Cablegate: Najaf and Kufa Districts Local Councils Requested Prt

DE RUEHIHL #0163/01 3351347
P 011347Z DEC 07




E.O. 12958: N/A

HILLAH 00000163 001.2 OF 002

This is a PRT Reporting Cable.

1. SUMMARY: During a November meeting with the PRT, members of
the local councils (LC) from Najaf and Kufa districts requested
USG assistance to help build capacity - including the funding of
an office and training of staff, particularly in the U.S. Najaf
LC members, Adnan Hussein Mohammed and Jasim Mustafa Mohammed,
and Kufa district LC members, Hamza Jawed Kadim and Kahtan
Muhsen Ali were present in the meeting, in addition to Maki
Shaker Hureeb of RTI, a USAID-sponsored NGO. The LC members
lamented the lack of space to hold meetings, as well as the lack
of supplies and equipment; furthermore, they noted the lack of
transportation means, and the resources to invite members of
other LCs to discuss matters of mutual concern. They
acknowledged also that they are struggling to clarify their
vaguely defined constitutional role. END SUMMARY

2. PRT Leader welcomed the guests to the first meeting of the
PRT and the Najaf Local Council in over a year. He noted that
understanding the activities of the LC was the most important
goal of the meeting. Mr. Maki Shaker Hureeb from RTI noted that
he had earlier worked for the Provincial Council of Najaf. He
found, however, that the LC has more understanding of the
concerns of the citizens than the Provincial Councils. He noted
that there are three District Councils within Najaf Province and
seven Sub-District Councils.

3. A constant theme resonating throughout the meeting was the
lack of material support for the LCs. Perhaps most important
was that they do not have office space in which to meet or
discuss matters of importance. Moreover, the LCs have no
furniture, no equipment, no transportation facilities, and have
received no training. On several occasions, they pointed out
that no one from the LC has been sponsored outside of Iraq for
training. (NOTE: Many LC members, however, had earlier been
invited to go to the U.S. for training, but declined the
invitations. It is worth noting that the Najaf and Kufa LCs are
now interested. END NOTE) In addition, the LC at this meeting
mentioned that they would like to find funding for laptop
computers and cell phones.

4. Members of the LC stated that the educational level must be
high in order to qualify as a candidate for a position within
the LC. A candidate, for example, must have a minimum of a
university degree. Many members of the LCs have master's
degrees and some even doctorates. LC members also pointed out
that often, LC subcommittee members are experts in the subject
area of the subcommittee. For example, the person who is the
head of the Subcommittee on Tourism and Antiquities is a noted
authority on the antiquities of Iraq. The LC members were quick
to highlight that the election of the LC members was the first
democratic event that took place in Iraq. The Najaf LC has 33
members while Kufa has 14. All seats on the LCs were
apportioned by population. Kufa LC members also noted that Kufa
is the third largest district in Iraq after Fallujah and Baquba.
The LCs of Kufa and Najaf regularly cooperate together to
tackle issues as necessary.

5. The Najaf LC members expressed concern for Al Alanzar, a
neighborhood that has reported an inordinate number of cancer
cases. Although this area has been surveyed and studied by
different groups of health professionals, no one had positively
identified the genesis of this high cancer rate. The LC members
asked for the establishment of a modern testing lab in Najaf
specifically to find the cause of this alarming number of cancer

6. Various LC members brought up Order 71 of the Coalition
Provisional Authority (CPA) entitled "Local Governmental Powers"
that specifies how PCs as well as LCs shall be constituted. The
Order also defines the respective responsibilities of each. The
LC members maintained that the PC is required to allocate 33% of
its budget to LCs. One LC member at the meeting stated that
Order 71 requires that LCs receive funding directly from the
National Government and not through the Provincial Government.
There is no provision in Order 71 articulating how LCs shall
receive funding other than a comment in Paragraph 1 of Section
4, entitled 'Local Councils,' that says:

"Local councils are responsible for representing their
constituents; ensuring that public services respond to local
needs; organizing the operations of the local administration;
reviewing local ministry plans; collecting and retaining local
revenues, taxes and fees; identifying local budgetary
requirements through the national budgeting process; and
recommending appropriate action to Governorate Councils with
respect to government officials, on the basis of misconduct,
inefficiency or Ba'athist Party affiliation."

7. PC members stated that the LC office currently offers proof
of residence and certificates of good character for passport
applicants free of charge, because the Council of

HILLAH 00000163 002.2 OF 002

Representatives has not given legal approval to charge fees.
One complaint voiced by the LC members was that they do not have
the resources to meet with their counterparts in other areas.
There is nothing in Order 71 requiring such meetings except that
Paragraph 7 of Section 5, entitled "Mayors and Deputy Mayors,"
states: "Mayors shall meet regularly with other Mayors to
ensure that services are being provided equitably and
efficiently." The LC members from Najaf and Kufa were not
aware of any such meetings that have taken place.

8. The LC committees have undertaken studies of educational and
health needs in their districts, according to the LC members.
They hold regular meetings with the religious "hawza"

9. LC members expressed their frustration at the lack of support
from Baghdad, especially since they have stood by central
government in every situation. The Local Councils, however,
have little interaction with the central government currently,
except through their own personal and informal contacts. This
interaction mostly occurred when the central government debated
the local governance law and other local governance issues. The
members also mentioned that Najaf has 260 "moktars", respected
individuals in the community who provide direct services to the
residents. Kufa district has 60 moktars.

10. COMMENT: Interestingly, several LC members are now open to
training opportunities of every kind. This may be symptomatic
of an important change in attitudes in Najaf (and Karbala
province.) The LCs are struggling to find their place and their
role in the body politic. They claim they are closer to the
people and their needs than the Provincial Councils, which are
largely dominated by party (read religious party) politics. The
Najaf and Kufa Local Councils are anxious to find ways to be
more effective in carrying out their ill-defined and unfunded
constitutional responsibilities. Heretofore, they have either
largely been ignored or have had an antagonistic relationship
with the PCs which control central government allocated funds.
On a more positive note, the RTI program of promoting joint
training activities between the PCs and LCs is beginning to have
success in facilitating the cooperation of the two bodies on
various occasions.

11. COMMENT CONTINUED: The PRT will look for ways to work with
the LCs in building capacity while making it clear that it is an
Iraqi matter. It is up to the LCs themselves to work within the
Iraqi body politic to clarify their constitutional role. END

© Scoop Media

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