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Cablegate: Usg Humanitarian Assistance Team: Access and Security

VZCZCXYZ0003
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHDS #0413/01 0500825
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 190825Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9606
INFO RUEHAE/AMEMBASSY ASMARA 2134
RUEHDJ/AMEMBASSY DJIBOUTI 8923
RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 3389
RUEHBS/AMEMBASSY BRUSSELS 3104
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 4185
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 3034
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME 6391
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 7259
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 000413

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 GPLATT, RFFPO NCOX, USAID/EA
ROME FOR AMBASSADOR, OHA, HSPANOS
BRUSSELS FOR USEU PBROWN
GENEVA FOR NKYLOH, RMA
USUN FOR FSHANKS
NSC FOR PMARCHAN

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID PHUM SENV EAGR PGOV ET
REF: A) ADDIS 3644 B) ADDIS 3611 C) ADDIS 0027 D) ADDIS 0153 E)
ADDIS 0381
SUBJECT: USG HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE TEAM: ACCESS AND SECURITY
UPDATE #4

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

1. (SBU) Between December 20 and January 31, U.S. Government (USG)
Humanitarian Assistance Team (HAT) in Ethiopia staff conducted three
extensive humanitarian assessment trips to the conflict-affected
areas of Somali Region, including Degehabur, Fik, Gode, and Korahe
zones. USG HAT staff note national, regional, and local government
cooperation in facilitating USG HAT access and travel in the region.
During USG HAT regional assessments, local populations reported
numerous unsolicited accounts of Ethiopia National Defense Force
(ENDF) attacks on civilian populations and burning of villages.
While assessing locust damage in Korahe Zone, USG HAT observed two
burned villages approximately 50 kilometers (km) northeast of
Kebridehar town. USG HAT staff also note high levels of tension and
intimidation in the region.

2. (U) In addition, USG HAT staff report a deterioration in safety
and security conditions for UN agencies and non-governmental
organizations (NGOs) operating in Somali Region in recent weeks,
including ENDF arrests and detentions of humanitarian staff and
increasing allegations by the Government of the Federal Democratic
Republic of Ethiopia (GFRDE) of humanitarian organizations
collaborating with the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF). At
the same time, the ONLF released a January 18 statement accusing UN
and humanitarian organizations of colluding with the GFDRE and
compromising their neutrality by adhering to GFDRE required military
escorts for food assistance and failing to publicly acknowledge ENDF
responsibility for the current humanitarian situation. End summary.


----------------
BURNED VILLAGES, IDPS, AND IMPLIED THREATS
----------------

3. (SBU) During USG HAT field assessments in Degehabur, Fik, Gode,
and Korahe zones, local populations reported numerous unsolicited
accounts of ENDF attacks on civilian populations, including the
burning of villages and killing of civilians. In an IDP camp
approximately 7 km outside of Kebridehar town, Korahe Zone, USG HAT
staff heard approximately 10 accounts of nearby villages being
burned and villagers fleeing into the bush or to the IDP camp. At
the same camp, four unknown young men aggressively harassed the USG
HAT safety and security officer (SSO). The young men approached the
USG HAT SSO while making hand gestures indicating slitting one's
throat. One young man pulled out a cigarette lighter, put the
lighter close to the USG HAT SSO's face, lit it, and laughed.
Although the USG HAT SSO could not confirm the identity of the men,
the SSO noted that other IDPs avoided the young men. Based on the
men's attire and aggressive attitude, the men did not appear to
belong to the camp. To avoid an escalation in tensions, USG HAT
staff departed the IDP camp following the incident. Continuing
northeast from the IDP camp, USG HAT staff observed two burned
villages approximately 50 km northeast of Kebridehar town while
assessing signs of locust damage in the region. According to a UN
staff member, the ENDF had burned the villages approximately four to
six months prior.

---------------
ONLF COMMUNIQUE
---------------

4. (U) On January 18, the ONLF issued an official communique
accusing UN and humanitarian organizations of "colluding" with the
GFDRE and compromising their neutrality by adhering to GFDRE
required military escorts for food assistance and failing to
publicly acknowledge ENDF responsibility for the current
humanitarian situation. USG HAT staff note that the communique
represents a change in perception of the humanitarian community by
the ONLF and should be regarded as a potential threat to
humanitarian activities in the region.

