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Cablegate: Ogaden: Continued Action Required to Meet Tough

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OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHDS #0527/01 0590543
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 280543Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9745
INFO RUEHAE/AMEMBASSY ASMARA 2147
RUEHBS/AMEMBASSY BRUSSELS 3113
RUEHDJ/AMEMBASSY DJIBOUTI 8934
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 3043
RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 3404
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME 6401
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 4201
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 7275
RHMFIUU/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS ADDIS ABABA 000527

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR AF A/S FRAZER, AF DAS SWAN, AF/E, AFPDPA, PRM A/S
SAURBREY, PRM/AFR
STATE PLEASE PASS TO DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
USAID AFR/AA FOR KALMQUIST, WWARREN, JBORNS, KNELSON, CTHOMPSON
DCHA/AA FOR MHESS, GGOTTLIEB
DCHA/OFDA FOR KLUU, ACONVERY, CCHAN, PMORRIS, KCHANNELL
DCHA/FFP FOR JDWORKEN, PMORAN, SANTHONY, PBERTOLIN
LONDON, PARIS FOR AFRICA WATCHER
CJTF-HOA AND USCENTCOM FOR POLAD
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

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM ET
SUBJECT: Ogaden: Continued Action Required to Meet Tough
Challenges

Summary
-------

1. (SBU) During a February 22-23 visit to the Ethiopia Somali
region, Ambassador, USAID Mission Director, USAID Advisor for the
Somali region, and RSO met Ethiopia Somali region President
Abdullahi Hassan and his staff in charge of humanitarian relief in
the Ogaden to press for improved food distribution. Noting that 50
percent of Ogaden food distribution centers had not received food
yet, the Ambassador urged the Ethiopian government: to further lift
commercial food trade restrictions with Somalia, the main means for
bringing food into the Ogaden; to investigate one substantiated
incident of looting of a truck carrying U.S. food aid; to improve
management of food distribution; to sign the extension of the
USAID-funded safety net and pastoralist livelihood initiatives; and
to declare the southern region of the Somali Region a drought
disaster to enable USAID and other donors to help bring assistance
to this afflicted area.

2. (SBU) Summary Continued: The Somali Region President pressed the
Ambassador to expand health and education for pastoralists and to
realize U.S. efforts to integrate the Ogaden into the national
health and education initiative. The United States Government (USG)
is at the forefront in advocating and supporting the Ministries of
Health and Education in this endeavor. The President disagreed with
USAID findings of poor and diverted food distribution, but finally
assured that his staff would look into it. The President and
Ambassador agreed on the need to address the counterinsurgency and
extremist infiltration problems from Somalia through comprehensive
humanitarian and long term development support, including an
education effort in the Ogaden region. The Ambassador stressed the
need for Ethiopia to adjust military operations to focus on the
counterinsurgency problem without creating animosities among the
populace and to ensure broad distribution of food aid.

3. (SBU) Summary Continued: The USG has committed and will continue
to commit a great deal of time, effort and resources to the Ogaden
(USD 53 million in emergency assistance to the Ogaden region since
August 2007, accounting for 98 percent of all international
emergency assistance to the region thus far). According to the
USAID-sponsored Humanitarian Assistance Team (HAT), U.S. Embassy-led
efforts and visits by senior officials, such as Assistant Secretary
Frazer, USAID Administrator Fore and USAID Assistant Administrator
Almquist, helped mitigate a crisis so far through a pro-active
approach. While not a famine, the Ogaden remains a pressing problem
with continuing security restrictions and poor rains and drought
increasing risk of famine. The Embassy is leading the international
effort to work with the government to get food distributed
throughout the region during the March and April timeframe, just
before the rainy season begins, to stave off a possible famine
situation. Over the long-term, assistance to help integrate the
Ogaden in the national development strategy will help undercut the
insurgency and give people in the Ogaden hope for a better future.
End Summary.

Tough Talk on Food and Trade
----------------------------

4. (SBU) Ambassador (notetaker), USAID Mission Director Anders,
USAID Advisor for the Somali region Graham, and RSO Bishop met with
Ethiopia's Somali region President Abdullahi Hassan in the regional
capital of Jijiga on February 22 for a three-hour marathon meeting
on the challenges and solutions for the Somali region. The
President appeared fully recovered from the grenade attack against

him and his cabinet from last summer by insurgents. The U.S. side
pressed the President, his Ogaden region humanitarian coordinator,
Anwar Ali Abdi, and his security chief Abdi Mohamed Umar, to make
every effort to overcome mismanagement and inefficiencies to ensure
that USAID's emergency food assistance through the World Food
Program (WFP) gets to all 186 food distribution centers in the
Ogaden region. Thus far, only 60 percent of the centers have
received food, and those which have received it need more to meet
population needs. The U.S. side also raised greater effort to ease
restrictions on food trade and commercial trade between Somalia and
the Ogaden, and within the Somali region, the usual means for
bringing food into the Ogaden region.

5. (SBU) The President replied that food rations, with the help of
the U.S., have gotten to the most vulnerable, but admitted that more
effort is needed to get food to all those in need. He emphasized
the difficulties and cost of transport throughout the region. The
President and Anwar Ali Abdi stressed that no one will go hungry, a
declaration echoed by Prime Minister Meles, and that the most
vulnerable people are being assisted. On commercial trade, the
President and Anwar stressed that insurgents and extremists use
trade to infiltrate and bring in weapons from Somalia into the
Ogaden. While criticizing some NGOs for assisting insurgents, the
President noted that livestock trade is robust through Somaliland.
The President explained at length the challenges faced by the
Ogaden, particularly its historic problems. He underscored that
fifteen years ago the nine zones and 52 districts of the Ethiopia
Somali region, which includes the Ogaden area, had fewer than 30
schools. Now it has over 1,000 elementary and secondary schools,
five colleges and a university, and 250 health centers. While
significant, more schools and health clinics are urgently needed.

