Cablegate: Bipd Restructuring Augurs Well for Mepi-Funded

DE RUEHMK #0712 3491306
R 151306Z DEC 09

C O N F I D E N T I A L MANAMA 000712



E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/15/2019

B. 08 MANAMA 610 B. 08 MANAMA 61 Classified By: Ambassador Adam Ereli for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

1.(C) Summary: King Hamad's recent appointment of new leadership at the Bahrain Institute for Political Development (BIPD) followed a corruption scandal that resulted in the ouster of former executive director Ibrahim Al Rumahi, chairperson Lulwa Al Awadhi, and two other officials. The new executive director, Isa Ahmed Al-Khayat, is a respected university administrator. The new board of directors largely comprises pro-government liberals with academic backgrounds, including MEPI small grant recipient Mai Al Otaibi. Post believes that the new leadership will be receptive to MEPI programs, including those run by the National Democratic Institute (NDI). End summary.

2.(C) On November 19, King Hamad issued a royal decree appointing a new board of directors for the BIPD, which had been rudderless since the July firing of Al Rumaihi -- currently on trial for embezzlement and fraud -- and the subsequent dissolution of the old board of directors. The new board chairman, Nabeel bin Yaqoob Al Hamar, also serves as the King's advisor for media affairs. New board members include several academics and lawyers, many of whom have liberal credentials. New board member Dr. Sheikha Mai Al Otaibi, a respected women's activist (and founder of the Mayasem Communications media strategy firm) is a current MEPI small grant recipient. The previous board was dominated by Lulwa Al Awadhi (ref A), and marked by near constant infighting.

3.(SBU) New BIPD executive director Al Khayat, born in 1959, earned his PhD in applied mathematics from Manchester University, UK, and held several senior administrative positions at the University of Bahrain from 1997 to 2008, including dean of admissions.

4.(C) NDI, which was effectively kicked out by the GOB in 2006, recommenced activities in Bahrain in mid-2007 on the basis of a "partnership agreement" with BIPD (ref B). The now-departed Al Awadhi insisted that the agreement required NDI to obtain permission from BIPD for all activities in Bahrain, including its parliamentary training programs, but Al Rumaihi never attempted to force the issue during his tenure. Though the agreement expired in July 2009, NDI reports that it has encountered no interference with its programming in Bahrain since then and that it does not intend to seek a new arrangement with BIPD. NDI's Dubai-based regional coordinator, Staci Haag, indicated to poloffs that BIPD's new leadership will likely improve the overall operating environment for NDI programs.

5.(C) Comment: Heretofore, BIPD has shown little capacity (or desire) to undertake significant programming, and under Al Awadhi's stewardship sought mainly to control NDI's activities in the country. With her departure and the appointment of a new board of directors, it appears BIPD may be moving in the right direction. Al Otaibi is a close contact of the Embassy and a proven MEPI partner, and Al Hamer has the academic and administrative credentials needed to run the organization. We believe that the restructuring will be a net positive for reform programming in Bahrain -- particularly with respect to MEPI and NDI -- and has the potential to transform BIPD from an adversary to an ally. End comment. ERELI

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