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Cablegate: Sudan - Surge in Returns Expected Prior to Census

VZCZCXRO0235
PP RUEHGI RUEHMA RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #0481/01 0921525
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 011525Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0362
INFO RUCNFUR/DARFUR COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHRN/USMISSION UN ROME

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KHARTOUM 000481

SIPDIS

AIDAC
SIPDIS

STATE FOR AF/SPG, PRM, AND ALSO PASS USAID/W
USAID FOR DCHA SUDAN TEAM, AFR/SP
NAIROBI FOR USAID/DCHA/OFDA, USAID/REDSO, AND FAS
GENEVA FOR NKYLOH
NAIROBI FOR SFO
NSC FOR PMARCHAM, MMAGAN, AND BPITTMAN
ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU
USUN FOR FSHANKS
BRUSSELS FOR PBROWN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID PREF PGOV PHUM SOCI UN SU
SUBJECT: SUDAN - SURGE IN RETURNS EXPECTED PRIOR TO CENSUS

KHARTOUM 00000481 001.2 OF 002


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

1. In a March 27 meeting in Khartoum, a UN Mission in Sudan Returns,
Reintegration, and Recovery (UNMIS RRR) official identified a new
and potentially troubling trend of return convoys organized by the
Government of Southern Sudan (GOSS). According to UNMIS RRR, the
first GOSS-organized movement began on March 15 and has transported
an estimated 10,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) from
northern states to Southern Sudan. UNMIS RRR expects the GOSS to
continue these types of movements leading up to the census in
mid-April. UNMIS RRR noted that the level of voluntariness of the
IDPs returning home in the GOSS-organized convoys cannot be
accurately determined because the GOSS has not shared convoy
departure dates or destinations with the UN return organizations.
The UN is working to encourage the GOSS to coordinate the movements
with returns agencies in order to facilitate provision of
appropriate assistance, including food rations and other relief
items, at arrival areas. End Summary.

----------------------------------------
NEW TREND: GOSS-ORGANIZED RETURN CONVOYS
----------------------------------------

2. In recent weeks, the UN has learned that the GOSS has initiated
its own operation to return IDPs from northern states to Southern
Sudan prior to the census. According to UNMIS RRR, the GOSS has
resources for the return operation, has tendered transportation
bids, and conducted its own registration of IDPs. The GOSS has
decided to fund its returns program through the 10 states and not
centrally through the Southern Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation
Commission (SSRRC). The decentralized approach exacerbates problems
in linking with UN and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) because
the GOSS has 10 separate points of management instead of one central
focal point that could easily link to existing coordination
mechanisms. Beginning on March 15, the GOSS convoys began
transporting IDPs home and have moved an estimated 10,000 IDPs to
date. UNMIS RRR expects that this trend will continue until
mid-April.

3. While the international community understands the GOSS' urgency
to bring people home before the census, the recent surge in returns
of this sort raises concerns over potential use of coercive tactics
and misinformation on support that IDPs will receive upon return.
An additional concern for the international community is that the
IDPs will be dropped off in towns in Southern Sudan without
resources or provided with assistance to travel to their home
villages. UNMIS RRR stated that a major concern over these convoys
is the potential for "backflow" of returnees, who decide to return
to the north because their expectations are not met upon arrival or
because their livelihood options are minimal. From 2004 to 2007,
the returns operation has only recorded a minimal level of backflow
to Khartoum and oternorthern areas and aid agencies hope to
maintain this positive record.

4. In response, UNMIS RRR has activated tracking posts at Kosti,
White Nile State, to operate 24 hours a day. The increased tracking
at Kosti will help the UN to count the nighttime convoy movements
passing through this strategic point en route to Southern Sudan.
The UN is strongly urging the GOSS to share information on convoy
departure times, routes, and destinations with the agencies
coordinating returns.

-------------------------
STATUS OF RETURNS TO DATE
-------------------------

5. UNMIS RRR also presented an overview of the returns trends from
2004 to 2007. As of the end of December 2007, nearly 2 million IDPs
and refugees had returned to Southern Sudan and the Three Areas. Of
this total, an estimated 19 percent, or nearly 390,000 IDPs,
returned to the Three Areas during this time period, with 290,000
going to Southern Kordofan State, 60,000 going to Abyei, and 32,800
going to Blue Nile State. In Southern Sudan, 1.6 million people
returned to the region, with Northern Bahr el Ghazal recorded as the
state with the highest total returns.

6. TRENDS IN THE SOUTH: Most of the 1.6 million returnees to the
south arrived in 2004 and 2005 without assistance from the
international community. During this time, an estimated 90 percent

KHARTOUM 00000481 002.2 OF 002


of all IDPs went home spontaneously, and an estimated 54 percent of
refugees also returned spontaneously. According to UNMIS RRR,
Northern Bahr el Ghazal received the most returnees largely due to
the push factor of the Darfur conflict, which prompted displaced
populations in Darfur from Northern Bahr el Ghazal to return quicker
than populations in other areas of displacement.

7. TRENDS IN THE THREE AREAS: In 2006, Southern Kordofan State saw
a dramatic increase in return levels and currently is the state with
the second highest returnee numbers. The UNMIS RRR official
commented that many IDPs from Southern Kordofan gained confidence in
the security situation, road accessibility, and other factors as
many communities returned to Southern Sudan and sent positive
accounts back to communities remaining in areas of displacement.
Blue Nile State has received the least amount of returnees since
2004.

--------------------------
HOW MANY MORE WILL RETURN?
--------------------------

8. In March 2005, the Joint Assessment Mission (JAM) estimated that
a total of 4.5 million Sudanese had been displaced from the Three
Areas and the South. UNMIS RRR estimated that more than 1.8 million
have returned, that 1.2 million will choose not to return and will
integrate into the communities where they have been displaced, and
that 1 million people still plan to return to Southern Sudan and the
Three Areas. UNMIS RRR noted that the estimate that 1.2 million
people will locally integrate in areas of displacement both in the
north and south is politically sensitive for the GOSS, which wishes
all southerners to return to the region. UNMIS RRR predicts that
organized returns numbers, particularly the GOSS-sponsored returns
operations, will spike prior to the census, elections, and
referendum. Spontaneous returns are likely to remain steady over
the course of the next year.

--------
COMMENTS
--------

9. The new trend of GOSS-organized returns operations that are
organized outside of existing coordination mechanisms are cause for
concern among humanitarian agencies. The USG will encourage GOSS
counterparts to share information with the UN agencies on departure
dates, routes, and destinations in order to best assist those
arriving in Southern Sudan and the Three Areas. Further, we should
request that the GOSS allow return experts from UNMIS RRR and the
International Organization for Migration to observe the returns
registration and selection process to ensure that all travelers are
returning voluntarily and protection risks are minimized.

10. We will continue to monitor this issue and liaise with NGOs in
areas that have received GOSS-organized returnees to assess
population needs and assistance provided.

11. Looking at the UNMIS RRR numbers, we are two-thirds of the way
through an enormous and complicated return operation. However, the
remaining 1 million returnees that Southern Sudan and the Three
Areas can expect to receive in the coming years will continue to
necessitate a significant humanitarian presence. USAID, other
donors, and implementing partners will need to continue to balance
provision of humanitarian assistance as they simultaneously move
towards early recovery and longer-term development activities. At
the meeting, a UN World Food Program official told the group that it
takes an average of five years for a returnee family to rebuild
household and livelihood assets to levels equal with host
communities. In Sudan, we still have a long road ahead.

FERNANDEZ

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