the NCP had informed them that the next phase in
Kenana is intended to be for Sudanese political and civil society
leaders to develop a matrix of solutions on various issues, which
can then be used in Doha as a starting point for discussions. Sabra
said that the NCP expects Bassole to meet with rebels to ascertain
their views on the key issues. NCP politburo chief Mandour al Mahdi
confirmed this, telling polchief that the objective for Kenana is
for the six committees to produce a laundry list of proposals which
can be negotiated with the rebels in Doha. He urged the US to
pressure the rebels to attend, and claimed the GOS would be willing
to meet with key rebels on a bilateral basis. (Note: The six
committees that will meet in Kenana are: 1) The Committee on Options
for the Settlement of the Darfur Problem, 2) The Committee on
External Policies, 3) the Committee on IDPs, Refugees and Voluntary
Return (Humanitarian Affairs), 4) The Committee on Services and
Development, 5) The Committee on Services and Development, 6) The
Information Committee. End note). Not surprisingly, issues such as
accountability for past crimes and disarming pro-regime militias
seem to be - for now - off the table

9. (SBU) Comment: Overall, the opening of the SPI appeared to be
more of a political rally and show of support to President Bashir
than a sincere change of heart on Darfur. The lack of substance in
the speech by the Qatari State Minister was troubling, but many
Sudanese appear confident that with their deep pockets and financial
influence/leverage over the Sudanese regime, the Qataris will be
able to "buy off rebels" and force the regime to make the necessary
concessions, as well as provide development funds for Darfur.
Particularly troubling was the presence of Arab militia leader Musa
Hilal, who along with many participants danced to "I am Sudanese, I
am African," a mainstay song of unity at these types of events.
However, there were some small signs of hope that the government may
be serious in this effort - such as the presence of civil society
leaders and academics such as Professor Al Tayeb from the University
of Khartoum, who is among those who have put the most thought into
possible solutions on Darfur. Al Tayeb and NCP polchief Mandour al
Mahdi appeared to be deep in conversation following the speeches,
and Al Tayeb told polchief that he may attend part of the conference
in Kenana and may submit some of his proposals to the effort. The
key to success in Doha over the next few weeks will be how the
Qataris and Chief Mediator Bassole are able to push the regime on
specific concessions to rebels that will lure them to the
negotiating table. If the key rebels refuse to attend the talks in
Doha, they will be a failure, just as the talks in Sirte, Libya last
year were a failure, and the Darfur crisis will grind on -- until
the Sudanese regime is able to reach out and make critical
concessions to the rebels, with or without the theater of formal
peace talks and conferences. Whether the proposed solutions that
emerge next week from Kenana actually contain some substance will
show whether the SPI is a serious attempt by the regime to solve
Darfur, or just a cynical charade intended to check a box off the
Arab League's plan to save Bashir from an ICC indictment.

FERNANDEZ

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