Cablegate: Refugee Protection in Eastern Chad - Part 2

DE RUEHNJ #0358/01 1160937
R 260937Z APR 07





E.O. 12958: N/A


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16. (SBU) Probably the most difficult challenge to child
protection with respect to girls is the custom of early marriage
in a polygamous setting where the economics of survival favor the
custom. Camp conditions add another hurdle for girls seeking to
avoid a forced early marriage in that they cannot flee to a
neighboring village to escape family pressures and start a new life

as they might have done in Sudan. Unconfirmed reports of an
increase in attempted suicides or even infanticides bear watching
and, if true, addressing via womenQs groups in the camps.

17. (SBU) The most difficult challenge with respect to boys
as ever Q is to avoid their recruitment into fighting forces
(which is always forced from a legal standpoint where children
are involved). In addition to continually highlighting the issue
in all of the camp sensitization meetings (e.g., with refugee
leadership, in periodic training for gendarmes) and discussions
with GOC authorities, UNHCR has tried to document and follow up
on all reported cases of recruitment. Documenters have sometimes
been threatened. UNHCR has provided funding to UNICEF to engage a
consultant (formerly handling a PRM-funded CARE refugee
programming in Chad) to come up with a more systematic way of
documenting/preventing recruitment. While anecdotes abound about
child soldiers in the ranks of Sudanese and Chadian rebels, and
in the Chadian National Army (ANT) - particularly in recent
months in/around the town of Guereda - there has been no
systematic investigation into the practice and there are no
programs for demobilizing child soldiers and reintegrating them
into their refugee communities. The ICRC, however, has been able
to provide Red Cross messages to parents of children who were taken

into the ranks of the FUC a couple of years ago and whose
whereabouts had been previously unknown to the very grateful
parents. A recent strongly-worded letter from French DefMin
Alliot-Marie about the presence of child soldiers in the ANT
reportedly got the ChadiansQ attention, but little has actually
changed. Recommendation: The USG should take an equally strong
stand on the issue, insisting that dealing with child soldiers be
a factor in any discussion of enhanced USG support for Deby and
his armed forces. Human rights advocates are sure to make child
soldiers a public issue in any event.

18. (U) Education (formal and informal) remains the primary
point of entry for protection of refugee children. All refugee
leadership groups with whom the PRM QS/CRS team met (men and
women separately in each of the camps visited) as well as UNHCR
and NGO staff pleaded for post-primary school educational
opportunities such as secondary school or vocational training.
Such programs would mainly target teenage children who, once
having completed primary school, have virtually no activity with
which to occupy themselves, making them prime candidates for
recruitment. Refugees were aware of PRM-funded Refugee Education
Trust activities but pointed out Q rightly Q that only a very few
could benefit from the current level of programming. As high-
lighted in earlier PRM monitoring reports, the dearth of
adequately trained secondary-level teachers remains an obstacle
to providing adequate secondary education. At the primary
level, insufficient financing (including insufficient program
budgeting) has limited the number of classrooms, provision of
school materials and uniforms, and engagement of teachers.
Established standards are not being met.

19. (U) Demonstrating the inter-connections among assistance
sectors and between assistance and protection, girls
participation in school is also threatened by the overall lack
of family income that leads families to send young girls out to
work, e.g., as housemaids for local Chadian villagers. There are
no special programs to keep girl mothers in school since the
custom is for teenaged girls to be married and thus keeping house
rather than attending school. Refugee women leaders in Touloum
Camp questioned the CCF emphasis on particularly vulnerable
children such as the handicapped as opposed to all young children.
The same leaders offered that they might be helpful in addressing
the issue of forced early marriage by creating a committee that
could be a sounding board for girls unwilling to be wed and their
parents. They also liked the idea of a Qsafe houseQ at the camp
for girls and women at risk of gender-based violence (GBV).
Recommendation: Despite the challenges of insecurity,
programming for youth, while not necessarily life-saving,
should be prioritized.

Protecting Refugee Women Q The High CommissionerQs Five Commitments

20. (U) Progress is lagging in meeting the five commitments
refugee women in camp leadership positions through affirmative
action, individual documentation for women (not just part of a

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husbandQs ID), womenQs involvement in the distribution of food
aid, provision of sanitary materials, and addressing Gender Based
Violence (GBV) (including traditional harmful practices such as
genital cutting/mutilation). Participation in camp leadership and
food aid is good, though women do not speak up much in the
presence of men. As noted above, the issuance of ID cards has
been held up by the GOC. Sanitary materials have not been
distributed in the last six months, owing in part to the theft
of materials stocked in Abeche when the townspeople looted the
UNHCR warehouse after the brief Chadian rebel occupation last
November. Recommendation: Given that distribution of sanitary
materials is a fairly straightforward task, UNHCR should without
further delay import and distribute the necessary fabric to meet
the established standard of at least three meters every six months
for every woman/girl of reproductive age.

