PP RUEHMA RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #2360/01 2690655
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 260655Z SEP 06
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4725
INFO RUCNFUR/DARFUR COLLECTIVE
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KHARTOUM 002360
DEPT FOR AF/SPG, S/CRS DEPT PLS PASS USAID FOR AFR/SUDAN
E.O. 12958: N/A TAGS: PGOV KPKO SOCI AU UN US SU SUBJECT: DARFUR FORUM PROMOTES DIALOGUE ACROSS POLITICAL SPECTRUM
REF: Khartoum 1594
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1. (U) The Darfur Forum convened a "town hall" meeting on September 16 in El Fasher to promote dialogue and peaceful co-existence among all ethnic and political groupings in Darfur. More than four hundred persons attended the gathering, including prominent government officials, community leaders and native administrators. While many of the speeches covered familiar ground regarding the aims of the Forum and the challenges facing the Darfur Peace Agreement, the event was notable for its broad grass-roots participation and ability of speakers to air opposing views.
THE DARFUR FORUM'S PURPOSE AND GOALS
2. (U) Active Response Corps (ARC) Officer attended a September 16 meeting convened by the Darfur Forum (DF) in El Fasher to promote dialogue on the challenges faced in Darfur and to encourage cooperation across the entire spectrum of Darfurian society. More than four hundred persons comprised the gathering, including student groups, religious and tribal leaders, women's associations, Sudanese Liberation Movement (SLM) members, state legislators, internally displaced persons (IDP) representatives, National Congress Party (NCP) and other political party officials, native administrators and ordinary citizens. Several prominent government and community leaders - cutting across the political spectrum - participated, including the Wali of North Darfur, former Governor of Darfur Region General Ibrahim Suleiman and Head of DF Ismaeil Kitir.
3. (SBU) General Ibrahim Suleiman opened the discussion by describing the purpose, goals and progress to date of the Darfur Forum. He underscored that the DF is not a political entity, but rather a body devoted to cutting across political, tribal and gender lines to promote reconciliation and practical steps to rebuild Darfur's social fabric. He illustrated his point by remarking that participants at the meeting included groups both supportive and critical of the government's policies in Darfur. Suleiman explained that the DF was open to all stakeholders in Darfur, though it would not condone armed solutions on any group's part to solve the region's problems. He further remarked that one specific objective of the DF's senior leadership in El Fasher was to help ease tribal frictions exacerbated following the September 3 police shooting of a student at El Fasher University. (Note: In sidebar discussions with ARC Officer, senior Darfur Forum members noted that, contrary to the government's claims, no apparent investigation was being conducted into the student's death. The lack of follow-up continues to inflame the underlying tensions between student groups and GoS security services, which have maintained a visible presence on the grounds of El Fasher University. End Note.)
4. (U) General Suleiman later provided his insights to the crowd on the genesis of the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) and the current challenges facing its implementation. He held that, based on his personal involvement in the negotiations in Abuja, the agreement contained many positive elements, but that its fundamental flaw was the lack of broad Darfurian buy-in. In particular, he criticized the pressure exerted by the international community to have the parties sign the agreement before they had fully addressed all of their reservations. Notwithstanding the DPA's shortcomings, Suleiman underscored the importance of continued dialogue with those outside the agreement, especially Abdel Wahid's SLA faction. He added that the Darfur Forum is using its influence with senior Sudanese Government officials to encourage them to address non-signatory demands.
5. (U) The Head of the Darfur Forum Ismaeil Kitir and Secretary General Siddiq Mohammed Ismaeil further expounded on the role and objectives of the forum. They affirmed the political and ethnic independence of the organization and its openness to all Darfurians, both inside and outside of Sudan. Ismaeil articulated that the Forum's principal objective is to unite Darfurians and advocate for their fair representation and rights within Sudan. They noted their agreement in principle with the demands of the SLA but exhorted against the use of force to accomplish political objectives.
6. (U) Senior Darfur Forum representative Zedan Abdul Rahama reiterated many of the same points as his predecessors regarding the negotiating environment in Abuja and its impact on the DPA. He highlighted the accord's fundamental flaw as the lack of endorsement by all parties to the conflict (e.g., the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and Abdel Wahid), and reiterated the Forum's core recommendations to make the DPA acceptable to all factions. These adjustments, he explained, include:
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-- Increasing the amount of individual compensation allocated to war-affected Darfurians from the specified sum of $30 million to $300 million. Rahama pointed out that Sudanese displaced by the Al Hamadab dam project were given "lavish compensation, in which the government paid 500,000 dinars (USD 2,300.00) per date tree." (Note: Rahama failed to mention that the $30 million is only an initial amount that may later be supplemented. End Note.)
-- Allocating $600 million for development projects to be completed in accordance with the UN Development Program-led Darfur Joint Assessment Mission (DJAM) priorities.
-- Reserving fifty percent of the positions in the Darfur State government institutions for the Movements and at least twenty percent of federal governmental positions for the Movements and Darfurians in general.
-- Providing greater assurances that the results of the Darfur-Darfur Dialogue and Consultation (DDDC) will either be incorporated into the DPA, or that the DDDC outcomes will be legally binding on the GoS.
-- Ensuring that the position of Senior Assistant to the President does not solely play an advisory role but has genuine executive and administrative powers to make decisions on behalf of Darfurian interests.
WALI STRIKES A NOTE OF DEFIANCE
7. (U) Speaking on behalf of the Government, North Darfur Wali Osman Mohammed Yousif Kibir opened his remarks in noting the importance of continued dialogue to solve the problems that "Darfurians themselves created." He registered his disagreement with the fault placed on the Government for the shortcomings of the DPA and its lack of implementation, contending that the Movements' focus on "money and power" has undermined the prospects for peace in Darfur. The Wali argued that notwithstanding the weaknesses of the DPA, it provided the only practical framework for ceasing the conflict in Darfur and creating a foundation for stability. On the issue of compensation, he held that President Bashir augmented the initial funding to $100 million, and that recompense would "soon be paid in North Darfur." The Wali acknowledged the need to bring individuals that committed war crimes to justice, but asserted that the International Criminal Court (ICC) would only provide political theater and not real accountability. Finally, as he publicly stated on several previous occasions, Kibir reiterated his rejection of UN Security Council Resolution 1706.
SLA AND STUDENTS STAND THEIR GROUND
8. (U) During a brief period of open debate, SLA-Minawi representatives described their disappointment with the government's intransigence in fulfilling its DPA commitments. For this reason, they posited, the SLA must continue to carry weapons and "be prepared for any contingency." The SLA members also chided the Wali and his police force for their inadequate investigations into the September 3 student clashes, and criticized the judiciary as wholly lacking independence. Members of the students' union also voiced their frustration with the government's heavy-handedness during the September 3 incident and apparent unwillingness to take any subsequent corrective action.
9. (U) While many of the speeches covered familiar ground regarding the aims of the Darfur Forum and the challenges facing the DPA, the event was notable for its broad grass-roots participation and openly aired views critical of the Government. The Forum's stance on the DPA is essentially the same as conveyed to ARC Officer in early July, though the organization appears more willing to use the accord as a foundation to address "unresolved issues." There are relatively few civil society organizations in North Darfur, and the Darfur Forum - with its diverse membership and influential connections - should remain under consideration as an enabling mechanism to promote the peace process, reconciliation and dialogue in Darfur.