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Cablegate: Abyei: Goss-Sponsored Returns Update

VZCZCXRO5374
PP RUEHGI RUEHMA RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #0540/01 0981456
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 071456Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0496
INFO RUCNFUR/DARFUR COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHRN/USMISSION UN ROME

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 KHARTOUM 000540

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: ABYEI: GOSS-SPONSORED RETURNS UPDATE

REF: KHARTOUM 481

KHARTOUM 00000540 001.2 OF 003


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

1. On April 2, USAID staff visited a reception center in Abyei town
that had received approximately 3,000 Government of Southern Sudan
(GOSS)-sponsored returnees from Khartoum. According to UN Mission
in Sudan Return, Reintegration, and Recovery (UNMIS RRR) staff, the
returnees arrived with household assets, in good health, and
reported being happy to be home. As reported REFTEL, the GOSS has
organized an operation to return internally displaced persons (IDPs)
to areas of origin in Southern Sudan and the Three Areas prior to
the April 15 census. Due to insecurity along the road from Dilling
to Abyei, UNMIS provided force protection to the 74-truck convoy and
ensured the returnees' safe arrival in Abyei. With the GOSS return
operation in full swing, UNMIS needs to be prepared to provide force
protection for other convoys traveling through Southern Kordofan to
Abyei or Southern Sudan. End Summary.

-----------------------------
ABYEI RETURNEES ARRIVE SAFELY
-----------------------------

2. According to UNMIS RRR and a Southern Sudan Relief and
Rehabilitation Commission (SSRRC) official, a 74-truck convoy
carrying as many as 3,000 people and their household belongings from
Khartoum arrived in Abyei on April 1. The returnee convoy required
force protection from UNMIS due to the numerous roadblocks, armed
groups, and banditry along the final stretch of road from Dilling to
Abyei. According to UN officials in Abyei, mobilizing the UNMIS
force protection took several days, prolonging the group's journey.
(Note: The Government of National Unity, UN, and GOSS' joint
organized returns program does not send returnees to Abyei due to
insecurity and lack of local administration to facilitate
reintegration and recovery activities. End Note.)

3. In preparation for the returnees, SSRRC designated a reception
center in Abyei town that includes a health screening area, water
bladder, and returnee registration site. On April 2, USAID staff
visited the center and saw approximately ten empty trucks parked
outside of the reception area and one truck full of returnees'
household belongings. Most families had unloaded their belongings
and were gathered around piles of beds, chairs, and other luggage
items.

4. USAID partner GOAL provided medical screening for returnees at
the reception center and reported that most returnees had arrived in
good health. Returnees reported one baby delivery during the
journey from Khartoum. UNMIS RRR provided a water bladder at the
site. An UNMIS RRR officer interviewed returnees and reported that
most seemed to be in good spirits and happy to be home. The UNMIS
RRR officer noted that providing assistance to the GOSS-organized
returnees is difficult because the GOSS has not notified the UN of
departure dates, routes, or destinations, but that the process has
been relatively smooth so far. The UNMIS RRR officer reported that
the Abyei SSRRC has good capacity and has organized the returnees'
reception quickly and effectively. According to the Sudan People's
Liberation Movement (SPLM) representatives in Abyei, the next
GOSS-sponsored return convoy is scheduled for April 12.

--------------------------------------------- ---
OTHER COMPLICATED DISPLACEMENT DYNAMICS IN ABYEI
--------------------------------------------- ---

5. In addition to returnees from Khartoum, Abyei also has received
returnees from Dibaab and Diffra areas, located north of Abyei,
which UNMIS RRR characterized as extremely vulnerable. Insecurity
and restricted access north of Abyei town prevents UN agencies, the
SSRRC, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from thoroughly
assessing the humanitarian situation of IDPs in the area and
returnee populations. In recent weeks, an UNMIS RRR team identified
a group of returnees in the Dibaab/Diffra area and reported high
levels of malnutrition among the children. In response, Medecins
Sans Frontieres (MSF) dispatched a medical team to assist the
malnourished children and provide therapeutic feeding.

