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Cablegate: White Nile Governor Discusses Agriculture, Elections, And

VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHKH #1934 3401357
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 061357Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9468

UNCLAS KHARTOUM 001934

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR AF/SPG, AF/EPS, EB/IFD, AND EB/ESC
DEPT PLS PASS USAID FOR AFR, AND ALSO PASS USAID

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV EFIN ECON EAID SU
SUBJECT: WHITE NILE GOVERNOR DISCUSSES AGRICULTURE, ELECTIONS, AND
NORTH-SOUTH TENSION

REF: A. Khartoum 1753
B. Khartoum 1744

1. (U) SUMMARY: In a December 4 meeting with emboffs, the Governor
of White Nile State, Dr. Mohammed Nur Al-Tigani, highlighted the
importance of agriculture for Sudan, expressed confidence that
mid-term elections would be conducted in a free, fair, and timely
manner, and dismissed the existence of North-South tensions in his
state. He also expressed hope for an improved bilateral
relationship between the U.S. and Sudan. END SUMMARY.

2. (U) Al-Tigani described agriculture as the foundation of Sudan's
economy. He noted that while sugar brings in the largest source of
agricultural revenue, sesame, sorghum, cotton, wheat, sunflower, and
hibiscus also have great potential in White Nile state. He noted
that the Sudanese economy was more balanced before petroleum was
exported, and said that the Sudanese economy will continue to grow
even after its oil reserves are depleted. He said that leading
officials in Khartoum also recognize that agriculture is the real
source of sustainable development in Sudan, but that war and
instability have shortened these officials' attention and turned
their focus to oil.

4. (U) Al-Tigani was optimistic that the Sudanese mid-term elections
scheduled for 2009 will be conducted in a timely, free, and fair
manner. He was not concerned that the census preceding the
elections may be pushed back, saying, "Even if they don't complete
the current census, they can use what they have and just build on
the previous census." Al-Tigani said that he has balanced his
loyalty to the National Congress Party with the need to respect all
political parties in his state, saying, "We need to understand and
recognize that the elections are a peaceful way to share power. Even
if we do not win in the coming elections we'll remain active and
positive as an opposition power until the following elections."
Recalling an interview with CDA Fernandez on Al-Jazeera from
November 7 (reftel A) Al-Tigani stated that the level of democracy
in Sudan is not to be found anywhere in the Middle East and that the
upcoming elections will prove this.

5. (U) Al-Tigani stated that southerners and northerners live
together in peace in White Nile State, and contended that even if
the South secedes from the north in 2011, southerners will stay in
his state and trade will continue to increase between the North and
South. Al-Tigani noted that he halted North-South river transport
on November 1 (reftel B) due to the increased presence of the Sudan
Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA), claiming that SPLA troops moved
inside White Nile's borders in early November and that many citizens
were worried about the general state of security and stability in
south White Nile State. Al-Tigani said the situation has now been
resolved and dismissed claims that this temporary port closure was
the north's way of "flexing its muscles" or showing that the north
can control the economy of South Sudan.

6. (U) Al-Tigani said he will focus his efforts in the next year on
developing two new cement factories in the Jabalain area,
modernizing the electrical grid in anticipation of the opening of
Meroe dam, and building new and dependable roads along the Nile. He
said that his state will continue privatization initiatives, as the
private sector has proven to be more effective than government at
managing business. Al-Tigani also expressed hope that U.S.-Sudanese
bilateral relationship will improve, saying "I'm optimistic. When
sanctions are eventually lifted, we'll have more economic
cooperation and this will drive our bilateral relationship. I look
forward to the day when U.S. businesses will be in White Nile
state."

7. (U) COMMENT: Al-Tigani appeared to be a moderate, optimistic, and
generally benign figure. Although he may have little influence over
key decision makers in Khartoum, he is a northern governor, who, at
the very least, knows the right thing to say to Western diplomats on
elections, agriculture, and U.S-Sudanese relations. His comments on
the long-term importance of agriculture, especially for the northern
economy, are prescient given that the majority of oil reserves are
in the South. END COMMENT.

FERNANDEZ

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