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Cablegate: Will the Gos Revive the Sudan People's Initiative?

VZCZCXRO2433
OO RUEHROV RUEHTRO
DE RUEHKH #1261 3120625
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 080625Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4703
INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RUEHGG/UN SECURITY COUNCIL COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS KHARTOUM 001261

NSC FOR MGAVIN, LETIM
DEPT PLS PASS USAID FOR AFR/SUDAN
ADDIS ABABA ALSO FOR USAU

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PINR AU UNSC SU
SUBJECT: WILL THE GOS REVIVE THE SUDAN PEOPLE'S INITIATIVE?

REF: A) KHARTOUM 1166
B) 08 KHARTOUM 1549
C) 08 KHARTOUM 1532

1. (SBU) Summary: The Sudan People's Initiative (SPI) civil society
forum may soon be revived pending approval from the Presidency, SPI
Chief Drafter and University of Khartoum Professor Attayeb Hajj Atia
told poloff in a meeting on October 26. Revival of long-dormant
forum, which in the past produced a series of generally
well-received recommendations but no tangible results, is being
conceived as mechanism for civil society involvement in the Darfur
peace process, he said. This is in large part due to the perceived
failure of United Nations-African Union Joint Chief Mediator Djibril
Bassole to produce a credible civil society forum in Doha. Atia was
guarded in his optimism that a revival of the SPI could help move
the peace process forward, however, given the regime's long history
of empty promises. End Summary.

2. (SBU) On October 26, poloff met with Professor Attayeb Hajj Atia,
Director of the University of Khartoum's Peace Research Institute. A
respected academic and sometime critic of the regime, Atia was
chosen by President Omar Al Bashir to serve as Chief Drafter of the
Sudan People's Initiative civil society forum in Kenana in October
2008 (reftels). He recalled how the SPI's recommendations--on land
rights, compensation, the protection of IDPs and so forth--were to
be used by the GOS to develop a proposal for political settlement of
the Darfur crisis. Following the conclusion of the forum, Atia was
granted a headquarters in for the SPI in Khartoum, a modest budget
and full time staff of three, but he failed to achieve any political
support that would have allowed him to actually implement the
forum's recommendations, rendering the SPI impotent.

3. (SBU) The lack of political will to use the SPI may have changed
now that influential Presidential Advisor Dr. Ghazi Salaheddin is
firmly in control of the Darfur file, said Atia. (Note: In an
October 22 meeting with CDA Whitehead, Dr. Ghazi declared his
intention to revive the SPI. End Note.) According to Atia, other
high level GOS officials, including Vice President Ali Osman Taha,
are also supportive of reviving the forum. They reason that there
are currently no mechanisms for civil society to drive the peace
process, he explained, and then dismissed the efforts of Joint Chief
Mediator Djibril Bassole. (Note: Since July 2009, members of
Bassole's Joint Mediation Support Team (JMST) have told poloffs they
plan to hold a civil society conference in Doha, which has yet to
materialize. Following an "Experts Panel" discussion in Doha on
October 12-14, the JMST now plans to hold civil society
consultations in Doha later this month. End Note.)

4. (SBU) The SPI has already reconstituted some working level
committees, said Atia. He noted he has proposed to reconvene the SPI
Presidential Council, the forum's highest ranking body. (Note: The
Presidential Council is chaired by President Bashir, key opposition
party leaders, and the chairmen of the SPI's eight working
committees. End Note.) Atia is still awaiting buy-in from the
President Bashir, however. Atia noted that in recent conversation
with Bashir, the President declared that he liked to think of the
SPI as a "strategic reserve, "noting that he supported the
initiative but was waiting for "the right time" to revive it. Atia
believes this time will be in the "near future", he said.

5. (SBU) The success of a revived SPI hinges on two factors,
according to Atia. The first is buy-in and representation from a
broad spectrum of Darfurian civil society. He noted that the
selection of delegates was bound to cause discord, but that "a
reasonable degree of consensus needs to be reached" on who should
represent Darfurians. The second requirement, according to Atia, is
the successful integration of the Northern opposition parties into
the forum. This may prove to be a difficult task, given the
perception that the heads of Northern opposition parties, as well as
First Vice President Salva Kiir and Assistant to the President Minni
Minnawi, were paraded out at the first SPI but saw no results from
their participation. "We all got taken for a ride," joked Atia.

6. (SBU) Comment: (SBU) While there is a chance a revived SPI may
succeed in producing another series of credible recommendations,
whether these will actually be implemented is another story. Given
the regime's long history of empty promises and hollow spectacles
like the SPI, we will wait and see.


WHITEHEAD

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