Cablegate: Aec Chairman Vraalsen Argues for More Independence at Final

DE RUEHKH #1929/01 3400844
R 060844Z DEC 07





E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (U) SUMMARY: AEC Chairman Tom Vraalsen, wrapping up a contentious
two year stint in Khartoum, held a final press conference December
3. He used his statement to warn of the dangers of the current
NCP-SPLM stalemate and to argue for a more pro-active AEC led by a
chairman with increased independence. The press conference was
well-attended by Sudanese journalists and received widespread
coverage in the local press. However, there was no attendance by
members of the international media, who were probably distracted by
the "teddy bear drama" across town. This was unfortunate, as
Vraalsen was probably hoping to garner international coverage that
would translate into increased pressure on Khartoum. END SUMMARY.

Samples of Media reaction

2. (SBU) According to an AEC official, many of the questions posed
by the Sudanese journalists attending the press conference focused
on the circumstances surrounding Vraalsen's resignation (itself
rather old news), such as whether he had been pressured to resign by
the NCP. The actual coverage reported Vraalsen's denials, and did
not report any of the background to the story - that Vraalsen had in
fact felt constantly checked by an NCP determined to limit his
freedom of action.

3. (U) The independent "Khartoum Monitor" English daily newspaper
bore the front page headline: "Vraaslen: Assessment and Evaluation
Commission Should be Transparent." Its coverage stressed Vraalsen's
judgment that the CPA partners have not made proactive use of the
commission, leaving the AEC to operate as a passive monitoring

4. (U) The independent "The Citizen" English daily carried the very
misleading headline on its front page: "CPA Chairman bows out with
praise for NCP, SPLM." The article noted that Ambassador Vraaslen
stated that his resignation was based only on a two-year contract he
signed with the Norwegian government to serve as chair of AEC. He
insisted there was no pressure on him to resign, it reported.

5. (U) The semi-independent NCP "Al Ray Al Aam" Arabic-language
daily newspaper of Sudan Vice President Osman Taha carried the
front-page headline: "Vraaslen: My resignation was not due to any
pressure from NCP." It said that Ambassador Vraaslen stated his
resignation was for private reasons, with no pressure from any
source. Amb. Vraaslen called upon the NCP and SPLM, as CPA
partners, to build a genuine partnership and mutual understanding to
implement sensitive and complex CPA clauses.

6. (U) The Pro-NCP "Al Hayyat" Arabic-language daily and pro-DUP
"Wahdi" Arabic daily also carried the story on their front pages,
with the headline: "Vraaslen: Dialogue and Understanding between the
two partners Represents an Essential Element for resolving the
outstanding Problems." The papers highlighted Vraaslen's statement
urging the NCP and SPLM as CPA partners to stop using the media for
trading accusations, but rather to build a constructive partnership
to resolve the contentious issues, especially Abyei.

7. (SBU) COMMENT: At the press conference, Chairman Vraalsen
successfully shifted attention from the circumstances of his
resignation to his "message:" that the two CPA parties should begin
working as true partners for the good of the country, and that the
AEC chairman should be granted more freedom of action. At least in
the Khartoum press, the message came through. Unfortunately,
Vraalsen was ignored by the international press. Our AEC source
gloomily noted that not a single foreign reporter had attended the
farewell press conference, acknowledging the sad reality that "they
must all have been across town covering the teddy bear affair." In
fact, Vraalsen was probably hoping for some international coverage
in order to pressure the NCP. He has long argued that the AEC
Chairman should enjoy the freedom to address the press, as he
repeated in his final remarks (attached below). Vraalsen's decision
to hold the press conference at all (despite the NCP's stated
position that this requires the approval of both parties) seems a
disgruntled short-timer's parting shot and perhaps an effort to
establish a precedent for the next AEC chair.


8. (U) Below is attached the text of AEC Chairman Tom Vraalsen's
introductory statement at the December 3 press conference, as
distributed by the AEC:


Opening Statement by Ambassador Tom Vraalsen
At the Press Conference held on
December 3d, 2007 in Khartoum

As some of you know, my term as Chairman of the Assessment and
Evaluation Commission is soon coming to an end. I have requested

KHARTOUM 00001929 002 OF 003

the Norwegian Government to assign me to other duties. I am
scheduled to depart from Khartoum next week.

