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Cablegate: Usg Humanitarian Assistance Team in Ethiopia: Somali Region

VZCZCXYZ0000
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHDS #3611/01 3601324
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 261324Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8940
INFO RUEHAE/AMEMBASSY ASMARA 2029
RUEHDJ/AMEMBASSY DJIBOUTI 8824
RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 3280
RUEHBS/AMEMBASSY BRUSSELS 3014
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 4081
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 2948
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME 6304
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 7136
RUEHC/DEPT OF INTERIOR WASHDC
RUEHRC/DEPT OF AGRICULTURE WASHDC
RHMFIUU/USCINCCENT MACDILL AFB FL//CCJ2/CCJ5/CCJS//
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS ADDIS ABABA 003611

SIPDIS

STATE DEPARTMENT FOR A/S FRAZER, DAS AF JSWAN, AF/E, AF/PDPA, OES,
A/S PRM SAUERBREY, AND PRM/AFR
AFR/AA KALMQUIST, WWARREN, JBORNS, KNELSON, CTHOMPSON
DCHA/AA MHESS, GGOTTLIEB
DCHA/OFDA KLUU, ACONVERY, CCHAN, PMORRIS, KCHANNELL
DCHA/FFP JDWORKEN, PMOHAN, SANTHONY, PBERTOLIN
LONDON, PARIS, ROME FOR AFRICA WATCHER
CJTF-HOA AND USCENTCOM FOR POLAD
USDA/FAS FOR U/S PENN, RTILSWORTH, AND LPANASUK
NAIROBI FOR OFDA/ECARO JMYER, GPLATT, RFFPO NCOX, USAID/EA
ROME FOR AMBASSADOR, OHA, HSPANOS
BRUSSELS FOR USEU PBROWN
GENEVA FOR NKYLOH, RMA
USUN FOR TMALY
NSC FOR PMARCHAN

AIDAC
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID PHUM SENV EAGR PGOV ET
SUBJECT: USG HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE TEAM IN ETHIOPIA: SOMALI REGION
SECURITY UPDATE


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

1. Between December 20 and 22, the U.S. Government (USG)
Humanitarian Assistance Team (HAT) in Ethiopia security officer met
with representatives from the U.N., U.S. Embassy, and non
governmental organizations (NGOs) in Addis Ababa to discuss security
conditions in Somali Region. Discussions confirmed that access and
the security environment remain fluid in the five zones of military
operations. NGOs and U.N. agencies report conflicting accounts on
the frequency and scale of clashes between the Ethiopian National
Defense Forces (ENDF) and the Ogaden National Liberation Front
(ONLF). Since mid-December, the ENDF has detained U.N. staff on
three occasions at newly established checkpoints in the region.
However, recent reports also note improved access for NGOs in parts
of Somali Region in recent weeks. End summary.

------------------------------
CONFLICTING REPORTS ON CLASHES
------------------------------

2. Recent reports from NGOs and the U.N. Department of Safety and
Security (UNDSS) offer conflicting characterizations of active
fighting between the ENDF and ONLF in the restricted Warder, Korahe,
Gode, Fik, and Degehabur zones under military operations. UNDSS
cautions that NGO reports of large-scale clashes are often
exaggerated; however, smaller clashes continue to occur. On
December 14, a small-scale skirmish killed two civilians in
Kebridahar District, Korahe Zone, according to UNDSS. In other
areas of Somali Region, UNDSS and local NGOs note the absence of
fighting and improved commercial access, in particular in the
Somalia border districts on Kelafo, Mustahil, and Ferfer in Gode
Zone.

----------------------------------
U.N. STAFF DETAINED AT CHECKPOINTS
----------------------------------

3. In a new development, the ENDF has detained U.N. staff at
recently created checkpoints between Jijiga and Degehabur zones.
Since mid-December, the ENDF has established three new checkpoints
in the area. UNDSS speculates that the increase in checkpoints is
an effort to control media access to the region following the
December 14 release of the New York Times article by reporter John
Gettleman criticizing the Government of the Federal Democratic
Republic of Ethiopia's (GFDRE) role in the current crisis. Between
December 18 and 20, the ENDF detained three U.N. vehicles and staff,
including the U.N. World Food Program (WFP) Jijiga head of office on
December 20, approximately 20 kilometers south of Jijiga town. The
ENDF confiscated the WFP staff's cellular phones before releasing
the staff unharmed four hours later.

-------------------
IMPROVED NGO ACCESS
-------------------

4. In parts of Somali Region, NGOs report improved access and
mobility in recent weeks. Action Contre la Faim (ACF) in Korahe
Zone notes improved access in Kebridahar town and surrounding areas

in Kebridahar District since late September, under the provision
that ACF submit a plan of movement prior to travel in the area.
According to UNDSS, an operational ban on ACF and Medecins du Monde
in Korahe Zone was officially lifted on December 13.

-----------------------
CONCLUSION AND COMMENTS
-----------------------

5. Discussions with U.N., U.S. Embassy, and NGO representatives
indicate a variable and fluid access and security environment in
Somali Region. Reports of improved NGO access in some areas
coincide with an increase in military checkpoints in other
locations. The requirement for NGOs to provide a plan of movement
in Korahe Zone and the recent U.N. staff detentions between Jijiga
and Degehabur zones underscore the importance of communicating and
obtaining GFDRE approval for all travel in the region. In addition,
the U.S. Embassy Regional Security Officer strongly advised that USG
HAT travel in the region be comprised of small teams for short
trips, in place of a protracted presence in one location. On
December 27, the USG HAT security officer will accompany the program
officer and health and nutrition specialist to Jijiga and Degehabur
zones on a preliminary three-day assessment to further evaluate
field conditions and inform security planning for future travel in
Somali Region. End comment.


YAMAMOTO

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