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Cablegate: Southern Sudan: Unhcr has Successes, Faces Challenges

VZCZCXRO6518
PP RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #1644 1931154
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 121154Z JUL 06
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3667
INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RUEHGI/AMEMBASSY BANGUI 0029
RUEHKI/AMEMBASSY KINSHASA 0040

UNCLAS KHARTOUM 001644

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREF UN CT CG ET CD UG KE SU
SUBJECT: Southern Sudan: UNHCR Has Successes, Faces Challenges


1. The Director of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees
(UNHCR) in Southern Sudan, Bhairaja Panday, said that returns from
Uganda, Kenya, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) were
now proceeding smoothly. However, he explained that returns from
the Central African Republic (CAR) had been stopped due to the
closure of the border, and many refugees awaiting return faced
hardship and food shortages. Panday also feared that funding
shortages would threaten UNHCR's long-term ability to effectively
monitor and assist refugee returns. (Note: the UNHCR announced on
July 10 that 10,000 Sudanese refugees had returned so far in 2006
from Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, DRC, and CAR. End note.)

2. Panday told Embassy PolOff in a meeting on July 7 that he is
very pleased that UNHCR has now facilitated 10,000 refugee returns.
While he realized that this is a small portion of the nearly
half-million refugees, he felt this start was promising, considering
that the number stood in the hundreds at the beginning of the year.
He said that refugee returns from Uganda, Kenya, and the DRC, all of
which had signed tripartite agreements for returns this year, were
now proceeding well.

3. Returns from the CAR remained a problem because the chartered
repatriation flight has been grounded since the CAR closed the
border in April 2006 over fears of Chadian rebel infiltrations.
This left thousands of stranded refugees awaiting return, many of
whom sold all their possessions and are facing food shortages
because they did not plant crops in expectation of an imminent
departure. Panday said that the government of the CAR has offered
the option of an alternative charter company, but the asking price
is multiples of current charter flights and well above UNHCR's
budget.

4. Panday also complained that general budget shortfalls will soon
begin to seriously impact UNHCR's ability to provide services. He
said that he had just returned from a meeting in Nairobi where he
was given a revised, and much reduced, budget. Because overhead
costs and staff salaries are fixed, these line items consume a large
percentage of the overall budget. This has led to staffing cuts and
a consolidation of operations to Juba. The office in Malakal will
be the first casualty. Panday is concerned that without staff in
the field, the UNHCR's ability to accomplish its mission will be
seriously compromised.

HUME

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