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Cablegate: Urf Seeks Greater Input in Peace Process; Explores

VZCZCXRO7790
OO RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHGI RUEHKUK RUEHMA RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #1646/01 3151722
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 101722Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2284
INFO RUCNFUR/DARFUR COLLECTIVE
RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE
RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 KHARTOUM 001646

DEPT FOR A/S FRAZER, SE WILLIAMSON, AF/SPG, AF/C, NEA/ARP
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: URF SEEKS GREATER INPUT IN PEACE PROCESS; EXPLORES
STRATEGIC ALLIANCE WITH SLA-UNITY

REF A) KHARTOUM 1130
B) KHARTOUM 1366
C) KHARTOUM 1614

1. (SBU) Summary: During an October 29 meeting, United Resistance
Front (URF) political commissar Tadjadine Niam told poloff that the
Darfur peace process will never gain traction if the international
community keeps ignoring the rebel movements. Niam decried the lack
of consultation with rebels over the selection of Djibril Bassole as
Joint Chief Mediator, questioned Bassole's suitability for that
role, and complained he has done little to reach out to the
movements during his four month tenure. (Note: Niam subsequently met
Bassole for the first time in Tripoli on November 1 and told poloff
that while the meeting was constructive, he was discouraged that
Bassole has yet to decide on a course of action. End Note). In the
field, URF Chairman Bahar Abu Gharda told poloff on November 5 that
URF is engaged in continuing talks with SLA-Unity for a broad-based
strategic alliance on negotiating positions, military operations and
media outreach. Abu Gharda also reported frequent contact and good
relations with SLM-MM. End Summary.

2. (SBU) On October 29, poloff met with Tadjadine Bechir Niam,
political commissar of the URF and former JEM negotiator in Abuja.
Accompanying Niam were London representatives of URF El Tahir Yahia,
Bakhit Adam, and Mohammadain Hashim. (Note: URF was formed in April
2008 as a coalition of five movements: the Justice and Equality
Movement/Collective Leadership JEM/CL; SLA/Field Command of Adam
Bakhit; SLA/Khamis Abdalla; the Arab-dominated United Revolutionary
Forces Front URFF; and the National Movement for Reform and
Development NMRD. URFF, Khamis Abdalla and several other groups
and individuals have since reportedly abandoned the coalition, but
URF leadership, which is drawn largely from JEM/CL. insists the
coalition remains intact. End Note.)

INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY "IGNORES THE MOVEMENTS"
--------------------------------------------- --

3. (SBU) Niam complained to poloff that the international community
"has exceeded its role" in the Darfur peace process by ignoring the
rebel movements in a number of key decisions. "We can't recall any
point when we were consulted about UNAMID deployment," he said. "We
have serious reservations about Arab troops, because these
governments have supported the GOS throughout the conflict." Nor had
the rebel movements been consulted on the choice of Joint Chief
Mediator Bassole, he said, adding that the continual change of
mediators has contributed to the prolonging of the conflict.

4. (SBU) Niam said that up to that point neither he nor anyone in
URF had met Bassole, so there was little to say about him. But over
the course of the meeting with poloff, Niam became increasingly
critical of the selection of Bassole and the man himself. Bassole's
francophone background was "not compatible with Sudan," and his
history as a military man means "he's used to receiving orders from
his supervisors," he said. He also complained that Bassole "is not
consulting the movements, only the government," adding that he has
yet to reach out to URF in the four months since he was appointed.
"We don't hear his voice, or see any of his efforts," said Niam.

5. (SBU) On November 7 Poloff spoke to Niam subsequent to his
meeting with Bassole for the first time in Tripoli on November 1.
Niam welcomed the chance for URF to brief Bassole on its positions,
and emphasized that peace can only be achieved by engaging with the
parties to the conflict. "We told him we were not pleased with his
late start and failure to consult with all the parties," he said.
Bassole was receptive, he continued, but remained in listening mode.
"He didn't rule out anything," said Niam. "He told us he's still
listening to all the players, and after that, he'll decide how to
proceed." He also noted that Bassole appeared discouraged by a lack
of willingness to negotiate on the part of the other rebel
movements.

URF: STAYING INTACT?
-------------------

6. (SBU) Niam reported that staying intact is a continual struggle
for URF, but it has managed to persevere despite several individual
and group defections (Ref A). He blamed the international community
for creating strong disincentives for rebel movements to unify,
complaining that "URF is five movements in one, but you give us the
same number of seats at the table as [Khalil Ibrahim's] JEM."
Consequently, "the message you are sending is that you are more
powerful if you split off," he said. He added that URF "has done its
best" with regard to unification, but needs to be rewarded for its

KHARTOUM 00001646 002 OF 003


efforts.

7. (SBU) Despite acknowledging its internal struggles, Niam claimed
that URF was the strongest movement both politically and militarily,
"because it is five movements in one." He stated that URF has
cooperated on the ground with the SLA-Unity and is in contact with
SLM-Minni Minnawi, but "strongly believes [Minnawi] has betrayed the
cause" of the movements by signing the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA)
with the government. Niam, who served as JEM negotiator at the DPA
talks in Abuja, stated also that "we told him that we understood
[the GOS] better than he did," but "now he has a better
understanding of how they operate," referring to Minni's constant
struggle for implementation of the DPA. Niam acknowledged the
strength of Khalil Ibrahim's JEM movement, but told poloff that
"he's not as strong as you think," noting how JEM has lost
significant manpower and equipment since its May 2008 attack on
Omdurman. He was dismissive of Abdul Wahid, calling him "puzzling
and unpredictable."

