Search

 

Cablegate: October High-Level Committee Meeting Focuses On Darfur

VZCZCXRO5658
OO RUEHROV RUEHTRO
DE RUEHKH #1227/01 3051349
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 011349Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4667
INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RUEHGG/UN SECURITY COUNCIL COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 KHARTOUM 001227

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: In a spirited session of the expanded High-Level
Committee (HLC) 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. The
discussion centered 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 the U.S.
Government (USG), represented by Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) Mark
L. Asquino, strongly condemned the continued impunity surrounding
the kidnapping incidents and noted the importance of immediate
action to bring perpetrators to justice.

2. Summary continued: While Government of National Unity (GNU)
representatives uniformly stated that the GNU is actively engaged in
securing the release of humanitarian workers, their tone became
decidedly defensive after repeated UN and donor statements on the
issue of impunity. GNU officials stressed the lack of local police
capacity, complained about lack of non-governmental organization
(NGO) cooperation with security investigations, and alleged that
NGOs are further worsening the problem by hiring "unknown," and
possibly dangerous, local staff. In addition, the meeting revealed
remaining GNU misunderstandings regarding the meaning of
humanitarian protection vis-a-vis Darfuri civilians. 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 GOS for their hospitality during 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 GNU 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
remain 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 comprised
of a smaller number 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 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 deleterious 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. DCM Asquino reiterated that the international
community will not tolerate continued attacks on humanitarian
workers and called on the GNU to bring perpetrators to justice. In
addition, Asquino noted the importance of positive and accurate
media messaging regarding NGO work.

--------------------------------------------- -----
GOS RESPONDS WITH SECURITY ASSURANCES, FRUSTRATION
--------------------------------------------- -----

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

KHARTOUM 00001227 002 OF 003

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. Hassabo
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
expounded on the assertions of the Minister and the HAC
Commissioner, squarely placing much of the blame for recent
insecurity in Darfur with the international community. The MoI
official complained that international donors had failed to play the
promised role in strengthening police capacity as outlined in the
2006 Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA). (Note: The DPA is widely
acknowledged to be defunct. End note.) In the MoI official's view,
if donors had followed through with agreements 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 African Union-UN
Hybrid Operations in Darfur (UNAMID) and humanitarian agencies for
the alleged presence of armed movements operating openly in IDP
camps and frequently repeated that the camps serve as training
centers and safe havens for criminal elements. When Sudanese
security officials seek to eliminate these problems, he added,
instead of providing support, UNAMID representatives urge inaction
and request that government security personnel remain outside the
camps due to "sensitivities." (Note: The MoI was likely referencing
the UNAMID response following the August 2008 incident in Kalma IDP
camp, in which government "security raids" led to the deaths of more
than 30 civilians. End note.) The official asserted that the GOS
must eliminate criminal hideouts in IDP camps as a means to protect
Darfuri citizens, including IDPs themselves. The MoI representative
further complained that NGO and UN staff do not inform security
officials of their travel plans within towns and villages; thus,
security officials are unable to provide protection and ease NGO
work. 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 heated 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 GNU Ministry of Defense
official present interjected to state 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. UNHCR clarified
that the protection sector working group should remain distinct, as
humanitarian protection as a sector focuses on the protection

KHARTOUM 00001227 003 OF 003


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 GNU 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.


WHITEHEAD

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
World Headlines

 

OECD: COVID-19 Crisis Puts Migration And Progress On Integration At Risk, Says

Watch the live webcast of the press conference Migration flows have increased over the past decade and some progress has been made to improve the integration of immigrants in the host countries. But some of these gains may be erased by the COVID-19 pandemic ... More>>


Pacific Media Watch: How Pacific Environmental Defenders Are Coping With The Covid Pandemic

SPECIAL REPORT: By Sri Krishnamurthi of Pacific Media Watch Pacific Climate Warriors - creative action to trigger better responses to climate crisis. Image: ... More>>

Reporters Without Borders: Julian Assange’s Extradition Hearing Marred By Barriers To Open Justice

After monitoring four weeks of evidence in the US extradition proceedings against Wikileaks publisher Julian Assange, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reiterates concern regarding the targeting of Assange for his contributions to journalism, and calls ... More>>

OHCHR: Stranded Migrants Need Safe And Dignified Return – UN Migrant Workers Committee

The UN Committee on Migrant Workers has today called on governments to take immediate action to address the inhumane conditions of migrant workers who are stranded in detention camps and ensure they can have an orderly, safe and dignified return to ... More>>