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Cablegate: Darfur - Gereida Calm but Unpredictable

VZCZCXRO1353
PP RUEHGI RUEHMA RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #0922/01 1621154
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 111154Z JUN 07
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7572
INFO RUCNFUR/DARFUR COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHRN/USMISSION UN ROME

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 KHARTOUM 000922

SIPDIS

AIDAC
SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

STATE FOR AF/SPG, PRM, DS/IP/AF, DS/DSS/ITA, AND ALSO PASS USAID/W
USAID FOR DCHA SUDAN TEAM, AFR/SP
NAIROBI FOR USAID/DCHA/OFDA, USAID/REDSO, AND FAS
GENEVA FOR NKYLOH
NAIROBI FOR SFO
NSC FOR PMARCHAM, MMAGAN, AND TSHORTLEY
ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU
USUN FOR TMALY
BRUSSELS FOR PLERNER

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID PREF PGOV PHUM SOCI ASEC UN SU
SUBJECT: DARFUR - GEREIDA CALM BUT UNPREDICTABLE


KHARTOUM 00000922 001.2 OF 003


-------
SUMMARY
-------

1. (U) On May 22, a USAID assessment team traveled to the
SLA/Minawi-held town of Gereida, South Darfur, in the first USG
visit since a violent attack on humanitarian agencies led to their
withdrawal in December 2006. In the absence of other relief
organizations since the attack, the International Committee of the
Red Cross (ICRC) has significantly expanded services and prevented a
serious deterioration of humanitarian conditions. However, critical
gaps remain, including referral-level health care, livelihoods,
education and youth activities, coordination, and water, sanitation,
and hygiene. Humanitarian and security personnel characterized the
situation as "stable but unpredictable" since December, although the
security of humanitarian staff remains a serious concern. While the
perpetrators of the December attack have not met any of the
conditions for return laid out by the UN Office for the Coordination
of Humanitarian Affairs, some non-governmental organizations (NGOs)
are cautiously preparing to return to Gereida. End summary.

-------------------------------
GEREIDA: CALM BUT UNPREDICTABLE
-------------------------------

2. (SBU) The team held discussions on the security situation with
ICRC, the Gereida humanitarian affairs office of Sudan Liberation
Army under Minni Minawi (SLA/Minawi), the African Union Mission in
Sudan (AMIS) site commander, and American Refugee Committee (ARC)
staff. All parties indicated that the security situation in Gereida
has been calm for the last several months but remains unpredictable.


3. (SBU) As a result, physical security for internally displaced
persons (IDPs) and residents remains a persistent concern. The
population of Gereida can only venture within a one to three
kilometer perimeter around the camp/town. Beyond this, they risk
harassment or attack by Rizeigat, Fellata, or government military
who control the area beyond Gereida's perimeter. As such, Gereida
remains an IDP island where traffic in and out is limited to ICRC
and AMIS convoys and occasional commercial trucks that are able to
negotiate cross-line passage. AMIS has resumed patrols of the
camp/town perimeter, but the effectiveness and coverage of these
patrols is questionable. ICRC has asked SLA/Minawi to patrol a
greater area of the perimeter to help ensure a safe environment for
cultivation during the upcoming rainy season, but SLA refused.

4. (SBU) Additionally, ICRC noted that latent tensions exist between
the IDP and resident community and SLA/Minawi, with community
leaders viewing SLA/Minawi as an occupying force. ICRC stated that
SLA/Minawi benefits from controlling the camp by gaining legitimacy
from the perceived support of the large IDP population, and by
taxing, or seizing a percentage of, humanitarian assistance
delivered to IDPs.

5. (SBU) AMIS reported that SLA/Minawi appears to have solidified
its leadership in the area, and noted improvements in command and
control. ICRC has not had any security issues since December, when
an ICRC vehicle and laptop were stolen but subsequently returned.
Despite the apparent calm, all agencies noted the inherent
volatility of the operating environment. The main threat to
humanitarian staff remains the potential for increased tensions
around town to spur another SLA/Minawi mobilization of vehicles and
communications equipment.

-------------------------------------
PREVENTING A HUMANITARIAN CATASTROPHE
-------------------------------------

6. (U) ICRC's continued presence and quick expansion of activities
prevented a humanitarian catastrophe following the withdrawal of all
NGOs in December. However, ICRC views their role as "bridging the
gap" until other agencies resume operations and would prefer to
focus on rural areas that other agencies cannot or will not access.
With 300 staff, including 19 expatriates, ICRC is expending large
human and financial resources to sustain the Gereida caseload, and
is keen for UN and NGO partners to assist.

