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Cablegate: Darfur Peace Talks: State of Play

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 ABUJA 001515

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

DEPARTMENT FOR D, P, AF; LONDON AND PARIS FOR AFRICAWATCHERS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM PREF EAID MARR NI CD SU DARFUR
SUBJECT: DARFUR PEACE TALKS: STATE OF PLAY

1. (SBU) Summary: Despite the rebel movements' inexperience
in conducing serious negotiations, the unwillingness of the
"Teflon" government delegation to accept any responsibility
for the situation on the ground in Darfur, and the broad
latitude the mediator has permitted the parties to digress
and request delays, the African Union-sponsored Darfur
negotiations have reached the point that the two sides are
examining an integrated draft text (sent to AF/SPG) for an
agreement on humanitarian issues. The parties have been
charged to return to the plenary this afternoon to offer
official observations on the text, which would give the
rebel movements - as well as international assistance
delivery organizations - much of what they seek in the
humanitarian sector. While acceptance by the parties cannot
be assumed, they have moved forward at a pace surprising to
veterans of the IGAD peace process between the GOS and SPLA.
Both the rebels and GOS say they are committed to staying
the course. The AU mediation had initially planned to take
a break once agreement had been reached on humanitarian
issues, but now has decided to keep the parties in Abuja to
try reaching a deal on security too. End Summary.

2. (U) The AU-sponsored negotiations between the Government
of Sudan (GOS) and the two Darfur rebel moments (Sudanese
Liberations Army - SLA - and the Movement for Justice and
Equality - JEM) that began August 23 have led to the
presentation of a draft agreement on humanitarian issues by
Mediator Hamid al-Ghabid on August 30. Those taking the GOS-
SPLA/M negotiations as a benchmark were very surprised that
the parties reached this point this quickly. Others
lamented the distractions that have been created by the
inexperience of the JEM and SLA leaders, who were quick to
ask for delays when goaded by the GOS delegation or by
reports of further violence on the ground in Darfur.

3. (SBU) Neither rebel delegation appears to be well
organized. JEM leader Khalid Ibrahim has not appeared in
Abuja, and although Ahmed Lissan seems to be in titular
charge of the team, he clearly is not in full control. On
the SLA side, Abdulwahid Nour, Mini Minawi, and Adam Shogar
are all here, while Dr. Sharif Harir is doing much of the
talking on the floor. They are backed - literally on the
floor of the plenary, where the teams sit behind the leader
- by a coterie of field commanders, giving visible
demonstration of the phrase "consistently looking over their
shoulders."

4. (SBU) The GOS delegation, on the other hand, is extremely
disciplined under the leadership of Minister of Agriculture
and Forestry Dr. Magzoub El-Khalifa Ahmed, supported by
Deputy Foreign Minister Abdullah Nour. Nour is the former
governor of North Darfur and, the rebels say, claims to be
"Emir of all the Arabs in Darfur" (he himself has asserted
that to some of the western observers). The rebels have
accused him on the floor of being one of the leaders of the
Jingaweed. Thus far both in the sessions and in private,
Magzoub has tried to be the patient voice of reason, calmly
enduring SLA and JEM outbursts with measured responses.
That said, he has also been adamant that the rebels are the
cause of all the problems, and the government has taken the
necessary steps to provide security and humanitarian
assistance. The Jingaweed, very narrowly defined as the
traditional desert bandits, must, of course, be held
accountable. However, the nomadic herders, who also carry
guns - like those led by Musa Hillal - have only acted in
self-defense and must retain their weapons for this purpose.
Magzoub is reputed to be among the most obdurate of the
"hard-liners" in Khartoum, and has not yet been tested by
either the rebels or the mediator to come to grips in real
negotiations

5. (SBU) The dynamics around the mediator have also been
distracting, with various representatives from the Arab
League, Libya, the UN, and even from the AU pressing
different agendas and seeking personal recognition. The
departure of Peace and Security Chairman Djinnet early in
the process took away a key ally. So did that of UN Advisor
Mohammed Sahnoun, which allowed the team dispatched by UN
SRSG Pronk from Khartoum to take over the UN mantel and
press a more "local" agenda. At one point this group
asserted that the Joint Implementation Mechanism (JIM) has
resolved the humanitarian issues, while the August 5 "Pronk
Plan" had taken care of security. USDEL, the EU, and the UK
pressed this back quickly and decisively.

