Cablegate: Distances and Disorganization Hamper Assessment Of

DE RUEHBP #0610/01 1831503
R 011503Z JUL 08




E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: A. BAMAKO 00567
B. BAMAKO 00415
C. BAMAKO 00575
D. 07 BAMAKO 01080

1. Summary: On June 26 the Embassy met with International
Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) delegate Andreas Schmidt
to discuss the living conditions of populations displaced by
fighting in northern Mali. A hand-written report sent to the
Embassy by the Director of the Malian Red Cross in Kidal on
June 24 said displaced populations around the towns of Kidal,
Aguelhok, Abeibera and Tinzawaten lack sufficient quantities
of food, water and medicine. The Kidal Red Cross also
reported an outbreak of measles in Tinzawaten and Guinea Worm
in Abeibera. Mr. Schmidt, who accompanied the Kidal Red
Cross to Kidal and Aguelhok and is based in Gao, said it was
difficult to discern whether the needs of displaced
populations were a product of dislocations caused by recent
fighting or simply due to northern Mali's harsh living
conditions and long dry season. Schmidt said the remoteness
of many displaced populations and local officials' lack of
organization hampered efforts to fully assess the
humanitarian situation north of Kidal. On June 19 Nina
Walet Intallou, who serves as the highest, and only, elected
woman from the region of Kidal, reiterated concerns expressed
by the Governor and Mayor of Kidal regarding an impending
humanitarian crisis (Ref. A). End Summary.

Red Cross and ICRC Findings

2. On June 26 ICRC delegate Andreas Schmidt shared with the
Embassy some of his findings from a recent trip to the towns
of Kidal and Aguelhok in northern Mali. Schmidt is in the
process of setting up an ICRC office in Gao and said the ICRC
is seeking to expand its presence in northern Mali and
northern Niger. The Malian Red Cross in Kidal facilitated
Mr. Schmidt's visit to the Kidal region and arranged for him
to meet with 26 Malian soldiers captured by the Tuareg
Alliance for Democracy and Change (ADC) and 57 Malian
soldiers captured by Ibrahim Bahanga. Schmidt also visited
an unspecified number of Tuareg combatants held by the
Malians in prisons in Kidal and Bamako. He said both sides
were respecting international norms and conventions in regard
to their treatment of prisoners.

3. Schmidt said he found it hard to discern whether the dire
conditions confronting displaced populations in northern Mali
were due to recent hostilities between Tuareg rebels and the
Malian military or simply a product of northern Mali's harsh
environment and a prolonged dry season. Security
complications prevented Schmidt from visiting any towns in
northern Mali other than Aguelhok and Kidal. He said that
populations camped outside the towns of Aguelhok and Tin
Essako were strong candidates for humanitarian assistance but
that the ICRC needed a more complete assessment of their
needs. He also said that the ICRC intended to evaluate the
results of 20 tons of food and other supplies recently
distributed to displaced people camped on the outskirts of
Tinzawaten (Ref. B) before moving ahead with assistance plans
for other displaced populations.

4. On June 24 the Embassy received a hand-written copy of a
report by the Kidal office of the Malian Red Cross on the
humanitarian situation in northern Mali. The report said
"panic" amongst inhabitants in the Kidal region continued to
spread despite the recent lull in fighting between the Malian
army and disparate Tuareg rebel groups. In the area around
the town of Aguelhoc the Red Cross identified 940 families
displaced by recent fighting and now living in make-shift
desert encampments. Approximately 3500 families in the city
of Kidal are also in need of assistance due to lack of food,
water and rising prices. The Red Cross team was unable to
visit the town of Abeibera but the town's mayor estimated 320
displaced families in need. The Red Cross reported an
outbreak of measles affecting displaced populations camped
around the town of Tinzawaten. In Aguelhok the Red Cross
reported "several hundred" new cases of Guinea Worm arising
from tainted water supplies.

5. Back in Bamako, Schmidt told the Embassy it was difficult
for him to assess the accuracy of the numbers provided by the
Red Cross due to the remoteness of many displaced
populations. He also said that local leaders in Kidal were

BAMAKO 00000610 002 OF 003

not as organized as he had expected and that he encountered
difficulties simply compiling an assessment of vulnerable
populations within Kidal's city limits. Schmidt said he
encouraged the Governor of Kidal and other local officials to
better organize themselves in order to facilitate assistance
from international organizations.

