Cablegate: Se Gration Meets Southern Opposition Leaders

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1. (SBU) Summary: On February 18 U.S. Special Envoy (SE) to Sudan,
General Scott Gration met in Juba with Southern Sudan opposition
party leaders who told him that funding for opposition parties and
space for campaigning are critical if there is to be any chance for
free and fair elections in Southern Sudan. Attendees see a glimmer
of hope for free elections in the south in the fact that 374
members of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) were
ejected from the party on February 17 for running as independent
candidates, stating that the SPLM's fracture creates space for the
opposition. Attendees also widely rejected Yasir Arman, the SPLM's
presidential candidate, for ethnic and strategic reasons. The SPLM
is clearly using illegitimate means to make life difficult for
southern opposition parties, an approach to democracy that may be
difficult to unlearn. End Summary.


Funding for Opposition Parties Critical


2. (SBU) On February 18 SE Gration met with Southern Sudan
opposition party leaders who told him that funding for opposition
parties is critical if there is to be any chance for free and fair
elections in Southern Sudan. Leaders in attendance represented
every significant party in the southern opposition, including the
National Congress Party (NCP) and Lam Akol's SPLM - Democratic
Change (SPLM-DC). Attendees stated that funding for the SPLM is
overwhelming by comparison with that available to opposition
parties, largely because the Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS)
and the SPLM are not truly separate, and the funds of the GoSS
support the SPLM and its election campaign. They also asserted
that the SPLM receives aid from the international community, either
directly, or through aid received by the GoSS. Further, they
pointed out that as the incumbent party, the SPLM is in a position
to take credit for development and dole out money to influence or
buy votes.

3. (SBU) Attendees stated that opposition party funding is
necessary to fund campaign transportation, voter education, and
most importantly, ballot box monitoring during elections.
Attendees noted that having monitors in all voting centers will be
a huge undertaking and expense, and while they welcomed
international monitors, international monitors will be wholly
insufficient and most polling locations will be monitored solely by
party members. Attendees argued that ultimately, funding for
opposition parties is about making the electoral process more
transparent. Attendees made clear that they look to the
international community for this help because neither the
Government of National Unity nor the GoSS will provide funds.


Space to Campaign Crucial


4. (SBU) Opposition party leaders in attendance stated that the
SPLM and the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) are intimidating
their candidates and obstructing their parties' campaign
activities. They agreed that generally it is safe for them to
campaign in Juba because of the international presence, but that
when their party members enter rural areas they are truly in danger
from SPLA forces. They noted that the SPLA is in effect the army
of the SPLM, not the army of Southern Sudan, and that many SPLM
politicians are also SPLA commanders.

5. (SBU) Attendees stated that only the international community,
and the signatories to the CPA in particular, could hope to reign
in the SPLM's campaign of intimidation and obstruction. In fact
they placed some of the blame for the SPLM's behavior on the
international community, and the U.S. in particular, stating that
U.S support to the SPLM has made them strong, and that the SPLM
would not act in this manner without support from the West. They
said that if these activities continue unabated, the opposition

KHARTOUM 00000310 002 OF 002

will be forced to withdraw from the election because they cannot
face the forces of the SPLA and police.

6. (SBU) Opposition party attendees see a glimmer of hope for free
elections in the south in the fact that 374 members of the SPLM
were ejected from the party on February 17 for running as
independent candidates. Attendees stated that the SPLM's fracture
creates space for the opposition because if the SPLM were united it
would squeeze out all opposition. Attendees asserted that it is
not possible to peacefully split with the SPLM, and that the SPLM
will crack down on these independents as they have done on other
opposition parties. As a consequence, attendees opined that these
independents will not return to the SPLM after elections, but will
instead form a new party.


Yasir Arman Opposed by Southern Opposition


7. (SBU) Attendees widely condemned the SPLM's presidential
candidate. On a personal level they asked how the SPLM could ask
them to vote for a Muslim Arab. On a strategic level, attendees
expressed a fear that the election of Arman will create confusion
and discord in the south. They stated that, if elected, Arman will
seek to delay the referendum in order to have more time to make
unity attractive, an idea they categorically opposed. Attendees
said they will do everything they can to ensure Arman is not
elected. They did not have the same opinion about GoSS President
and SPLM nominee Salva Kiir, whom (with the exception of SPLM-DC)
they support, and they indicated that their hope is to achieve a
divided government, with the SPLM controlling the Presidency of
Southern Sudan and the opposition parties controlling the Southern
Sudan Legislative Assembly.

8. (SBU) Comment: Southern opposition leaders in attendance spoke
convincingly about the problems facing them. The SPLM is clearly
making life difficult for opposition parties in the South. The
Government of Southern Sudan has received nearly unconditional
support from the international community and appears less concerned
with the credibility of elections than with consolidating authority
in the lead-up to the southern referendum. Even the opposition
party leaders stated that they want a unified south until after the
referendum, and that they hope to democratically transform the SPLM
and the South at some later date. The danger is that a precedent
will be established in Southern Sudan whereby the incumbent party
bullies and crushes opposition, and that this approach to democracy
will be difficult to unlearn. End Comment.

© Scoop Media

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