21. (U) Insecurity has weakened efforts to combat GBV
considerably as humanitarian staff have undergone several
evacuations. It has also weakened the coordination between
involved organizations in such places as Iriba where the
referral process (referral of women for medical care and for
follow-up monitoring) is being handled differently by different
NGOs. (UNHCR/Iriba is fully aware of the issue and is trying
to get all NGOs to cooperate.) In Oure Cassoni, cultural
resistance to discussing GBV and the lack of staff/an agency
dedicated to GBV alone have meant that even getting refugees to
acknowledge that there are GBV incidents is lagging. UNHCR has
recently carried out AGDM (age, gender, diversity mainstreaming)
surveys with refugees who identified security for women refugees
as a critical concern in every camp. Programming will be needed
to help meet those concerns. The recent establishment of a sort
of traveling traditional court could prove helpful in drawing out
survivors of GBV.

22. (SBU) HIV/AIDS work in the camps is essentially limited to
preventive messages and some distribution/availability of condoms.

There is no systematic voluntary testing/counseling, no aggressive
prevention of mother to child transmission, and no drug treatments.

Prevalence has not been determined as voluntary testing is not
routine. IMC reported, however, that of a group of 37 refugees
in Kounoungou who did seek testing, 22% tested positive in the
initial round; only three were thought to have gone to Abeche for
follow-up testing.

23. (U) Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is widely practiced
among the refugees. Some medical personnel in some camps reported
some infrequent acts to move away from the practice such as women
requesting not to be fully sewn up again after delivery of a child
or traditional cutters suggesting that the younger generation of
girls might not need such extensive cutting as has been done
traditionally. Beliefs in charms and traditional medicines are
widespread and sometimes result in medical treatment being
sought too late to be as effective as possible.

Refugee Camp Security/Neutrality

24. (SBU) Maintaining the exclusively civilian character of
the refugee camps is becoming increasingly challenging as the
Darfur crisis drags on. Aggravating factors are increased refugee
frustration and hence susceptibility to recruitment, the emergence
of Chadian rebel groups, and increased Chadian government boldness
in using/seeing the refugees used in the Chad-Sudan confrontation.

Problems identified to date are recruiting (sometimes forced) and
the presence of weapons and combatants in camps. The most
egregious known recruitment incident was in March 2006 when
Sudanese rebels (JEM and NRF) Q with Chadian acquiescence/support
Q forcibly took several thousand refugees from Breidjing/Treguine
Camps. Nothing on that scale has since been reported; however,
S/CRS Wintermeyer heard a report that one person has been
recruiting for the JEM and NRF in those camps, and the Chadian
authorities have done nothing to stop him. Wintermeyer also
heard in Djabal Camp that JEM had openly recruited there from
September to November 2006.

25. (SBU) In Kounoungo Camp, Chadian FUC rebels allegedly
distributed weapons to Tama refugees who were most likely
Chadians who had fraudulently registered as refugees when the
camp was originally opened. According to the UNHCR Guereda
Protection Officer, following the GOC-FUC accord in December 2006
the FUC distributed weapons to many of the people in the Tama
villages that surround the camp in a ploy to increase the number
of FUC adherents qualified to be demobilized/reintegrated into
the ANT as per the GOC-FUC accord. Gendarme weapons sweeps in
some of the camps (e.g., Goz Amer) have turned up weapons on
occasion and International Medical Corps reported seeing

NDJAMENA 00000358 003.2 OF 005

QtechnicalsQ in Am Nabak Camp when IMC staff happened to be in
the camp on an unusual schedule. JEM is also reported to have
cached weapons in Am Nabak and in Oure Cassoni Q probably the
two most problematic camps in terms of actual/potential
militarization. A UNHCR community services officer in Oure
Cassoni who had learned of some weapons caches in/near the camp
from refugee women was verbally threatened and subsequently moved
by UNHCR. One refugee watcher opined that the Sultan of Bahai,
who is President DebyQs brother and with whom the PRM Q S/CRS team
met, was involved in facilitating weapons movements to the JEM and
NRF rebels who are based only about three kilometers from the Oure
Cassoni Camp, on the Sudan border.

