Cablegate: Eastern Chad: Security Familiarization Visit to Abeche --

DE RUEHNJ #0511/01 3071324
P 031324Z NOV 09




E.O. 12958: N/A



1. (SBU) Post's current security practices for travelers to Abeche
and eastern Chad under Chief of Mission authority are largely
adequate within the security context. These practices are based on
the operating rule that travelers will be under the protection of,
and will abide by, the practices and procedures of MINURCAT or the
traveler's partner UN Agency. The relative threats in Abeche of
residential break-in (low) vs. that of carjacking (high) may
indicate a need to adjust lodging requirements to minimize USG
employee transit times while working in that city. Air travel
continues to be reliable and safe, and serves all significant field
operations centers. Ground travel is increasingly dangerous due to
entrenched, violent, politically protected criminality that targets
the international community in general and humanitarian workers in
the field in particular with near-total impunity.

2. (SBU) It appears that the trustworthy security forces in the
area, whether MINURCAT troops or the special Chadian humanitarian
police force DIS (see below), are deployed in insufficient numbers,
and are unsuited by mandate and design, to the task of providing
area security through presence, or point-to-point escort of the
hundreds of humanitarian workers and supply convoys operating in a
vast territory of great distances and difficult terrain. While
there remains hope that MINURCAT will eventually achieve its full
deployment force, and that the DIS will slowly evolve into a
functioning policing capability, neither of these two events will
happen during the potentially dangerous dry season that has just
begun, and will last into June of 2010 -- and even a MINURCAT at
full force will be hard pressed to successfully implement a very
difficult mandate in a hostile space. Post will ensure that our
vulnerable partners in the field are fully apprised of this
probability, and given every opportunity to take such actions as
they believe appropriate to ensure their safety, within the
internationally accepted principles guiding humanitarian and
military operations in a conflict zone. END SUMMARY OF FINDINGS.


3. (SBU) RSO and RefCoords visited Abeche, eastern Chad, from 27 to
29 OCT. Official USG travelers under Chief of Mission authority
have to date utilized the support and abided by the security
practices and requirements of partner UN agencies when traveling in
eastern Chad. The goal of this visit was to develop contacts within
UN Agency and MINURCAT Security offices; become familiar with UN
Department for Safety and Security (UN DSS) and MINURCAT standard
operating procedures for movement and residential security; and
review current best practices for travel to the humanitarian
assistance areas of operation in eastern Chad. RSO and RefCoords
held discussions with MINURCAT, International Criminal Court, and
UNHCR civilian security, operations, and intelligence officials and
with MINURCAT military officers attached to the Irish Headquarters
and Sector South units. Additional attention was given to the
operations of the International Organization for Migration (IOM --
an international organization outside the UN structure) in
preparation for broad collaboration among the State and Homeland
Security Departments and IOM for the resettlement of refugees from
eastern Chad to the U.S., to be reported separately.


4. (SBU) The town of Abeche serves the eastern Chad "humanitarian
space" as the logistics and operational hub for all UN humanitarian
agencies, including the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR),
Children's Fund (UNICEF), World Food Program (WFP), etc. It is also
the forward deployed operational headquarters of the UN Mission to
the Central African Republic and Chad (Mission des Nations Unies en

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Rpublique centrafricaine et au Tchad -- MINURCAT), a Peacekeeping
Operation (PKO) with a UN Security Council mandate to improve
operational security for IOs and NGOs assisting refugee and
internally displaced persons (IDP) populations in the humanitarian
space. Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs) maintain operational
and logistical offices and residences in Abeche to both interface
with UN agencies, and to provide support to staff implementing
projects in the "deep field". The eastern Chad region is roughly
the size of California, with three major "deep field" operations
areas clustered around the towns of Iriba and Guereda in the north,
Farchana in the center, and Goz Beida in the south. Bahai in the
far north is also an important center from which services to refugee
populations are deployed.