7. (U) ICRC estimates the IDP camp population at around 123,000
based on food distribution registers, and the town population at

KHARTOUM 00000922 002.2 OF 003


less than 20,000. ARC's clinic had seen 155 patients the afternoon
of the team's visit. Most common illnesses were diarrhea and
respiratory infections. With the support of an IDP midwife, ARC
offers 24-hour maternity care for uncomplicated pregnancies. The
midwife delivered 17 babies in May and assisted 189 deliveries since
the primary healthcare clinic opened in April 2006. According to
ICRC, all water points in the camp are functioning, and have no
queues for water collection. ICRC also began a pre-rainy season
plastic sheeting distribution on May 24.

8. (U) ICRC reports that the nutrition situation is relatively
stable, with supplementary feeding center (SFC) and therapeutic
feeding center (TFC) admissions at nearly half of what they were the
same time last year. A nutrition survey is planned for mid-June and
will include both IDPs and town residents. With support from
USAID's Office of Food for Peace and other donors, ICRC has been
distributing general food rations to IDPs since February. Note:
ICRC rations differ from standard WFP rations by replacing vegetable
oil with peanut oil and excluding corn-soya blend.

9. (U) Other humanitarian agencies are cautiously resuming
operations in Gereida. ARC plans to post an expatriate staff member
in Gereida town starting in June. Merlin and Oxfam 'commute' to
Gereida for assessments and remote program management on Tuesdays,
returning to Nyala on the same day. In addition, ZOA and CHF are
preparing or considering restarting humanitarian programming.

------------------
GAPS IN ASSISTANCE
------------------

10. (U) Despite ICRC's significant efforts in Gereida, gaps remain.
Following an assessment trip to Gereida on May 22, a USAID team
identified the following priority needs:

--Humanitarian coordination: ICRC has been the de facto coordinator,
but agencies appealed that Darfur's largest IDP camp requires a more
substantial presence. Donors continue to urge the Office of the UN
High Commissioner for Refugees to step up efforts for camp
coordination, protection, and relief supplies in South Darfur.

--Education and youth activities: Youth activities and education
services would greatly improve the quality of life and opportunities
for children.

--Emergency and secondary health care: The Gereida town hospital
does not provide 24-hour care and charges patients for hospital
services, making IDP referrals to the hospital problematic.

--Host community support: Cut off from the opportunity to cultivate
and graze livestock, combined with the inherent resource/ecological
tensions of supporting over 120,000 IDPs, the town population is
becoming increasingly impoverished and vulnerable. ICRC recently
supported the Sudanese Red Crescent for a clean-up effort to remove
300 donkey carcasses from town and the camp in one week.
Malnourished children from the town are seeking treatment in ICRC's
SFC in the camp in increasing numbers. Food security conditions are
likely to deteriorate with residents unable to cultivate beyond the
safe perimeter of the town. The team observed that cereal prices in
the market are nearly double the Darfur average. ICRC is reviewing
its capacity to further support town residents.

--Water, sanitation, and hygiene: ICRC currently manages all six
boreholes in the camp, but would prefer that the UN Children's Fund,
Water Environment and Sanitation resume management of two of the
six.

--------
COMMENTS
--------

11. (U) ICRC has played a crucial role by ensuring that the
withdrawal of NGOs did not result in a humanitarian catastrophe at
Darfur's largest IDP camp. However, ICRC did not anticipate having
to support nearly all of the humanitarian services for Gereida for
more than a few months.

12. (U) At the Khartoum level, collective advocacy and messaging
efforts have not yielded the return of stolen vehicles and
communications equipment, or explicit assurances from SLA/Minawi

KHARTOUM 00000922 003.2 OF 003


that humanitarian staff operating in Gereida will be safe.
Nonetheless, discussions in Nyala are no longer focused on whether
NGOs should or should not return to Gereida, but rather the
modalities for return - i.e. the precautions that should be taken to
mitigate the risk of future violent incidents. A small handful of
NGOs are cautiously resuming operations in Gereida under special
precautions, including more carefully building relationships with
SLA/Minawi leadership in Gereida, keeping a low operational profile,
sharing vehicles, and storing vehicles in the AMIS compound.

FERNANDEZ

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