Cablegate: Unhcr Expanding Its Activities in North Kivu

DE RUEHKI #0683/01 2330951
R 200951Z AUG 08



E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Summary: Embassy's Political Officer in Goma spoke with
the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) leadership in Goma,
Coordinator for the East Karl Steinacker and Head of Sub-Office
Ibrahima Coly. After years of minimal involvement in North Kivu,
UNHCR is ramping up programs in the conflict-affected province by
restructuring its country operation, increasing staff, and
addressing assistance gaps within UN clusters. UNHCR explained how
the clusters are still a bit ad hoc and adjusted to the
peculiarities of North Kivu, and that expanding its historically
small presence should not be done for its own sake but as a way to
add value to the humanitarian operation in place. UNHCR also
mentioned signs of spontaneous returns from Uganda and touched on
the recent tripartite negotiations between the GDRC and the GOR.
End summary.

UNHCR's Restructured Programs in the East

2. (SBU) Coordinator for the East Karl Steinacker and Head of
Sub-Office Ibrahima Coly are the two newest and most senior members
of UNHCR's team in Goma. Their arrival was part of a UNHCR
expansion in North Kivu that started with the 2005 decision to
implement UN clusters in the DRC. Until that time there had been a
very small UNHCR presence in Goma and activities in the east had
been largely focused further south on Congolese refugee returns from
Burundi and Tanzania. The sub-office at the time was Uvira while
Goma and Bukavu were smaller field offices. Today, Uvira is a field
office and both Goma and Bukavu are sub-offices. At the Kinshasa
level, the UNHCR representative was made a D-2 position with two
deputies: one in Kinshasa and one in Goma, the latter covering the
provinces of both Kivus and Province Oriental. The deputy in Goma
is now called the Coordinator for the East.

UNHCR and the Clusters

3. (SBU) As the UN cluster approach was rolled out in the DRC, UN
agencies agreed that these should not entirely replace the
humanitarian structures that were already in place. Thus, the
clusters remain a bit ad hoc. This also meant that an expanding
UNHCR was not able to easily assume its traditional cluster
responsibilities since several other agencies remained involved in
those activities. For UNHCR this now means balancing the role of
cluster lead in protection, camp coordination and camp management
(CCCM), and shelter without stepping on the toes of other
organizations already active in these sectors.

4. (SBU) With regards to the shelter cluster, the Rapid Response
Mechanism (RRM) managed by the UN Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF)
makes UNHCR's efforts almost superfluous. The RRM program provides
emergency assistance -- including shelter -- for newly displaced
individuals for up to three months (which is why one sees more
UNICEF plastic sheeting in North Kivu than that of UNHCR). The
early recovery cluster that is run by both UNHCR and UNDP will
implicate UNHCR in shelter assistance in the case of refugee returns
or mixed refugee/IDP returns.

5. (SBU) Concerning the CCCM cluster, activities are very much
influenced by the humanitarian situation before 2008. In early 2007
there were no IDP camps and with the security situation so fluid in
North Kivu all displacement was considered temporary as fighting
would die down and pick up somewhere else. The RRM was a mechanism
to respond with three months worth of assistance, after which IDPs
were likely to go home. But with the rise of Laurent Nkunda's
"Congres National pour la Defense du Peuple" (CNDP), displacement
appeared to be more ethnically driven and more permanent. UNHCR
felt, therefore, that camps were necessary in order to better
deliver assistance. There are currently 18 IDP sights that fall
under CCCM coordination in both Kivus.

6. (SBU) The rollout of the CCCM cluster caused some contention,
even if it is agreed by numerous humanitarian actors that it greatly
improved delivery of assistance to IDPs. According to Steinacker it
was viewed by other agencies as an implicit criticism of the way
business had been run up to that point using the RRM approach. It
was agreed, therefore, that the RRM process would remain as the
first response mechanism and that it would be replaced by CCCM
activities after three months. It was also agreed that CCCM
activities would have to be coordinated with the Goma Comite
Permanent Inter Agence (CPIA), the OCHA-led coordination body for
humanitarian activities. Many agencies also felt the creation of
camps would create a pull for all people who felt insecure,
something for which UNHCR believes there has yet to be evidence.
Consequently - according to UNHCR - there are serious disagreements

KINSHASA 00000683 002 OF 003

between the CPIA and UNHCR with regards to standards. The UN High
Commissioner for Refugees himself, Antonio Guterres, spoke out about
this recently, insisting that UNHCR's full standards be applied in
the DRC as they would be anywhere else.

