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Cablegate: Turabi Decries Lack of Real Political Freedom

VZCZCXRO2846
PP RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #2007 3500703
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 160703Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9573
INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS KHARTOUM 002007

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: TURABI DECRIES LACK OF REAL POLITICAL FREEDOM

1. (SBU) Summary: The Sudanese government is afraid of political
freedom and the opposition parties don't know what political freedom
means, Hassan al Turabi told CDA Fernandez during a meeting December
12. The former leader of the National Islamic Front, former Justice
Minister, and current leader of the Popular Congress Party (PCP)
described his efforts to rally opposition parties behind a letter to
President Bashir proposing solutions on Abyei, Darfur, and political
and press freedoms prior to the 2009 elections. End summary.

2. (SBU) Appearing in excellent health and perfectly groomed in an
immaculate robe, an animated and cheerful Hasan al Turabi received
CDA Fernandez at his spacious home in Khartoum December 12. CDA
wished Turabi well over the upcoming Eid al Adha ("feast of the
sacrifice") which launched Turabi into a lengthy discussion
lamenting the loss of understanding that Muslims had of their own
faith. He said most Muslims don't know that the holiday celebrates
Abraham's offer of his son in sacrifice. Further, he said Muslims
are overly focused on the prophet Mohammed at the expense of God, as
most recently demonstrated in "foolish" arrest of a British teacher
whose students had chosen to name a teddy bear Muhammad. He noted
that the Prophet Muhammad was a humble man and that, of course, he
was named Muhammad by his father "who was a pagan. Half the prisons
in Sudan are filled with men named Muhammad."

3. (SBU) Turabi described his efforts to bring together opposition
political parties, but said it is difficult to unify the opposition
because "most people don't like Sadiq al Mahdi" (his own brother in
law) referring to the leader of the Umma Party. With apparent
venom, Turabi claimed that many Sunni Muslims including the Saudis
still don't trust al-Mahdi because they suspect he may be some sort
of Shia (since Sadiq is descended from the Mahdi). Turabi claimed
that at a recent meeting of opposition parties in Khartoum, Umma
party faithful wouldn't allow him to speak because they "were not
comfortable with me being in their headquarters." He sees both Umma
and his own PCP as fighting for and appealing to the same core
audience. Although many opposition politicians speak of political
freedom, he said, "they don't know what political freedom is" in
terms of press freedom, the right to congregate, and rule of law.

4. (SBU) Turabi said he had prepared a letter for President Bashir
that he shared with opposition parties, prominent figures, and with
the government. The letter offered suggestions on Abyei, Darfur,
and political freedoms before the elections. On Abyei, Turabi said
the Abyei Boundary Commission (ABC) report had reached a "natural
conclusion" based on the evidence available. However, the parties
to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) could refer the matter to
arbiters for a "final and binding" settlement. On Darfur, Turabi
said the people of Darfur should be offered a share of the oil
wealth as part of a settlement to encourage peace. Turabi said the
location of the Darfur peace talks must be changed. "I told Ban ki
Moon that the location of the talks was a mistake." Regarding
political freedoms, Turabi said it's impossible to have a free and
fair election in Sudan with full guarantees. "It would only be
possible under a transition military leadership, like the last one
in 1985" said Turabi. Unfettered press freedom is required prior to
the election, and a new political party law must be passed.

5. (SBU) Still viewing political events in Sudan as related to his
own influence, Turabi viewed President Bashir's recent meeting with
Sadiq al Mahdi primarily as a message to him (Turabi). However, he
said Bashir is probably worried about Sadiq al Mahdi because the old
people may support al Mahdi in an election, while he claimed the
young people will support (Turabi's) Popular Congress Party. Turabi
said the National Congress Party (NCP) is afraid of him and told CDA
Fernandez that when he tried to organize a political meeting for his
party faithful in Northern State last month, the government would
not approve the meeting, and finally relented but only allowed him
one hour, and then finally gave way completely when the PCP prepared
to hold an illegal rally in the center of town. Turabi said the
Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) has reached out to the PCP
recently, and now recognize the mistake they had made in ignoring
them. "We were jailed for their cause," said Turabi, but now they
need our support to resolve the crisis with the NCP.

6. (SBU) Comment: Trying to remain engaged politically from the
sidelines, Turabi may overstate his influence but remains a keen
observer of Sudanese politics. The NCP watches Turabi closely, and
is especially sensitive about his political activities on their own
home turf in Northern states. Turabi's letter to President Bashir
may have some influence on the conventional wisdom of the Sudanese
political class, but his ideas on Abyei and Darfur are conventional
and have been expressed by others. Virtually anyone outside the NCP
would agree with his views on political freedoms.

FERNANDEZ

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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