How is IGAD’s “diplomatic observation” regarding Kenya’s election process helpful?

Africa Review reports on the statement of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) from this week’s visit to Nairobi by executive secretary Mahboub Maalim (himself a Kenyan) and others from the Addis headquarters under the headline “IGAD confident of peaceful Kenya election”:

In his statement, Mr Maalim said: “Igad has come to the conclusion that Kenya’s election is not an event. It is a process and that March 4th is not the end; it is the beginning of a process that could last till June 2013. Kenyans must therefore brace themselves for the long haul.”

Mr Maalim said the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) and the judiciary are crucial for the success of the polls.

“The efficiency of the IEBC during the voter registration process must be lauded. We expect that the same efficiency will apply to the March 4 poll. This is critical if Kenya is to avoid petitions arising from IEBC system failure. The efficiency and believability of the Supreme Court in dealing with the presidential election petitions is also critical. This will determine whether or not the transition is successful,” the Igad executive secretary said.

He said IEBC should be encouraged to conduct a systems dry-run with peer reviewers to seal any loopholes that would affect its efficiency.

Dr Kimani said the recent party nominations in Kenya were inclusive, open and transparent and that it was what the rest of the region had expected.

Igad brings together six countries in the Horn of Africa – Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda – for development and drought control in their region

“Party nominations were inclusive, open and transparent”. Wow, that is certainly a unique perspective that contradicts the reporting in the Kenyan and international press, the reporting of Kenyan civil society umbrella KPTJ, and, for example, the reporting of the Center for Multi-Party Democracy-Kenya which is a well established and leading presence in Nairobi on these matters. So who is right here? Might it be relevant that IGAD is an organization of governments that are all far more “challenged” in terms of democratic practices in general, and elections specifically, than even Kenya in the wake of power-sharing and the debacle of 2007, along with the Government of Kenya itself?

I am all for whomever exhorting peace, although I am substantially skeptical that official pronouncements of this type have actual impact on ultimate behavior. Likewise, I am all for encouragement, hope and reasoned, well-grounded optimism in the context of pushing for the best election possible from where things really stand today. But this type of statement about the primaries is a “diplomatic” position rather than an observation or representation of fact. It undermines the credibility of whatever else is said in the same statement as being connected to the facts. At best it is unhelpful–it might be dangerous.

Some good reading on South Sudan’s first anniversary–Updated

From bloggers I follow:

“To mark South Sudan’s first anniversary read this” from Jina Moore is a great linked digest covering a range of perspectives.

“South Sudan’s Unhappy Anniversary” from Terah Edun

“Is a little balance too much to ask?”  and “99 problems, but Bashir ain’t one” from Roving Bandit (Lee Crawford)

. . . the core of impact evaluation; the counterfactual. Imagine what would have happened if the event we are examining had not happened. So let’s imagine for a second what would be happening in South Sudan if there had not been independence. Peace and prosperity? New schools, roads, and hospitals? There are a couple of approaches we might use to think about what would have happened. We could look at the history of South Sudan pre-independence. We could look at all of the sterling development initiatives led by indicted war criminal Bashir in the South between 1989 and 2005. All of the schools and hospitals that he built. Or we could look at some of the people still living in the North. Perhaps those who have fled their homes to hide in caves from Bashir’s bombers. Or the 100,000 who have fled to the South from Blue Nile. The counterfactual for South Sudan is not flowers and kittens, it is rule by a man wanted for five counts of crimes against humanity; murder, extermination, forcible transfer, torture and rape. Happy Birthday South Sudan.

WALKING TO COLLECT WATER IN JAMAN REFUGEE CAMP–“SOUTH SUDAN, ONE YEAR AFTER . . . ”
A young women walking to collect water, Jamam refugee camp
Photo by John Ferguson/Oxfam; some rights reserved by Oxfam International under Creative Commons, attribution, non-commercial, no derivatives generic 2.0 license.

UPDATE 11 JULY–A new “must read” from Reuters:  “Special Report: the wonks who sold Washington on South Sudan” from Rebecca Hamilton.

