September 4, 2011 (WASHINGTON) – The Sudanese vice president Ali Osman Taha and former director of the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) Salah Gosh acknowledged that President Omer Hassan al-Bashir has become a liability in the wake of the International Criminal Court (ICC) move against him, a Wikileaks cable shows.
- Former director of the National and Intelligence Security Services (NISS) Salah Gosh (L), Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir (C), Sudanese Vice President Ali Osman Taha (R)
According to the November 2008 document, the then Sudanese foreign minister Deng Alor told the US charge d’affaires Alberto Fernandez of two separate meetings that he had had with Taha and Gosh following a visit to Khartoum and Juba by Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.
A week prior to that, Alor himself had travelled to Cairo where he met with Mubarak, foreign minister Ahmed Aboul-Gheit and intelligence chief Omer Suleiman.
It was only four months after the ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo presented his case against Bashir to the court’s judges and the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) was scrambling to fend off regional and international pressure but in the process seemed to have resulted also in divisions on how to deal with an indicted Bashir.
Taha asked Alor at a meeting on November 11, 2008 for more insight into the Egyptian view on Sudan by saying "Ahlak al-Misriyeen, keif [How are your people the Egyptians]?"?
Alor explained to Taha that "the Egyptians are genuinely worried about Sudan and think we are approaching the ICC issue in a wrong way".
The Sudanese Vice president reportedly agreed that the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) and the Egyptians are probably right about the ICC "but the President won’t listen to reason”.
Taha’s position contrasted sharply with what a senior government official toldSudan Tribune in July 2008 that the VP opposed handing two other ICC suspects “on the grounds of preserving Sudan’s sovereignty”.
But another official in Sudan’s presidency confided to Sudan Tribune that Taha was on board regarding extraditing former state minister of interior Ahmed Haroun and Ali Kushayb.
Alor also had a two-hour meeting with Sudan’s spy chief on November 12, 2008 who expressed fears that the Egyptians may be conspiring with officers within the Sudanese army to find a military replacement for Bashir.
"We both know that the warrant is coming, anything could happen here at any time." Alor quoted Gosh as saying.
"Can we allow the whole country to be destroyed because of one person?" Gosh said which prompted a question from Alor on who was he referring to and the spy chief admitted it was Bashir.
Alor responded by telling Gosh "You better take off your jacket because you must be wearing a wire".
GOSH PROMOTING TAHA TO TAKE OVER FROM BASHIR
Gosh called on Alor to have the SPLM engage more closely with Taha, "Ali Osman is a good person, he is a statesman” and suggested that he spend more time with him.
"Ali likes you. He is not as comfortable around Salva Kiir who doesn’t talk when he is angry." Gosh suggested to Alor that "both the SPLM and NISS don’t like the military," a suggestion that the the foreign minister rejected, adding "we are neutral in the SPLM. We made a deal with a party not an individual."
Gosh cryptically remarked that "some of our [NCP] people are cowards, they don’t want to take bold action." He noted that, "if something happens, [presidential assistant Nafie Ali] Nafie and [Finance minister Awad] Al-Jaz will not be factors, they will follow," the implication being that they will follow Taha.
Most observers in Khartoum believe that Taha has long been planning to take over from his boss with the aid of NISS chief as they belong to the same Shaygiyya tribe. The ICC warrant issued in March 2009 further fueled this speculation.
However, in August 2009 Bashir abruptly sacked Gosh and made him his security adviser before again firing him in April of this year. He was also stripped of his leadership positions at the NCP.
BASHIR UNDER PRESSURE
Alor said that during his visit to Cairo, the Egyptians conveyed to him that Bashir is increasingly isolated with only some of the senior professional officers in Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) loyal to Bashir, but they are not really in charge of most of the military.
Both Alor and Mubarak commiserated about the time when Bashir attempted to replace Gosh with retired Army General Al-Fatih Erwa, former Sudanese ambassador at the United Nations, issuing a decree reinstating him as a Lieutenant General in preparation for placing him as director of NISS.
But Bashir was confronted by VP Taha, Nafie, Al-Jaz, Minister of Defense Abdel-Rahim Mohamed Hussein and Presidential Affairs Minister Bakri Hassan Salih and told the Sudanese president that appointing Erwa was a party "red line" for them.
The Sudanese leader was forced to reverse his order after 24 hours.
The Egyptian president told Alor that "when a President makes a mistake, he corrects it but waits a while to show that he is in charge, Bashir couldn’t do that".
The US embassy cable notes that Erwa is a “secularist former head of security in the Nimeiri regime, who worked closely with the USG in moving thousands of Falasha Jews from Mengistu’s Ethiopia to Israel in the 1980s. Perceived as an "old army buddy" of Bashir, he also has clashed in the past with the civilian Islamists”.
EGYPTIAN CONCERNED ABOUT A PALACE COUP
Mubarak said that he advised his Sudanese counterpart that he should seek engagement with the ICC to find a way out.
"You need both horses, or you won’t win the race." Mubarak said before adding legal advisors told him that there is no way that Bashir can avoid an arrest warrant being issued.
He said that he had dispatched a legal expert, Mohyideen Surur, who participated in the writing of the Rome Statute, to try to talk sense to Khartoum, noting "the NCP will pay dearly by refusing to deal with the ICC. They have less than two months left to get out of this."
Mubarak added that no one will come to Sudan’s help on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to get an Article 16 deferral if the Sudanese don’t recognize the process. Alor said that Mubarak had delivered the same grim prognosis privately to Bashir on November 10 in Khartoum.
“Al-Bashir Miskeen [Bashir is a sore sight]", Mubarak said.
The Egyptian spy chief on the other hand told Alor that Cairo is "worried of the possibility of a palace coup" in the next few months in Khartoum. He referred to Bashir’s former ally Hassan al-Turabi as a possible instigator of such an attempt "but his chances are slim."
Suleiman said that Bashir is steadily and quietly losing control to a clique led by VP Taha, supported by NISS chief Salah Gosh. The two of them, in conjunction with Jaz and Nafie, are consolidating power.
He said Taha is using the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Ali Karti to be his liaison with SAF. Karti, who used to be a Popular Defense Force (PDF) leader during the civil war has maintained his ties to much of the army.
Suleiman said that Nafie and Gosh are not security rivals but allies and said Finance Minister Al-Jaz oversees the party security apparatus.
"Even the police doesn’t really report to the Interior Minister" but through a private firm called the Nasr Company to Taha. Nonetheless Suleiman stressed that Egypt prefers Bashir or another army officer and fear that the "real Islamists" will take over soon in Sudan.
"We didn’t allow them in Egypt, we throw them in jail here, and we don’t want them next door. Taha is acceptable, for now, but he will change once he takes power,” the Egyptian spy chief said.
Following the toppling of Mubarak’s regime, Bashir lashed out at the deposed leader saying that Sudan has "endured a lot of harm [from both countries Egypt and Libya]".
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has lost his grip on power in the last few weeks but, unlike Egypt, through a peaceful uprising that turned into an armed rebellion.
Egypt and Libya were also the first countries to receive Bashir after the ICC judges issued an arrest warrant for him.