This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 ABUJA 001515
DEPARTMENT FOR D, P, AF; LONDON AND PARIS FOR AFRICAWATCHERS
E.O. 12958: N/A TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM PREF EAID MARR NI CD SU DARFUR SUBJECT: DARFUR PEACE TALKS: STATE OF PLAY
1. (SBU) Summary: Despite the rebel movements' inexperience in conducing serious negotiations, the unwillingness of the "Teflon" government delegation to accept any responsibility for the situation on the ground in Darfur, and the broad latitude the mediator has permitted the parties to digress and request delays, the African Union-sponsored Darfur negotiations have reached the point that the two sides are examining an integrated draft text (sent to AF/SPG) for an agreement on humanitarian issues. The parties have been charged to return to the plenary this afternoon to offer official observations on the text, which would give the rebel movements - as well as international assistance delivery organizations - much of what they seek in the humanitarian sector. While acceptance by the parties cannot be assumed, they have moved forward at a pace surprising to veterans of the IGAD peace process between the GOS and SPLA. Both the rebels and GOS say they are committed to staying the course. The AU mediation had initially planned to take a break once agreement had been reached on humanitarian issues, but now has decided to keep the parties in Abuja to try reaching a deal on security too. End Summary.
2. (U) The AU-sponsored negotiations between the Government of Sudan (GOS) and the two Darfur rebel moments (Sudanese Liberations Army - SLA - and the Movement for Justice and Equality - JEM) that began August 23 have led to the presentation of a draft agreement on humanitarian issues by Mediator Hamid al-Ghabid on August 30. Those taking the GOS- SPLA/M negotiations as a benchmark were very surprised that the parties reached this point this quickly. Others lamented the distractions that have been created by the inexperience of the JEM and SLA leaders, who were quick to ask for delays when goaded by the GOS delegation or by reports of further violence on the ground in Darfur.
3. (SBU) Neither rebel delegation appears to be well organized. JEM leader Khalid Ibrahim has not appeared in Abuja, and although Ahmed Lissan seems to be in titular charge of the team, he clearly is not in full control. On the SLA side, Abdulwahid Nour, Mini Minawi, and Adam Shogar are all here, while Dr. Sharif Harir is doing much of the talking on the floor. They are backed - literally on the floor of the plenary, where the teams sit behind the leader - by a coterie of field commanders, giving visible demonstration of the phrase "consistently looking over their shoulders."
4. (SBU) The GOS delegation, on the other hand, is extremely disciplined under the leadership of Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Dr. Magzoub El-Khalifa Ahmed, supported by Deputy Foreign Minister Abdullah Nour. Nour is the former governor of North Darfur and, the rebels say, claims to be "Emir of all the Arabs in Darfur" (he himself has asserted that to some of the western observers). The rebels have accused him on the floor of being one of the leaders of the Jingaweed. Thus far both in the sessions and in private, Magzoub has tried to be the patient voice of reason, calmly enduring SLA and JEM outbursts with measured responses. That said, he has also been adamant that the rebels are the cause of all the problems, and the government has taken the necessary steps to provide security and humanitarian assistance. The Jingaweed, very narrowly defined as the traditional desert bandits, must, of course, be held accountable. However, the nomadic herders, who also carry guns - like those led by Musa Hillal - have only acted in self-defense and must retain their weapons for this purpose. Magzoub is reputed to be among the most obdurate of the "hard-liners" in Khartoum, and has not yet been tested by either the rebels or the mediator to come to grips in real negotiations
5. (SBU) The dynamics around the mediator have also been distracting, with various representatives from the Arab League, Libya, the UN, and even from the AU pressing different agendas and seeking personal recognition. The departure of Peace and Security Chairman Djinnet early in the process took away a key ally. So did that of UN Advisor Mohammed Sahnoun, which allowed the team dispatched by UN SRSG Pronk from Khartoum to take over the UN mantel and press a more "local" agenda. At one point this group asserted that the Joint Implementation Mechanism (JIM) has resolved the humanitarian issues, while the August 5 "Pronk Plan" had taken care of security. USDEL, the EU, and the UK pressed this back quickly and decisively.
6. (SBU) On the other hand, the departure of the senior AL, Libyan, and other UN representatives has allowed al-Ghabid, with strong support from the observer delegations, to gradually take control of the process. Nigerian Foreign Minister Adeniji and Special Representative for Darfur Abdulsalami Abubakar are now managing the talks for the Nigerians, although President Obasanjo remains engaged on the periphery. These changes have allowed USDEL and the EU observers to move from the plenary back rows to a seat at the table with a microphone.
7. (SBU) The agenda forged during the first two days by the mediator and the Nigerians outlined four major issues: humanitarian, security, political, and social and economic. It was thought that the humanitarian issues would be the easiest place to make progress. Some among the mediation had planned to get quick agreement there, and then adjourn this session. USDEL has pressed hard that the parties need to remain engaged so long as they are prepared to do so. At a minimum, the parties should not be allowed to leave without dealing with the security issues and making all possible efforts to solidify and implement the ceasefire. Al-Ghabid said he agreed, and that he wanted to finish security at a minimum, maybe go through the entire agenda if the parties are willing to remain engaged. While he agreed with the observers that taking the parties as far as they can be prodded to go would preserve whatever momentum might be generated, it would also end the issue of whether the venue should be changed at the next round.
8. (SBU) The venue question, however, seemed to be fading away. Although the Libyan representative continues to press the parties in the corridors, the rebels do not want to do it. More importantly, Obasanjo is emphatically against it. He has done a good deal of work, including some direct meetings with the rebel movements, to bring them along. He personally espoused their outrage at reports of new bombing of civilians on August 26, and is following up directly with Bashir. (Note: BG Okonkwo confirms that Obasjano called Bashir, but does not have a detailed readout. End Note.)
9. (SBU) Besides the question as to how serious the government is about achieving agreement with the rebel movements, USDEL is also concerned that Al-Ghabid does not have to have a well-thought out sense of where he wants to take the talks, or even how to get there. He is becoming more decisive in the chair, but wants the observers (i.e, the U.S., UK, EU, UN, and even Sant' Egidio) to do the face- to-face diplomacy with the parties. USDEL and the EU have pushed back, as he and his team must take the lead with the parties - with our strong support.
10. (SBU) Comment: The tabling of an integrated text just a week after beginning negotiations demonstrates that the mediators and the parties want to move the process forward at an ambitious pace - despite the ups and downs that the inexperienced rebel delegations have introduced in the plenum. The initial response later today by the parties to the mediator's draft on humanitarian issues may or may not be a test of where the parties are. It requires the government to make some significant concessions on access, air corridors, and delivery of relief supplies through Libya. It calls for an expansion of the AU observer mission, and creation of a parallel observer cell for humanitarian issues. They should not, however, be concessions the government cannot afford to make. Even should they (surprisingly) agree to the full text, it does not mean they will make the concessions that really count further down the road on security and on a political settlement. The rebels, on the other hand, would get much of what they asked for that actually pertains to humanitarian issues, and they have acknowledged this. They say they intend to seek clarifications and ask for strengthened language on observers. If they stick to this, they may get an agreement on the first part of the agenda, and put the process on a firmer footing.