•  Some thoughts on “Fighting for Darfur: Public Action and the Struggle to Stop Genocide” (africommons.com)

“LRA nutures the next generation of child soldiers”–IRIN story from the DRC

I thought I should note a very interesting story today from IRIN, the news service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

FARADJE, 26 March 2012 (IRIN) – The dilemma for Atati Faustin, 13, from Faradje in Haut-Uélé District, northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), is that although he misses his younger brother – abducted into the ranks of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) two years ago – he is also afraid of being reunited with him.

“I want my brother back,” he told IRIN, “but if I see him I would run. I am scared of him. I feel like he has died.”

Displaced with about 1,300 people from the nearby village of Kimbinzi in 2008 following repeated LRA attacks, and relocated to Ngubu, a camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) on the outskirts of Faradje, he has not yet encountered him, but others in the community have – dishevelled, with dreadlocks, and carrying an AK47 assault rifle and a panga.

Kimbinzi is about 7km from the camp and occasionally some villagers return under a military escort provided by Armed Forces of the DRC (FARDC) to till the fields, as crops planted on land provided for them close to the River Dungu are routinely destroyed by hippos. Only young men return (during daylight hours) to Kimbinzi in a phenomenon described by relief workers as “pendulum movement” – women and children stay in the relative safety of Ngubu. .  .  .
Ugandan aid worker George Omoma has tracked the carnage left in the LRA’s wake across three countries, where children are not so much collateral damage, as the focus of LRA activity.

“Kony tells his people that it is not you [adults] that will overthrow the [Ugandan] government, it is the children. He wants to create a new generation of the LRA,” Omoma told IRIN.

Omoma is in Dungu helping to establish a rehabilitation centre for child victims of the LRA by the Catholic Church and NGOs Sponsoring Children and the San- Diego-based Invisible Children. When operations start later this year, the facility will be able to provide accommodation, counselling, training and education to hundreds of former child soldiers and abductees. .  .  .  .

Breeding child soldiers

Dominic Ongwen has risen through the ranks to become the LRA’s most senior commander in the DRC and is the armed group’s most notorious example of a kidnapped boy forced into child soldiering and who is now wanted for crimes against humanity and war crimes by the International Criminal Court.

Sam Otto Ladere has appeared on the radar with a similar personnel history to Ongwen. He commands a group of 17 fighters falling under the command of Vincent Okumu Binany in the DRC.

Matthew Brubacher, political affairs officer working with the UN Stabilization Mission in the DRC’s (MONUSCO’s) Disarmament, Demobilization, Repatriation, Reintegration and Resettlement (DDRRR) unit, and an LRA specialist based in the eastern DRC city of Goma, told IRIN Ladere was abducted at a young age from a village west of Gulu.

“Ladere is one of the up and coming commanders. He is very trusted. This was evidenced by his being placed as chief of intelligence after Maj-Gen Acellam Ceasar was suspended following the execution of Lt-Gen Vincent Otti on 2 October 2007, even though Ladere was only a captain,” he said. DDRRR is working on a radio message on their FM network to try and lure him out of the bush.

Omoma said former abductees and child soldiers had told him of Ladere’s brutality.

Kony has taken many wives. At the Juba peace talks in 2006 it was estimated he had about 80 wives and it is unknown how many children the rebel leader has fathered.

“I don’t know how many Kony kids are active in the LRA, probably quite a few. There are a few bush kids now that were born and bred in the LRA. They are pretty wild when they come out as they have never known civilization,” Brubacher said.

Certainly the idea that the LRA has been able to continue to fester and mutate and perhaps in part replicate should be given some consideration in evaluating what priority to place on military efforts against the relatively small number of active fighters that appear to remain at present.

Are we watching the early stages of a broader conflict in the Greater Horn of Africa?

Now that Kenya has initiated a full-fledged ground war in Southern Somalia, the obvious and necessary question becomes “what are the near term unintended consequences?”. It is hard to be too clear about what is “unintended” because Kenya’s intentions, on either the military or the political side, are not altogether clear in the first place, but here is one possibility that few would desire:

Simon Allison posits in South Africa’s Daily Maverick: “Kenya’s Somali raid threatens to explode into regional conflict”, noting Kenya’s confrontation with Eritrea regarding alleged arms flights to supply Al Shabaab:

. . . This begs the question: what does Eritrea have to gain by funding a Somali Islamic fundamentalist militia?