7. (SBU) Activities that fall within the protection cluster are
co-managed by UNHCR and MONUC (primarily the human rights office).
This is another area in which UNHCR has been increasing its role
since 2005, particularly as pertains to the legal rights of victims
of gender-based violence (GBV). Success stories are rare,, however,
as perpetrators find it easy to literally escape the embryonic legal
system somewhere between arrest, trial, conviction, and detention.
The relationship with MONUC generally works well, though it is very
personality driven and different between various offices in the
East. In Kinshasa MONUC Human Rights and UNHCR are working with the
GDRC and UN Police (UNPOL) to establish a police protection force
that will be able to address security concerns within and
surrounding the IDP camps. MONUC Human Rights, along with UNFPA and
UNICEF, also runs the Joint Initiative on Sexual Violence to secure
legal representation for GBV victims.

8. (SBU) With regards to early recovery, UNHCR's role is again
limited to the provision of assistance to refugees, though it is
prepared to do small-scale IDP returns as a confidence building
measure. IDP returns are generally the responsibility of UNICEF,
which implements its Program of Expanded Assistance to Returns
(PEAR) mechanism in providing assistance. Early recovery (also
called return and reintegration) is not officially a cluster but
rather - as viewed by UNHCR - an umbrella term for activities that
support the MONUC stabilization plan, including UNICEF-facilitated
IDP returns. Activities are co-managed by UNHCR and UNDP.
Steinacker felt that given continued displacement a new profiling
exercise should be conducted to allow better IDP returns planning.

DRC - Rwanda Tripartite Talks

9. (SBU) Steinacker spoke briefly about the tripartite talks
between the DRC and Rwanda. (Note: this is a UNHCR-facilitated
forum in which to discuss modalities for refugee returns between two
countries. It is not to be confused with the Tripartite Plus, which
is a United States regional initiative to address peace and security
issues that relate to the DRC, Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi. End
note.) The first tripartite meeting took place in July in Kigali,
the next will be in September in Goma. Organizing the meeting was a
challenge in itself, as the DRC and Rwanda do not have diplomatic
relations. The refugees in question are some 45,000 mainly Tutsi
Congolese from the territories of Rutshuru and Masisi. These claim
to be eager to return, but security is not yet permissive to a
UNHCR-sponsored repatriation exercise.

10. (SBU) One of the main sticking points in the tripartite talks
is that of nationality. Though the DRC constitution affirms the
nationality of all residents of the Kivus -- including those whose
ancestors settled from Rwanda during and after the colonial period
-- there are still members of the GDRC who see the descendants of
Rwandans immigrants as foreigners. It also appears that there might
be a fear of additional Rwandans being settled in the Kivus along
with the refugees. Therefore, the GDRC had recommended that tribal
chiefs from North Kivu be asked to identify those who truly lived in
the province before fleeing to Rwanda. UNHCR is decidedly against
this idea as it would put each individual's qualification for
refugee status and Congolese citizenship in the hands of the chiefs.
The result could be Congolese refugees in Rwanda being declared
non-citizens of the DRC and thereby becoming stateless people.

Other Refugee Flows

11. (SBU) Meanwhile, there is a small number of UNHCR-facilitated
returns happening in the opposite direction. Through its
partnership with MONUC's DDRRR program, UNHCR returns the families
of demobilized FDLR soldiers. One concern of UNHCR, however, is its
desire to keep families together once repatriated. Ex-combatants
appear to be separated from their families on the Rwandan side of
the border when they are put into reintegration camps. Whether or
not these ex-combatants are granted periodic access to their
families during this time is unclear.

12. (SBU) There are also refugee returns from Uganda. UNHCR had
moved some 8,000 refugees to southern Uganda in late 2007 and early
2008; some of these now appear to be returning spontaneously to
parts of Ituri and Rutshuru territories. The Congolese migration
office will begin to register the returnees and UNHCR plans to start

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providing assistance. Because the returns are spontaneous, however,
it is difficult to tell who is actually a refugee. Few of the
returnees have documentation to prove they were refugees in Uganda,
claiming, for example, that they left their ration cards back in the
camps in southern Uganda.


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