I wanted to meet with you before my departure to talk about the CPA
and the AEC.

I wish to make it clear that I am not speaking for the collective
membership of the AEC. You will readily understand that my remarks
do not reflect the views of all Commission members. What I wish to
share with you today is my own personal observations based on two
years service.

The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA):

On CPA implementation which has been the subject of considerable
political debate lately, the track record of the parties is uneven.

As you will see from the AEC factual report "CPA implementation
2007", much has been achieved. You will find the report on the AEC

As I said, much has been achieved. The cease-fire is holding apart
from the serious incident in Malakal in November 2006. Federal and
State administrative structures are in place including the GONU and
the GOSS. The INC, ICSS and State Constitutions have been adopted.

This, if I may say so, has been the easy part of CPA implementation.
Now, the Parties are engaged in dealing with core issues concerning
security, politics and economics. Such complex and sensitive issues
can only be professionally dealt with through a genuine partnership.
Dialogue, understanding, will to seek common ground, flexibility
and compassion are key elements in founding a working relationship.

The Parties claim to be partners. Of course, they are `as
signatories to the CPA. However, it is difficult for the outside
observer to see a genuine partnership in action. It is essential
for NCP and SPLM to build that kind of relationship. Public
haggling over facts, mutual accusations, allegations and
recriminations do not help build a constructive partnership.

There are provisions in CPA of great political importance where
implementation is seriously behind schedule. I would not be too
worried when delays occur if the Parties are in agreement on how to
deal with the situation. The problem arises when the parties accuse
each other of violating the peace agreement without agreeing on how
to handle the situation and move forward.

The present political problems with regard to CPA implementation are
a matter of serious concern to all of us. The stalemate carries in
it seeds of lasting damage to the partnership which is needed in a
CPA context. The door to a solution to the present problems must be
unlocked immediately. The alarm bells are ringing louder here.
They are also ringing louder in neighboring countries.

The leadership of both Parties has repeatedly reaffirmed their
commitment to implementing the CPA. I urge the Parties to deliver
on their commitments. They owe it to the people of Sudan.

The Assessment and Evaluation Commission (AEC):
--------------------------------------------- --

The Commission has during its 25 months existence held 26 Regular
Plenary Sessions, 13 Special Plenary Sessions and numerous Working
Group meetings. Through hard work over 12 months the Commission has
produced a "Factual Report on the Status of CPA Implementation

The Commission has by no means been dormant or passive as some are
alleging. It has however, not been visible in the public domain.
This is due to built in constraints and limitations imposed by the
Presidential Decree establishing the Commission and in the
Commission's own Rules of Procedure. Another point is that I don't
believe in megaphone diplomacy. I don't believe in big headlines.
You often achieve more through a quiet and responsible approach.

Of late, much has been said about the Commission. It rose into
prominence during the political crises in October/November.

In his press conference on October 21 st, Vice-President Ali Osman
Taha stated that the AEC is a CPA mechanism that enables the two
parties to jointly and objectively gauge the extent of progress
being made and control the pace of implementation. The
Vice-President voiced expectations and encouragement for the AEC to
engage in efforts to get CPA implementation back on track.

During the first two years of AEC's existence, the Parties have not
made pro-active use of the Commission. The same is the case for the

KHARTOUM 00001929 003 OF 003

international members and observers. The Commission has operated as
a passive monitoring agency.

The Commission has the potential to develop into a pro-active
mechanism that can facilitate and promote implementation of CPA. To
achieve that the working methods of the Commission must undergo
fundamental changes.

The Chair has to be given more freedom of movement and expression.
He/she must be allowed to speak the truth even if that implies
criticism of one Party or the other or even both. The Chair must be
empowered to decide on his own to attend meetings called to consider
CPA implementation and to address such meetings. I have been subject
to severe limitations on both accounts.

The Commission should open up for public view. It should be
transparent in its operation. Documents produced by the Commission
and its staff should as a general rule be made accessible to the
public. This would be one measure through which the public can be
better informed and in a position to contribute to implementation of

Thank You.



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