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Cablegate: Niger: United Nations (Un) Secretary General

VZCZCXRO3708
RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHNM #0689/01 1920939
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 100939Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY NIAMEY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4411
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RUEHCP/AMEMBASSY COPENHAGEN 0176
RUEHKI/AMEMBASSY KINSHASA 0061
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 0130
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 0703
RUEHYD/AMEMBASSY YAOUNDE 0039
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 0193

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 NIAMEY 000689

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR AF/W (DENNISON)
PARIS AND LONDON FOR AF WATCHER

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SENV EFIS SOCI EAID PREF NG UN
SUBJECT: NIGER: UNITED NATIONS (UN) SECRETARY GENERAL
SPECIAL ADVISOR (SA) JAN EGELAND JUNE 2008 VISIT TO LAKE
CHAD

REF: A. 06 NIAMEY 1190 (NOTAL)
B. 06 NIAMEY 1192 (NOTAL)
C. 06 NIAMEY 1203 (NOTAL)
D. NIAMEY 481 (NOTAL)

1. Summary. UN Secretary General SA on Conflict Prevention,
Jan Egeland, made a June 5-6 visit to Niger to investigate
the nexus between climate change issues and conflict. UN
Development Program (UNDP) Senior Representative Khardiata Lo
N'Diaye (concurrently the senior UN system official in Niger)
and SA Egeland called on Ambassador Allen to discuss conflict
issues in Niger and to outline his goals for the two-day
visit. With the aid of the UN system team, he conducted an
information session on climate change issues in Niger for the
diplomatic corps. He invited UN member state ambassadors to
accompany him by UN plane on a day trip to the basin of Lake
Chad, located in the easternmost part of Niger (the region of
Diffa). Egeland pledged to appeal to the international
community for funds to support efforts to replenish Lake Chad
in Niger and said he'd share accounts of the visit at the
climate change conference scheduled to take place in
Copenhagen in 2009. End summary.

2. SA Egeland emphasized that the purpose of his visit to
Niger and the subregion was to obtain a firsthand account of
climate change issues that potentially lead to conflict. He
met several Government of Niger (GON) officials, notably
Nigerien President Mamadou Tandja and the GON Minister of
Environment (M/E) Mohamed Akotey, and stated that Tandja
emphasized in the security discussion concerns about
banditry, drugs and arms trafficking in the region. Egeland
stated that there was mention of a possible regional security
conference in July, that the venue and participating
countries were still to be determined.

3. In Egeland's call on the Ambassador, he inquired about
the insecurity in northern Niger, as well as conflicts
between pastoralists and agriculturalists over scarce water
resources. Ambassador provided a brief overview of the
situation in the north, stressing that U.S. Embassy personnel
had not visited the conflict zone, that we receive periodic
reports from partners who work in the north as they pass
through Niamey. With regard to water conflicts, Ambassador
cited the 2006 case (ref A, B and C) surrounding the Mohamid
Arabs as one of the most extreme cases during her tenure in
Niger. She said a dispute over the use of a watering hole
led the GON Minister of Interior to issue an order to expel
nomadic Mohamid Arabs based on a complaint from
agriculturalists in Diffa that the herders' large camel
troops were sucking the watering holes dry. The diplomatic
community had grave concerns about a potential refugee
crisis, but the GON averted the problem by subsequently
rescinding the expulsion order. Ambassador added that in
2007 there were occasional reports of incidents around
watering holes, but generally last year's rains proved
sufficient to prevent major hostilities over water.

4. The Lake Chad basin visit some 1000 kilometers from Niamey
required 10 hours of travel -- 6 hours roundtrip by plane
from Niamey to Diffa and 4 hours round trip by road from
Diffa to three locales (Bosso, Mamouri, Boulatoungour) that
border the now dry basin. Egeland and a delegation that
included GON M/E, several ambassadors (USA, France, Germany,
Egypt, Denmark Cooperative Senior Representative) and UN
System partners (UNICEF, UNDP, FAO, WFP, etc.) found a dry
bed of seashells in the basin -- not a drop of water was
found during the entire visit. Villagers who in past decades
earned livelihoods from fishing the lake informed the
delegation that as the lake dried up in the 1970s they
converted from fishing to herding crossbred Kouri cows to
feed their families. The delegation was shown several
Nigerien coast guard vessels with markings dating from the
1930's that, according to villagers, have been beached since
1973, the last year the Nigerien coast guard patrolled the
lake surface that extended from Niger to Nigeria.

5. During the visit with Diffa officials, Egeland mentioned
reports of dam projects in neighboring countries (citing
Cameroon as an example) believed to have cut off a vital
water supply to Lake Chad. He highlighted the Lake Chad

NIAMEY 00000689 002 OF 002


Basin Commission's interest in pursuing a proposal to bring
water from the Congo to the River Chari with aspirations that
such a project would restore the lake to its past grand
scale. Egeland stated he will launch an appeal to UN member
states to fund research and development of Lake Chad. He
pledged to share in his climate change engagements, including
the climate change conference scheduled to take place in
Copenhagen in 2009, his observations of the dire situation of
populations that rely on the lake for survival.

6. Comment: The Lake Chad Basin Commission and the Niger
River Basin Authority (reftel D) both place Niger in the
center of the water dialogue. Some Nigeriens who once
counted on Lake Chad or continue to rely on the Niger River
to earn income now eke out an existence by herding livestock
or relocating to cities to search for employment. Niger and
its people, as well as populations across the Sahel who live
along both basins, stand to benefit from research and
development of water projects to replenish Lake Chad and/or
enhance the Niger River. Both organizations now urgently
compete for assistance from the same donor partners to
deliver water resources critical to the survival of the
basins' bordering populations. End comment.
ALLEN

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