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Cablegate: Appointment of Nhial Deng Nhial As Minister for Spla

VZCZCXRO3496
OO RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #1836/01 3581255
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 231255Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2597
INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KHARTOUM 001836

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

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV PINS KDEM SU
SUBJECT: APPOINTMENT OF NHIAL DENG NHIAL AS MINISTER FOR SPLA
AFFAIRS REFLECTS SHIFTING SPLM DYNAMICS

REF: KHARTOUM 1817

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Presidential advisors assert that Nhial Deng
Nhial's performance during and after Ali Osman Taha's December 16th
visit to Juba (reftel) gave an 11th hour boost to his selection by
GOSS President Salva Kiir Mayardit to be Minister for SPLA Affairs.
They add he was chosen over Jonglei Governor Kuol Manieng amidst the
SPLM's shifting calculus towards Khartoum. The appointment reflects
the steady resurgence of the SPLM's "Garang wing" in Juba politics,
and the depth of rapprochement between Kiir and Nhial despite the
latter's self-imposed exile in the United Kingdom and "abandonment"
of the party in 2006. The decision is broadly popular among the
SPLA senior command. Rival contender Manieng says he harbors no
ill- will about being passed over for the position. END SUMMARY.

-------------------------------------
THE TRAJECTORY OF THE NHIAL CANDIDACY
-------------------------------------
2. (SBU) Kiir's December 21 appointment of Nhial Deng Nhial as
Minister for SPLA Affairs reinserts Nhial into GOSS politics
two-years after the latter's self-imposed exile to the United
Kingdom. It follows months of carefully-tended rapprochement
between the two SPLM/A vanguards that began with Nhial's appearance
at May's SPLM National Convention and most recently with Nhial's
provision of welcome and discreet advice to Minister for
Presidential Affairs Luka Biong Deng amidst the increasingly
internecine politics of Juba. With his return to the South
following completion of a Masters of Letters in Law at Scotland's
Dundee University, Nhial adds heft to the efforts of Pagan Amum,
Yasir Arman, Deng Alor, and Anne Itto to rejuvenate John Garang's
vision of a transformed "New Sudan," against the South-centric
"nationalist faction" of the SPLM. Kiir has also pressed Nhial
into service as an ad-hoc member of the SPLM's Crisis Management
Team, utilizing his skills most recently in formulating possible
SPLM responses to the anticipated ICC indictment of Sudanese
President Omar al Bashir.

3. (SBU) Nhial has been an on-again, off-again candidate on Kiir's
short-list to fill the eight-month ministerial vacancy that followed
the May 2 death of then-Minister Dominic Dim Deng in a plane crash,
along with his wife, and a number of Ministry staffers. On November
20, Regional Cooperation Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin told
ConGen Juba staff that Jonglei Governor Manieng "was indisputably"
Kiir's choice for SPLA Affairs, and at a Thanksgiving dinner hosted
by USG-funded contractors working on Security Sector Transformation,
Manieng grudgingly admitted that he was resigned to the fact that he
was headed to Juba.

4. (SBU) As recently as December 13, Minister for Legal Affairs
Michael Makuei Lueth told the Acting Consul General that Manieng was
coming to Juba, and that Makuai understood that he would be tapped
to replace Manieng as Jonglei-State Governor. Makuei had promoted
Nhial as candidate to replace him in the Ministry of Legal Affairs,
and Makuei believed Kiir was positively inclined towards the
suggestion. Makuei allowed that the only stumbling block to
Manieng's transfer to SPLA Affairs were grumblings from the Nuer
community that Jonglei's new governor not be "another Dinka."
According to Makuei, at the request of Energy and Mining Minister
John Luk Jok, Kiir now was "making a show" of considering GNU
Minister James Kok and GOSS Ambassador to Kenya John Duku for the
governorship.

5.(SBU) While Manieng maintained to Acting CG December 22 that he is
"thrilled" to be able to stay in Jonglei, and views Kiir's decision
as "one necessary for the good of the SPLM," some in Juba contend
that Manieng may have been his own worst enemy. GOSS Presidency
staffers told Acting CG on December 16 that Kiir was said to have
grown increasingly uncomfortable with reports that, as one of his
first acts in office, the oft-confrontational Manieng intended to
move against the militias of ex-SSDF Commander and present Deputy
Commander in Chief Paulino Matiep and GOSS Vice President Riek
Machar. (NOTE: Machar and Matiep both defied a presidential
directive in April to disband their 4,000-strong combined militias.
END NOTE.) During the week of December 8 there were reportedly
rumors circulating within SPLA Headquarters that Manieng also
intended to replace SPLA Chief of General Staff Oyai Deng Ajak.
Given present joint operations with the UPDF against the Lord's
Resistance Army, the same presidential staffers noted to Acting CG
on December 20 that Kiir had criticized Manieng's impulsiveness.

