Cablegate: Ethiopia: Assistant Secretary Frazer Meets With
PP RUEHDE RUEHROV RUEHTRO
DE RUEHDS #2749/01 2530620
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 100620Z SEP 07
FM AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7720
INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCNSOM/SOMALIA COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
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RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
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RHMFIUU/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 ADDIS ABABA 002749
DEPARTMENT FOR AF, AF/E, INR/AA, AND PRM/AFR
LONDON, PARIS, ROME FOR AFRICA WATCHER
CJTF-HOA AND USCENTCOM FOR POLAD
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREF PHUM MOPS EAID EAGR ET
SUBJECT: ETHIOPIA: ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRAZER MEETS WITH
NGOS, UN AND AMBASSADORS ON THE OGADEN (C-AL7-10135)
REF: A. ADDIS ABABA 2445
B. ADDIS ABABA 2439
C. ADDIS ABABA 2415
1. (SBU) SUMMARY. Assistant Secretary Jendayi Frazer met
with NGOs, UN agencies, and Ambassadors from major donor
countries and interested parties on the Ogaden. In the
fourth such meeting convened recently by Ambassador Yamamoto
to consider the humanitarian and security situation in the
Ogaden area of Ethiopia's Somali Region, discussion centered
on continued concern about humanitarian food deliveries and
commercial food trade, the main vehicle for food access by
people in the Ogaden, due to insecurity from the ongoing
insurgency operation in the Ogaden. A UN assessment team
charged with examining access, health, and protection issues
had departed for the Ogaden on August 30, but had not yet
returned as of the morning of September 6. Some
international NGOs, like MSF, highlighted de facto
restrictions on NGO activities in some areas of the Ogaden,
despite assurances from Ethiopian authorities that no
official restrictions existed. Underscoring local
authorities' lack of capacity, UN officials stressed that the
GOE had to work with international NGOs; donor country
ambassadors concurred that engaging federal and local
authorities to reaffirm guidelines under which international
humanitarian NGOs could operate in the Ogaden was a priority.
The meeting also confirmed that there was still a lack of
information on the Ogaden, making it difficult to assess the
problems in the Ogaden and what specific measures were needed
to alieviate such problems. The group did recommend actions
to be pursued by the group in addressing concerns in the
Ogaden. END SUMMARY.
2. (U) On September 6, AF A/S Jendayi Frazer attended a chief
of mission-level meeting of nearly 60 representatives of UN
agencies, humanitarian NGOs, and donor countries convened by
Ambassador Yamamoto to discuss the current situation in the
Ogaden area of Ethiopia's Somali Region.
RESULTS OF UN ASSESSMENT TEAM NOT YET RELEASED
3. (SBU) UNDP Resident Coordinator Fidele Sarassoro noted
that a UN assessment team had traveled to the Ogaden for one
week (beginning August 30) and had received "good
cooperation" from local authorities. While required to be
escorted by the Ethiopian military, the team had been "mostly
free" to travel where desired; for "security reasons," the
team had not gone to certain areas recommended by the Foreign
Ministry. While seeking to assess access issues, health, and
"the protection of special groups," Sarassoro underscored
that the UN team was conducting a preliminary five-day
assessment, not "an investigation." He said access to trade
and commercial goods was "still an issue," but did not
publicly elaborate on the team's findings.
4. (SBU) World Food Programme (WFP) Country Director Mohamed
Diab asserted that there was "no food blockade," as some
5,000 metric tons (out of 9,000 allocated) was being
delivered into restricted areas in the Ogaden. He noted that
flooding and drought were among the additional factors
exacerbating "security-related constraints" in the region.
UNICEF Senior Operations Officer Sonja Leighton-Kone added
only that UNICEF staff were "operating without problems."
5. (SBU) UN Department of Safety and Security (NDSS) Security
Advisor for Ethiopia, Sorrien Scott, observed that the
situation in Jijiga (i.e., immediately north of the Ogaden)
remained "tense." He reported the detention of local elders,
and harassment of some UN local staff by local authorities.
Scott highlighted the increased military presence in the
Ogaden, noting that there were "more troops in Degehabur than
people". Noting the lack of access to the Ogaden for the
past three months, Scott stressed the urgency of pressing for
access, even if military escort were required.
NGOS HIGHLIGHT LACK OF ACCESS; CONTROL OF FOOD
ADDIS ABAB 00002749 002 OF 004
6. (SBU) Some humanitarian NGOs stated that despite the GOE's
assertion that access to the Ogaden was not restricted, de
facto restrictions barred NGO presence. The Netherlands
charge said that the Netherlands would favor a public
statement expressing concern that NGOs were not being granted
access to the Ogaden.
-- Medecins Sans Frontieres-Holland (Doctors Without Borders)
Head of Mission Will Robertson confirmed press reports that
MSF had been barred from the Ogaden. While talks with the
GOE had been "inconclusive," MSF-Holland hoped to regain
access, as the GOE maintained that there had been no formal
denial of access. (NOTE: MSF-Holland had previously operated
mobile health clinics in the Ogaden, as well as a maternal
health clinic in the garrison town of Warder. MSF-Holland
vacated its clinic in Warder in early August, following an
attack on Warder by suspected ONLF forces; see ref B. END
-- MSF-Belgium Country Director Francois Calas said the GOE
had expelled all MSF-Belgium staff from the Somali Region,
even though MSF-Belgium's project had been located outside
the Ogaden area. "All of our assets have been seized by
local authorities," he added. Both Calas and Robertson noted
that despite restrictions on activities in the Somali Region,
MSF was not/not being expelled from Ethiopia as a whole.
-- Save the Children-U.S. said its ethnic Somali staff in
Jijiga had received warnings, and that the regional
government was suspicious of international NGOs.