The answer lies neither in Somalia nor Eritrea, but in the country that looms large between them: Ethiopia. Ethiopia is Eritrea’s nemesis, having occupied Eritrea for decades until Eritrea achieved its modern independence with a hard-fought and vicious civil war. But Eritrea can’t relax, ever, because it has the one thing that land-locked Ethiopia wants more than anything else in this world: a port. And rapprochement is not the style of Eritrea’s slightly mad President Isaias Afwerki, whose militaristic foreign policy has left Eritrea in the international wilderness.

Instead, Afwerki has fomented instability in Somalia, hoping the chaos next door will keep Ethiopia and its military occupied. Ethiopia is deeply involved in the Somali conflict itself, and its troops make frequent cross-border raids to chase rebels who are agitating against the Ethiopian government in the ethnically Somali province of the Ogaden. As International Crisis Group’s Somalia expert Rashid Abdi explains: “Eritrea definitely has been supportive of Al Shabaab for a long time and this support is not ideological. It’s essentially meant to counter Ethiopia’s influence in Somalia.”

So while we don’t know if it really was Eritrea sending planeloads of weapons to Al Shabaab during the current conflict with Kenya, this nonetheless represents the first step in turning what is a domestic conflict into a larger, regional issue. In a way, it doesn’t really matter if Eritrea was involved or not, as long as Kenya thinks they were, they will be implicated.

Kenya has said it will pursue its claims against Eritrea, saying that it has a “series of options” to deal with them. It’s unclear what these options are, but it’s unlikely that any of them will ease tensions in the Horn of Africa. And whenever Eritrea gets involved in something, it’s not long before Ethiopia follows suit – on the opposite side, of course. So what started out as a Somali issue might just turn into something much, much bigger, not forgetting that Uganda and Burundi are already involved as they are the only countries to have contributed troops to the African Union mission in Somalia.

Kenya hoped its Somali incursion would be quick and easy. But its troops are getting bogged down in the mud and are struggling to even find the enemy. And on the diplomatic front, as the incursion starts looking more and more like an invasion, other countries are inevitably getting involved, making it even less likely that Kenya can extricate itself from Somalia quickly or easily.

Lessons from 2007 and New FOIA Cables–Part Two

Continued . . .

So on Saturday afternoon, December 15, 2007, I drove to the embassy residence in Muthaiga and was served tea by a woman from the house staff while waiting a few moments for the Ambassador.  I had understood from IRI’s president that Ranneberger was going to talk to me and my general impression or assumption was that he wanted to smooth things over after twisting my arm so hard toward getting Ambassador Bellamy, his predecessor, off the IRI Election Observation delegation.

As it turned out, the purpose of the meeting was more substantive.  I am not writing to “dish” on a private conversation and I won’t recount everything in general here, but this did involve public business of the U.S. as well as the Kenyan election, regardless of the fact that it took place without witnesses or records on a Saturday afternoon.  All circumstances considered I think I ought to explain a couple of salient points from this meeting that remain to me significant in trying to learn what happened with the election twelve days later.

To start, Ranneberger elaborated on the importance of removing Bellamy from the delegation because of the notion that he was perceived as “anti-government,” obviously meaning the Kibaki administration.  As mentioned in the New York Times story, what was new in this conversation is that he seemed to be saying that the objection had come from someone in the Kenyan government, although that was not completely explicit.  When Ranneberger had originally raised this objection to Bellamy earlier in the month, I had asked for input from our Kenyan program staff who indicated that they did not think that this was Bellamy’s general reputation in Kenya and IRI staff had checked this with State Department contacts in Washington and found no support for that view there either.

The Ambassador definitely did not apologize for giving me “the treatment”, but he was smoothly back to his usual more pleasant/diplomatic self and I certainly did not take the matter personally–I was just the guy on the ground who provided an available pressure point.

