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Cablegate: Us Special Envoy Meeting with the Ngo Steering Committee

VZCZCXRO2467
OO RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #1249/01 2301506
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 171506Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1643
INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 0099
RUEHRN/USMISSION UN ROME
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 0285
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS 0105
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC 0268

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 KHARTOUM 001249

AIDAC

DEPT FOR AF/SPG, S/CRS, PRM, AF SE WILLIAMSON
NSC FOR PMARCHAM, MMAGAN, BPITTMAN AND CHUDSON
ADDIS ABABA ALSO FOR USAU
DEPT PLS PASS USAID FOR AFR/SP, USAID/W DCHA SUDAN
NAIROBI FOR USAID/DCHA/OFDA, USAID/REDSO, AND FAS
GENEVA FOR NKYLOH
NAIROBI FOR SFO
NEW YORK FOR FSHANKS
BRUSSELS FOR PBROWN
USMISSION UN ROME FOR RNEWBERG

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID PREF PGOV PHUM SOCI UN SU
SUBJECT: US SPECIAL ENVOY MEETING WITH THE NGO STEERING COMMITTEE

KHARTOUM 00001249 001.2 OF 003


--------
SUMMARY
--------

1. (SBU) On August 13, SE Williamson met with the NGO Steering
Committee to discuss the Committee's concerns regarding humanitarian
aid programs throughout Sudan, particularly in Abyei and Darfur, as
well as recent issues including the referral to the ICC for an
arrest warrant against President Bashir, GOS bureaucratic
impediments, the upswing in attacks on humanitarian workers, and the
UN's recently-increased security phases. During the hour-long
session, representatives from MedAir, World Vision, CARE, IRC,
Concern, Tearfund, and Mercy Corps offered the SE their observations
on operational difficulties, security incidents, and their overall
experiences. He also solicited their thoughts on future contingency
plans and maintenance of life-saving programs.

---------------------------------
HUMANITARIAN CONCERNS AND CAVEATS
---------------------------------

2. (SBU) Members of the NGO Steering Committee covered specific
concerns and issues impacting humanitarian partners operating in
Sudan, including humanitarian access and space, bureaucratic
impediments and government harassment, increased pressure fueled by
the ICC announcement, and NGOs' preference to "de-link" humanitarian
assistance from all political negotiations with government actors.


-------------------------------------------
ABYEI: MODEST PROGRESS AND MUCH WORK AHEAD
-------------------------------------------

3. (U) The SE recapped his trip to Abyei noting some optimism over
progress made thus far, but also highlighting the limited progress
made with cleaning up the town, appointing a new Administration,
deploying the JIUs, and witnessing some returnees to Abyei. The SE
expressed his disappointment with incomplete training of the JIU and
noted that moving to the integrated unit will be a test of success.
Overall, the SE suggested that recovery would be a long process, and
that great strides must be taken to repair the roads and structures
destroyed by the May violence and looting.

4. (SBU) The Steering Committee was encouraged by the appointment of
the Abyei Administration, however, they indicated a concern
regarding the capacity of the appointed individuals, as well as the
role that Edward Lino may play. According to the NGOs, Abyei needs
a strong and committed administration in order to achieve real peace
and security. In addition, NGO representatives stated that they are
concerned about creating a "pull factor" by providing assistance in
Abyei for returnees. Rather than responding to political pressure,
the Committee confirmed that aQeople start to move back,
assistance will follow, as long as the potential for violence is
diminished.

5. (SBU) The Steering Committee also stated concern regarding the
role of UNMIS during the May violence. Although UNMIS conducted a
successful evacuation of humanitarian staff, communications broke
down, and UNMIS forces neglected to stop or document the subsequent
looting throughout Abyei. The SE also indicated his displeasure
over reports that UNMIS only had between 70 and 90 armed soldiers in
Abyei, rather than the 300 troops originally reported. According to
one person on the ground, the UNMIS issue "isn't a question of
bravery, but rather one of preparedness," and the SE has pushed the
issue of greater preparedness and force numbers for UNMIS with the
UN's Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO). Participants
agreed that UNMIS would not have had to demonstrate a huge show of
force in order to deter looting and such actions should be covered
under UNMIS' Chapter 7 mandate that includes a responsibility to
protect civilians.


KHARTOUM 00001249 002.2 OF 003


--------------------------------------------- -----
DARFUR: A CHANGING SITUATION WITH CHRONIC PROBLEMS
--------------------------------------------- -----

6. (SBU) NGOs reported that humanitarian access and space in Darfur
are shrinking, bureaucratic impediments are increasing, NGO staff
feel increased pressure related to the ICC decision, and programs
are frequently impacted by changes in the political situation,
whether at national or international levels. NGOs described feeling
like "political volleyballs" used by the GoS as a bargaining tool.
NGO staff cited concerns about WFP ration cuts that foster increased
protection problems for women who would usually sell part of a food
ration for cash, but now must travel outside the camps to collect
firewood or find work. (NOTE: Beginning in August, the UN World Food
Program has restored the ration size to 75 percent of a full ration.
END NOTE.) In addition, steering committee members highlighted how
bureaucratic impediments limit the fuel and supplies that NGOs can
transport to camps, leaving beneficiaries without clean water and
other essential services, and thereby increasing the chance for
disease outbreaks in the overcrowded camps as IDPs resort to
drinking water from non-functioning water pumps or the wadis
(seasonal riverbeds). Steering committee members also recalled
incidents of the Humanitarian Aid Commission (HAC) threatening
relief agency staff and accusing humanitarian workers of providing
information to the ICC for the ICC's Darfur investigation. According
to the NGOs, the accusations were accompanied by threats of future
restrictions on access for humanitarian workers and essential relief
programs.

7. (SBU) NGOs catalogued current threats of insecurity and the
impact that frequent attacks continue to have on implementing
partners and beneficiaries. Throughout Darfur, displacement and
de-facto camp expansion continue, pockets of increased malnutrition
appear, and insecurity and bureaucratic impediments cause a
breakdown in supply lines of essential, life-saving supplies. In
addition, increased attacks by bandits against humanitarian workers
have forced several partners to remove staff and suspend essential
programs. According to one NGO partner, "we are forced to choose
between putting our staff at risk, and letting children die."

8. (SBU) The SE delegation asked the NGOs about the impact of the
recent UN shift to Phase IV throughout Darfur. According to the
Steering Committee, relief agencies saw the shift as being
arbitrarily imposed by the UN rather than stemming from an actual
increase in area insecurity. The shift to Phase IV forced
humanitarian agencies to reduce staff. This reduction in staff,
according to NGOs, is due to air assets for evacuations rather than
to security threats. One NGO described the UN-led process of
determining essential staffing levels as chaotic and confused
especially in determining air assets (particularly UN assets) to
transport staff, in both day-to-day and emergency cases.

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

9. (U) Throughout the conversation, NGO participants expressed
concern about the future. The SE observed that unfortunately
sometimes it seems that "everything in Sudan is a no-win game." The
NGOs also expressed anxiety over the ramifications of an ICC
indictment to their operations. The SE thanked the Steering
Committee for their dedication to Sudan and their difficult work.
He underscored the USG's commitment to Sudan and in providing
humanitarian relief for those in need. Speaking of the latter, the
SE concluded: "It is important to feed them, but it is also
important to give them a future for tomorrow--to give them their
lives back".

10. (U) SE Williamson did not clear this cable prior to his
departure.


KHARTOUM 00001249 003.2 OF 003


ASQUINO

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