-- Action Contre le Faim (ACF)-Ethiopia (Action Against
Hunger) Head of Mission Florence Kadir noted that her NGO had
access to the Ogaden, but that gaining acccess was "complex."
ACF was concerned about the continued de facto ban on
commercial food and economic trade. In addition, while food
aid had arrived, its distribution was "controlled."
7. (SBU) UNDP Coordinator Sarassoro said the issue of NGO
access to the Ogaden had been raised with the Somali Region
president, who had responded that the GOE was concerned that
local staff of international NGOs were often supporters of
the ONLF who provided the ONLF assistance.
8. (SBU) Citing the local government's lack of capacity, UNDP
Resident Coordinator Sarassoro asserted that the GOE needed
to work with NGOs. Ambassador Yamamoto concluded that a
possible action item might working with the GOE to clarify or
reaffirm the guidelines under which international NGOs were
to operate in the Somali Region. Japan's Ambassador added
that international NGOs should collaborate, noting the
presence of NGOs from Japan and China.
UK and Norway Ambassadors recommended facilitating dialogue
between the federal government and NGOs.
9. (SBU) Save the Children-UK acting country director
Kimberly Smith observed that as the vulnerable population in
the Ogaden required 40,000 metric tons of emergency food aid,
the 5,000 tons cited by WFP was insufficient. Furthermore,
the local population's lack of access to markets for the past
three months led to their lacking the means to purchase
RISK FROM LANDMINES ALSO IMPEDES ACCESS
10. (SBU) International Rescue Committee (IRC) Country
Director David Murphy said that IRC had not had access to the
Ogaden for several months, but that this was due to being
stopped by both the Ethiopian military and the ONLF alike.
He noted that the ONLF had consistently opposed NGOs using
staff from the "highlands" (i.e., from Tigray or Amhara
Regions, as opposed to ethnic Somalis). While the GOE
maintained that there was no "official" restriction on access
to the Ogaden, in reality there was no access. Citing the
July 29 landmine incident in Degehabur Zone that killed three
ADDIS ABAB 00002749 003 OF 004
local workers of a USAID-funded NGO (ref C), Murphy said that
six additional landmines had been discovered on the same
road. The landmines had been laid recently; the mine in the
July 29 incident had not been present 24 hours earlier.
Responsibility for laying the mines remained unclear, with
the GOE blaming the ONLF, and the ONLF blaming the GOE.
(Note: UN sponsored deminers noted to the Embassy privately
that most of the landmines uncovered in the region were
recently laid, most likely by the ONLF and insurgents
targeting the ENDF. End Note.)
HEADS OF MISSION ADVOCATE FURTHER ENGAGEMENT
11. (SBU) MSF-Holland's Will Robertson said that while MSF
had not had any staff in Warder for one month now, MSF had
seen burnt and empty villages in the Ogaden. MSF had also
received second-hand information of local populations being
moved by government trucks, and of Ogadenis fleeing Warder
for Somalia. French Ambassador noted reports of ethnic
Ogadeni being arrested in Addis Ababa, although this may be
related to security preparations for the upcoming Ethiopian
Millennium celebrations. UNDP Coordinator Sarassoro
acknowledged that the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission may
be considering a trip to the Ogaden, but only to conduct
training, not to investigate alleged human rights abuses.
12. (SBU) Canadian Ambassador stated that it was "premature"
for donors to issue any public statements, without having
received the results of the UN assessment team to the Ogaden.
13. (SBU) Portugal's Ambassador agreed that public statements
could be counterproductive, so long as the GOE was
cooperating with the UN; the MFA had acknowledged a
"humanitarian problem" in the Ogaden, she said, but had also
highlighted the role of insurgents and their alleged support
by Eritrea, Somalia's former Council of Islamic Courts (CIC),
and the diaspora. The MFA did not support a visit now to the
area by all EU heads of mission, she added, although visits
by smaller groups may be possible. France's Ambassador
recommended that heads of donor embassies each visit the
development projects they supported in the Somali Region, in
order to obtain further first-hand information.
14. (SBU) Ambassador Yamamoto highlighted the need to engage
Ogadeni elders, and cited reports of executions being carried
out by both government and insurgent forces. As GOE
officials downplayed the severity of the situation in the
Ogaden, and denied reports of killings, it was important to
work with authorities to obtain additional information.
15. (SBU) COMMENT. Observations from UN agencies were
generally restrained, as the UN assessment mission to the
Ogaden had not yet returned nor released its findings.
Preliminary indications, however (septel), are that the
team's findings are not encouraging. Promoting access by
humanitarian NGOs and others to the Ogaden remains a
priority: the departure of MSF from the Ogaden follows the
GOE's expulsion of the International Committee of the Red
Cross (ICRC) from the Somali Region, and few humanitarian
actors remain to either provide humanitarian assistance or
monitoring of health or food needs.
15. (SBU) The group did agree on several course of action,
following up on the last meetings hosted by the U.S. Embassy.
Due to lack of concrete information, it was agreed that no
statement would be issued; all Ambassadors will continue to
work wtih the GOE to encourage opening corridors for
commercial food trade as well as opening new cooridors for
humanitarian food relief; encourage the GOE to provide more
information, working with the press and international
community to address specific concerns; encourage the GOE to
dispatch the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission to investigate
human rights abuse charges; and work with the OGE on upcoming
visit to the Ogaden being arranged for the diplomatic corps.
A/S Frazer's subsequent September 8 visit to Gode (in the
Ogaden), with Ambassador Yamamoto and other U.S. officials,
will be reported septel. END COMMENT.
ADDIS ABAB 00002749 004 OF 004
16. (U) AF A/S Frazer cleared this cable.