5. (SBU) UN Agencies are operating in Abeche and the entire region
of eastern Chad under UN DSS security rating of "Phase IV". This
designation is officially defined as "Emergency programmes only.
All staff who are not directly concerned with emergency or
humanitarian relief operations or security matters are relocated
outside the country." This indicates a highly volatile and
potentially dangerous security environment in which remaining UN
Agency personnel should be prepared to evacuate at any time. In
practice, UN Agency personnel appear to exercise the same level of
caution in Abeche as in N'Djamena (under Phase III -- "Relocation:
Staff and families are temporarily concentrated or relocated to
specified sites/locations and/or eligible dependants are relocated
outside the country"), with some additional precautions, (see below)
while being prepared for changed circumstances with little or no

6. (SBU) The UN designated Eastern Chad as a Phase IV security
environment in December 2006, following the rebel incursions during
which fighting between the rebels and the government put
humanitarians at risk, and humanitarian warehouses and facilities
were looted. The continuation of the Phase IV security designation
is based on the "continued tensions in the border areas" [July 14,
2009 SG report to SC on MINURCAT] and is largely driven by the
possibility of another major, organized armed incursion into Chad by
an armed Chadian opposition group or groups seeking to overthrow the
current authorities in N'Djamena. However, the security briefing to
newly arrived UN Agency personnel focuses entirely on the risks
posed by a high and increasing level of violent criminality that
appears to be deeply entrenched; to be connected to and protected by
instances of official and unofficial power; to enjoy nearly complete
impunity; and to target the international humanitarian community as
the most attractive source of goods for theft, and individuals for
kidnap and extortion.


7. (SBU) Mission policy until early 2009 was that all USG visitors
to Abeche and the deep field would house on the residential compound
of their UN partner agency, and abide by the UN DSS Minimal
Operational Safety Standards (MOSS) and Minimal Operational
Residential Standards (MORS) in effect. (NOTE: RSO and RefCoords
requested that UN security officers share the MOSS and MORS
documents; security officers were reticent to approve such a
request, suggesting that Post approach MINURCAT Chief Security
Officer Bertrand Bourgain with our request. END NOTE.) Following
an outbreak of residential compound invasions and robberies in
Abeche, some accompanied by violence, Post determined in early 2009
that only the French and EUFOR bases provided sufficient residential
security and suspended all official USG overnights in Abeche, as
lodging on those bases was not available [Ref A]. Negotiations
between IO Bureau/USUN New York and UN DPKO, and between Post and
MINURCAT in N'djamena, resulted in a cooperative agreement for USG
travelers under Chief of Mission authority to house in pre-fab
housing units on the MINURCAT military base in Abeche. Visits to
the deep field remain under the original policy requiring housing on
UN Agency compounds under UN DSS MORS and MOSS.

8. (SBU) Lodging on the MINURCAT base is now Post's "gold standard"
against which other housing options are measured. The base is

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considered to be essentially guaranteed against residential invasion
or break-in. It is within the same perimeter berm and walls of the
airfield. The housing units are co-located on base with a dining
facility providing three acceptable quality meals per day, and with
high-standard medical care at the Norwegian Deployable Field
Hospital. (NOTE: Although the USG does not have a formal agreement
with MINURCAT guaranteeing medical treatment should travelers under
Chief of Mission Authority require it, RSO and RefCoords were
assured that such treatment would not be refused. END NOTE).

9. (SBU) The housing is nonetheless distant from areas where USG
visitors must conduct business -- 15 to 20 minutes' drive to
circumnavigate the airfield, along unpaved roads with clear
choke-points where carjackings were routinely perpetrated and that
now require 24/7 Dtachement Integr de Scurit -- "DIS" (see
below) mounted units at a static post.