-------------------
HUMANITARIAN DETENTIONS AND REDUCED ACCESS IN THE OGADEN
-------------------

5. (U) The UN Department of Safety and Security (UNDSS), WFP, and
the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
report an increase in GFDRE arrests of humanitarian staff perceived
to be assisting the ONLF in recent weeks. Since January 26, 22
Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) staff continue to be affected by
recent GFDRE detentions and movement restrictions within the
conflict-affected areas of Somali Region, including 10 international
and 12 Ethiopian staff. On January 26, the ENDF placed 16
MSF/Holland staff under open arrest and confiscated staff phones and
computers in Warder town, Warder Zone, according to OCHA.
Conditions of open arrest permit free movement within Warder town.
However individuals are not permitted to leave Warder town, speak to
UN staff, or enter UN offices, according to OCHA. According to
MSF/Holland, a National Information and Security Services official
told MSF/Holland staff that they were under investigation for
allegedly having contacted and provided medical assistance to ONLF
elements. On January 27, the ENDF also placed six MSF/Switzerland
staff under open arrest and confiscated staff phones and computers
in Kebridehar town, Korahe Zone, according to OCHA.

6. (U) In addition to humanitarian staff detentions, USG HAT staff
report increased restrictions on humanitarian access and movement in
parts of Somali Region in recent weeks. On January 29, the ENDF
stopped and detained WFP and NGO staff at checkpoints in Degehabur
and Korahe zones for approximately one hour before permitting staff
to continue onward travel, according to WFP. From January 29 to 31,
ENDF restrictions suspended UN and NGO operations and movement in
Kebridehar town, Korahe Zone. On January 29, the ENDF ordered all
UN and NGO vehicles in Kebridehar town, KorahQone, to be moved to
the ENDF compound for an unspecified period of time, according to
UNDSS. UN agencies refused to comply and negotiated an agreement to
store vehicles in UN and NGO compounds and temporarily suspend
operations, according to OCHA.

7. (U) OCHA has characterized recent incidents as blatant military
harassment and intimidation and cautions that humanitarian
operations cannot continue under current conditions. In a January
31 OCHA Somali Region coordination meeting, OCHA reported that the
Humanitarian Coordinator has raised renewed protection and ENDF

humanitarian harassment concerns with the UN headquarters in New
York and that the UN Secretary General is expected to raise these
concerns with Prime Minister Meles.

---------------
USG HAT PROPOSED PRESENCE IN KEBRIDEHAR
---------------

8. (U) The USG HAT is proposing to establish a temporary field
presence in Somali Region to continue to evaluate humanitarian
conditions, implement and manage U.S. emergency response programs,
and facilitate coordination and information sharing with UN and NGO
partners operating in the region. Office space would be co-located
within the UN compound in Kebridehar town, Korahe Zone, and be
utilized as a base for short-term assessment teams traveling to the
region.

-------------
USG HAT CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS
-------------

9. (U) Due to continuing insecurity and an upsurge in recent
humanitarian staff detentions and movement restrictions in Somali
Region, USG HAT staff emphasize the need for continued collaboration
and information sharing between USG HAT staff, the U.S. Embassy
Resident Security Officer (RSO), and UNDSS, WFP, and NGO security
staff. USG HAT staff recommend that future USG HAT travel in the
region utilize air travel whenever possible, continue to utilize UN
and NGO partner vehicles and support, and secure RSO advance
approval, in addition to UNDSS clearance when applicable. Regarding
the establishment of a USG HAT presence in Kebridehar, USG HAT staff
emphasize that the proposed office space is to be utilized as a
temporary base for short-term assessments to the region. USG HAT
staff also encourage USAID's Bureau for Democracy, Conflict, and
Humanitarian Assistance (DCHA) to communicate concerns regarding
recent humanitarian harassment and movement restrictions to UN
leadership.

YAMAMOTO

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