Cablegate: Rocky Beginning for Darfur Talks in Abuja

Published: Tue 26 Oct 2004 11:41 AM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A
1. (SBU) SUMMARY:. After a brief opening ceremony on
October 21 (reftel), tThe second round of Darfur peace talks
in Abuja has started slowly, as key Move. After a brief
opening ceremony on August 21, the delayed arrival of
several members of the SLM and JEM delegations and lack of
a well-articulated AU gameplan postponed the first
substantive negotiations until October 25. The Special
Representative of the UN Secretary General for Sudan, Jan
Pronk, addressed a special session of the talks on October
24, advising the parties that as the security issues had
been "resolved for them," they should move immediately to
address political issues. If the rebel movements were not
ready to sign the humanitarian protocol at the outset, they
should consider an exchange of letters on intent to sign,
and pledge to implement the substance immediately. The AU
leadership subsequently decided to pursue the political
agenda in the plenary, and work in a smaller committee to
hammer out an acceptable security protocol. The rebel
movements will not, however, meet directly in committee with
the GOS, and the mediation will have to shuttle texts and
2. (SBU) Summary continued: The Sudan Liberation Army
(SLA) and Movement for Justice and Equality (JEM) have been
seriously angered by the lengthy delays incurred in getting
them to the talks. They blame this on the AU. The late
arrivals may also have contributed to a festering rift
within the SLA, which has led to a 24 hour suspension of the
talks on October 26; the SLA will not likely be ready to
engage further on substance until the leadership crisis is
resolved. SLA Secretary General Minowi is expected on
October 27. In-fighting within the SLA is exacerbated by
further distancing between the movements and the government
on the one hand, and between SLA and JEM on the other.
Absence of senior Nigerian participation may be remedied on
October 27 with the anticipated return of the foreign
minister. End Summary.
3. (SBU) The failure of the AU to get both movements'
representatives and its own key staff to Abuja - for
whatever reason - has contributed to a slow start in getting
to substance. The rebels are incensed about what they see
as incompetence at best, and design at worst. Key members
of the AU mediation team still remain in Addis where they
are needed to ensure that the deployment of the expanded AU
monitoring force goes forward. The absence of senior
Nigerian presence on the floor has also been apparent. The
situation may improve now, as the rest of the AU mediation
team arrives today, and Nigerian FM Adeniji returns to Abuja
tomorrow. SLA General Secretary Minowi is also expected to
arrive Wednesday.
4. (SBU) During a pre-plenary planning session October 24,
the AU mediation team announced its intention to focus on
moving immediately to the political agenda. SRSG Pronk's
admonition, plus the AU's own unhappy experience with the
security protocol during Abuja I, both contributed to a
reluctance to engage immediately on the security protocol.
The U.S., backed by the EU (Dutch presidency, Swedish
advisor for the EC, and France), pushed back strongly that
security must be addressed successfully in this round, and
the mediator agreed to ask the parties to form a committee
to address outstanding security issues parallel to plenum
discussion of political issues. The parties agreed to the
formula during the opening plenum October 26, but the
movements refused to engage directly with GOS reps when they
realized they would be doing so in a smaller format. They
required instead that either the security issues be taken
back to the plenum, or that the mediation pursue a shuttle
between the parties in a committee context. Anxious to move
to the political agenda, the mediation has chosen the latter
5. (SBU) The October 25 opening plenum appears to have
demonstrated that the Government intends to pursue its
earlier strategy that minimizes the situation, exaggerates
its readiness to work with the international community, and
places almost all responsibility for violence on the rebels.
JEM, surprisingly, took a "responsible" line, avoiding
blanket accusations and seeking a frank dialogue. SLA
President Abdel Wahid, on the other hand, built up in the
course of a rambling denunciation of the government to
requesting "invasion" of Sudan by the international
6. (SBU) Abdel Wahid's lack of realism in what might and
might not be anticipated from the international community
has contributed to the open rift within the SLA. Tribal
affiliations also play a role, as do allegations by the
Minowi faction that JEM is seeking to divide the SLA by
urging Abel Wahid to assume a more aggressive, radical
posture. Minowi's anticipated arrival tomorrow may enable
the leadership here to resolve the crisis, but until there
is a resolution, the SLA will find it hard to come back to
the table effectively, if at all. Wahid has clouded the
already hazy waters with nonsensical and unhelpful speeches,
embarrassing even his own men. SLM reps explained to us
that they want Wahid to leave, as he was a problem at Abuja
I and is a problem now. However, as he is from the Fur
tribe, they fear an accusation that the Zaghawa are trying
to grab control. Thus they anxiously await Minawi, who will
try to sort it out or use the opportunity to push Wahid to
one side.
7. (SBU) The JEM is more forceful than previously and as
always well organized. Although they have little impact in
the field, they have good political and at times PR skills.
They appear to have taken some of the charm school the
Center for Humanitarian Dialogue and the International
Crisis Group have been making available to both movement
delegations to good use. JEM has its own problems with the
newest spin off group now demanding recognition.
8. (SBU) Comment: The international observers are
determined that the security situation - at a minimum - must
be successfully addressed in the second round at Abuja. All
parties, including the GOS, appear to agree. The mediator
hopes to close on November 4, to prepare for the Eid and to
report to the UN Security Council in Nairobi later in the
month. However, the collapse of the SLA's decision-making
structure is a serious setback. When SLA spokesman Sharif
Harir asked for a day's postponement on October 26, it was
obvious that al-Gabeid was unaware of the internal disarray
within the movement, and mistook the request to be related
solely to policy issues. He now understands that there is a
fundamental issue that the movement must resolve before it
can return effectively to the negotiations. In the
meantime, he intends to seek input on both the political and
security agenda from the GOS and the JEM. The international
observers are looking to the AU to uptake the draft security
protocol from the first round at Abuja to take into account
the measures now required by UNSCR 1564, which resolved some
of the key issues that prevented closure during the previous
round. The talks are also waiting for the arrival of key
members of the AU mediation team, who are needed to provide
better organization and more focused direction. Finally, we
hope that the return of Nigerian FM Adeniji will lead to
more senior and more active Nigerian participation. End
9. (U) Minimize considered.
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