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Cablegate: Bashir Meets with Umma Party Chief Sadiq Al-Mahdi

VZCZCXRO8821
PP RUEHGI RUEHMA RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #1873 3331244
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 291244Z NOV 07
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9348
INFO RUCNFUR/DARFUR COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS KHARTOUM 001873

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR AF/SPG, S/CRS, AF SE NATSIOS
ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU
DEPT PLS PASS USAID FOR AFR/SUDAN

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL KPKO SOCI AU UNSC SU
SUBJECT: BASHIR MEETS WITH UMMA PARTY CHIEF SADIQ AL-MAHDI


1. (SBU) President Bashir met with opposition Umma party leader
Sadiq al-Mahdi on November 27 to discuss "national reconciliation,"
according to the media. Presidential advisor and National Congress
Party (NCP) Vice President Nafie Ali Nafie in press statements
characterized the meeting as fruitful and emphasized the need to
agree on national issues.

2. (SBU) In a meeting with poloffs November 29, Al-Mahdi
characterized the Umma-NCP meeting as merely a preliminary contact,
where the agenda was set for possible future cooperation. Al-Mahdi
said that he and Bashir agreed to form a "Joint Committee" to
discuss four issues: consolidating and improving the current peace
agreements (CPA, DPA, ESPA); essential freedoms; elections; and
Darfur.

3. (SBU) Al-Mahdi acknowledged that the NCP's overture to the Umma
Party was probably a public relations ploy. However he said the
Umma party will use it as a means of advancing its own agenda.
Al-Mahdi has proposed a "National Conference" to expand
participation in the political arena to other groups besides the NCP
and SPLM. He downplayed any notion that the Umma party would form a
coalition with the NCP, noting that the Umma party also met recently
with the SPLM. Moreover, he said the Umma party has "commitments"
to 38 other parties in which it is formed an opposition coalition.
Mahdi said the Umma party is prepared for elections in 2009, while
the two CPA signatories are not.

4. (SBU) Regarding the current NCP-SPLM standoff, Al-Mahdi observed
that the SPLM is conflicted and has some internal issues they need
to deal with. However, he suggested that the NCP needs to be more
inclusive in its dealings with others, both in Sudan and with the
international community. Al-Mahdi blamed the international
community for assuming that the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA)
brought peace to Sudan. He suggested that it had just stopped an
"active conflict" and at the same time ignored North/North and
South/South conflicts, which are being played out now. Meanwhile,
the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) was "born dead" according to
Al-Mahdi, and the ESPA was "between the governments of Sudan and
Eritrea." He reminded poloffs that he has told many U.S. Envoys
that these peace agreements need to be "revisited and reformed."
Al-Mahdi also blamed Sudan's conflicts on the current "totalitarian"
regime, which he said had adopted a "specific Islamist monolithic
ideology" when it came to power, which excluded many of Sudan's
citizens.

5. (SBU) Comment: Both the NCP and the SPLM have reached out
recently to the Umma party, not only to voice their grievances
regarding the current political crisis, but also to begin laying the
groundwork for possible alliances during the 2009 elections. The
Umma party is probably the most organized political party in Sudan
after the NCP, which of course has access to vast amounts of capital
and controls most (but not all, thanks to the CPA) levers of
political power in Sudan. The Umma party also retains a significant
following in many states, though far less that it had when Al-Mahdi
was removed in a bloodless coup by Al-Bashir in 1989. Umma party
leadership is also more diverse than the NCP leadership, with some
significant leaders hailing from Western Sudan, although real power
is still in the Mahdi family.

FERNANDEZ

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