Ranneberger did let me know that he knew what Bellamy had been told as to why he had been dropped from the delegation.  In other words, he was letting me know, without taking responsibility for the situation himself, that he knew that “we” at IRI had lied to Bellamy.  This may not have put us in the best position to hold the “no more b.s.” line with Ranneberger going forward.   He didn’t say how he knew about the “story line” to Bellamy and I have no idea myself.  IRI was in a difficult situation not of our making on the Bellamy situation–would we cancel the Election Observation (as the only international NGO scheduled to observe, and raise lots of questions we couldn’t very well answer) or let the Ambassador interfere with the delegation? Regardless, once the directive from the top was given to lie to Bellamy about why he was off the list, IRI no longer had completely clean hands.

There are a variety of things from the more substantive part of the discussion that leave open questions in my mind now after what ultimately happened with the ECK and the election.  One in particular that stands out now in light of the FOIA disclosure.

The Ambassador told me that Saturday that “people are saying” that Raila Odinga, as the leading opposition candidate for president, ahead in the polls as the vote was nearing, might lose his own Langata parliamentary constituency (which under the existing system would disqualify him from becoming president even if he got the most votes nationally).  This was “out of the blue” for me because I certainly was not aware of anyone who thought that.  Odinga’s PNU opponent Stanley Livando had made a big splash and spent substantial money when he first announced, but he had not seemed to get obvious traction in the race.  Naturally, I wondered who the “people” Ranneberger was referring to were.  Ranneberger said that a Raila loss in Langata would be “explosive” and that he wanted to take Ms. Newman with him to observe voting there on election day.

Ranneberger also went on to say that he wanted to take Ms. Newman separately to meet with Kibaki’s State House advisor Stanley Murage on the day before the election with no explanation offered as to why.

After midnight Nairobi time I had a telephone call with the Africa director and the vice presidents in charge at IRI in Washington in the president’s absence.  I was given the option to “pull the plug” on the observation mission based on the concerns about Ranneberger’s approach following my meeting with him.   The Ambassador, rather than either IRI or USAID, had initiated the observation mission in the first place, and IRI was heavily occupied with other observations.  Nonetheless, based on assurances that Ms. Newman would be fully briefed on our agreement that she needed to steer clear of separate interaction with the Ambassador and that the Murage meeting must not happen, and my belief that it would be an “incident” in its own right to cancel the observation, we agreed to go forward with precautions.

I got the idea of commissioning a separate last-minute poll of the Langata parliamentary race.  I thought that the notion that Livondo might beat Raila in Langata seemed far fetched, but objective data from before the vote could prove important.  We hired the Steadman polling firm for this job, to spread the work.  Also Strategic was already heavily occupied with preparing for the exit poll, and  Steadman was the firm that Ranneberger had instructed his staff to call (too late as it happened) to quash the release of poll results that he knew  would show Raila leading back in October, so I thought that it was that much more likely that word would get back. Further, in the partisan sniping which I generally did not credit, Steadman was claimed by some in opposition to be more aligned with Kibaki so would be extra-credible to verify this race.  I also made sure that we scheduled an “oversample” for Langata for the national exit poll so that we would have a statistically valid measure of the actual election day results in the parliamentary race.

On to the new FOIA release:  On Tuesday, December 18, Ranneberger sent another cable to the Secretary of State entitled “Kenya Elections:  State of Play on Election”.  This cable says nothing about the “explosive” Langata parliamentary race issue that Ranneberger had raised with me on Saturday, three days earlier.  It concludes:  “Given the closeness of the election contest, the perceived legitimacy of the election outcome could determine whether the losing side accepts the results with minimal disturbances.  Our staff’s commendable response to the call for volunteers over the Christmas holiday allows us to deploy teams to all sections of the country, providing a representative view of the vote as a whole.  In addition, our decision to host the joint observation control room will provide much greater access to real-time information; allowing a more comprehensive analysis of the election process.”

Next, we have a cable from Christmas Eve, December 24, three days before the election.  The first thing that morning the IRI observation delegates were briefed on the election by a key Ranneberger aide.  I told him then that we had commissioned the separate Langata poll.  He said that the Ambassador would be very interested, and I agreed to bring results with me to the embassy residence that evening when the Ambassador hosted a reception for the delegation.  The results showed Odinga winning by more than two-to-one.

