Cablegate: Usaid/Ofda Director Visits Zimbabwe to Assess Humanitarian

DE RUEHSB #0663/01 2190449
R 060449Z AUG 08




E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: A) STATE 77761
B) Harare 593

1. (U) SUMMARY: USAID's Director of the Office of U.S. Foreign
Disaster Assistance (OFDA), Ky Luu, visited Harare, Zimbabwe July
29-31, to consult with humanitarian organizations, United Nations
(UN) agencies, donor representatives, and Zimbabwean citizens
regarding the crisis in the country. The timing of his trip was
particularly opportune, as Zimbabwe's humanitarian community has
been operating under a restrictive and threatening environment in
the post-March 29 election period. Luu's interactions and analysis
led to a statement (see para 10 for complete text) released by USAID
Administrator Fore calling on the Government of Zimbabwe (GOZ) to
rescind its ban on NGO field activities and create conditions
suitable for humanitarian organizations to resume work safely and
constructively. Post is discussing a series of moves toward a
strategic plan of action on the humanitarian situation.
Complementary action by Washington is suggested in para 8. END

2. (SBU) To inform his analysis of the humanitarian challenges with
the context of the political situation, Luu first met with
representatives from civil society and human rights organizations.
These partners within USAID/Zimbabwe's Democracy and Governance (DG)
portfolio provided Luu with evidence of intimidation, harassment,
and threats to their personal and operational security during the
post-election period. Particularly notable was the fearful
environment and lack of engagement between humanitarian actors and
those promoting human rights, as evidenced by the fact that no NGO
was willing to be a signatory to a document produced by Zimbabwe
Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) that called the GOZ's June 4
suspension of NGOs a legal nullity.

3. (SBU) Luu met with USAID's Food for Peace (FFP) NGO partners,
the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), and the UN World
Food Program (WFP), to discuss their operational environment and the
country's food security situation, which were viewed to be both
interrelated and distressing. The GOZ's sustained restriction of
humanitarian access was highlighted as a dire concern, particularly
with regard to this season's extremely poor agricultural yield and
these agencies' inadequate access to beneficiaries as the "hungry
season" approaches in October. The roundtable participants
discussed approximate timeframes and deadlines by which beneficiary
registration and distribution of agricultural inputs - both of which
are currently prohibited - begin to lose their impact, also noting
diminishing yield as crops are planted late in the season. Luu
elicited participants' opinions of the UN's efficacy in-country, and
received frank comments that expressed critical concerns regarding
the effectiveness of the Humanitarian Coordinator as well as the UN
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in
coordinating a response to the post-election crisis and advocating
for humanitarian space.

4. (SBU) Post has articulated comparable concerns (REF B), issues
which were also taken forward during Luu's July 14 meeting with John
Holmes, the UN's Emergency Relief Coordinator (REF A). In Harare,
Luu met with Georges Tadonki, the head of the OCHA office in
country. Though Tadonki was defensive and often blamed the
inefficacy of his office on the Humanitarian Coordinator (who was
out of country for the week), the prolonged postponement of
protection standby capacity (ProCap) serves as an apt metaphor for
his office's passive role in the coordination of humanitarian
activities and continued engagement with the GOZ in a submissive
manner. Scheduled to arrive the week of June 16, OCHA did not want
to "provoke an incident" with the GOZ by deploying the officer.
Particularly in light of the high number of internally displaced
persons (IDPs, estimated at 30,000), the lack of monitoring presence
in the rural areas where the security situation is largely unknown,
and the absence of humanitarian space, USAID officers and Luu were
extremely perplexed with this decision. Tadonki was not able to
clearly articulate why the ProCap officer remained in Johannesburg
when the UN Country Team (UNCT) had already approved his presence,
nor was he able to describe his office's measurable strategies and
progress towards humanitarian coordination and recommencement of
access. Finally, Tadonki revealed that Holmes had recently offered
to make another statement regarding humanitarian access, but that
the OCHA/Zimbabwe office believed it would compromise negotiations
with the GOZ.

5. (SBU) Luu's meetings with UNHCR, UNICEF, and the heads of NGO
partners exposed a recurrent lack of confidence in OCHA, and a

HARARE 00000663 002 OF 003

common recognition for the need of in-country protection expertise.
Though UNHCR is the designated global cluster lead in protection for
conflict-generated IDPs, the agency has avoided chairmanship of the
Protection Working Group and has yet to meaningfully engage with
either protection or IDP concerns in the present crisis. However,
UNHCR's new Resident Representative expressed willingness to more
fully assume these roles. UNICEF's Country Representative serves as
Acting UN Resident Coordinator (standing in for UNDP Resident
Representative) and, while meeting with his agency, he agreed with
Luu's protection concerns and confirmed that he would push
deployment of the ProCap. Ultimately, without Luu's probing this
issue with these UN agencies, the officer would have not been
deployed. Representatives from UN agencies commonly agreed that
OCHA's consistently passive engagement with the GOZ "sent the wrong
message" to the wider, very expectant, humanitarian community. As a
result of OCHA's weak performance in advocacy, Luu noted that other
representative bodies - including Harare's Heads of Missions and
Heads of Aid Agencies - were now focusing on alternative
multilateral channels by which they might utilize their own
collective advocacy, utilizing joint demarches and statements to the