--------------------------------------------- ----
Kidal's Highest (and Only) Elected Woman Official
--------------------------------------------- ----

6. On June 19 Nina Walet Intallou told the Embassy that as
many as 70 to 80 percent of Kidal's inhabitants have left the
city to live in desert encampments throughout northern Mali.
Intallou is a member of Mali's 75 seat High Council of
Collectivities. She was elected Mayor of Kidal in 1999 but
the result was later overturned by the Malian government.
Intallou estimated that approximately 4,000 families are
still living within the city of Kidal. Many of those who
have not fled the town, said Intallou, are single or elderly
women or widows who do not have the ability to provide for
themselves. Intallou said resupply vehicles are no longer
traveling to Kidal and that food within the town is growing
increasingly scarce. On June 18 Intallou's sister-in-law in
Kidal slipped into a diabetic coma and died due to the
absence of any doctors or medicine within the city.

7. Living conditions in encampments erected by families
fleeing fighting between the Malian army and Tuareg rebels
are reportedly no better. Intallou said displaced
populations are living in pockets scattered throughout the
Kidal region. She estimated that, in addition to the 4,000
families still in the city of Kidal, there are another 2,000
families camped around Anefif and Essouk, 2,000 more near
Tessalit, 500 in the area of Bourghessa and Tinzawaten, and
1,500 between Abeibera and Tin Essako. Intallou estimated
that each family consisted of around 5 individuals.

8. The town of Aguelhok has been empty since Tuareg rebels
attacked the Malian military base there on May 21. Intallou
reported that the Mayor of Aguelhok and some of the men
return to the town during the day, but sleep in desert
encampments each night. Women and children from Aguelhok are
all living in encampments in the bush.

9. Intallou said transportation corridors to affected areas
in northern Mali were open and that humanitarian aid could be
delivered provided the shipments were coordinated with local
government officials and fraction chiefs. The Governor of
Kidal recently told Embassy staff that the Malian government
had intended to deliver a quantity of millet to displaced
populations in northern Mali but was unable to do so due to
transportation problems. Intallou questioned whether the
Malian government intended to send any assistance at all and
noted that Tuaregs do not eat millet. "It is amazing that
they could think of sending millet to Kidal," said Intallou.
She asked the U.S. to provide support to displaced
populations in Kidal and said that northern populations still
remember U.S. planes airlifting relief supplies to the
northern town of Tessalit during the drought of 1973-1974.

10. Intallou also pointed out that the current trend toward
direct budgetary support popular with European donors
negatively impacts marginalized regions like Kidal. Direct
budgetary support was one of the key topics at the recent
round table for international donors held in Bamako June
12-13 (Ref. C). Intallou said the provision of direct
budgetary support to bodies like the Ministry of Territorial
Administration undermines Mali's strategy of decentralization
by giving government officials in Bamako control over
resources intended for rural populations. One demand
articulated by Tuareg rebels is the authority to bypass
government officials in Bamako in order to deal directly with
international donors. Intallou said that peace in northern
Mali will be difficult to achieve without some kind of
agreement regarding direct donor support for Kidal.

11. Comment: The Malian government has not indicated any
intention to request humanitarian assistance for populations
displaced by fighting in northern Mali. As the ICRC
discovered, assessing the living conditions of displaced
populations in the region of Kidal is complicated by the
remoteness of their encampments, the generally harsh
environment, and continued instability. ICRC representative
Schmidt observed that local leaders of disaster-struck areas

BAMAKO 00000610 003 OF 003

often greet arriving members of the Red Cross with lists of
the number of individuals impacted by any given humanitarian
crisis. Schmidt was surprised to find that officials in
Kidal and Aguelhok were unable to produce information on the
number of individuals requiring humanitarian assistance.
When Mali requested relief for flood victims in central,
southern and western Mali in September 2007, the Malian
Government provided detailed lists that specified the number
of individuals left homeless, the number of houses destroyed
and the number of farm animals lost (Ref. D). Such a
detailed accounting of the humanitarian situation in Kidal is
unlikely, meaning that any assessment of food, water and
medicine shortages for those displaced by fighting in the
north will continue to entail a fair amount of guesswork.

© Scoop Media

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