10. (SBU) A review and walk-through of the UNHCR compound -- the
facility USG visitors used most in the past, and where many conduct
USG business -- revealed physical security standards that are
commensurate with Post's residence policy for N'Djamena, including
perimeter walls, gates, invasion deterrence (concertina wire and
window bars, lighting, etc), and contract guard services. In
addition, the extensive UNHCR compound -- actually at least six
separate housing compounds that have been linked together to form
single unit about the size of a city block, containing offices,
separate residences and the guesthouses -- is co-located with the
UNICEF compound and a number of partner NGO office and housing units
making contact with partner agencies highly secure. The compound
has a food service canteen integrated into it; is within five
minutes' drive of the airfield and MINURCAT headquarters; and has
DIS mounted units standing 24/7 static-post guard. The compound had
been approved for daytime use as a refugee interview site by DHS
officers. [Ref B]

11. (SBU) At this time, the primary threat to travelers in Abeche
appears to be carjacking (see below), with the number of incidents
continuing to be high. The spate of residential compound break-ins
of early 2009 subsided at mid-year, and the placement of DIS
static-post guards at the major UN compounds appears to have been a
factor. Given that day-light vehicle movements appear more
vulnerable than night-time lodgings, a reconsideration of the
requirement that travelers under Chief of Mission authority be
housed on the relatively distant MINURCAT base may be in order.


12. (SBU) Abeche and eastern Chad has been the location of numerous
carjackings in recent months -- a total of 51 since January 2009.
UN DSS MOSS appears to mitigate this problem by ensuring that all
vehicles operating in Abeche are equipped with VHF and HF radios,
and that all movements respect institutional curfews (there are no
curfews in Chad enforced by the authorities). These allow movement
by single vehicle from 0500 hrs to 1800 hrs; all movements from 1800
hrs to 2100 hrs are to be in two-vehicle convoys; all personnel and
vehicles must be behind secured compound walls at 2100 hrs.
Emergency movements after 2100 hrs must be in two-vehicle convoys,
and accompanied by DIS escort.

13. (SBU) Driving into the Abeche commercial center even during
daylight hours is not recommended; circulation on foot in these
areas is discouraged. In practice, most carjackings have been
documented to occur between 1700 and 1900 hrs; DIS escorts are
difficult to obtain without significant advance notice, though in
extremis DIS officers have been more responsive in recent months
than in the early days of the force (see below).


NDJAMENA 00000511 004 OF 007

14. (SBU) Field operations centers serve as hubs to support project
implementation in refugee and IDP population concentrations and
camps. MINURCAT forces, once fully deployed, are mandated to
provide "area security" through high visibility presence throughout
the "humanitarian space". Battalion-strength (800-troops) MINURCAT
military units are to be deployed to Forward Operating Base (FOB)
installations at the field operations centers. The mandated force
strength is roughly 5,200 troops, of which 2500 are eventually to be
operationally deployed to forward bases in Abeche, Iriba, Farchana
and Goz Beida; the rest of the planned troop strength is in support
functions. Troop contributing countries include Albania, Austria,
Croatia, Finland, France, Ghana, Ireland, Norway, Poland, Russia,
Serbia and Togo; Mongolian, Nepalese Ghurka, Pakistani and
Senegalese troops are to replace rotating Austrian, French and
Polish troops and equipment as the force pushes toward full

15. (SBU) Currently deployed MINURCAT force strength as of
end-October is at some 51 percent of mandate, with only 998 troops
operationally deployed to patrol the humanitarian space in the deep
field, with another 1207 troops based in Abeche with some patrol
duties. The Polish and Croatian combined force in Sector-North
(Iriba) are at quarter-strength (258 troops), with another 43 troops
in Guereda 75 kms away; the Irish and Finnish units in Sector-South
(Goz Beida) have exceeded half-strength (495 troops). The Ghanaian
"Battalion" deployed to the heavily criminalized area around
Farchana is under quarter-strength at 202 troops (all figures as of
01 NOV). In all units, only a portion of the troops deployed --
generally around 50 percent, -- are operationally assigned to patrol
and escort, with the rest devoted to headquarters and support
duties. Deployment schedules have rarely been respected. European
troops ending their deployment in October are rotating out taking
with them all their vehicles. Non-European troops routinely arrive
late and without essential equipment, especially vehicles -- the
recently deployed Nepalese Ghurka units arrived without ammunition.
The MINURCAT RSO estimates that for the next several months
MINURCAT's operationally effective force strength will be less than
40 percent, even if there is a one-for-one replacement of troops,
due to the reduction in mobility assets connected to the departure
of Austrian, French, and Polish forces.

