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Cablegate: Usg Humanitarian Assistance Team: Security and Access

VZCZCXYZ0001
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHDS #0153/01 0181105
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 181105Z JAN 08
FM AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9231
INFO RUEHAE/AMEMBASSY ASMARA 2088
RUEHDJ/AMEMBASSY DJIBOUTI 8880
RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 3338
RUEHBS/AMEMBASSY BRUSSELS 3062
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 4140
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 2996
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME 6353
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 7205
RUEHC/DEPT OF INTERIOR WASHDC
RUEHRC/DEPT OF AGRICULTURE WASHDC
RHMFIUU/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL//CCJ2/CCJ5/CCJS//
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS ADDIS ABABA 000153

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
REF: A) ADDIS 3611 B) ADDIS 0027
SUBJECT: USG HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE TEAM: SECURITY AND ACCESS
UPDATE #3


-------
Summary
-------

1. Between January 2 and 9, U.S. Government (USG) Humanitarian
Assistance Team (HAT) in Ethiopia staff, traveled to Degehabur and
Fik zones in Somali Region as part of a second field visit to assess
current humanitarian conditions. USG HAT staff report that a letter
of approval from the Somali Regional President significantly
improved and facilitated USG HAT travel in the region. However,
some areas remained inaccessible due to security concerns, including
Dihun, Segeg, and Gerbo districts of eastern Fik Zone. USG HAT
staff identified a critical lack of U.N. Department of Safety and
Security (UNDSS) presence and capacity in Somali Region that is
significantly undermining security monitoring, reporting, and
information sharing. Both U.N. agencies and non-governmental
organizations (NGOs) operating within the conflict-affected areas of
Somali Region characterized current UNDSS presence and performance
as inadequate. UNDSS representatives also acknowledge the need to
augment staffing to effectively support the humanitarian community
in Somali Region. In addition, the absence of a U.N. Humanitarian
Air Service (UNHAS) operation in Somali Region is negatively
affecting programming and contingency response capacity. End
summary.

-------------------
Access and Security
-------------------

2. Between January 2 and 9, USG HAT staff, traveled to Degehabur
and Fik zones in Somali Region as part of a second humanitarian
field assessment. In a January 2 meeting, the Somali Regional
President provided written authorization for USG HAT travel in
Somali Region, including the five conflict-affected zones of Fik,
Degehabur, Warder, Gode, and Korahe. USG HAT staff report that the
authorization letter significantly improved and facilitated USG HAT
travel in the region, Qding reduced delays at military
checkpoints and increased cooperation from military and civil
authorities. However, some areas remained inaccessible due to
security concerns, including Dihun, Segeg, and Gerbo districts of
eastern Fik Zone. Medecines Sans Frontieres (MSF)/Switzerland
reported that areas south of Hamedo town and Kasanagas village,
Hamedo District, were unsafe due to Ogaden National Liberation Front
(ONLF) presence and an increased risk of clashes with the Ethiopian
National Defense Forces (ENDF). In addition, the Degehabur Zonal
Commissioner denied approval for USG HAT travel to Degehamedo
District, Degehabur Zone, due to security concerns and military
escort requirements.

3. USG HAT staff received reports of recent fighting and observed
the presence of landmines in some areas of Degehabur and Fik zones.
In Bulale village, Degehabur District, 42 kilometers (km) southeast
of Degehabur town, local residents reported recent fighting between
the ONLF and ENDF approximately 10 km from Bulale. Approximately
one km outside of Bulale, USG HAT staff observed a well marked
landmine. In addition, USG HAT observed two, well marked landmines
during travel between Hamero town and Kasangas village, Hamero
District, Fik Zone. USG HAT staff report that as a result of the
clear demarcation and local driver knowledge of landmine placement

outside of Bulale and Kasangas villages, the landmines did not pose
a risk to USG HAT travel in the area.

4. USG HAT staff emphasize the need to respect local ENDF
checkpoint procedures in the region. During USG HAT travel to Fik
town, the lead car in the three-car convoy inadvertently failed to
stop at an ENDF checkpoint approximately 1 km outside of Fik town,
prompting a tense exchange between ENDF soldiers and USG HAT staff.
The second car in the convoy stopped at the checkpoint and radioed
the first car to return. Following a brief discussion and cursory
check of the vehicle, the ENDF soldiers permitted the convoy to
continue. However, the incident underscores the importance of
adhering to checkpoint procedures, which the USG HAT safety and
security officer emphasized with all convoy drivers and USG HAT
members.

----------------------------------------
UNDSS: Under-staffed and Under-resourced
----------------------------------------

5. USG HAT staff note a critical lack of UNDSS presence and
capacity in Somali Region, which is prohibiting the provision of
adequate security support to humanitarian staff and operations in
the region. Both U.N. agencies and NGOs operating within the
conflict-affected areas of Somali Region characterize current UNDSS
presence and performance as inadequate. MSF/Switzerland and SC/UK
staff in Fik Zone report frustration regarding the lack of UNDSS
security reporting and information sharing. The U.N. World Food
Program (WFP) reported that UNDSS's current weakness is undermining
its own efforts to expand access and presence in the region, due to
WFP's reliance on UNDSS for information and security clearance. USG
HAT staff note that the absence of a robust and reliable security
presence in Somali Region has significant negative implications,
including undermining humanitarian staff safety and operations.

6. In a January 11 meeting with USG HAT staff, UNDSS and WFP
security representatives also acknowledged the need to augment
staffing to meet minimum safety and security standards and
effectively support the humanitarian community in Somali Region.
Current staffing levels, with three international and four local
staff covering the entire country, are inadequate to address
security monitoring and reporting needs for the region. Both UNDSS
and WFP security representatives identified the need for
international staff from their organizations to be based in Jijiga
town, Jijiga Zone, and Kebridahar town, Korahe Zone. Currently,
neither WFP nor UNDSS maintains a permanent international staff
presence in Somali region. UNDSS and WFP report that efforts to
augment staffing levels have been hindered by budget limitations to
date.

7. In addition, USG HAT staff report that the absence of an UNHAS
operation in Somali Region is negatively affecting programming and
contingency response capacity, including emergency evacuation
planning.

-------------------------------
Conclusions and Recommendations
-------------------------------

8. USG HAT staff will continue to closely coordinate with the U.S.
Embassy resident security officer, UNDSS, WFP, and NGOs to share
security information and inform future USG HAT travel in Somali
region. In addition, USG HAT staff recommend U.S. Government and
USAID Bureau of Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance
(USAID/DCHA) advocacy with the U.N. to augment UNDSS presence and
capacity in Somali Region. High-level advocacy to facilitate UNHAS
operations in the region is also recommended.

YAMAMOTO

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