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Cablegate: October High-Level Committee Meeting Focuses On Darfur

VZCZCXRO5553
OO RUEHROV RUEHTRO
DE RUEHKH #1222/01 3050441
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 010441Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4660
INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RUEHGG/UN SECURITY COUNCIL COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 KHARTOUM 001222

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

NSC FOR MGAVIN, LETIM
DEPT PLS PASS USAID FOR AFR/SUDAN
ADDIS ABABA ALSO FOR USAU
GENEVA FOR NKYLOH
UN ROME FOR HSPANOS
NEW YORK FOR DMERCADO

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID PREF PGOV PHUM SOCI SMIG UN SU
SUBJECT: OCTOBER HIGH-LEVEL COMMITTEE MEETING FOCUSES ON DARFUR
SECURITY CONCERNS

1. (SBU) Summary: The expanded High-Level Committee (HLC) met on
October 28. Committee members discussed key challenges in the
humanitarian operating environment in Darfur as a follow-up to the
recent HLC visit to El Geneina, West Darfur. Much of the discussion
focused on the October 24 abduction of an International Committee
of the Red Cross (ICRC) international staff member near El Geneina,
West Darfur. The UN and donors including Deputy Chief of Mission
Asquino called for an end to impunity for perpetrators of such
crimes.
End summary.

---------------------------------------
DONORS, UN CONDEMN WORSENING INSECURITY
---------------------------------------

3. (SBU) Meeting co-chair Deputy Special Representative to the UN
Secretary-General (DSRSG) and UN Resident/Humanitarian Coordinator
(RC/HC) Ameerah Haq thanked the Government of Sudan (GOS) for its
arranging the recent West Darfur HLC visit, noting that the visit
was shortened and the delegation reduced to focus specifically on
safety and security for humanitarian workers in the wake of the ICRC
staff kidnapping. Haq welcomed the release of two GOAL
international staff members, whom kidnappers had held for more than
100 days, and recognized GOS efforts to facilitate negotiations
leading to their release. However, the DSRSG noted that the
escalating level of violence and the climate of impunity surrounding
these attacks remained unacceptable, stating that "NGOs seeking to
help the people of Darfur should be able to do so without fear."
The DSRSG recommended the immediate establishment of a sub-committee
comprising a smaller group of HLC members to address safety and
security concerns facing humanitarian staff.

4. (SBU) Debriefing the committee on the West Darfur HLC visit and
echoing the DSRSG's comments, the head of the UK Department of
International Development (DFID)/Sudan read a statement, which the
USG and the European Union (EU) endorsed, identifying the ICRC
kidnapping as a "new low" in the Darfur operating environment and
calling for strong action to deter criminal actions and protect
humanitarian workers. The statement condemned impunity for
perpetrators and noted that ransom payments to secure staff release
are unacceptable and only encourage further abductions. In
addition, the statement referenced NGO messages during the HLC visit
to El Geneina regarding the negative impact that insecurity
continues to have on program delivery and outreach, particularly to
rural areas. Donors stressed that the deteriorating operating
environment, particularly with regard to attacks on international
relief staff, precludes development in Darfur, especially outside of
IDP camps, and hampers humanitarian support for rural populations
and possible returns.

--------------------------------------
GOS RESPONDS WITH SECURITY ASSURANCES
--------------------------------------

5. (SBU) Responding to the UN and donor statements, GNU Humanitarian
Aid Commission (HAC) Commissioner Hassabo Mohamed Abdul Rahman
assured all parties of the GOS commitment to the security of
humanitarian agencies working in Darfur and to the safe release of
hostages without payment of ransom. However, several GOS
representatives, including the HAC Commissioner, HLC co-chair and
Minister for Humanitarian Affairs Haroun Lual Ruun, and the GOS
Ministry of Interior representative, expressed frustration regarding
what they claimed was a lack of NGO cooperation with the police,
security officials, and judiciary on security issues.

6. (SBU) While commending NGOs for "doing a good job in a difficult
security environment," Hassabo called for increased coordination on
security issues on the part of humanitarian agencies. He stressed
that NGOs must cooperate with and defer to security officials when
hiring local staff, including drivers and security guards, alleging
that some of the kidnapping and banditry incidents could originate
from within the NGOs. (Note: NGOs already participate in a lengthy
staff vetting process with the HAC to hire local and international
workers. End note.) The HAC Commissioner and Minister for
Humanitarian Affairs both asserted that NGOs often do not fully
participate in criminal investigations, stating that "without good
information, we can't have justice."

