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Cablegate: Usg Humanitarian Assistance Team: Security and Access

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OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHDS #0027/01 0080807
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 080807Z JAN 08
FM AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9012
INFO RUEHAE/AMEMBASSY ASMARA 2040
RUEHDJ/AMEMBASSY DJIBOUTI 8837
RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 3292
RUEHBS/AMEMBASSY BRUSSELS 3022
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 4090
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 2956
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME 6313
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 7146
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 000027

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 ABABA 3611
SUBJECT: USG HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE TEAM: SECURITY AND ACCESS
UPDATE #2


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

1. Summary: Between December 27 and 30, the U.S. Government (USG)
Humanitarian Assistance Team (HAT) in Ethiopia program officer,
health and nutrition specialist, and safety and security officer
traveled to Jijiga and Degehabur zones in Somali Region as part of
an initial field visit to assess humanitarian conditions and examine
security and access restrictions to inform future travel in the
region. Despite improved access in parts of Somali Region in recent
weeks, USG HAT staff report that a lack of clarity regarding
clearance procedures and an apparent disconnect between regional,
zonal, and district authorities and Ethiopian National Defense
Forces (ENDF) continues to hinder movement. End summary.

------
ACCESS
------

2. As of December 30, USG HAT reported that travel in Degehabur
District remains restricted to the main roads. U.N. agencies,
non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the USG HAT have not been
able to access rural areas. Despite approval from regional
authorities for unrestricted access in Degehabur Zone, the USG HAT
observed that in practice secondary approval at the zonal and
district level is required. In addition, USG HAT staff note an
apparent disconnect between civilian and military authorities that
effectively delays and hinders access.

3. In a December 27 meeting, the Somali Regional President provided
verbal approval for unrestricted USG HAT access in Somali Region.
Despite this approval, the USG HAT reported that secondary approval
at the zonal level was also required. The Degehabur zonal
administrator initially denied the USG HAT approval to travel to
Deghamedo District, sighting security concerns. Subsequently, the
zonal administrator stated that the USG HAT could travel to
Degehamedo, but that he that could not provide security assurances.
In this context, the U.N. Department of Safety and Security (UNDSS)
would not have provided security clearance for U.N. Children Fund's
(UNICEF) staff traveling with the USG HAT, and the USG HAT
ultimately did not attempt to travel to Degehamedo. In addition, in
response to the USG HAT's request to travel to Gunagado village, the
zonal administrator indicated that in the absence of village local
officials, travel would not be possible.

4. In two separate meetings, the Degehabur zonal administrator
informed the USG HAT that his approval was sufficient for access in
Degehabur Zone and that military clearance was not required.
However, Medecins Sans Frontieres/Greece (MSF/Greece) reported that
it remains restricted to Degehabur town because it has not received
military approval to access rural areas, despite verbal approval
from the zonal and district administrators. In addition, the U.N.
World Food Program (WFP) head of office in Degehabur reported that
although WFP has access to all district capitals on the main road,
with the exception of Degehamedo, as of December 28, WFP staff had
not been able to meet with the military commander to discuss the
issue of off-road travel. In addition, UNDSS curfew requirements
for U.N. travel are contributing to reduced access. MSF/Greece and

WFP reported that despite repeated efforts to meet with local
military commanders, the military has been unavailable. When the
USG HAT raised these concerns with the zonal administrator, the
administrator reiterated his authority for providing clearance, but
stated that he would facilitate a meeting between WFP and the local
military commander.

5. Despite approval from the Somali Regional President, ENDF forces
repeatedly stopped and questioned the USG HAT. At Kebribeyah
checkpoint, approximately 20 kilometers (km) southeast of Jijiga
town, the ENDF detained the USG HAT before escorting the team to the
ENDF commander to explain the purpose of the team's travel.
Approximately 2 km further on at the south end of Kebribeyah, the
ENDF forces again stopped and questioned the team. Similarly in
Higelay village, ENDF forces stopped and aggressively questioned the
USG HAT. Although, the ENDF permitted the team to continue after
each checkpoint, the USG HAT noted that clearance from regional
authorities did not appear to have been communicated to the field.
USG HAT reported the pervasive presence of ENDF forces throughout
areas accessed.

--------------------
SECURITY ENVIRONMENT
--------------------

6. In Jijiga town, UNDSS representatives reported increased
tensions as a result of recent civilian shootings and the presence
of police checkpoints at night. According to UNDSS, recent security
incidents reflect increased tensions between Ethiopian highlanders
and local populations. UNICEF and WFP stronQ recommended the use
of local drivers while traveling in Somali Region.

7. In Degahabur, WFP reported a security incident involving a young
boy suspected of communicating with the Ogaden National Liberation
Front (ONLF) who was killed by the ENDF on December 29. However,
USG HAT note that there have been no other security reports since
mid-November. WFP opened a field office in mid-November in
Degehabur town. USG HAT staff report that the WFP compound meets
security standards and represents a secure potential base for USG
HAT staff for future travel in the region.

8. USG HAT staff noted a reluctance of local populations and U.N.
staff to discuss sensitive issues. Local U.N. and health facility
staff voiced concerns of potential civilian and military
repercussions for communicating sensitive information.

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

8. In close coordination with the U.S. Embassy Regional Security
Officer, the USG HAT will continue to operate in Somali Region to
facilitate the assessment of humanitarian conditions in the region
and advocate for greater access for humanitarian agencies. The
December 27 to 30 field visit has contributed to gaining the
confidence of regional and local authorities and established a
foundation for future travel. However, USG HAT note that a lack of
clarity regarding access procedures persists, which continues to
hinder access to conflict-affected areas in Somali Region. End

comment.


YAMAMOTO

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