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Cablegate: Care International Will Close Eritrean Operations

VZCZCXRO8145
RR RUEHROV
DE RUEHAE #0143 0781357
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 181357Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY ASMARA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9531
INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 1613
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 1791
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UNCLAS ASMARA 000143

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SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID PREL PGOV ECON ER
SUBJECT: CARE INTERNATIONAL WILL CLOSE ERITREAN OPERATIONS

1. (U) On March 3, CARE International Country Director Dr. Claudia
Futterknecht informed the Eritrean Ministry of Labor and Human
Welfare (MLHW) that CARE would cease Eritrean operations in three
months. CARE provided a letter to the MLHW stating that its
decision to close the office was based on an internal reassessment
of the organization's global priorities.

2. (SBU) Futterknecht informed the ambassador that the actual reason
for the closure was the difficulty in implementing programs in
Eritrea. She said agreements made with the MLHW were often ignored
by the regional (zoba) administrators, and the Government of the
State of Eritrea (GSE) had not allocated diesel fuel to CARE since
December. The final straw, she added, was when zoba administrators
required that potato seeds, intended for free distribution to
farmers, be sold instead, violating the project agreement and
causing the donors to pull funding.

3. (SBU) Futterknecht said GSE auditors had examined CARE's list of
in-country assets on March 10 and specifically questioned the amount
of funds in CARE's Eritrean bank accounts. The auditors noted that
the bank accounts did not hold the entire amount of funding required
to implement existing CARE projects. (Note: NGO proclamation
145/2005 requires NGOs to surrender all assets when they cease
operations in Eritrea. End Note.) Futterknecht explained to the
auditors that CARE and other NGOs keep only two weeks of operating
funds in Eritrea, not the entire amount required for the full
duration of their projects. The auditors seemed to accept this
reason, but Futterknecht remains concerned that the GSE will make
unrealistic demands about the handover of assets in the lead-up to
CARE's full closure in May.

4. (SBU) Comment: CARE's frustrations with the GSE mirror the
sentiments of the other NGOs still hanging onto their programs
in-country. Post remains more surprised that half a dozen
international NGOs are still trying to persevere in the face of GSE
obstacles and obstinacy, than that CARE has decided to close shop.
End Comment.
MCMULLEN

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