7. (SBU) The GNU Ministry of Interior (MoI) representative
supported the statements of the Minister and the HAC Commissioner,
placing some of the blame for recent insecurity in Darfur on the
international community. The MoI official said international donors

KHARTOUM 00001222 002 OF 003


had failed to play the promised role in strengthening police
capacity as outlined in the 2006 Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA).
(Note: Provisions of the DPA have never been implemented due largely
to non-compliance by the GoS and lack of support by rebel group
non-signatories to the agreement. End note.) In the MoI official's
view, if donors had followed through with DPA provisions to improve
rule-of-law in Darfur through establishment of police stations and
police forces among internally displaced persons (IDPs), the current
level of attacks on humanitarian staff would have been avoided.

8. (SBU) In addition, the MoI official blamed the United
Nations-African Union Hybrid Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) and
humanitarian agencies for what he said was presence of armed
movements operating openly in IDP camps. He alleged that the camps
served as training centers and safe havens for criminal elements.
In closing, the official expressed support for the role that NGOs
play in Darfur and asked for further cooperation to "remove these
difficulties together."

9. (SBU) DSRSG Haq responded by noting the need for future dialogue
regarding security as part of the proposed HLC security
sub-committee. Haq highlighted the complexity of establishing
security procedures among various government and international
stakeholders due to the humanitarian principles involved in the
Darfur context. Later in the meeting, participants endorsed the HLC
Monitoring Mechanism, including new sub-committees on security at
the state and federal level.

----------------------------------
GOVERNMENT CONFUSION ON PROTECTION
----------------------------------

10. (SBU) Following the security discussion, the representative of
the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) noted
that the MoI's presentation had touched on issues related to
security and humanitarian protection--distinct, yet sometimes
interrelated concepts. The GOS Ministry of Defense official stated
that humanitarian agencies' definition of protection remains
unclear, with various messages espoused by UNHCR, the International
Organization for Migration (IOM), and ICRC. The defense official
asked that the international community come to a consensus on the
matter and share clear information with Sudanese government
representatives. UNHCR agreed to follow up with a protection
workshop and training.

11. (SBU) This lack of clarity on protection issues among Sudanese
government representatives was highlighted during comments by HAC
Commissioner Hassabo. Hassabo strongly recommended a merger of the
protection sector working group and the new security sub-committee,
as, in his view, these groups were essentially discussing the same
issues and comprised the same GOS stakeholders. However, the UNHCR
representative clarified that the protection sector working group
should remain distinct, as humanitarian protection focuses on the
protection concerns affecting Darfuri beneficiaries and not on
security of aid workers.

--------------------------------
JOINT RETURNS MECHANISM APPROVED
--------------------------------

12. (SBU) Turning to the next agenda item, HLC co-chair MoHA Haroun
tabled the Joint Verification Mechanism on IDP returns. The
mechanism proposes "to help ensure that returns in Darfur are
sustainable by enabling IDPs to exercise a free, informed, and
voluntary choice to return to their areas of origin in safety and
dignity, where and when appropriate." (Note: This objective
statement is consistent with international humanitarian principles
on internal displacement. End note.) The terms of reference
document established the composition of a Joint Verification
Sub-Committee, including the HAC Commissioner and the UN RC/HC as
co-chairs, as well as representatives of the GOS National
Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), UNAMID, UNHCR, WFP,
UNICEF, and IOM, international NGO members, one national NGO
representative, and one IDP representative, and other HLC members on
an ad hoc basis. HLC participants observed that the Joint
Verification Mechanism only establishes the criteria for the
appropriateness and voluntary nature of returns and does not
elaborate on assistance options when returns are verified as such.
DSRSG Haq stated that, upon HLC approval, the first task of the new
HLC Joint Verification Sub-Committee would be to investigate next
steps following returns verification. The HLC approved the
mechanism without objection.

KHARTOUM 00001222 003 OF 003

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COMMENT
-------

13. (SBU) The monthly HLC meeting provided a timely and constructive
venue to raise donor concerns over GOS commitments to humanitarian
staff security. Donor representatives, including the USG, stressed
the importance of concrete action against perpetrators and the need
for improvements on the ground. The outcomes of the new security
sub-committee will serve as a first test on this issue.

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