Cablegate: Donors Press Nec On Outstanding Issues Threatening to Delay


DE RUEHKH #0316/01 0550907
ZNR UUUUU ZZH (CCY AD29737E TOQ3914-695)
R 240906Z FEB 10



E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Donors Press NEC on Outstanding Issues Threatening to Delay

1. (SBU) Summary: At the February 18 National Elections Commission
(NEC) Policy Committee meeting, donors pressed the for answers on a
host of issues threatening to delay the April elections, including
planning and funding for the transportation of elections materials,
clarification on the number of polling stations, an assessment of
the accuracy of the voter roll, and accreditation of domestic
observers. The DCM attended the February 18 meeting with the USAID
Deputy Mission director. At a follow up technical session on
February 19, attended by the USAID Elections Advisor, UNMIS and
UNDP provided an estimate of transportation costs totaling
approximately USD 43.8 million; however, the funding question
remained unresolved. At the meeting, the NEC committed to ensure
that all planes arriving in Khartoum with electoral materials will
receive the clearances required to land. Electoral experts are
concerned that the delays in logistical planning will necessitate a
delay of one to two weeks in the start of polling. End Summary.

2. (SBU) The National Elections Commission Policy Committee,
comprised of NEC and Government of Sudan officials, the Government
of Southern Sudan, international technical experts, and donors, met
on February 18 in a three hour session. This was the first meeting
in approximately two months; the meeting was originally scheduled
for late January. The main issue for discussion was the
transportation of electoral materials from Khartoum and Juba to
polling stations. Three key components to transportation must be
addressed: timing, NEC capacity, and funding. The NEC said it
understood that transportation was a key issue that would make or
break the elections, and asked donors for funding as well as
technical assistance. The NEC estimated that USD7.5 million would
be required to cover the cost of the transportation of materials.
NEC did not respond to questions from donors about whether it has
requested funding from the Ministry of Finance, but urgently
requested that the donors transfer Basket Fund money that was not
spent on voter registration to pay for these transportation costs.
(Note: The United States does not contribute to the Basket Fund.
End Note.)

3. (SBU) Donors responded with strong statements, affirming their
continued commitment to holding all elections (legislative and
executive) in April according to the current electoral calendar,
and expressing serious concern that the transportation issue, first
raised by donors several months ago, remains unresolved less than
two months before polling begins. They noted that, in the budget
agreed to by NEC and donors in September 2009, the Basket Fund
donors agreed to fund only a portion of the cost of transportation,
with the remainder to be covered by funding transferred to NEC by
the Government of National Unity for transportation. Furthermore,
inadequate expense statements provided to donors by NEC to date
indicate that only 20 percent of that allocation has been spent.
The NEC responded that its budget left transportation from Khartoum
and Juba to state capitals unfunded, and that the GNU has agreed to
pay only for transportation of materials from state capitals to
constituencies. Donors reminded the NEC that donors have been
asking for an operational plan for transportation since August
2009, but have still not received one.

4. (SBU) The DCM, seconding a point made by the European Union
representative, urged the NEC to finalize as soon as possible
a detailed operational plan for transportation of electoral
materials. He noted that, regardless of who will ultimately pay for
the cost of transportation, it was essential that the NEC, with
assistance from the international experts, develop a workable
operational plan immediately. The operational plan must include
provisions for the speedy entry of imported electoral materials
unhindered by customs or tax procedures.

5. (SBU) In response to concerns about budgetary issues, the NEC
proposed a technical meeting on February 19 to discuss
transportation see paras 11-12).

--------------------------------------------- ------
Late Ballot Specs, Late Ballot Arrival
--------------------------------------------- ------

6. (SBU) The meeting then moved to other agenda items. The UNDP
representative expressed concern that the NEC had not yet fulfilled
its obligation to provide ballot specifications; as a result, the
UNDP had missed the deadline for finalizing a purchase order, and
ballots would not arrive by March 15 as planned. The NEC promised
final specifications within two days, but the UNDP cautioned that
this timeline and any additional delay would leave less and less
time for dissemination of the ballots to the polling places. (Note:
As of February 21, NEC had not yet provided the necessary specs.
End Note.) Donors told the NEC that they had heard that some ballot

papers, notably those for the Presidency of Southern Sudan, had
already begun to be printed locally, despite the fact that
specifications had not yet been finalized. NEC denied these
reports. Donors cautioned that local printing of ballots without
adequate provision for observation of the process threatened the
transparency of the process.