There are a number of noteworthy items that I will discuss later from this cable, but for today, let me note that  Ranneberger has added in this cable a discussion of the Langata race:

“11.  We have credible reports that some within the Kibaki camp could be trying to orchestrate a defeat of Odinga in his constituency of Langata, which includes the huge slum of Kibera.  This could involve some combination of causing disorder in order to disenfranchise some of his supporters and/or bringing in double-registered Kikuyu supporters of the PNU’s candidate from outside.  To be elected President a candidate must fulfill three conditions:  have a plurality of the popular vote; have at least 25 percent in 5 of the 8 provinces; and be an elected member of Parliament.  Thus, defeat of Odinga in his constituency is a tempting silver bullet.  The Ambassador, as well as the UK and German Ambassadors, will observe in the Langata constituency.  If Odinga were to lose Langata, Kibaki would become President if he has the next highest vote total and 25 percent in 5 provinces (both candidates will likely meet the 25 percent rule).

12.  The outside chance that widespread fraud in the election process could force us to call into question the result would be enormously damaging to U.S. interests.  We hold Kenya up as a democratic model not only for the continent, but for the developing world, and we have a vast partnership with this country on key issues ranging from efforts against HIV/AIDS, to collaboration on Somalia and Sudan, to priority anti-terrorism activities.

.  .  .

14.  As long as the electoral process is credible, the U.S.-Kenyan partnership will continue to grow and serve mutual interests regardless of who is elected.   While Kibaki has a proven track record with us, Odinga is also a friend of the U.S. . . .

15.  It is likely that the winner will schedule a quick inauguration (consistent with past practice) to bless the result and, potentially, to forestall any serious challenge to the results.  There is no credible mechanism to challenge the results, hence likely recourse to the streets if the result is questionable.  The courts are both inefficient and corrupt.  Pronouncements by the Chairman of the Electoral Commission and observers, particularly from the U.S., will therefore have be [sic] crucial in helping shape the judgment of the Kenyan people.  With an 87% approval rating in Kenya, our statements are closely watched and respected.  I feel that we are well -prepared to meet this large responsibility and, in the process, to advance U.S. interests.”  END

None of this material was mentioned in the briefing to the observation delegation or to me that day.  Long after the election, the Standard newspaper reported that the original plan of the Kibaki camp had been to rig the Langata parliamentary race, but at the last minute a switch was made to change the votes at the central tally, supposedly on the basis of the strength of early returns for Odinga in Western and Rift Valley provinces.

To be continued .  .  .  .

Independence Day–Secretary Clinton’s Congratulations to the Republic of South Sudan

Flag of the Sudan People's Liberation Army/Mov...

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Secretary of State
Washington, DC
July 9, 2011

I am delighted to join President Obama in congratulating the Republic of South Sudan on its independence today. The realization of this historic day is a testament to the tireless efforts of the people of South Sudan in their search for peace. We commend South Sudan’s current leaders, including President Salva Kiir Mayardit, for helping guide Southern Sudan to this moment. And we recognize the determination and courage of the many southern Sudanese who never abandoned their hope that peace was possible and who stood in long lines on January 9 to cast their votes.

Independence presents a new beginning for the people of South Sudan; an opportunity to build a nation that embodies the values and aspirations of its people. The challenges are many, but the South Sudanese people have demonstrated their capacity to overcome great odds. The United States will remain a steadfast partner as South Sudan seeks to peacefully meet these challenges and build a free, democratic and inclusive society. The strong ties between our peoples go back many decades, and we are committed to continuing to build on the partnership we have already established in the years ahead.

This historic day not only offers opportunity for the people of South Sudan, but also for the people of Sudan and all of Africa. We commend the Government of Sudan on its decision to be the first to recognize South Sudan’s independence. By continuing on the path of peace, the Government of Sudan can redefine its relationship with the international community and secure a more prosperous future for its people. The United States recognizes the important roles played by the United Nations, African Union, European Union, Arab League, Intergovernmental Authority on Development, and Sudan’s neighbors in supporting the CPA and its implementation, and we look forward to working with them and other international partners toward supporting Sudan and South Sudan as two viable states at peace with one another.

