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Cablegate: National Congress Party Wins Controversial Student Union

VZCZCXRO4168
OO RUEHROV RUEHTRO
DE RUEHKH #0037/01 0100450
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 100450Z JAN 10
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4994
INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RUEHGG/UN SECURITY COUNCIL COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KHARTOUM 000037

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: NATIONAL CONGRESS PARTY WINS CONTROVERSIAL STUDENT UNION
ELECTION AT UNIVERSITY OF KHARTOUM

1. (SBU) Summary. University student unions have long been an
important part of Sudan's political spectrum because they serve as
incubators for future national political party leaders. For the
first time since 1997, the National Congress Party (NCP) won the
leadership position of the Student Union at prestigious State-run
University of Khartoum. The victory came without official protests,
yet not without problems, including claims of illegitimacy and
tactics to prevent Darfur students' full participation. Recent
incidents of fighting among NCP university students raise questions
as to whether these occurrences are politically- motivated or over
benefits provided to ruling party university student union and
association leaders. While politics plays a large role on university
campuses throughout Sudan, many students find it preferable not to
discuss political issues openly for fear of reprisal. End Summary.

-------------------------------------------
NCP WINS PRESTIGIOUS STUDENT UNION ELECTION
-------------------------------------------

2. (SBU) The National Congress Party (NCP) won the University of
Khartoum Student Union election in 2009 for the first time in eleven
years. After violent rioting occurred in 1997 amidst accusations of
NCP fraud, university officials banned the student union election
until 2003. Since then, and until the recent NCP victory, the
National Democratic Alliance (NDA) had prevailed in all subsequent
elections. On November 19, 2009, university officials announced the
NCP win, and Chancellor Mustafa Idris Al-Bashir proclaimed that they
"did not receive a single report of accidents or fighting. All
expressed themselves and their ideas and slogans freely." He further
noted that he "hoped the spirit would prevail, particularly now that
the country is heading into national elections" in April 2010.

3. (SBU) University opposition parties disagreed with the free and
fair characterization of the student union election, although there
were no reports of protests or demonstrations. In addition to claims
of harassment, obstruction of campaigning activities plus detentions
and arrests, opposition groups called the election "illegitimate."
Some noted that while the NCP had the greatest number of votes at
5,428, the NCP candidate received only 44 percent of cast ballots.
According to publicly-announced election results by university
officials, out of the 12,228 total votes, the NDA Party candidate
received 43 percent, only 68 votes less than the NCP winner.

--------------------------------------------- ----
DARFUR STUDENTS' FULL PARTICIPATION IS SUPPRESSED
--------------------------------------------- ----

4. (SBU) Darfur students, in particular, cited suppression of
political participation in the months leading up to the University
of Khartoum Student Union election. On October 18, six students
(five Darfuri and one other) were arrested by police, reportedly for
demonstrating against a university decree that delayed Darfur
student class registration. On October 19, National Intelligence and
Security Service (NISS) agents arrested the outgoing Darfur Student
Association Chairperson Othman Mohammed Ibrahim for organizing the
latter demonstration. He was released the following day, but
re-arrested on October 24 and held for two days, during which time
he claimed he was beaten and tortured. Ibrahim told Poloff that four
other Darfur students were detained on November 9. Students insisted
they were protesting delayed class registration and payment of
tuition fees, which are supposed to be waived under the 2006 Darfur
Peace Agreement. They also expressed unhappiness with other alleged
inequitable treatment of Darfur university students. According to
Ibrahim, however, the police and NISS agents repeatedly asked about
the students' political activities on campus.

5. (SBU) Ibrahim viewed these detentions and arrests, along with the
expulsion of approximately 51 female Darfur students from student
housing, as systemic targeting of Darfur students in the month or so
prior to the student union election. Further, he called it an
attempt to prevent or minimize their participation in the election.
Ibrahim estimates the Darfur student population at the University of
Khartoum to be around 4,000 and, therefore, potentially a strong
voice in the student union election process. In past years, he said
many Darfur students formed coalitions with other parties to oppose
the NCP, but with delayed registration, they were unable to
effectively do so in 2009, nor could they register as candidates.
Ibrahim said the delayed class registration, detentions and arrests,
and other actions against Darfur students were NCP tactics to
obstruct the electoral system and intended to prevent Darfur
students from full participation. Since the NCP victory, Ibrahim
said he is no longer permitted on the university campus. (Note.
Although Ibrahim graduated in the summer of 2009, it is customary
for Sudanese university students to frequent university campuses for
up to a year after graduation to get documents in order, take

KHARTOUM 00000037 002 OF 002


additional exams and resolve other administrative details. End
Note.)

---------------------------
NCP STUDENT INFIGHTING
---------------------------

6. (SBU) Student protests and clashes, which can often be violent,
have not been uncommon in Khartoum over the past years. However, it
is unusual to see fighting erupt among NCP students as has occurred
on two occasions in recent weeks. Fighting broke out on December 16
at Ahlia University in Khartoum among NCP student association
members and resulted in minor injuries to approximately 20 students.
Reportedly, the clash occurred only weeks after a new group of
association leaders was elected in an out-of-cycle general assembly
session. On December 16, the previous student leaders showed up with
iron rods and Molotov cocktail explosives at a political debate and
a fight erupted. University and government security forces broke up
the incident without the use of force. In a second incident on the
University of Khartoum campus, on December 20, an NCP student later
died of injuries sustained in a fight with a fellow NCP student.
University officials called it a "personal issue" between the two
students; however, media reports and four different opposition
university party leaders claimed the fight resulted from political
disputes between the two students. Leaders of university student
associations and student unions generally enjoy national party
sponsorship perks and mentoring, such as vehicles, cellular phones,
and monetary allowances. Jealousy and fear of the possible loss of
these perks may have been the cause of the recent violence. On the
other hand, some students and teaching staff told the Embassy
political specialist that they see two distinct groups forming along
tribal lines among the NCP students.

--------------------------------------------- -----
PREDICT NCP WIN IN NATIONAL ELECTION AND AFRAID TO
EXPRESS OPPOSITION PUBLICLY
--------------------------------------------- -----

7. (SBU) When questioned about predictions for the national
elections in April, several university student leaders told the
political specialist that the NCP is well organized. Though not all
student leaders believe the national elections will be free and
fair, they unanimously predicted that the NCP will win. A
print-media report in GlobalPost on December 29 said that despite
normal, outward appearances on the University of Khartoum campus, no
one openly discusses politics. A recent rally opposing Sudanese
President Omar Al-Bashir was quashed within minutes. Reportedly,
government "inspectors" roam campus halls, listening for dissent.
The journalist noted that only after careful negotiations would five
students agree to answer political-related questions. Following a
brief, nervous exchange, the students then dispersed. Only minutes
after they left, an inspector arrived and began making inquiries as
to what was discussed, just as the students had feared.

8. (SBU) Comment. The University of Khartoum Student Union election
is viewed as a way for the NCP to mobilize others for the national
elections in April. This student union has long been a training
ground for many of Sudan's current ruling figures, including Second
Vice-President Ali Osman Taha; Presidential Assistant Nafi al Nafi;
former Head of Security and now Presidential Advisor Salah Gosh; as
well as others. The NCP likely wanted to set the tone for the
upcoming general elections with the university student union
election. Post will continue to monitor reports of any rifts among
the NCP students as campus politics often tend to reflect what is
happening on a larger scale. End Comment.

WHITEHEAD

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