26. (SBU) Potential camp security/neutrality risks that have
NOT/NOT been clearly identified/verified to date, but to the
possibility of which UNHCR et al should be alert, include diversion

of supplies and food to combatants, rebel training within camp
boundaries, taxing of refugees to fund arms procurements,
intimidation of refugees to provide support for military
activities, and use of refugee camps to shelter combatants from
conflict. Routine rebel visits to family members who are in
refugee camps are generally not too problematic provided that
weapons are left outside of camps and no military activities are
undertaken inside the camps.

27. (SBU) A number of refugee watchers have described Oure
Cassoni as a Qrear baseQ for JEM/NRF rebels who, after the Darfur
Peace Agreement (DPA) was signed, somehow supplanted the
SLA/Minawi as the rebel group with which refugee sympathies lie.
Staff of the International Rescue Committee (IRC), which is the
principal implementing agency in the camp, believe that claims of
militarization of the camp are exaggerated and that use of the
term Qrear baseQ, which means different things to different
people, is potentially dangerous for IRC staff and operations in
Darfur should it become Qconventional wisdomQ that IRC is running
a base of Sudanese rebel military operations. [Comment. It would
be prudent to avoid imprecise use of the term Qrear baseQ while
taking all possible measures to assure that the camp not be
militarized. End comment.] IRC community services staff, while
acknowledging that security restrictions on contact hours within
the camp make it more challenging than usual to ferret out what
is happening, reported that refugee women have become more
outspoken about the presence of rebels and the need for them to
stay out of the camp and that recruitment of refugee youth has
diminished in the last six months. While the refugee camp market
is often considered to be better than the one in Bahai town, IRC
says that one sees rebels at Bahai market to a much greater extent
than at Oure Cassoni market.

28. (SBU) Refugee women leaders complained to the PRM-S/CRS team
that they resented rebels entering the camp and drawing the
attention of the SAF Antonov 26 bombers (Note. The SAF had bombed
in the area before, and, in the week previous to the PRM-S/CRS
team visit, had injured several people with bombs, including
several ACTED NGO employees. End note.). One male refugee
pulled one team member aside to complain that armed men had
threatened him one night when a victim of attempted rape sought
shelter in his home, that rebel combatants had run into the camp
for safety during the JEM-SAF skirmishing in November 2006, and
that refugee leaders had used bull horns to incite the camp
population to refuse any UNHCR plan to move the camp further away
from the border. In a meeting with male refugee leaders, S/CRS
Emboff Wintermeyer briefed refugees on some points from the
meeting SE Natsios had had with rebel leaders in Abeche on 19
January - the USG wants the rebels to unite politically so they
can negotiate from a stronger position; the DPA, which the rebels
do not like, will at least remain as a starting point for further
negotiations. The leaders seemed to resent EmboffQs further
statements that housing rebels and their arms was against UNHCR
rules, and could jeopardize camp funding, as well as make the
camp a legitimate military target for the Sudanese Air Force (SAF).

They also told Emboff that they would refuse to move if UNHCR
attempted to relocate the camp further away from the Sudanese

29. (SBU) This protection issue is one of the thorniest to
address given that the root cause of a refugee situation is
also the driving factor in any militarization of refugee camps.
UNHCR has been consistently stressing the need to maintain the
exclusively civilian character of refugee camps in all of its
dealings with the GOC and in sensitization sessions with all
levels of refugee leadership. In his March 25 speech to refugees
and townspeople in Kounoungo (reftel), President Deby said all
of the right things about no weapons, recruiting, or conflict
within the refugee camp. However, whether the GOC is committed to
such principles when its own interests are at stake is unlikely.

NDJAMENA 00000358 004.2 OF 005

Recommendation: The USG and other interested donors should lean
on the GOC even more strongly to insist that it keep Sudanese
rebels out of camps.

