Analysis of the Minutes of Meeting of Senior NCP Officials (November 18, 2018): Part I, the use of money in negotiations
Eric Reeves | November 29, 2018 | https://wp.me/s45rOG-8917
The minutes of the November 18, 2018 meeting of senior officials of the National Congress Party (formerly the National Islamic Front) are tremendously revealing on a number of counts, and not just those concerning the NCP effort to settle the rebellion in the “Two Areas” (South Kordofan and Blue Nile). To be sure, the focus is certainly on Abdel Aziz al-Hilu (he is referred to simply as Alhilu in the minutes), leader of the South Kordofan Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement-North (SPLA/M-N). Malik Agar, SPLA/M-N leader in Blue Nile, is regarded as much more pliant and responsive to Khartoum’s demands.
Notably, the SPLA-N in South Kordofan is much stronger militarily than its counterpart in Blue Nile. Prior to the current cease-fire, Abdel Aziz al-Hilu—a brilliant military strategist and tactician—had repeatedly defeated regular Sudan Armed Forces and its militia allies, sometimes smashingly and acquiring large quantities of abandoned supplies, including heavy weaponry and ammunition. But resistance during the last dry (fighting) season was severely tested, even as Khartoum continues to spend inordinate amounts of Sudan’s national budget on the military and security services—including now the officially incorporated Rapid Response Forces militia. Ominously, there are repeated references to the end of this year as marking the point at which Khartoum is prepared to resume military actions against the SPLA/M-N in South Kordofan.
This latter issue gives particular urgency to the need to make clear the implications of these extraordinary leaked minutes.
Of the many revealing lines of commentary, perhaps the most striking is the internal NCP discussion of the use of money as a tool in “negotiations,” and how wide a range of reference there is to previous uses of money in dealing with rebellion in South Sudan, Darfur, Blue Nile, and—the NCP clearly hopes—in South Kordofan/Nuba Mountains.
It is notable in this connection that the name Thabo Mbeki appears repeatedly in the minutes, and in ways that suggest his corruption as leader of the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP). There is of course a cruel irony in this title: “Implementation” originally referred to implementation of Mbeki’s disastrously misconceived and arrogantly presumptuous “Road Map for Peace in Darfur”—from 2009, nine years ago. Mbeki’s “Roadmap” led nowhere, which created an opening for the ambitious Qataris to engineer what came to be called the “Doha Document for Peace in Darfur,” a contemptibly unrepresentative peace agreement that had neither Darfuri civil society support nor participation. The Obama administration’s first Special Envoy for Sudan, Scott Gration, ignorantly and irresponsibly participated in organizing and supporting this farcical diplomatic exercise, but one that led to a DDPD that Khartoum still insists is the only basis for any further negotiations about Darfur. Some agreements are much worse than no agreement at all.
I will be writing about other extraordinary revealing features of the leaked minutes, but at present have excerpted those passages in which the NCP leadership—including President Omar al-Bashir, who spoke at length in the meeting recorded—discusses the uses of money in diplomacy. It is worth recalling that not only does the regime spend perhaps 70 percent of the national budget on the military and security services, but the Sudanese economy is in a state of collapse. Even so, the NCP is prepared to be profligate in its spending to buy a corrupt peace or at least collapse of the SPLA/M-N in South Kordofan, targeting chiefly Abdel Aziz al-Hilu.
[Note, November 29, 2019: Sudanese lawyer Abdelrahman Al Gasim, who received the 2018 ABA International Human Rights Award, has in a communication to me described the English translation of the Arabic original of the minutes as “excellent” and in way that gave no hint of doubt about the authenticity of the minutes. Indeed, he also indicated that Darfuri groups in the diaspora are convinced of the authenticity of the minutes on the basis of their knowledge of how various offices in the Khartoum regime have been infiltrated by opposition personnel.
Undoubtedly there will be some—especially in Khartoum, the AU, and among the SPLA/M-N who are part of the “Blue Nile faction”—who will question the authenticity of the minutes. But since the minutes correspond so closely to what is known of the attitudes and behavior of the NCP regime, the burden of proving the minutes are somehow fake is on those who claim as much. I would say on a personal note that my two extremely knowledgeable and trustworthy sources for these leaked minutes would never knowingly pass to me fake documents, knowing that this would have a severely negative effect on my credibility as an analyst and commentator.]
From the minutes of the November 18, 2018 meeting of senior officials of the National Congress Party (my own interpolated comments are all in bold blue italics followed by my initials, ER):
• Dr. Faisal Hassan Ibrahim (Deputy Chairman of the National Congress, Assistant to the President of the Republic and the Chief Negotiator):
“It is the psychological factor that controls Alhilu, Ammar Amoun, Kuku Jagdul and Abdalla Ibrahim Abass [SPLA/M-N leaders allied with Abdel Aziz—ER]—obscure and insignificant individuals with no political or educational accomplishments.”