6. UN agencies in Abyei lack a clear understanding of the status of
the IDPs in Dibaab and Diffra, but believe many are Dinka who were
displaced from Northern Bahr el Ghazal in the 1990s and remained in

KHARTOUM 00000540 002.2 OF 003


the area after the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed to
sharecrop in Misseriya areas. Increased tension between Dinka and
Misseriya in the Muglad Area likely has prompted the Dinka IDPs to
start moving southward to Abyei town.

7. UN officials also reported an unknown number of IDPs arriving in
Abyei town following the fighting along the border between Southern
Kordofan and Southern Sudan in recent months.

------------------------------------------
REINTEGRATION AND RETURN TO RURAL VILLAGES
------------------------------------------

8. As a policy, the UN agencies and the NGOs in Abyei do not
provide assistance to returnees until they reach their final return
destination. Abyei town is considered a transit point for
returnees, but in fact many returnees opt to remain in Abyei because
of the available services or because of insecurity in their home
areas. The little town is bursting at the seams. Returnees who
choose to remain in Abyei will need to be targeted with
income-generation activities and vocational training opportunities
to expand their livelihood options.

9. The SSRRC is responsible for registering returnees in their
final return destinations and utilizes boma reception committees to
conduct the registration. UNMIS RRR verifies reports and numbers
from the SSRRC boma reception committees and then the UN provides
food aid, relief commodities, and seeds and tools to the returnee
communities based on the verified figures.

10. UN officials reported to USAID that the tracking and
verification process could be slow and often included several delays
due to insecurity or lack of access to villages. In general, NGOs
and UN agencies can access up to 10 km outside of Abyei town, but
areas beyond 10 km are almost completely inaccessible. Coverage for
basic services in rural areas in the Abyei Area is low. Agencies
estimated a coverage rate of between 20 to 50 percent for health and
water, sanitation, and hygiene services. Health coverage for
communities in the areas off the main roads is estimated to be
almost zero.

11. On April 2 in Abyei, relief organizations repeatedly told the
USAID/Sudan Mission Director that construction of feeder roads in
Abyei is crucial to improving access to basic services, stimulating
economic recovery, and facilitating sustainable reintegration for
returnee communities. The organizations also gave mixed messages
regarding Abyei's readiness for longer-term development activities.
In the meeting, some agencies stated that Abyei was still in an
emergency phase, while most convincingly argued that initiating
urgently needed development activities will help to stabilize a
volatile and tense situation. USAID currently supports relief,
transition, and development programs in Abyei but because the region
has lacked a local administration, NGOs and development agencies
have lacked an effective official counterpart with whom to work.

-------
COMMENT
-------

12. The GOSS-sponsored returns to Abyei town appear to be
voluntary, though they are obviously actively encouraged as an
integral part of GOSS/SPLM policy in advance of the census and to
create "facts on the ground" by having a larger Dinka population in
place in the oil-rich, contested region. The returns appear to be
sufficiently supported by the SSRRC, UNMIS RRR, and NGOs upon
arrival in Abyei. UNMIS should be encouraged to stand ready to
provide force protection to future GOSS-sponsored return convoys
passing through Southern Kordofan State, in order to minimize delays
en route for the returnees. CDA Fernandez made that point to the
UNMIS Force Commander Zamcont and will do the same with SRSG Qazi.

13. The lack of access beyond a 10 km radius north from Abyei town
is a major obstacle to sustainable reintegration into rural villages
and the resumption of agricultural livelihoods. The ability of
returnees, both organized and spontaneous, to establish viable
livelihoods in Abyei will remain a primary concern for aid agencies.
A focus on reintegration and livelihood activities targeting
returnees is clearly needed in 2008. In the coming months, return,
reintegration, and displacement dynamics will add another layer to
the already complicated social, ethnic, and political interactions
in Abyei.

KHARTOUM 00000540 003.2 OF 003

14. USAID is currently considering funding several new projects,
such as airstrip construction, feeder roads, and vocational
training, in Abyei. USAID is committed to scaling-up activity in
Abyei area in the coming months, but is also cognizant of the
numerous challenges of operating in this key area for CPA
implementation.

FERNANDEZ

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