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Cablegate: Eastern Opposition Parties Unprepared for Elections

VZCZCXRO1367
OO RUEHGI RUEHMA RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #1568/01 2961210
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 221210Z OCT 08
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2150
INFO RUCNFUR/DARFUR COLLECTIVE
RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KHARTOUM 001568

DEPT FOR A/S FRAZER, SE WILLIAMSON, AF/SPG, AF/E
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: EASTERN OPPOSITION PARTIES UNPREPARED FOR ELECTIONS

REF A) KHARTOUM 1557
B) KHARTOUM 1282
C) KHARTOUM 1278
D) KHARTOUM 701

1. (SBU) Summary: On October 13-16, poloff traveled to Kassala and
Port Sudan to discuss implementation of the Eastern Sudan Peace
Agreement (Ref A) and the outlook for elections in the East.
Representatives of the Eastern Front, which has weakened steadily
since the signing of the ESPA, told poloff they are still struggling
to develop a clear strategy and outlook for elections in the midst
of an ongoing leadership crisis within their organization.
Compounding these difficulties is a serious lack of capacity in the
Beja Congress, the Eastern Front's primary component. Officials from
Eastern Sudan's other historical political force, the DUP, claim
strong popular support in the region but cite a lack of funds as an
underlying obstacle to electoral success there. Representatives from
the NCP and SPLM stated a commitment to elections but revealed
little else to poloff about their parties' respective plans. End
Summary.

A WEAKENED EASTERN FRONT
------------------------

2. (SBU) The Eastern Front coalition remains paralyzed by a
leadership crisis between Eastern Front Chairman and Assistant to
the President Musa Mohamed Ahmed (Ref B) and Dr. Amna Dirar, Eastern
Front Deputy Chairman and Presidential Advisor (Ref C). A common
refrain heard by poloff from Eastern Front members was that this
dispute was "not serious" and "can be resolved", but several months
have passed since it emerged with no resolution to date. Abdallah
Kunna, member of the Beja Congress Executive Committee and Minister
of Tourism for Red Sea State, stated that Eastern Front "needs time
to mature," and admitted that it is not as cohesive as it was during
the years of armed opposition. Debates over who would assume the
various federal, state and local government positions allotted to
the Eastern Front per the power sharing agreement in the ESPA caused
a lot of internal bickering, he said, and the Front's solidarity has
weakened as a result. With regard to electoral alliances and
coalition building, Mohamed Sali Abed Abdallah, Deputy Wali and
Minister of Health for Kassala State from the Rashaida Free Lions
noted that while the Eastern Front maintains good relations with the
former NDA parties, "the focus right now is building and maintaining
our own organization."

DIRE NEED FOR CAPACITY BUILDING
--------------------------------

3. (SBU) In addition to its internal struggles, the Eastern Front
exhibits a dire need for training and capacity building as its
member parties seek to transition from an armed opposition group to
a civil political organization. "This man used to carry a rocket
launcher," said one Beja Congress leader as he pointed to his
colleague, adding that such experience hardly qualifies him for his
current role as a party official. Poloff stated that the USG is
committed to assisting democratic forces in Sudan and noted that the
USG-funded International Republican Institute (IRI) is planning on
conduct a series of one-on-one and multiparty workshops focused on
elections in early 2009, but Beja Congress leaders made clear they
were looking for more frequent (and hands on) assistance than IRI
was prepared to offer. Party members aside, the Beja populace is
also in need of voter education, with illiteracy compounding this
problem, they said.

DUP CITES LACK OF FUNDING AS UNDERLYING OBSTACLE
--------------------------------------------- ---

4. (SBU) Poloff also met with representatives of Eastern Sudan's
other historical political force, the Democratic Unionist Party
(DUP). Dr. Amin Ibrahim Albiely, Minister of Local Governance and
Administration for Kassala State, noted with the exception of the
NCP, he did not believe Sudan's political parties were ready for the
upcoming elections. Eisa Kabashi Eisa, Minister of Education for Red
Sea State, seconded this notion because "the NCP has had a 20 year
head start" and has had "complete success" in creating internal
rifts amongst its opposition. While appreciative of USG efforts to
fund training and capacity building (and having attended an IRI
workshop in Cairo), Kabashi stated that in all frankness such
training "is purely theoretical" and essentially useless because
opposition parties lack the funds to compete. "Without adequate
funding [for opposition parties], these elections will be a waste of
time," he said, adding that unlike the NCP they don't have the
luxury of using government funds for election purposes. "We might
have the hearts and minds, but they have the money," he said. He
closed on a decidedly pessimistic note, stating that in order to

KHARTOUM 00001568 002 OF 002


have success against the NCP, the opposition has put its hope first
in God, and second on the West. "But little by little, we're
starting to lose that hope," he said.

GNU PARTIES ON TRACK
--------------------

5. (SBU) Poloff also met with SPLM Minister of Culture and
Information Mustafa Harran Mustafa of the SPLM. In contrast to his
meeting with CDA Fernandez back in May (Ref D), Mustafa was
reluctant to criticize the NCP on ESPA implementation and was
otherwise reticent, noting only that the SPLM was ready for
elections and would explore alliances with like-minded parties. When
asked by poloff about the claim of Osman Bawanin that Bawanin's
splinter faction of the Beja Congress was negotiating a Memorandum
of Understanding with the SPLM for the upcoming elections, Mustafa
simply laughed. "I have some thoughts about him, but I'd better keep
them to myself," he said. (Note: It has been said that Bawanin and
his "Beja Congress for Reform and Development" are in fact a tool of
the NCP. Coincidentally, an October 13 article in the pro-regime,
sensationalist Al-Intibaha claimed (falsely) that Bawanin traveled
to the United States and met with Assistant Secretary Frazer and
alleged that the USG has agreed to fund the activities of the Beja
Congress for Reform and Development. Poloff spoke with Bawanin's
interpreter in Juba that day, who was unaware of the fabricated
report. He stated that Bawanin was still Juba and had not left there
in several months. End Note.)

6. (SBU) In Kassala state poloff met with Abdalla Derif, NCP
Political Secretary. With regard to elections, he stated that the
NCP believes they should be held on time, and urged the USG, UK and
France to pressure Darfur's rebels to come to the negotiating table
to ensure the Darfur crisis is resolved before elections are held,
and expressed hope that the Sudan People's Initiative would
accomplish this goal.

7. (SBU) Comment: The Eastern Front remains mired in the transition
from armed movement to opposition party. It has yet to adapt a
national agenda, nor has it showed any signs that its members can
transcend tribal lines to encompass a broader regional identity. But
if the Front can stay together and forms successful alliances, it
could be a force in the 2009 elections. An alliance with the SPLM
would make sense, especially given the SPLM's strong support for the
Front during the years of armed struggle, but that of course hinges
upon the SPLM's national electoral strategy. Such an alliance could
also preclude an SPLM-DUP combination given the historical animosity
between the DUP and Beja Congress as both fight over the same
geographic base. Nonetheless, the core question remains whether the
CPA partners (NCP and SPLM) will allow the elections to go forward
at all, and when.

FERNANDEZ

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