6. (SBU) On the other hand, the departure of the senior AL,
Libyan, and other UN representatives has allowed al-Ghabid,
with strong support from the observer delegations, to
gradually take control of the process. Nigerian Foreign
Minister Adeniji and Special Representative for Darfur
Abdulsalami Abubakar are now managing the talks for the
Nigerians, although President Obasanjo remains engaged on
the periphery. These changes have allowed USDEL and the EU
observers to move from the plenary back rows to a seat at
the table with a microphone.

7. (SBU) The agenda forged during the first two days by the
mediator and the Nigerians outlined four major issues:
humanitarian, security, political, and social and economic.
It was thought that the humanitarian issues would be the
easiest place to make progress. Some among the mediation
had planned to get quick agreement there, and then adjourn
this session. USDEL has pressed hard that the parties need
to remain engaged so long as they are prepared to do so. At
a minimum, the parties should not be allowed to leave
without dealing with the security issues and making all
possible efforts to solidify and implement the ceasefire.
Al-Ghabid said he agreed, and that he wanted to finish
security at a minimum, maybe go through the entire agenda if
the parties are willing to remain engaged. While he agreed
with the observers that taking the parties as far as they
can be prodded to go would preserve whatever momentum might
be generated, it would also end the issue of whether the
venue should be changed at the next round.

8. (SBU) The venue question, however, seemed to be fading
away. Although the Libyan representative continues to press
the parties in the corridors, the rebels do not want to do
it. More importantly, Obasanjo is emphatically against it.
He has done a good deal of work, including some direct
meetings with the rebel movements, to bring them along. He
personally espoused their outrage at reports of new bombing
of civilians on August 26, and is following up directly with
Bashir. (Note: BG Okonkwo confirms that Obasjano called
Bashir, but does not have a detailed readout. End Note.)

9. (SBU) Besides the question as to how serious the
government is about achieving agreement with the rebel
movements, USDEL is also concerned that Al-Ghabid does not
have to have a well-thought out sense of where he wants to
take the talks, or even how to get there. He is becoming
more decisive in the chair, but wants the observers (i.e,
the U.S., UK, EU, UN, and even Sant' Egidio) to do the face-
to-face diplomacy with the parties. USDEL and the EU have
pushed back, as he and his team must take the lead with the
parties - with our strong support.

10. (SBU) Comment: The tabling of an integrated text just a
week after beginning negotiations demonstrates that the
mediators and the parties want to move the process forward
at an ambitious pace - despite the ups and downs that the
inexperienced rebel delegations have introduced in the
plenum. The initial response later today by the parties to
the mediator's draft on humanitarian issues may or may not
be a test of where the parties are. It requires the
government to make some significant concessions on access,
air corridors, and delivery of relief supplies through
Libya. It calls for an expansion of the AU observer
mission, and creation of a parallel observer cell for
humanitarian issues. They should not, however, be
concessions the government cannot afford to make. Even
should they (surprisingly) agree to the full text, it does
not mean they will make the concessions that really count
further down the road on security and on a political
settlement. The rebels, on the other hand, would get much
of what they asked for that actually pertains to
humanitarian issues, and they have acknowledged this. They
say they intend to seek clarifications and ask for
strengthened language on observers. If they stick to this,
they may get an agreement on the first part of the agenda,
and put the process on a firmer footing.

11. (U) Minimize considered.
CAMPBELL

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