6. (SBU) During all discussions with UN agencies and NGO partners,
Luu was inquisitive regarding their collective priorities and what
was needed to create an enabling environment for the resumption of
humanitarian assistance. It was commonly recognized by agencies
that, though it was rumored that the NGO suspension would soon be
lifted, several conditions must accompany the lifting of the ban.
The themes of these discussions culminated in a meeting with all
USAID/Zimbabwe's program partners (OFDA, DG, and HIV/AIDS), in
addition to the USAID Mission Director and U.S. Ambassador, on the
morning of Luu's departure date. This discussion ultimately formed
the basis of the July 31 Press Statement by USAID Administrator Fore
on Zimbabwe Humanitarian Access - the foundation of which is rooted
in humanitarian principles, which have been routinely violated by
the GOZ and agents of the state since the March 29 elections.
Though NGO partners are hesitant to individually or collectively
speak out, largely out of fear of repercussions to their operational
status and beneficiaries, they very much appreciated the opportunity
to have a strong statement emerge from USAID that was specifically
crafted around their concerns.

7. (SBU) The timing of Luu's trip was ideal, as his presence
amplified awareness of the humanitarian access issue. The momentum
of these recent meetings and discussions prompted Post to create a
strategic action plan to push the resumption of humanitarian
assistance. Post is committed to undertaking the following tactical
actions in support of positive movement on the humanitarian

--Make a joint donor demarche to the GOZ regarding humanitarian
access, delivered by Danish Ambassador on July 28;

--Release a demarche letter from Heads of Mission (HOMs) to the
public to stimulate pressure from multiple channels (i.e.
intra-party power brokers, civil society, and SADC countries).
COMMENT: The Ambassador has noted that the HOMs are willing to go
public with their concerns. It remains to be determined in meetings
this week how this will be done. END COMMENT;

--Deliver a second HOMs demarche;

--Urge humanitarian partner organizations to get into the field,
attempt program implementation, and push the access issue. They
should test the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) commitments to
openness, document the reactions, and report their findings (to
donors, UN, SADC/AU, and participants/mediators of talks);

--Send a letter from Ambassador McGee to Minister of Social Welfare
Nicolas Goche outlining the impact of NGO restriction and holding
him personally accountable for denying humanitarian assistance to
suffering citizens. Publicize this letter or have the State Press
Spokesperson release key points about the letter;

--Urge the ZLHR to submit a class action lawsuit against Minister
Goche ("people v. Goche") holding him criminally liable for denying
humanitarian access;

--Follow up on the diplomatic note protesting the GOZ theft of 20 MT
of USAID food in Manicaland by writing a letter to Minister Goche
and including an invoice for the full amount of nearly US$20,000.

HARARE 00000663 003 OF 003

Deliver invoice and initiate legal action against the Manicaland
Governor who personally ordered the theft. COMMENT: Mission
requests FFP guidance on how to approach the legalities of recovery.
It is our opinion that addressing the central government would be
most effective but Post needs information on how this has been
accomplished elsewhere. END COMMENT;

--Have Ambassador McGee host a prayer breakfast in Harare and in
Bulawayo with leaders of the interdenominational faith community to
encourage humanitarian action by faith-based organizations and
churches; and

--Work with civil society and advocacy groups to mobilize the
Zimbabwean diaspora to take a more vocal stance on humanitarian

8. (SBU) ACTION REQUEST: To support these field-based tactics, Post
requests that Washington consider taking the following actions:

--Negotiate and release a joint statement by like-minded governments
calling on the GOZ to close militia camps, respect humanitarian
principles, restore access, protect humanitarian workers, and end
harassment of humanitarian organizations. If the GOZ does not
respond, we will face an imminent humanitarian emergency, and we
hold the ministers and government officials personally liable for
criminal acts;

--Call in the Zimbabwean Ambassador to the U.S. to inform him of the
call for humanitarian access to be restored and to deliver the
invoice for the stolen USG food. Continue pressure on this front if
action is not taken to lift the suspension;

--Work with civil society and advocacy groups to mobilize the
Zimbabwean diaspora in the region and in the U.S. to take a more
vocal stance on humanitarian access;

--Request that InterAction host a half-day conference on the
humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe to boost interest, action, and
advocacy on Zimbabwe by U.S. NGOs. Mission Zimbabwe will similarly
advocate with their partners to raise the profile of the situation
in Zimbabwe;

--Send an open letter from USAID Administrator Henrietta Fore to
heads of humanitarian and development organizations working in
Zimbabwe, urging them to do more advocacy and raise public awareness
of the GOZ restrictions and policies; and

--Call on UN agencies - and the UN Secretary General - to release
statements condemning the GOZ for its restrictions on humanitarian
organizations and warning of potential consequences.

9. (SBU) The objective of these actions is to create conditions
conducive for humanitarian response in Zimbabwe, most notably 1)
free access to vulnerable populations for the provision of
humanitarian assistance and protection in accordance with
internationally accepted standards, and 2) a strengthened and
capable network of humanitarian actors that actively engage in
coordinated program activities.

10. (U) Text of July 31, 2008 Press Statement by USAID
Administrator Henrietta Fore is available at: 0731.html

11. (U) Post will continue providing updates on the implementation
and impact of this strategy.

12. (U) This cable was cleared by USAID's Director of the Office of
U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), Ky Luu and OFDA/Pretoria.


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