--------------------------------------------- -------
No Independent Review of Voter Rolls
--------------------------------------------- -------

7. (SBU) Donors noted that the NEC had still not conducted a
previously-promised internal review of the voter roll, nor had NEC
allowed an independent audit proposed on December 14, 2009, by
USAID partner IFES. Donors urged an independent audit to assess the
quality and accuracy of the voter roll to enable the NEC to respond
to criticism and increase its credibility about the registration
process, while providing NEC and other bodies (e.g. referendum
commissions) the opportunity to improve the process in the future.

--------------------------------------------- ----
Accreditation of Domestic Observers
--------------------------------------------- ----

8. (SBU) Donors asked the NEC for an update on the rules and
regulations for accreditation of election observers. The NEC
responded that printing of forms for domestic observers had started
and that it expected to call domestic observers on or about
February 27 to collect the forms. (Note: USAID partner IFES was
asked by NEC to print the rules and regulations and code of conduct
for observation, as well as some of the forms, but has not received
final versions to send for printing. End Note.) At the same time,
the NEC waffled over whether an update to the existing regulations
is forthcoming or whether the old regulations stand. The USAID and
UNDP representatives noted that existing regulations, released in
late 2009, include a number of provisions that will hinder the
ability of domestic groups to observe the elections. Of particular
concern are provisions that require domestic observers to submit
copies of identification documents and photographs; many people in
rural Sudan, particularly in the South, do not possess identity
cards nor do they have places where they can get photographs taken.
Moreover, the centralization of the accreditation process is
problematic in light of the limited time remaining before polling
begins. The NEC responded that the accreditation requirements would
not be changed, suggesting that anyone who can understand how to
observer elections should have appropriate documentation.

--------------------------------------------- ---------------------
GOSS: Insufficient Polling Stations for the South
--------------------------------------------- ---------------------

9. (SBU) The representative of the Government of Southern Sudan
(GOSS) expressed concern that there would not be a sufficient
number of polling stations in the South to ensure that everyone who
wanted to vote would be able to do so. The USAID representative
asked the NEC to clarify the number of polling stations, noting
that the NEC and its international advisors had jointly decided on
approximately 21,000 polling stations nationwide, a number that was
confirmed by President Bashir during his recent meeting with
President Carter. However, NEC cable number 66, dated February 14,
instructed State High Committees to set up polling stations to
accommodate a minimum of 1,000 voters in the South and 1,200 voters
in the North, for a total of approximately 14,500 polling stations.
Procurement of some electoral materials has already begun, with
orders based on the higher number of polling stations. In the case
of polling kits, procured by USAID partner IFES, an additional USD
1.5 million was spent to purchase kits that now appeared not to be
needed. Furthermore, a reduction in the number of polling stations
could disenfranchise a significant number of voters unable to
travel the distance necessary to reach a polling station. In
addition, the increased number of voters served per polling station
could result in long lines of voters at polling stations with
insufficient staff in place to maintain crowd control. NEC did not
respond to the USAID representative's points.

--------------------------------------------- ---------
Transport Issue Clarified, Not Resolved
--------------------------------------------- ---------

10. (SBU) On February 19, the NEC, international technical
advisors from UNMIS, UNDP, and IFES, the USAID Elections Advisor,
and two representatives from the Basket Fund donors met to discuss
in greater detail the transportation of electoral materials. The
Basket Fund representatives emphasized that they would not make any

decisions regarding whether or how to fund the transportation of
electoral materials until the NEC provided a full report of
expenses to date according to a format provided by the Basket Fund
donors to the NEC following the February 18 Policy Committee
meeting. To assist the NEC in preparing the report, NEC, UNMIS and
UNDP financial advisors met on February 20 to prepare the requested
expense report. UNMIS reminded meeting participants that the
funding issue must be resolved by Sunday so a contract (through
UNDP) can be issued on Monday for transportation of materials from
Khartoum and Juba to state capitals, noting that if the contract is
not signed on Monday, materials will not arrive in time for

11. (SBU) According to UNMIS and UNDP estimates, the total cost of
transportation of materials from Khartoum/Juba to polling stations
will be approximately USD 43,791,000. This figure is comprised of
two components. 1) A revised estimate from UNDP for the
transportation of electoral materials from Khartoum/Juba to state
capitals totals approximately USD 5.5 million. 2) UNMIS estimated
the cost to rent four cars per geographic constituency for 30 days
for the purpose of transporting electoral materials from state
capitals to constituencies to polling stations would cost
approximately USD 38,291,000.

12. (SBU) Comment: Despite differing views on how to solve a range
of serious problems, donors, technical advisors, and the NEC are
agreed on the urgency of their working together to find solutions.
Nevertheless, there are significant hurdles to overcome in the
short time remaining before polling begins. International electoral
experts are concerned that the delays in logistical planning could
necessitate a delay of one to two weeks in the start of polling if
these problems are not resolved.

© Scoop Media

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