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Cablegate: Beja Congress Leaders Seek Humanitarian and Development

VZCZCXRO7083
OO RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #1367/01 2511433
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 071433Z SEP 08
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1845
INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KHARTOUM 001367

DEPT FOR A/S FRAZER, SE WILLIAMSON, AF/SPG
NSC FOR PITTMAN AND HUDSON
DEPT PLS PASS USAID FOR AFR/SUDAN
ADDIS ABABA ALSO FOR USAU

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL EAID EAGR KDEM AU UNSC SU
SUBJECT: BEJA CONGRESS LEADERS SEEK HUMANITARIAN AND DEVELOPMENT
AID, CAPACITY BUILDING ASSISTANCE

REF: A) KHARTOUM 701
B) KHARTOUM 1282
C) KHARTOUM 1202
D) KHARTOUM 1278

1. (SBU) Summary: On September 4, Beja Congress Executive Committee
members requested USG capacity building and media training support
as their organization transitions from an armed opposition movement
to a civil political party. They echoed reports of impending famine
in the East in the near future. Expressing appreciation for past
USG humanitarian aid, they hoped that the USG would play a larger
role in aid and development in the East going forward. CDA
Fernandez welcomed the Beja Congress party's maturation, urged its
leaders to build networks with other like-minded organizations
across Sudan, noted USG hopes to establish a development program in
the East, and encouraged the Beja Congress party to stay in close
contact with the Embassy. End Summary.

2. (SBU) On September 4, members of the Beja Congress Executive
Committee called on CDA Fernandez to brief him on the August 15
general conference of the Beja Congress in Erkowait and on the
humanitarian and development needs of the East. They were Salah
Barkwin, the Eastern Front Secretary of Kassala State whom CDA
Fernandez met on May 4 in Kassala (Reftel A); Abdalla Musa, Member
of the National Council and Beja Congress Spokesman; and Al-Amin
Shingrai, who has spent much of the last decade in exile in the
United States before returning to Sudan upon the signing of the
Eastern Sudan Peace Agreement (ESPA).

"A NEW ERA" FOR BEJA CONGRESS PARTY
-----------------------------------
3. (SBU) Barkwin described the Beja Congress general conference in
Erkowait as "very successful," noting that it was broadly attended
not just by Beja but all groups of the East. Despite its name and
historical roots, he characterized the Beja Congress as an inclusive
party whose membership is open to all. He stated that while the Beja
Congress is a member of the Government of National Unity (GNU)
through the Eastern Front, it was not allied with the NCP. "We have
our own views," stated Barkwin. "We are also allied with our old
friends in the South, in Darfur, and in the North," referring to the
Beja Congress' erstwhile allies in the now defunct umbrella
opposition group National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

4. (SBU) CDA Fernandez agreed that party alliances are constructive
and encouraged the Beja Congress to build networks with other
like-minded organizations across Sudan. He asked whether an SPLM
alliance with the DUP precludes one with the Eastern Front.
Shingrai replied that this is to some extent true, given the
historical animosity between the DUP and Beja Congress as both fight
over the same geographic base.

5. (SBU) Echoing Eastern Front and Beja Congress Chairman Musa
Mohamed Ahmed (Ref. B), Shingrai stated that the Beja Congress is
now in a "new era" as a civil political party after years as an
armed opposition movement. "We must manage the struggle in a civil
way," he said. Noting the Beja Congress' long history of good
relations with the USG and Embassy Khartoum, he urged the USG to
help the party with this transformation through capacity building
and media training assistance. "We need to remake the party from
what it was to what we want it to be," he said. CDA Fernandez stated
that in advance of the 2009 elections, the USG remains focused on
training and capacity building for democratic forces in Sudan,
especially those representing marginalized people. He encouraged the
Beja Congress to stay in close contact with the Embassy and work
with like-minded organizations throughout Sudan.

ECHOING REPORTS OF FAMINE IN THE EAST
-------------------------------------
6. (SBU) The Beja Congress leaders expressed appreciation for
humanitarian aid provided by the USG over the years, including the
years of armed struggle. But they urged that the USG ramp up both
humanitarian and development aid for the East. They echoed previous
reports (Ref C) of a dire shortage of food in the region, notably in
Kassala and Red Sea states. "The last harvest was very weak" due to
a lack of rain, stated Barkwin, noting that the East also had to
contend with the annual Gash River flash floods. He stated that the
price of sorghum remains high, and while the State Government in
Kassala tried to import sorghum from other parts of Sudan, the
result was inadequate due to the state's limited financial
resources. "It is not enough," he said. Shingrai declared that
unless the international community provides food aid and the GOS
declares a state of emergency, then "starvation is a probable
consequence." They feared that the ruling NCP is downplaying the
serious consequences of hunger in the East for political reasons.


KHARTOUM 00001367 002 OF 002


7. (SBU) CDA Fernandez agreed that it is an unfortunate reality that
the East does not receive the attention it deserves. He
characterized the humanitarian situation as a "slow motion crisis"
that does not capture the attention of the world in the way as the
Darfur conflict, or even the CPA. However, he added that USAID is
seeking to establish a development program for Northern Sudan,
including the East. This would be the first USG-funded development
program in the East in many years. CDA Fernandez pointed out that
improved relations with the GOS are a necessary prerequisite to
increased development aid, as the regime has typically viewed
outside involvement in Eastern Sudan with suspicion. He noted that
on his trip to Kassala in May (Ref. A) all meetings with political
parties were attended by a NISS representative, a level of
monitoring not seen elsewhere in Sudan. Shingrai expressed hope that
this might change, observing that "the regime has too many problems
in Darfur and in the South, so we expect they won't give us a hard
time."

Comment
-------
8. (SBU) Unlike Dr. Amna Dirar, whose leadership challenge of Musa
Mohamed Ahmed in the Eastern Front remains unresolved (Ref. D), the
Beja Congress leadership does not seem to view membership in either
organization as mutually exclusive. Rather, they seem to view the
Eastern Front simply as a vehicle to promote the agenda of the Beja
Congress. Whether either organization will be a force in the 2009
elections depends largely on whether they can successfully establish
electoral alliances. An alliance with the SPLM would be intriguing,
but is hampered by the SPLM's indecision as to whether it will mount
a serious national election campaign against the NCP or make a deal
with them. Post will continue to encourage such alliances and reach
out to democratic forces in advance of the elections, especially
those representing marginalized populations. Although reports of
famine in the East may be premature, it is Sudan's poorest region
and Post will continue to monitor the situation closely.

FERNANDEZ

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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