16. (SBU) Helicopter support has consistently been less than
mandated or recommended. The humanitarian space to be patrolled and
dominated to provide area security through presence on the ground is
roughly the size of California. At the currently deployed
operational strength of 1,137 troops to patrol such a vast space,
and even at full strength of the planned operational complement of
2500 troops sometime in the undetermined future, without adequate
vehicles to ensure ground mobility and under-served with air assets,
it is difficult to imagine how this small force can ever succeed in
fulfilling this mandate of the provision of area security, even if
only along the most heavily used roadways -- the cumulative
distances to secure are in the tens of thousands of kilometers.
Effective use of the force has been made, however, in the provision
of security for specific operations in carefully defined, limited
areas, including the ongoing camp-by-camp population verification
("braceleting") exercise that UNHCR is currently conducting.


17. (SBU) The Dtachement Integr de Scurit -- "DIS" is a
specialized policing capacity created with international funding and
UN POL training and mentoring to provide security specifically to
vulnerable refugee and IDP populations, and to humanitarian workers.
Mixed Police/Gendarme units of the DIS are deployed in Abeche and
to the field operations centers, with smaller units deployed in
police stations at refugee camp locations. Total DIS strength is
roughly 800 officers, who have received one or two months training
(depending on date of entry to service), and are generally
considered to be better trained and equipped than conventional
Chadian police and gendarme units. These units also operate in the

NDJAMENA 00000511 005 OF 007

towns co-located with refugee and IDP populations.

18. (SBU) The DIS may be at a turning point after some eight months
in operation. The first six months were characterized by acts of
indiscipline including theft, abuse, and rape; poor driving and
numerous crashed vehicles; confusion over chain of command; poor UN
POL supervision by international police officers drawn from
countries with sub-standard forces; and either unresponsiveness or
inappropriate and sometimes extreme actions taken in response to
requests for assistance. Conflict has erupted among DIS and
conventional police and gendarme units. DIS units have been
targeted for theft, and have at times been as vulnerable to attack
as the populations they are to protect. This has led some
humanitarian workers, including some senior personnel in the UN
Agencies, to characterize the DIS as "worse than nothing." At the
minimum, it could not be considered a functional police force under
even the most charitable of definitions.

19. (SBU) However, in the last two months, there are more reports of
better responsiveness from DIS units. Response times have improved
in recent residential break-ins; actions have been effective to
impede or interdict some crimes and to recover stolen property,
especially in the case of recent attempts at carjacking and
kidnapping; fewer accusations against DIS personnel of rape or abuse
are being made. A revised two-month training program is in place
with 150 graduates expected end-October. Current members are to
begin refresher training once the new recruits enter on duty.
Female DIS officers have received praise from humanitarian workers
and vulnerable populations.


20. (SBU) Mission's SOP is currently to travel the roughly 600 kms
between N'Djamena and Abeche by air, using either the daily United
Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) flights operated by the
logistics element of the WFP, or special flights organized by
MINURCAT. Airport security is determined by GoC regulation and

21. (SBU) Air travel via daily UNHAS flights is also required
between Abeche and the deep field centers of Iriba (approx 210
kmks), Farchana (approx 130 kms), and Goz Beida (approx 190 kms).
Additional deep field locations of Bahai (approx 300 kms) and
Guereda (150 kms) are also served with daily flights. The NGO Air
Serv International also operates regularly scheduled (though not
always daily) flight routes to Guereda, Iriba, and Bahai in the
north; to Goz Beida, Koukou (approx. 210 kms), and Dogdore (approx
300 kms) in the south; and to Haraze in the southwest. Air Serv
will organize special flights on an urgent basis, flying when and
where the need is most, including to areas un-served by UNHAS, with
flexibility to provide medevac and conflict evacuation.