Somaliland’s President Silanyo Official Guest for Saturday’s South Sudan Independence Ceremony

HARGEISA (SomalilandPress)—President Ahmed Siilaanyo received an official invitation from the president of South Sudan Salva Kiir to attend the Declaration of Independence of the Republic of South Sudan on the 9th of July, 2011. South Sudan is set to become the 54th nation in the African continent after long fought civil against Northern Sudan’s rule that saw thousands of lives lost and millions displaced.

The invitation of Somaliland’s president Ahmed Siilanyo to South Sudan’s historic day has been welcomed with delight in Somaliland by both the government of Somaliland and its citizens. Somaliland believes it could use the south’s independence as a precedent as it seeks more support for its case for international recognition and become the 55th nation in the continent after South Sudan. Some foreign observers and politicians believe the Juba government will recognize Somaliland which will pave the way for other regional powers to follow.

Southern Kordofan “sliding inexorably toward war”; Malaysia has got democracy down pat

Jeffrey Gettleman reports from Southern Kordofan:

Despite an agreement signed only days ago to bring peace to this part of central Sudan, it seems to be sliding inexorably toward war.

Young men here in the Nuba Mountains are being mobilized into militias, marching into the hills to train. All the cars in this area, including humanitarian vehicles, are smeared with thick mud to camouflage them from what residents describe as unrelenting bombings. And opposition forces vow to press their fight until they win some form of autonomy, undeterred by the government’s push to stamp them out.

“It’s going to be a long war,” said Ahmed Zakaria, a doctor from the Nuba Mountains who recently quit his job to become an opposition fighter. “We want a secular, democratic state where we can be free to rule ourselves. Like Kurdistan,” Dr. Zakaria said, smiling. “And we will fight for it.”

.  .  .  .

At a small, mountainside hospital here in Lewere, an entire ward is filled with victims who said they were at a well, fetching water, when they were bombed. Most are children. Their whimpers filter through the mesh windows, along with the pungent smells of antiseptic solution and decaying flesh.

Inside, Winnasa Steven, a 16-year-old girl, writhed on a cot. From her hip, doctors cut out a three-inch chunk of ragged shrapnel, which her mother keeps, wrapped in white paper.

.  .  .  .

Aid workers said hundreds of civilians had been killed in the bombings. The Sudanese Army is also blockading roads and bombing airstrips, essentially cutting off food supplies. “These people are going to starve,” one Western aid worker said.

—————

Meanwhile, in the world of democracy promotion, the Malaysian National News Organization identifies NDI (The National Democratic Institute for International Affairs) as “one of four branches of the National Endowment of Democracy (NED), a United States-based nongovernmental organization led by a Jew, Carl Gershman.”   They say that it is not appropriate to have democracy assistance in Malaysia because “there is no restriction for the people and politicians”.

Former U.S. Diplomat Calls for Military Action Against Sudan Over Abyei and South Kordofan

The situation in Sudan seems to continue to worsen.  Aside from the tragic consequences in Sudan, another round of war there does not bode well for reform in Kenya and Uganda, especially in regard to the upcoming Kenyan election.

From the Sudan Tribune at allAfrica.com, “Former U.S. Envoy calls for Military Action Against Country”:

A former US envoy to Sudan has called for taking military action against the Khartoum government in order to prevent further escalation of violence in Abyei and South Kordofan regions.

The sense of relief that prevailed after the January referendum on South Sudan independence was conducted smoothly and in a largely peaceful environment has dissipated last month when north Sudan army seized control of the fertile, oil-producing region of Abyei, the ownership of which is also claimed by South Sudan whose vote for independence in the referendum will see it become the world’s newest nation on July 9.

Concurrently, violence erupted in the country’s north-south border state of South Kordofan after the northern army attempted to disarm local fighters aligned with South Sudan. Over 60,000 people have been displaced, according to UN figures, and hundreds have been killed, according to local NGOs as the northern army carried out aerial bombardment and heavy artillery in the area.

Roger Winter, the former U.S special envoy to Sudan, on Wednesday addressed a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights, about the recent upsurge of violence in Abyei and South Kordofan.

Winter called for an immediate military action against Khartoum in order to strengthen South Sudan army and halt attacks on civilians.