---------------
THE TAHA FACTOR
---------------
6. (SBU) Undersecretary for Regional Cooperation Cirino Hiteng Ofuho
notified the Acting CG of Nhial's appointment hours after Kiir

KHARTOUM 00001836 002 OF 002


issued the Presidential Decree, noting that Nhial's performance in
the days following Taha's visit played a "substantial role" in
Kiir's choice. According to Hiteng, should the NCP choose to
replace Bashir with either an active or retired SAF general
ill-disposed towards CPA implementation, including the 2011
referendum on the South's independence, it might become necessary
for Kiir to campaign for President of Sudan in the 2009 national
elections to preserve "the South's right to independence." (COMMENT:
Select GOSS and SPLM officials also expressed this view in meetings
with StaffDel Smith (septel). We are not convinced that Kiir
himself is leaning in the direction of running for the national
presidency, but it is notable that the Garang Wing continues to
advocate such an approach, and that Kiir apparently has given them
the impression that it is a possibility. END COMMENT.)

7. (SBU) Moreover, pulling Nhial into SPLA Affairs deepens Kiir's
coterie of dependable advisors as he acts to limit the reach of GOSS
Vice President Riek Machar. Kiir told Acting CG in October that
Machar was already actively campaigning for the GOSS Presidency in
2009 - despite a personal appeal from Kiir to "put the preservation
of the South - and the 2011 Referendum" first. Placing Nhial in such
a pivotal position gives Nhial public visibility necessary should
unfolding events in Khartoum prompt Kiir to run at the national
level - and should the SPLM's Garang-wing be able to persuade the
party's secessionists of the necessity of such action. (COMMENT:
According to those present at the discussions, Nhial consistently
supported such a move in SPLM meetings following the Taha visit. END
COMMENT.)

8. (SBU) The decision not to move forward with Manieng also brings
change within the GOSS Council of Ministers at a critical period in
Khartoum/Juba relations as the SPLM awaits the NCP's decision on
Bashir's future. Kiir's appointment of Manieng to SPLA Affairs
would have forced a GOSS-wide reshuffle, with changes occurring, at
a minimum, of five ministries (Finance, Telecommunications, Internal
Affairs, Ministry of Legal Affairs, and the Ministry of Health).
(NOTE: While it is still possible that Internal Affairs Minister
Paul Mayom may be moved to Rumbek to serve as Lakes States Governor,
Kiir's December 21 decision buys the GOSS time before enacting such
a change. END NOTE.)

-------------------------------------
SPLA RESPONSE: LARGELY JUBILANT, BUT...
-------------------------------------
9. (SBU) SPLA Chief of General Staff Oyai Deng Ajak enthusiastically
praised Nhial's appointment in a December 21 conversation with the
Acting Consul General. Nhial and Ajak had an extremely close
relationship during the 22-year North/South civil war, and Ajak
believes that Nhial will prove to be an "intelligent and
transformative" choice to lead the SPLA and effectively advocate for
its needs within the GOSS Council of Ministers. He predicted that
Nhial would prove highly effective before the Southern Sudan
Legislative Assembly as well, "a good mix of politician and
diplomat," able to deftly deflect and diffuse the SSLA's criticism
of the SPLA - presently heightened with last week's tabling of the
2009 GOSS budget. Deputy Chief of Staff James Hoth Mai was more
measured in his praise, noting that the rank and file had already
placed high expectations in Kuol Manieng's reputation for delivery,
whereas "some soldiers may need convincing that Nhial will not leave
us as he left Sudan in 2006." He noted, however, that he personally
supports the decision, and that with time Kiir's choice will prove
to be sound.

--------
BIO NOTE
--------
10. (SBU) Nhial Deng Nhial was appointed Minister of Regional
Cooperation for the GoSS by Kiir on October 25, 2005. He resigned
from his position less than one year later following his repeated
clashes with Kiir on issues of corruption, Kiir's alleged
mismanagement of the GOSS and purported abandonment of the vision of
Garang's vision of a "New Sudan." Nhial earned a Masters in Letters
of Law from Dundee University in Scotland in July 2008. His thesis
was on Foreign Direct Investment in agricultural sectors in Africa.
Nhial served as Leader of SPLM/SPLA Advance team to Khartoum in
2005; Commander of SPLM/SPLA and Chief Negotiator during the
Naivasha Peace Talks. He has a Law Degree from the University of
Khartoum, is a member of the SPLM Political Bureau and National
Liberation Council. A Dinka from Lakes State, he is a direct
relative of William Deng, a highly renowned veteran Southern
politician from 1960's Sudanese politics. Born in the 1950s, Deng
is married and has children.

ASQUINO

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