THOUGHTS ON FUTURE NEGOTIATIONS
-------------------------------

8. (SBU) Niam stated that URF was not rejecting the Qatar
Initiative, but has not yet committed because of reservations about
the Arab League. URF is nonetheless developing comprehensive
positions for negotiations on all issues in consultation with its
members who are spread out across "13 to 17 branches" across the
world, including Germany, the UK and the US. (Note: It is
noteworthy that in bragging about the supposed number of URF branch
offices worldwide, Niam did not have a precise number in mind, which
seemed to cast doubt on his claim. End note.) He stated that URF's
final positions would remain secret until they are presented at the
negotiating table, but they include the familiar demands for one
region, a vice presidential slot for Darfur, and fair and equal
representation for Darfuris in the civil service and executive body,
particularly in prominent ministries. "We don't want to end up in
the Ministry of [Culture, Youth and Sport] or [Water and Irrigation
Resources]," he said. He also cited the reform of the state security
apparatus as a key agenda item, calling for a clear mission
statement and reduced role for the SAF and the dissolution of the
Central Reserve Police. While he reaffirmed URF's commitment to a
united, democratic Sudan, he warned that moderate voices were losing
ground in Darfur. "A new voice is emerging calling for
self-determination," and this demand will be increasingly difficult
to quell, he said.

9. (SBU) Niam stated that it is the intention of the GOS that really
matters for bringing peace to Darfur, rather than any particular
initiative. Without the will of both parties, he said, peace talks
are "like a doctor treating a patient. He might relieve the
symptoms, but he can't kill the disease." He stated that while Ali
Osman Taha has shown a willingness to solve the Darfur crisis, there
were doubts about his authority to deliver and implement a deal.
Conversely, while Presidential advisor Nafie Ali Nafie will "fight
until the last drop of blood" against any solution reached by Taha,
such an agreement would be strongly supported by the GOS, he said.
But the most preferable interlocutor for the NCP, according to Niam,
is Salah Ghosh. Recalling his days as a JEM negotiator, Niam said
that "with Ghosh you can reach an agreement within an hour. He will
tell you up front what he can and can't give you, and whatever the
outcome you'll know he'll enforce it."

10. (SBU) With regard to civil society involvement in the peace
process, Niam was largely indifferent to ongoing the Sudan People's
Initiative, but cautioned the international community against
putting civil society on the proverbial pedestal. "The NCP has and
will continue to co-opt civil society movements within Sudan," he
said. "It is better for the movements to deal directly with the
government." To this end, he was quite adamant that civil society
groups ought not to participate in peace talks, arguing that the NCP
will ensure that only pro-government civil society groups are
present at negotiations and this will result in the government
having "two voices at the table." He further pointed out that
neither of the successful talks in Navaisha (CPA) nor Asmara (ESPA)
featured representatives from civil society. "There is no precedent
for this," said Niam.

UPDATE FROM THE FIELD
---------------------

11. (SBU) On November 5 poloff spoke via satellite phone with URF
Chairman Bahar Abu Gharda, who was in the field. Abu Gharda noted
that URF has continued to coordinate closely with SLA-Unity on

KHARTOUM 00001646 003 OF 003


military matters since their forces fought side by side to repel the
SAF military offensive in North Darfur in September (Ref B). He
stated URF and SLA-Unity are also engaged in advanced discussions
for a broad-based strategic alliance. "We will later declare joint
positions on negotiations, media and military matters," he said. Abu
Gharda noted that URF has also been in frequent contact with
SLM-Minni Minnawi, and maintains good relations on the ground with
the latter. "We have an understanding that when peace talks are
complete, we will work closely together for the future of Darfur,"
he said.

12. (SBU) Abu Gharda confirmed that there is a large buildup of GOS
forces in North Darfur (Ref C), stating that within the past several
days there has been a major mobilization of Janjaweed near Diza.
(Note: Many Janjaweed have now been integrated into the Border
Intelligence Forces of the SAF or the Central Reserve Police of the
Ministry of Interior, the latter of which is escorting both UNAMID
and WFP convoys. End Note). He also reported that on November 4 URF
forces in South Darfur conveyed to him that GOS helicopters painted
white to resemble UN aircraft (but with no UN markings) flew over
their positions in what he described as a reconnaissance mission.
(Note: The SAF have been accused in the past of disguising military
aircraft as humanitarian ones, and according to the tri-partite
agreement signed by GOS, UN, and AU, the GOS agreed to stop this
practice. End Note.)

13. (SBU) Comment: Niam's repeated claim that URF is the most
powerful rebel movement due to the fact it represents "five
movements in one" simply doesn't hold water, as URF is a collection
of second-tier rebel factions whose military strength and scope was
in question even before the recent rash of defections. But it
nonetheless represents one of the larger non-signatories, at least
nominally, and if Bassole convinces them to commit to talks in Doha,
this could be an important first step in building momentum and
legitimacy for the Qatari Initiative. This should not be too
difficult a task, given URF's desire to stay relevant and its
apparent preparations for eventual negotiations. As to URF's
potential alliance with SLA/Unity, such a partnership could simplify
the peace process and should be encouraged. But it could just as
easily be negated by ongoing internal strife within SLA/Unity.

10. (U) Embassy London cleared this cable prior to transmission.

FERNANDEZ

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