22. (SBU) Mission policy has been to strongly discourage/prohibit
ground transport for personnel under Chief of Mission authority
between N'Djamena and Abeche, and from Abeche to all deep field
destinations served by air, due to high levels of criminality along
all roads to these locations. Mission policy is that USG personnel
operating in these areas between field centers and refugee or IDP
population locations submit to the security procedures of the
partner UN Agency, and conduct all ground movements in accordance
with that agency's practices.

23. (SBU) The UN Agencies require all ground movements outside urban
areas of any duration (generally beyond 10 kms) to have armed escort
from one of the available security forces in the area. UN Agencies
such as the WFP conduct long-distance transport of large cargoes
(food and non-food assistance and heavy equipment) via road under

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armed MINURCAT and sometimes armed DIS escort (not all DIS units are
armed). For day-to-day operations between the field operations
centers and the locations of refugee and IDP populations, UN
Agencies assemble at the field center in daily DIS-escorted convoys
for all humanitarian organizations wishing to avail themselves of
the escort.

24. (SBU) NGOs operating in collaboration with UN Agencies and/or
under cooperative agreement with the USG are responsible for
determining their security practices and procedures. While many
accept to work within UN Agency guidelines on ground movements, some
subscribe to internationally recognized humanitarian principles that
call for the demilitarization and neutrality of the provision of
assistance. (NOTE: The Departments of State and Defense, the US
Institute for Peace, and the NGO umbrella group InterAction,
published in 2008 guidelines for appropriate collaboration between
military units and humanitarian NGOs in conflict areas, which
recognized the principles of demilitarization and neutrality. END

25. (SBU) Faced with rising criminality along all roads essential to
humanitarian operations and in the towns and camps where operations
are undertaken and humanitarian workers reside, and under-manned to
provide area security through presence on the ground, MINURCAT has
tried to free some of the small forward deployed force to provide
point-to-point escort for humanitarian workers and goods convoys.
This has been somewhat effective for large convoys of goods, such as
bulk food and non-food items deliveries. This has been too
cumbersome for small groups of humanitarian workers needing maximum
flexibility of movement to be able to achieve the results
established in their funding agreements with the UN Agencies, the
USG, and other donors, given the requirements of a minimum 72-
(preferably 96-) hour advance request period. Humanitarian workers
report that they are told MINURCAT escort must be the last resort
for their operations, with their first recourse being the
Dtachement Intgr de Scurit (DIS). (Note: The DIS' standard
operating procedures are not to escort convoys farther than 10 km
outside Abeche or away from their established base. However, it is
clear that UNHCR and other agencies organize DIS escorted convoys
for significantly greater distances. END NOTE.) The International
Organization for Migration (IOM) has been facilitating refugee
movements between the camps and the processing site in Abeche by
road convoy. During the pilot in February, some 11 were escorted by
MINURCAT or DIS. However, since September, there has been some
difficulty securing escorts; 3 of 4 of IOM's requests were refused
as they exceeded the 10 km limit for DIS and MINURCAT resources were
not available.

26. (SBU) A significant gap in DIS capabilities has been in the
provision of point-to-point escort for humanitarian workers. The
DIS force was not conceived for this activity. It was designed to
provide policing to the areas in the immediate vicinity of
vulnerable populations, including vehicle and foot patrols and
response to incidents of crime. Keeping a minimum required force in
place for these activities leaves few officers for escort duty.
Vehicles are in very short supply after numerous accidents, and the
Nissan Patrol and Toyota Prado SUVs are inadequate to the
environment, leaving a large percentage of the force's vehicles
either totaled or down for repair.