30. (SBU) Relocation of the heretofore two most problematic
camps in terms of their location close to the border Q Oure
Cassoni and Am Nabak Q has been a priority for several years
but has been consistently frustrated by the difficulty of finding
adequate water in a place that the local population would accept
the refugees. A promising site near Biltine became a battlefield
in a FUC-ANT clash late last year, and is now littered with
unexploded ordnance, adding an additional challenge. In addition,
a UNHCR site search mission found two sites in Kanem that might
work; one could potentially accommodate 25,000 refugees, but
whether any would agree to move to the other side of Chad is
unknown. A recent water assessment mission may also have found
water some 50 kms to the northwest of Bahai and while the site
could probably not accommodate all of the Oure Cassoni refugees,
it could be used to decongest the camp which would be good from
a water standpoint as well as a protection one. [Comment.
While there is disagreement about the relative extent of the
violations of the civilian character of the camp, Oure Cassoni
definitely violates international guidelines. The suggestion that
if UNHCR could find a suitable alternative site it might
deregister any refugees who refused to move was very controversial
for NGO and UN interlocutors. Though it might enhance UNHCRQs
credibility in some quarters and deny the GoS an excuse or
justification to bomb the Bahai area, it might end up cutting
off large numbers of vulnerable women and children who are not
currently able to dictate terms to rebels. End comment.]
Recommendation: While camp relocation is clearly not going to
happen this year given that the rainy season will be starting
soon, UNHCR should accelerate measures to ready feasible sites
such as arranging for the clearance of UXO from the Biltine site.

31. (SBU) Camp relocation should be vigorously pursued. Alone
it will not prevent militarization. Other possible measures to
reinforce the civilian character of camps include empowerment
of refugees to resist militarization Q through strengthening
womenQs decision-making in the camps and by providing
alternative educational/ vocational activities for youth Q and
the fielding of a UN police-type force that would help protect
the refugee camps in part by keeping rebels out. In meetings
with the PRM-S/CRS team, refugee women in Touloum and Oure Cassoni
Camps specifically asked for Qblue helmetsQ as a way to improve
security for women, with the Oure Cassoni refugees further
specifying that Qblue helmetsQ would make sure that Sudanese
rebels did not come into the camp. [Comment. While some
humanitarians worry that any UN military force would be drawn
into Chadian and/or Sudanese rebel politics and that the
presence of military forces could compromise the desired neutrality

of humanitarian operations, a UN force that reinforced law and
order to ensure the security/neutrality of the camps would arguably

be acceptable to most. End comment.]

32. (SBU) Last, but not least in the effort to prevent
militarization, UNHCR needs to buttress its protection staffing
in order to be able to closely monitor the camps. Personnel
limitations imposed by the Qphase fourQ security designation
obviously have a negative impact on the number of staff hours that
can be spent working with refugee groups and verifying the civilian

character of camps. In many of the UNHCR Field Offices, there is
essentially one international protection officer that serves as
the second in command and is often acting head of field office or
is absent given the schedules of R&R and other needs to travel
within eastern Chad. At the time of the PRM-S/CRS team visit,
for example, three of the four field offices visited had the
protection officers as acting head of office.

33. (SBU) Summary of Recommendations on Refugee Protection in
Eastern Chad

UNHCR needs to buttress its protection staffing in order to be
able to closely monitor the camps.

he USG and other interested donors should lean on the GOC even
more strongly to insist that it keep Sudanese rebels out of camps.

The USG should take a strong stand on the child soldier issue,
insisting that dealing with child soldiers be a factor in any
discussion of enhanced USG support for Deby and his armed forces.
Human rights advocates are sure to make child soldiers a public
issue in any event. While camp relocation is clearly not going
to happen this year given that the rainy season will be starting

NDJAMENA 00000358 005.2 OF 005

soon, UNHCR should accelerate measures to ready feasible sites
such as arranging for the clearance of UXO from the Biltine site.

Protecting our current investment in the gendarme force, ensuring
that gendarmes charged with protecting refugees/camps and
humanitarian operations have adequate weaponry to discharge
their duties should be part of the bilateral USG-Chadian dialogue.

Embassy/Ndjamena should track the gendarme stipend issue to
ensure that it is resolved favorably and that gendarmes are paid
as quickly as possible.

The USG should weigh in with the GOC (in consultation with
UNHCR) in getting the individual ID cards distributed soonest.

Despite the challenges of insecurity, programming for youth,
while not necessarily life-saving, should be prioritized.

Given that distribution of sanitary materials is a fairly
straightforward task, UNHCR should without further delay import
and distribute the necessary fabric to meet the established
standard of at least three meters every six months for every
woman/girl of reproductive age.

UNHCR at the Abeche and Ndjamena levels should address the
firewood depletion issue much more aggressively from a business
-minded perspective of pay-now-or-pay-more-later . Pressure to
follow up and to explain the financial requirements to donors
should continue.

34. (U) Tripoli minimize considered.

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