[This contempt for Abdel Aziz al-Hilu is the same sort of contempt that is widely heaped on all non-riverine Arabs and non-Arabs in Sudan by the ruling elite of the NCP; it is deeply racist and fails always to note the SPLA/M-N’s military brilliance—ER]
“Their negotiation skills are weak and we can blackmail them using other Nuba factions. To mislead Alhilu and his group, we told them we can negotiate on the political approach if they sign on the security arrangements before finishing the political discussions. In fact, we can agree with Mbeki to pass this trick.”
[There is a strong suggestion that Mbeki is working hand-in-glove with the regime, a charge made by Darfuri rebel groups, and most of the SPLA/M-N; it is often difficult to distinguish between Mbeki’s moral corruption and his incompetence and gullibility. The use of “tricks” and trickery is recurred to often in these minutes—ER]
• Dr. Abdurahman Ahmed al-Khidir (Chairman of the Political Sector):
“Using money might bring a good result, and after all, political conflict is about interest. With money we were able to finance South Sudan Peace when the IGAD failed to secure twenty million US dollars for a negotiation process, and why can’t we secure similar amount of money to achieve peace in the Two Areas and use the money according to negotiation trends. The amount should be paid from Islamic Movement money abroad.”
[We might well disagree about the role of money in securing the North/South peace agreement of January 2005 (the “Comprehensive Peace Agreement), but there can be little doubt that Khartoum used money as a tool both before, during, and after the Naivasha negotiations, often with Southern militia leaders who expediently opposed the Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement of John Garang—ER]
“Money plays a role in determining results very quickly, and everybody will be satisfied. You can buy every politician, but the approach needs studying, planning and knowledge of the tendencies of the leader, their hobbies, personal characteristics and all the family and organisational problems surrounding them as well as internal conflicts.”
[Corruption is so entrenched in Khartoum and Sudan after 30 years of tyrannical rule by the NIF/NCP regime that members of that regime can hardly conceive of individuals who are not corrupt. But all accounts, Abdel Aziz al-Hilu is as close as we come to an incorruptible Sudanese leader, and notably, there is no suggestion in these minutes that Abdel Aziz himself can be bought off—ER]
“We shall use tricks and deception to make them agree on negotiation agenda and then outsmart them through facilitating the participation of Nuba in Diaspora.”
[Again, the emphasis on “tricks” in negotiations—hardly surprising, but certainly conspicuous in these minutes—ER]
“We should concentrate on the Nuba Mountains: if the SPLM-N in the Nuba Mountains is dispersed, then Blue Nile will automatically disperse. To this end, we charged Brig-Gen Mohamed Yunis Babikir and Brig-Gen Steven Misa to buy leaders within the negotiation team. Mohamed Yunis has contacts with field commanders and we need him to contribute to the dismantling of SPLA-N and he knows the psychology of Blue Nile people and can buy any leader for any price according to their position.”
[Again, the emphasis is on “buying” negotiating success. The suggestion that Blue Nile cannot stand on its own militarily is certainly right, and hence the inevitable focus on neutralizing Abdel Aziz al-Hilu and his SPLA/M-N—ER]
“The Nuba are the most liable people to be bought. [This was certainly not my own experience in the Nuba Mountains, meeting many military and civil society leaders—ER] What is important for them is that you secure their future financially and we are ready to pay millions [of dollars] to buy allegiances of Alhilu’s cadres. Try them except Alhilu [The exception is notable!—ER]. Even Ammar Amoun check him: why he is angry, he might be bought. It’s a market, we buy and they are basically bought to many countries and eventually can be bought to us. The dollar will play its role, for the conflicts of SPLM-N are over money. We saw and tested leaders of the movement in South Sudan and found how money had dismantled the movement and sustained the war.”
[This says a great deal about the NCP world view, which of course is nothing more than an unwitting reflection of their own moral character—ER]
• Engineer Tarig Hamza (Director of Popular Security, Executive Director of Sudatel Companies Group):
“Of course, money will settle the case in our favour, create social relations with Alhilu’s delegation and advance social relations over political differences. Through our monitoring of Alhilu’s negotiation team, they are weak in negotiation and we need them to accept open negotiation by any means. Give them a glimpse of hope in order to deceive them. We can achieve some gains, but concentration on money is important and we will find who can be lured by money. Our money is ready for buying.”
[Yet again the emphasis on “deceiving,” and coupled with money as a tool, the NCP seems all too confident—ER]
“We must penetrate them and the best way for penetration is during negotiations. It is tested with the Darfurian movements, and most splits happened in negotiation hotels, and it is not necessary for those whom we have bought to come to Khartoum; they can go anywhere and enjoy their money.”
[This analysis of how money is dispersed in hotel during peace negotiations was perhaps most dramatically in evidence in the climactic months of the negation of the “Darfur Peace Agreement” (Abuja, Nigeria, 2006)—ER]
“… if you buy one person it means you have bought many others. Change the way of dealing with them to the better. Why are they angry? If it is money, we will share it with them and you can exchange gifts with the delegation, take photos and sit down with them at lobbies of the hotels and try to share with them food and drinks whenever you get a chance. Provide them with a sense of security, we can reach our goal easily, it’s not difficult and money is at hand.”
