Cablegate: Se Gration's Meeting with Abdulla Sanussi On Rebel Unification Efforts Tripoli 00000873 001.2 of 002
DE RUEHTRO #0873/01 3051258
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O P 011258Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5424
INFO RUEHKH/AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM PRIORITY 0165
RUEHNJ/AMEMBASSY NDJAMENA PRIORITY 0179
RUEHTRO/AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI 5973
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TRIPOLI 000873
DEPT FOR NEA/MAG, AF/C, AND S/USSES E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/1/2019 TAGS: PREL CD SU LY
SUBJECT: SE GRATION'S MEETING WITH ABDULLA SANUSSI ON REBEL UNIFICATION EFFORTS TRIPOLI 00000873 001.2 OF 002
CLASSIFIED BY: Gene A. Cretz, Ambassador, U.S. Embassy Tripoli, Department of State. REASON: 1.4 (b), (d)
1.(C) Summary: Abdulla Sanussi reiterated his support for Special Envoy Scott Gration's initiatives in Sudan in an October 8 meeting and pledged Libya's support for Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) unification talks, including an offer to host talks in Kufra. Sanussi and Gration agreed that unification was critical to creating opportunities for negotiated peace at Doha, and the current political opening would not last long. Sanussi complained that Libya was "fed up" with SLA leaders who refused to unify and seemed to represent no one but themselves. He said Libya would continue to pressure the governments in Khartoum and N'Djamena to cool the tensions between the two states, and debunked Khartoum's recent assertion that the Chadian army had amassed 286 trucks on the border as unhelpful posturing. Sanussi and Gration agreed to push members of the Tripoli and Addis groups to hold a unification conference in the coming weeks. End Summary.
REBEL UNIFICATION: SAME CUSHION, DIFFERENT DREAMS
2.(C) In an October 8 meeting with Special Envoy Gration, Brigadier General Abdulla Sanussi (and close Qadhafi confidant) said Libya had no special agenda or competitive spirit on resolving the Sudan crisis, pledging Libya's continued and unlimited cooperation with the SE's initiatives in Sudan. Sanussi agreed that the international community should continue to entice factions of the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) to seek unification in preparation for negotiations with the Government of Sudan in Doha and expressed appreciation for the USG's attention and seriousness in resolving the Darfur conflict. Sanussi viewed unification efforts as complicated by unreasonable, intractable demands of certain rebel leaders bent on spoiling the process for personal gain. The leaders, he said, reminded him of a Chinese proverb: though the faction leaders all slept on the same cushion, they all had different dreams.
3.(C) While the Libyan Government had facilitated travel and visas for members of the "Addis group" of SLA factions to come to Tripoli for unification talks with the "Tripoli group," Sanussi complained that several leaders had no interest in Darfur and knew nothing of the situation on the ground there. Saying Libya's chief concerns were the humanitarian and security situation for IDPs and civilians, he derided rebel leaders who "don't feel [that] pain" after years of being ferried from capital to capital hosted in luxury hotels as various mediators attempted to unify the factions. Sanussi urged Gration to listen to the demands made by the rebels and filter out the unreasonable and impractical ones.
LIBYA "FED UP" WITH REBEL SPOILERS
4.(C) Sanussi said Libya was "fed up" after years of attempting to mediate between the various factions, particularly since the "legitimate" factions had few differences between them. In his view, some leaders had vested political interests in maintaining conflict in Darfur. Ahmed Abdel Shafie, for example, held the rank of colonel in the Southern Sudanese army and supported continued fighting in Darfur as it distracted Khartoum from its conflict with Juba. Shafie, he said, carried no weight tribally, militarily, or politically and should be cut out of the unification process to prevent him from becoming a spoiler. Sanussi called Shafie an untrustworthy, unreliable interlocutor who had reneged on every promise he had ever made to Sanussi. Saying, "I have helped him a lot," Sanussi suggested Shafie was the GOSS's problem and not the international community's.
5.(C) Sanussi contended that that the South had "paved the way for Darfur", with John Garang having visited Darfur 7-10 times in the early 2000s. Claiming a strong relationship with Garang from 1985 until his death in 2005, Sanussi said "I trained his troops and ferried him his equipment." Sanussi commented that, while Libya thought Southern Sudan was on track to enter the world as a failed state, Libya nevertheless supported the principle of self-determination and would continue to invest in Southern Sudan regardless of which way the vote went.
UNIFICATION CHALLENGES: JEM, SHAFIE, LOCATION
6.(C) In Sanussi's view, unification was needed to cool the tensions in Darfur and in the ongoing Chad-Sudan conflict. Khartoum was eager to find excuses to continue fighting, recently claiming Chadian President Idriss Deby had personally overseen the movement of 286 military vehicles to the border -- a claim that both Gration and Sanussi said was debunked by their governments. Gration and Sanussi agreed that Khalil Ibrahim's Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) was a wildcard in SLA unification efforts, with Gration noting that Khalil's national political agenda could derail SLA unification and the Doha TRIPOLI 00000873 002.2 OF 002 process.
7.(C) Although recent signals from Khartoum and N'Djamena may indicate an opening that would allow for a negotiated peace between the states and the rebels, Gration said that opening would not remain in place long. Rebel unification had a good opportunity for success if it could be effected in October, prior to the resumption of the Doha process. Sanussi suggested that the international community, along with UN/AU Special Mediator Bassole and Qatari Minister of State al-Mahmoud, should tell the SLA factions that only a unified group would be welcome to negotiate in Doha. Gration agreed, but cautioned that mediators needed to take care not to force groups into agreements and alliances that were not supported by Darfuris and commanders in the field. He added that the "Addis group" had agreed to a roadmap whereby a unification conference would take place in the field in Darfur but getting agreement in principle from the Tripoli-based factions would be essential to launching the initiative as soon as possible.
8.(C) Sanussi doubted that some of the assembled rebels would agree to a conference in Darfur, saying "it will be easier for Jesus Christ himself to come back than for Abdel Shafie to go to Darfur." Sanussi noted that security concerns and the fact that the true strength of certain supporter-less "movements" would be revealed in a field-based conference made such a conference virtually impossible. Nonetheless, Sanussi said he saw the reason behind the initiative and agreed that it was important to have field commanders, civil society representatives, and faction leaders all in one location. Sanussi offered Kufra -- a Libyan oasis town approximately 600 miles southwest of Benghazi -- as an alternate site that was secure, with facilities to house the various actors, and relatively close to field commanders and civil society leaders. SE Gration thanked Sanussi for the offer and agreed to support a Kufra conference if rebel leaders would accept it as an alternative.
9.(U) S/USSES cleared this message. CRETZ