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Cablegate: Respected Civil Society Leader Fears Ncp Reversion To

VZCZCXRO8516
OO RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHGI RUEHKUK RUEHMA RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #1754/01 3391400
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 041400Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2487
INFO RUCNFUR/DARFUR COLLECTIVE
RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE
RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KHARTOUM 001754

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

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ASEC PGOV PREL KPKO SOCI AU UNSC SU
SUBJECT: RESPECTED CIVIL SOCIETY LEADER FEARS NCP REVERSION TO
RADICALISM

REF A) KHARTOUM 1549
KHARTOUM 1504

1. (SBU) Summary: NCP members accepted numerous recommendations from
civil society leaders at the Sudan People's Initiative, including
the formation of a consultative Presidential Council, but have shown
no interest in actually carrying them out, the SPI drafting
chairman, Khartoum University Professor Tayeb Hajj Atia, told
polchief in a meeting on December 3. Attia also stated that the NCP
remains bitterly divided on the Darfur issue and it is unclear who
(if anyone) is leading the Darfur portfolio, though President Bashir
reportedly dispatched Dr. Nafie Ali Nafie to Qatar on December 2.
Attia also stated that there was widespread discontent within the
NCP over the lack of decisive leadership and that Presidential
Advisor Dr. Ghazi Salahedeen and several other moderates have
tendered their resignations in the past two weeks, though they were
not accepted. He expressed grave concern that the regime's
hardliners and Islamic fundamentalists were clustering around Bashir
as its moderates were turning away, and feared the issuance of an
ICC arrest warrant would only exacerbate this trend. End Summary.

NO HOPES FOR IMPLEMENTATION OF SPI RECOMMENDATIONS
--------------------------------------------- -----

2. (SBU) On December 3, polchief met with Professor Atayeb Hajj
Attia, the Director of the Peace Research Center of the University
of Khartoum who was enlisted at the last minute (despite his initial
reluctance) to serve as Chairman of the Drafting Committee at the
Sudan People's Initiative (SPI) in Kenana (ref A). His prominence at
the SPI surprised many observers, perhaps none more than the
professor himself. A mere week before the event, he had little
interest in it and no plans to attend, preferring instead to
continue his work on conflating the numerous civil society proposals
on Darfur into a comprehensive background document (ref B). This
changed when senior NCP officials approached him with a formal
invitation. "I laid down conditions for my participation, and told
them if they were not met I would walk away," he said.

3. (SBU) During the SPI, Attia was thrust into the role of advising
President Bashir on protocol, agenda and other matters in Kenana. He
characterized the closed door meetings with President Bashir and his
close advisors as very positive, noting that "they accepted all of
our recommendations," including the formation of a consultative
Presidential Council. But he was pessimistic that any of the adopted
recommendations would actually be implemented. "Once the final
speeches were made, everyone packed up their bags and left," he
said. "It's over."

NCP INTERNAL STRUGGLES
----------------------

4. (SBU) Attia also noted that despite nominal and public consensus
among the NCP, it was clear from the closed door sessions that key
personnel remain divided on how to move forward in Darfur. "You
could see the suppressed tensions," he said. "They tried their best
not to reveal their differences in front of us (outsiders), but it
was quite obvious," he said. It remains unclear who holds the lead
on the Darfur portfolio, he said, noting that Salah Ghosh and
representatives from the National Intelligence and Security Service
(NISS) was conspicuously absent from the SPI, although many noted
that Taha seemed to be calling the shots at Kenana, even silencing
Nafie at one point. He also stated that President Bashir has sent
Presidential Advisor Dr. Nafie Ali Nafie to Qatar, "but no one knows
why." However, he was confident that there was "no way" that rebels
would agree to meet with Nafie.

5. (SBU) Attia speculated that there was widespread discontent
within the NCP and that the party was beginning to resemble a
rudderless ship. "They're at a stage where no one is making
decisions," he said. "There's no process or mechanisms. They're just
drifting." Several senior NCP figures have tendered their
resignations within the past two weeks he said, including moderate
Presidential Advisor Dr. Ghazi Salahedeen. Ghazi's resignation was
not accepted and the regime was trying to decide how to deal with
this and other resignations, he said.

6. (SBU) Attia also expressed grave concern that the regime's
hardliners and Islamic fundamentalists (such as Bashir's advisor on
Koranic matters) were clustering around Bashir as its moderates were
turning away. "They're telling him that by targeting him, the ICC is
targeting Islam," he said. If the easily swayed Bashir becomes
susceptible to these modes of thinking, "we should expect a
withdrawal of moderate voices and a decision-making process that is

KHARTOUM 00001754 002 OF 002


completely obscured," he said. The issuance of an ICC arrest warrant
would only exacerbate this situation, he said.

CIVIL SOCIETY INITIATIVE CONTINUES
----------------------------------

7. (SBU) Despite his forecasts of doom and gloom, Attia plans to
continue his vigorous work on compiling the proposals and
recommendations of nine separate Darfurian civil society initiatives
into one comprehensive background document, something he
characterized as completely separate from the SPI. "This has nothing
to with the SPI whatsoever," he said. "It is a Darfurian document.
We're just the editors," he said. The document will not offer
recommendations, he said, but rather serve as a backgrounder for all
the stakeholders of the Darfur crisis, including the international
community. "There are many people who need something to read," he
said.

8. (SBU) A 140-page draft of the backgrounder is in now existence
and is expected to be completed within two weeks, said Attia, though
funds to publish it are lacking and as of yet, no plans exist to
translate it into English. Attia and his colleages will attempt to
have consultations with 200 stakeholders in Khartoum prior to its
publication, as well as try and solicit the opinions of IDPs in El
Fasher, Nyala and Geneina and possibly other locations if time
permits. He had initially been hopeful that he could work with the
UN's Abdul Mohamed of the DDDC to solicit the opinions of Darfurians
but "I've learned my lesson not to trust him, because he only comes
with empty promises and does not deliver."

9. (SBU) Comment: Professor Attia's predictions of an NCP reversion
to radicalism may come off as a bit alarmist, though it is true that
some moderates within the party have reportedly been unhappy with
its direction of late (some would say that the struggle within the
NCP is not about moderates and radicals but about who rules). The
unprecedented level of stress placed on the regime from the crisis
in the Darfur, the ICC indictment and (now) the falling price of oil
requires decisive leadership, which hereto has been lacking and may
now even be unraveling. Our understanding is that Bashir often
prefers not to make decisions and therefore relies on
decision-making by committee, a process through which the more
hard-line elements of the regime often carry the day. With regard to
the civil society initiative, it is frustrating to see someone as
thoughtful and well-intentioned as Professor Attia content to
produce a mere background document. As substantive and as connected
to the people of Darfur as it may be, without specific policy
recommendations this document is unlikely to influence the
intermittent Darfur peace process in a significant way.

FERNANDEZ

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