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Cablegate: Se Gration Visits Voter Registration Centers in Sudan

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DE RUEHKH #1339 3300748
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 260748Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4803
INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RUEHGG/UN SECURITY COUNCIL COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS KHARTOUM 001339

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

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

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM KDEM SU
SUBJECT: SE Gration Visits Voter Registration Centers in Sudan

1. (SBU) Summary: United States Special Envoy to Sudan (SE) General
Scott Gration visited a lively registration center in Khartoum on
November 18 during a visit arranged by the National Congress Party
(NCP). Additional visits to voter registration centers in Khartoum,
Abyei and El Geneina showed that some Sudanese citizens are
registering to vote. Sudanese press responded positively to SE
Gration's message on the importance of participating in next year's
elections. End summary.

--------------------------------
POTEMKIN VOTER REGISTRATION SHOW
--------------------------------

2. (SBU) SE Gration visited a registration site in the Burri
district of Khartoum on November 18. More than 20 NCP
representatives were present along with a small number of opposition
party representatives, and the over 50 men and women lined up to
register to vote began chanting pro-Bashir slogans upon SE Gration's
arrival. Two National Elections Commission officials who were busy
registering voters reported that they had registered over 1,000
voters the previous day. (Note: This is an unlikely number given the
time consuming registration process for each voter. End note.) On
November 19, poloff returned unannounced to the same registration
center and found the site largely vacant, with only a handful of
people waiting to register and few party representatives present.

---------------------------------------------
NEW CENTERS IN ABYEI, EL GENEINA AND KHARTOUM
---------------------------------------------

3. (SBU) On Thursday, November 19, SE Gration visited the opening
day of the Abyei town voter registration center. The center
consisted of a table and three chairs under a tree. Zakaria Atiem,
the head of the NCP political office for the area told SE Gration
that there are approximately 7,000 eligible voters in Abyei town and
158 had registered that morning. Two international monitors
assigned to Abyei by the Carter Center were also in attendance. SE
Gration asked whether they had witnessed irregularities, but they
were unable to reply pursuant to election monitoring regulations.

4. (SBU) On Saturday, November 21, SE Gration and accompanying
delegation visited a new voter registration center in Ardenata
internally displaced persons (IDP) camp in El Geneina, West Darfur.
At 9:00 a.m., SE Gration shook hands and congratulated the first
voter to register at the center, which consisted of one chair and a
folding table alongside the main dirt road in the camp. Speaking
with SE Gration in Ardenata IDP camp, an UNMIS Team Leader for
Elections in West Darfur said that he expects less than 30 percent
of eligible voters will register to vote in West Darfur. (Note:
Carter Center observers have estimated that approximately 19 percent
of the eligible population in Darfur has registered so far. End
note.)

5. (SBU) On Sunday, November 22, SE Gration and accompanying
delegation visited another center in Khartoum to inspect progress on
voter registration in poorer neighborhoods. The surprise visit to
the Soba district of Khartoum took place in a underdeveloped
neighborhood of unpaved roads and close to one of Khartoum's IDP
camps. Speaking with SE Gration, the center supervisor noted was
upbeat about voter registration. The supervisor said that eligible
voters were coming in regularly to register, and no security
incidents had threatened the work of his registration center.

6. (SBU) Following a meeting with an NCP official on Sunday,
November 22, SE Gration spoke to radio and print media
representatives in support of the elections. "I went to
registration centers here in Khartoum, in Abyei and in Darfur. And I
would encourage people to register to vote. This is a responsibility
that I take very seriously. In my country, I vote in every election
that I get a chance to vote. I make my will known. It is part of the
democratic process. And we are pleased to see that Sudan is entering
into the registration period, that things are proceeding, and we
look forward to a good election in April."

7. (SBU) Comment: With ample advance notice of the visit to the
Burri registration center, the Khartoum State Election High
Committee put on a good show for the SE's delegation. Other
unannounced visits to other voter registration centers have
nonetheless shown considerable commitment on the part of local
participants to register themselves. SE Gration's comments to
Sudanese and international media received an overall positive
response from local press. End comment.

WHITEHEAD

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