“Take a military action against a Khartoum military target now,” Winter said, adding that the goal would be “to strengthen the SPLA in meaningful ways as a deterrent against Khartoum aggression, provocation and attacks against civilians”

Winter blamed the current situation on the approach adopted by the former US special envoy to Sudan Scott Gration, chiding his “seemingly intimate relationship” with the leadership of north Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party (NCP).

“Perhaps the eccentricities of General Gration’s approach to being Special Envoy for Sudan are related to the Administration’s commitment to ‘reach out’ to the Arab and Islamic world,” Winter said.

“His seemingly intimate relationship with the NCP leadership led to his many public references to that leadership as ‘my friends’,” he stressed.

Winter said that any commitments made by the Khartoum government are unreliable and that the government’s actions had led to the death of three million people. . . .

The full hearing line up from Thursday afternoon is here.

In “The Man for a New Sudan” in June 2008, the NY Times profiled Winter:

For the past quarter century — as head of a nongovernmental organization called the U.S. Committee for Refugees, as an official at the federal Agency for International Development and, most recently, as a special representative to the State Department for Sudan, a post created for him — Winter has fought in the back rooms of Washington and in the African bush to bring peace to Sudan. It’s not evenhandedness that makes him effective; it’s his total commitment to the people of south Sudan and a conviction, which has only grown with the years, that the government in Khartoum is, in essence, a brutal cabal. After two decades of fighting for their rights at negotiating tables, he has gained the southerners’ complete trust. “He’s simple and clear,” Edward Lino, the southern government’s chairman in Abyei, told me. “He doesn’t mince words. He’s a great man” who also “has great, great push.”

Update–Here is Rebecca Hamilton today in “Trouble in Khartoum” in Foreign Policy:

Northern Sudan will be a different country in geographic, ethnic, religious, political, cultural, and economic terms once the south separates. And the viability of the new northern nation is also in question, as is the survival of Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party.

“The NCP are being weakened day by day. They know they don’t have acceptance in the north,” says International Crisis Group analyst Fouad Hikmat.

Northern opposition parties blame NCP policies for the loss of the south, which is where most of Sudan’s oil lies. Moreover, well-connected Sudanese say there is dissatisfaction within the army, in addition to the armed insurgencies and political discontent in peripheral areas across northern Sudan.

Much of the current fighting may be strategic posturing as final deals are being hashed out over the division of wealth and territory between north and south in advance of July 9. But the ominous developments over the past three weeks are perhaps best understood as being driven by the NCP playing to its fiercely nationalistic domestic audience inside northern Sudan. . . .

[Updated April 6 and 16] Senate Hearing this Afternoon on Gration as Ambassador to Kenya

[Update April 16:  The Gration nomination was approved on voice vote by the Committee, vote by full Senate to be scheduled.]

[Update April 6:  The National Journal reported on the hearings which generated relatively little coverage.  The story notes the strong opposition to Gration from Sudan activists but concludes that he is expected to be confirmed, with support from Committee Chairman Kerry (as well as the President) and with no indication of opposition from the Republican side either.  There is probably just too much other news out of Ivory Coast and Libya, along with Sudan itself, for these hearings on the appointments for Kenya and Botswana to get much mainstream media coverage.]

Confirmation hearings for Scott Gration for Ambassador to Kenya and Michelle Gavin (recently Africa director for the National Security Council) for Ambassador to Botswana begin at 2:30pm Washington time.

Here is the link to the video and for subsequent transcript and submissions from the Senate.

See Diplopundit for counter-Gration advocacy from Save Darfur and related Sudan activists who are unhappy enough with Gration as Special Envoy on Sudan to work against his Kenya nomination.  Staying away from domestic politics, and not being a Sudan expert myself, I won’t weigh in other than to say that the Kenya/Somalia job seems much different than the Sudan envoy job.  And to point out that the post in Nairobi has been waiting for him for a long time and that he has loyalty from President Obama as discussed in previous posts.

Previous on Gration:  Discussion about Gration as Ranneberger Replacement Hits the Media and Gration Spoke Out on Obama/Odinga ‘Smears’ in 2008 Campaign and Obama taps Gration.