6. (SBU) USAID Mission Director Anders presented photos and pressed
the President on the report of the looting of a truck carrying USAID
food assistance in Kebredehar in January. About 9 tons of food was
looted and sold in the markets. Warning the President that if this
mishandling and diversion, of which there have been allegations
since last autumn, when USAID emergency food aid entered the region,
went unchecked it would have a chilling effect on relations and on
continued USAID emergency assistance. Noting that the U.S. was the
primary donor for the emergency in the Ogaden (98 percent of all
emergency aid), without U.S. assistance the region would fall into
crisis. The President and Anwar denied that looting had occurred,
noting that with military escorts looting has been almost
eliminated. In the past, food had been looted by the insurgent
Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) and criminals. At the end
of a heated exchange, the President and Anwar agreed to investigate
and to check more into the food distribution.

Drought in Southern Somali and Other Priorities
--------------------------------------------- --

7. (SBU) USAID also pressed the President and Anwar on
mismanagement and inefficiencies in food deliveries. They pressed
the President to engage more on improving food distribution
efficiency, underscoring that military convoys have slowed
distribution and more areas can be reached without military escorts.
USAID Advisor Graham suggested the President declare the southern
part of the Somali region a drought disaster, which has already been
done in neighboring areas of Oromiya region. With the dry season at
its height, Graham explained that satellite imagery showed severe
drought making the plight of the Somalis, including Ogadenis, more
severe. Graham explained that a drought declaration will help USAID
support the President and the Ethiopian government in addressing

this new complicating environmental problem. The President said he
would work with USAID on this issue.

8. (SBU) USAID Advisor Graham also pressed the President to speed
up efforts to sign the extension for two critical USAID programs in
the Somali region: the Pastoralist Livelihood initiative and the
Safety Net initiative. Both programs are critical to the
humanitarian relief and development of the region and must be
funded. A signed support letter from the President is key for
extending both programs, Graham explained. Anwar promised a quick
signature next week.

Regional President Wants U.S. Engagement
----------------------------------------

9. (SBU) The President and Anwar pressed the U.S. on expanding
health and education of the pastoralists, who face droughts and
floods and severe hardships. The President noted that the U.S. is
the only donor that can help improve the pastoralists' situation,
raise standards of living, and give them hope. Further, the
President urged the Ambassador to realize U.S. efforts to integrate
the Ogaden region and the Ethiopia Somali region into national
health and education plans. The clear message from the President
was for the U.S. Embassy to be the region's advocate in Addis Ababa.
The Ambassador replied that this was a priority for the U.S.
because a long-term national effort will ultimately help the region
face future environmental challenges from floods, droughts and
locust infestation. The Ambassador explained that the U.S. Embassy
has advocated with and supported the Education and Health Ministries
in this endeavor to bring the Ogaden into a national strategy. Both
ministries have explained their commitment to such a policy and the
Embassy will advocate for and press the ministries on this effort.

10. (SBU) The Ambassador pressed the President to do more with the
Ethiopian military to face the counterinsurgency movement in a
rational and humane manner. The Ambassador explained that copies of
General Petreaus' manual on counterinsurgency were passed to Prime
Minister Meles and Chief of Staff General Samora. The Ambassador
noted that the Ethiopian military can eliminate thousands of
insurgents' "technicals" (trucks with mounted guns), but they would
just be replaced quickly. A long-term humanitarian approach,
improving the lives of the people, and eliminating fear would earn
the trust and support of the people.

The HAT Report
--------------

11. (SBU) The President discussed the USAID-sponsored HAT Report.
USAID Mission Director Anders and USAID Advisor Graham explained
that the HAT report made clear that efforts last summer by the U.S.
working with the Ethiopian government and regional government helped
mitigate a crisis situation. While the current situation in
Ethiopia's Somali region is not yet a famine, the situation remains
severe and could quickly become a famine and humanitarian crisis if
more efforts are not taken to distribute food and lift commercial
food restrictions immediately. Both sides agreed that March and
April will be particularly challenging with the harsh dry season and
severe drought in the south.

Comment
-------

12. (SBU) The U.S. Embassy has been at the forefront in informing
and coordinating the international community on the Ogaden

situation. USAID has been the lead agency in mitigating the crisis,
but the solution to the Ogaden is clearly integrating the region
fully into the national health and education initiatives.
USAID/Ethiopia and USAID/OFDA are working on a transitional
emergency-to-development strategy. The Health ministry with U.S.
assistance plans to expand health centers from 700 to over 3,200 in
the next five years, with a focus on areas like the Ogaden, he
claimed. (Note: Our information indicates that the Somali region
hosts far fewer health centers - 14 - and schools. End Note.) The
White House education initiative for Ethiopia can help expand
education opportunities in the Ogaden, as well. Additional Economic
Growth and IHEA funding will enable an expansion of critical
pastoral livelihoods and livestock marketing programs in the region.


13. (SBU) Comment Continued: Making the region a priority for U.S.
and other donor dialogue and assistance will help improve this
strategic and conflicted region's ability to face the constant
environmental challenges of floods, droughts and locust infestation,
and earn the trust and confidence of the people while undercutting
support for the insurgency movement. Working with the Ethiopian
military to moderate its behavior and reach out to the public
without engaging in strong arm tactics and meeting the brutality of
the insurgents with brutality will be equally critical in gaining
trust of the public. End Comment.

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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