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Cablegate: At Long Last, Sudan has a National Electoral Commission

VZCZCXRO3769
OO RUEHGI RUEHMA RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #1685/01 3231503
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 181503Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2357
INFO RUCNFUR/DARFUR COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KHARTOUM 001685

DEPT FOR AF A/S FRAZER, SE WILLIAMSON, AF/SPG, DRL
NSC FOR PITTMAN AND HUDSON
DEPT PLS PASS USAID FOR AFR/SUDAN
ADDIS ABABA ALSO FOR USAU

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PINR KDEM SOCI KPKO UNSC SU
SUBJECT: AT LONG LAST, SUDAN HAS A NATIONAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION

REF: A) KHARTOUM 1673
B) KHARTOUM 1650
C) KHARTOUM 1522

SUDAN HAS AN ELECTORAL COMMISSION
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
1. (SBU) On 17 November, the Sudanese National Assembly approved the
nine members of the National Electoral Commission (NEC). The NEC
Chairman is prominent Sudanese political figure and southerner Abel
Alier (reftels). Alier, an internationally respected judge and
human-rights lawyer, who served as vice-president of Sudan from 1971
to 1981. Most recently, he served as co-chair of the National
Constitutional Review Commission (NCRC). While Alier is loosely
affiliated with the United Sudan African Party (USAP), he is known
nationally for his political impartiality.

2. (SBU) Abdalla Ahmed Abdalla was nominated as the NEC Deputy
Chairman. Abdalla, currently a professor of agriculture at the
University of Khartoum, is a native of River Nile State (also the
home state of GoS President Omar Al-Bashir). He served as the
Sudanese ambassador to the United States from 1990-1992 and returned
to Sudan to assume governorships in the Northern State and the River
Nile State and serve the GoS Minister of Agriculture. Abdalla is a
prominent National Congress Party (NCP) figure. He received his
college degree from the University of California-Davis in the early
1960s. The other seven NEC members include: Ms Fillister Baya, Ms
Mahassin Haj Al-Saffi, James Bol Kajmal, Abdallah Ballah
Al-Hardalou, Mohamed Taha Abu Samrah, Mukhtar Al-Asam and Al-Hadi
Mohamed Ahmed Hassabou. The NEC is composed of three southerners
(Alier, Baya, and Kajmal) and six northerners.

INFORMED REACTION FAVORABLE
- - - - - - - - - - - - - -
3. (SBU) On 18 November, Poloff spoke with a variety of informed
observers of the electoral process. NEC member Mukhtar Al-Asam, a
professor of political science at Garden City College, said he is
glad that the NCP and the SPLM finally agreed on the NEC make-up and
mentioned that he is "looking forward" to the job and to "clean,
proper and transparent elections." He speculated that the NEC
members would be sworn in and hold their first meeting next week.
Abdalla Idris (who repeatedly refused requests that he take the NEC
Deputy Chairmanship, due to his doubts that credible elections can
be held within such a limited timeframe) told poloff on 18 November
that the NEC members that he knows are good, upstanding and
experienced individuals (ref B). Idris said that Dr. Mahassin Haj
Al-Saffi, currently the Dean of the Faculty of Arts at Omdurman
Ahlia University (and a Former Dean of the Faculty of Arts at the
University of Khartoum) is very independent and hails from a
well-respected family in Sudan. Mohamed Taha Abu Samrah is a
colleague of Idris' at the University of Khartoum Faculty of Law.
Idris described Samrah as "very experienced" and mentioned he
received his PhD in France. Idris also commented on the NEC Deputy
Chairman Abdalla Abdalla, who is a professor of agriculture at the
University of Khartoum. According to Idris, Abdalla was an
"experienced and able" minister in Sudan. "Abdalla accepted the
Deputy Chairman position reluctantly," said Idris. Abdalla is in
his late 70s, as is NEC Chairman Alier, he continued. "The people
selected as commission members that I know are good people," said
Idris, "but only time will tell" if this Commission is a good one.
"Let us watch and see," he concluded.

4. (SBU) Poloff also met with influential SPLM member of parliament
Manoah Aligo Donga on 18 November. Overall, Donga was positive
about the establishment of the NEC. Donga said that southern NEC
member James Bol Kajmal previously served as a Deputy Governor in
the South and was also a member of Parliament in 1958. Kajmal has
also worked in the private sector. Donga said that while he is not
very familiar with NEC member Fillister Baya, she is a trained
accountant and currently works at the Ivory Bank in Khartoum.

Comment
- - - -
5. (SBU) While more than three months overdue, the establishment of
the National Electoral Commission is a major step forward for the
SPLM and the NCP. We hope its establishment signifies the start of
true electoral planning by the Government of National Unity. Initial
reactions in Khartoum to the NEC, ranging from SPLM parliamentarians
to well-respected academics, are positive. At the same time, there
is considerable concern in the community about whether the NEC will
be able to hold fair and credible elections at six-levels of
government without additional reforms, such as a new media/press act
and security law. Another concern is the CPA timetable, which calls
for elections by July 9, 2009. If anything is certain it is that
the NEC has its work cut out for it. As the Chair and Deputy Chair,
Alier and Abdalla must assume their roles full-time per the
electoral law; the other seven members will only be expected to work

KHARTOUM 00001685 002 OF 002


part-time on the elections. The NEC's first order of business will
be to review the feasibility of conducting elections by July 2009
and to determine the election's date.

FERNANDEZ

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