Cablegate: Concept of Popular Consultations Taking Shape

Published: Tue 9 Feb 2010 01:20 PM
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1. (SBU) Summary: On February 7 Poloff met with members of the
steering committee for the popular consultations of Southern
Kordofan and Blue Nile, who expressed unity across ethnic and party
lines in their goal of taking greater power from the center to
benefit their marginalized states. Attendees presented a
reasonable timeline for popular consultations, and a fairly clear
picture of how popular consultations will be conducted. They also
displayed optimism about the process tempered by a grasp of the
challenges involved. The vague concept of popular consultations
dictated by the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) as a means to
"ascertain the views of the people" of Southern Kordofan and Blue
Nile has begun to take shape with the promise of empowering two of
Sudan's most marginalized states. If well-managed, and responded
to in good faith, popular consultations in Southern Kordofan and
Blue Nile can serve as an example of how to address Sudan's
perennial conflicts, increase stability, and benefit the majority
of its people. End Summary.
Timeline for Popular Consultations
2. (SBU) On February 7 Poloff met with members of the steering
committee for the popular consultations of Southern Kordofan and
Blue Nile. Attendees explained that the first step toward popular
consultations is the impending endorsement of a technical committee
for each state by the governor of that state. In the period prior
to elections, these technical committees will be charged with
conducting a campaign to raise awareness of popular consultations
in the two states. The technical committees will also consult
candidates for the two states' legislative assemblies respecting
their positions on, and commitment to, popular consultations.
Concurrently, members of the steering committee will draft a
concept paper, describing how popular consultations should be
conducted and suggesting questions that should be asked about the
CPA during the process. Additional questions are expected to come
out of public meetings held during the technical committees'
awareness campaign.
3. (SBU) Within two months after elections, each state will form a
commission to conduct popular consultations as called for in the
Popular Consultations Law. These commissions have three months to
conduct the field work of consulting the populations of their
respective states regarding their views on the CPA. The
commissions will then develop a report based on the information
they received and send it to their respective state legislatures
for approval. Attendees acknowledged the challenges presented by
the fact that the time for conducting field work falls within
Sudan's rainy season, and said that this makes it all the more
important to do as much advance work as possible.
4. (SBU) Steering committee members in attendance agreed that
budgeting for the popular consultations is a state-level
responsibility. Attendees noted that both state assemblies have
passed estimated budgets for 2010 that include funds to conduct
popular consultations. Attendees added they also anticipate
international donor assistance.
Who Will be Consulted?
5. (SBU) Steering committee members said they expect the process of
getting people's views on the CPA to take varied forms, based on
what is appropriate for the venue. Thus in a village where
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literacy is limited, a town hall style meeting, in which villagers
can come forward and speak about their aspirations may be
appropriate. In another context, villagers may be read a list of
questions and be asked to express their approval or disapproval by
a show of hands. In yet another context, literate individuals may
be asked to fill out a questionnaire. Attendees explained that
while every person will have the opportunity to respond to all
questions, participants need not answer every one.
What Will They Be Asked?
6. (SBU) The questions asked will vary based on the issue
addressed. For example, on the question of what is an appropriate
percentage of oil revenues that the oil producing state should
receive, attendees stated that the result could be a simple
numerical average of all responses received. Regarding power
sharing, attendees agreed that government positions, including
ministries, and positions in the civil service, the military, and
the national security services, should be allocated on a state by
state basis, based on a percentage of each state's population.
7. (SBU) Attendees noted the importance of properly recording and
representing "the will of the people" as represented by the
responses received. To this end, attendees noted that all answers
received during popular consultations will be recorded and stored
in a data base for reference. Attendees acknowledged, however,
that the questions asked will play a major role in shaping the
answers received. For example, a question on wealth sharing could
address only oil revenues, or it could be much broader, addressing
the share of revenues a state should receive for minerals, timber,
electrical power, and any other resources extracted from that
state. Attendees also noted that the questions asked will be
intended to educate participants both as to what they currently
receive and how similar issues of sharing between the state and
federal level are handled in other countries. Attendees focused on
the fact that while Southern Kordofan currently receives two
percent of revenues derived from oil extracted in that state,
Indonesia's Aceh province receives a seventy percent share, a
result achieved after having undergone a process of consultation
and negotiation with Indonesia's central government.
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Negotiating the People's Aspirations with the Presidency
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8. (SBU) Attendees were a diverse group, with participants
including members of the National Congress Party (NCP) and the
Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), Nuba, Misseriya, and
Funj ethnic groups, and residents of Southern Kordofan and Blue
Nile. Regardless of ethnicity or party affiliation, attendees saw
themselves united in an effort to transfer power from the center to
benefit the people of their states. Attendees did disagree
slightly on the approach that the two states should take in
negotiations with the presidency. One attendee emphasized the need
to set realistic expectations and present realistic demands, while
another disagreed, stating that the people of Southern Kordofan and
Blue Nile should be very ambitious and leave it to the central
government to be realistic. All attendees agreed that the central
government must be "less greedy." They also agreed that they have
little faith in the central government. They said this is not
going to change regardless of who is elected in April because "the
center in Sudan always wishes to centralize power."
9. (SBU) In spite of this mistrust, all attendees expressed
optimism about the process and likely outcomes. They noted that
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they look to the UN and members of the international community to
support the process and help ensure that the presidency negotiates
with the states in good faith. Attendees agreed, however, that if
a reasonable compromise cannot be achieved, all options for the
future status of the states remain open, including breaking with
the north and joining the south. (Note: This option is not
included in the CPA. End Note.)
10. (SBU) Comment: The optimism and unity of purpose displayed by
attendees across ethnic and party lines are encouraging. Popular
consultations may be the CPA's most unambiguously positive process.
There are probably few outside of Khartoum's inner circle who will
argue that Sudan will not benefit from devolution of power and
wealth to its marginalized peripheries. While the state-level
elites conducting and overseeing the popular consultations will
largely control what questions are asked and how the answers are
interpreted, the process still promises to be broadly inclusive and
empowering. It is also noteworthy that the attendees look on
popular consultations as a means to improve relations with Sudan's
center, rather than as a means to independence. If well-managed,
and responded to in good faith, popular consultations in Southern
Kordofan and Blue Nile can serve as an example of how to address
Sudan's perennial conflicts, increase stability, and benefit the
majority of its people. End Comment.
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