[This certainly sounds like the “voice of experience”—ER]
“Let Mbeki help you in penetration by shortening the distances and sittings with some of them without mediator and befriend the heads of the delegations according to the indicators of personal security assessment…”
[Again, Thabo Mbeki, representing the African Union is either a willing or gullible tool of the NCP regime in peace negotiations—the main reasons he has had no diplomatic success in his more than nine years as head of AU Sudan peace negotiations: he is not trusted by any of the opposition groups—ER]
“There were leaders of Sudan Call who were angry with the NCP and cursing, but when we filled their pockets with money they became the most loyal to the NCP.”
[The NCP is obviously basing its current strategy on previous successes with, among others, domestic political opposition—ER]
“Money played a big role to make the Darfurian leaders to accept to go to Doha and then to Addis Ababa. We are ready to pay for the unification of SPLM-N and dismantle it.”
[A highly revealing comment, both about the Doha peace negotiations and the evident view that re-uniting the SPLA/M-N will have the effect of neutralizing Abdel Aziz and thus allowing Khartoum to prevail in the Two Areas—ER]
“We agreed with Tut to buy support of leaders who can influence Salva Kiir to take a decisive stance towards the unification of SPLM-N. Tut Galuak served the NCP a great deal in war and in peace and has a great tribal influence among Paulino Matip’s group…”
[There is considerable evidence that the government of Salva Kiir is far from clean when it comes to dealing with Khartoum about the Two Areas. Notably, Paulino Matip and his militia forces were among the most brutal and self-serving of the Southern militia groups. In its 1999 report on the terrible famine of 1998 in Bahr al-Ghazal, Human Rights Watch accused Matip of “waging an aggressive and destructive war against the South Sudan Defense Forces and innocent civilians resulting in the destruction of homes, property and services infrastructures.” The U.S. State Department in a report of 2001 declared: “There are credible reports that the [Khartoum] government-controlled militia leader, Paulino Matip, forcibly conscripted boys as young as 10 years of age to serve as soldiers.”
[It is worth pausing here to note that in Khartoum’s view, it has countervailing rivals in dealing with opposition groups in Sudan. The regime feels that it is the victim of a well-funded “external agenda”; Jews, Israel, and Zionism are frequently cited, without evidence:
Engineer Tarig Hamza: “There are hidden agenda of the churches, Jews and rogue organisations in the SPLM-controlled areas. They opened hospitals and university colleges in violation of our sovereignty. Basically they are outlaws; therefore, the priority is to liberate the land.”
Later, Prof. Ibrahim Ahmed Omer declares:
“…the Darfurian leaders did not demand self-determination or transitional government except Abdel Wahid and we know he is supported by Israel.”
He also declares:
“Our brother, Alhilu and Ammar live in illusion, idle and are implementing the instructions of Baroness Cox, Zionist-American lobby inside Sudan. Alhilu and Ammar have become enemies to the Islamic World as a whole and it is halal (decreed or permitted by God) to deceive them.”
• Prof Ibrahim Ahmed Omer (Speaker of the National Assembly):
“We should adopt the strategy of political money and money for endearment, because most of Nuba commanders do not have future or houses either inside Sudan or abroad. We need to instill in the Nuba people love for money and acquisition of wealth as we did with the Southerners. The negotiation team must make good relations with the people of the Two Areas in Alhilu’s team as this will be the approach to establish contacts and we have to convince them for open negotiations, and the increased contacts abroad is enough to remove the bitterness and money will be there. Money can play a role to overcome the differences. Money is capable of solving problems. Whenever the delegation members are widened and cadres became more in number, recruitment becomes easier and penetration starts during negotiation.”
[Here yet again is clear evidence of both the thinking of the NCP regime in negotiations, and again strong intimation that Khartoum is responsible for much the rampant corruption in South Sudan—ER]
“Tut Galuak, advisor of Salva Kiir for Security Affairs struggled for the unity of Sudan and fought against the SPLM and was the best cadre of Paulino Matip. Avail to him all the money necessary and tell him that the budget is open for him and the Islamic Movement’s money is under his disposal and we are ready to open foreign accounts for him in any country in the world and let him buy any number of leaders to fight against the SPLM.”
[It would seem incumbent upon South Sudan President Salva Kiir to review Tut Galuak’s position as an “advisor for security affairs”—ER]
The minutes ends with thirty-three “recommendations and resolutions.” The last of them tells us something important about the relationship between Khartoum and the international Islamist movement:
Allocation of funds from the Islamic Movement accounts abroad to be used to bribe and win members from Alhilu’s group.
[Learning more about the “Islamic Movement accounts abroad” would seem an imperative for the Trump administration as it considers removing Sudan from the State Department’s list of “State Sponsors of Terrorism”—ER]