27. (SBU) Escort requests placed 72- to 96-hours in advance are
routinely refused for lack of personnel and vehicles. Despite some
improvements in operational effectiveness, DIS units routinely do
not arrive on time to conduct a ground movement escort, and are
known to not show up at all. Delayed convoys from operations
centers to camps, which must travel in some areas up to 100 kms in
each direction over poor roads at slow, convoy speeds have resulted
in daily work hours in camps of only 3 to 4 hours per day --
insufficient to accomplish required tasks in safety. DIS officer
numbers, although set to increase somewhat, will not receive
sufficient reinforcement to make a noticeable difference in these
operational gaps.


NDJAMENA 00000511 007 OF 007


28. (SBU) As noted above, widespread, entrenched, and politically
connected criminality has become the primary security threat in
Abeche and eastern Chad. Evacuation planning, on the other hand, is
currently integrated into the UN DSS Phase IV security rating, and a
response to the threat of major incursion of an armed Chadian
opposition group or groups. Such groups have in the past entered
Chad from several points along the Chad-Sudan border, and pushed
westward toward N'Djamena. The Chadian authorities have countered
with a powerful build-up of armed forces along the border. In
recent incursions, armed opposition forces have either advanced or
retreated through field operations locations as well as Abeche.
Some force-on-force confrontations have occurred in these urban
areas, posing a threat of cross- and indirect fire incidents to
humanitarian workers. More dangerous, however, has been the
convulsions of lawlessness, looting, and violence that the
populations of these urban areas have committed in immediate run-up
and aftermath of these events.

29. (SBU) UN DSS and MINURCAT security officers have stated that USG
travelers under Chief of Mission authority, traveling in the region
in partnership with a UN Agency or MINURCAT, are considered members
of that Agency's population to be accorded security and evacuation
should events require. All field locations are organized under a UN
Warden System, with volunteer wardens responsible for compiling and
maintaining personnel lists for UN and NGO staff who would fall
under evacuation assistance provisions. Abeche and deep field
locations have designated assembly points for all staff under UN DSS
security provisions. The UNHCR residential compound in deep field
sites is the assembly point for most such locations. Abeche is
divided into 5 zones, each with one or several assembly points,
depending on the number of personnel residing or working in each
zone; the UNHCR compound is the assembly point for a large
concentration of UN agencies and NGOs with offices and residences in
the zone nearest the airport. Assembly points are to be equipped
with water and food supplies to cover a "bunkering" period; it is
not clear that all assembly points have safe-haven facilities.

30. (SBU) MINURCAT forward deployed elements have assigned duties
for the securing of all designated assembly points. The MINURCAT
bases and headquarters compounds in Abeche, Iriba, Farchana, and Goz
Beida -- all co-located with the airfields in these sites -- also
serve as assembly points. As soon as practicable in a given crisis,
MINURCAT units are to provide escort for all eligible personnel from
assembly points to the appropriate airfield. This may involve
helicopter evacuation of deep field personnel to the nearest field
operations center. From that location, fixed-wing air assets from
MINURCAT, UNHAS, and Air Serve are to airlift all eligible personnel
to safety in either Abeche or N'Djamena, depending upon the nature
of the crisis.

31. (SBU) These plans have been executed in the recent past, with a
more or less good success. Although some staff isolated in
compounds or deep field locations were missed in first round
personnel movements, in all cases second sorties were successfully
executed. While UN officials provide assurances that all
international humanitarians will be evacuated, the necessary
bureaucratic procedures to operationalize this are not fully in
place. NGOs -- in particular a large staff from a US-based NGO not
under Chief of Mission authority, working in a PRM -funded operation
-- have found it difficult to get staff added to the appropriate
warden list; to receive security briefings on arrival; and to have
access badges and properly programmed VHF radios issued. Important
questions remain, however, as to who exactly qualifies as eligible
staff for evacuation assistance particularly host national staffs
of both NGOs and IOs, especially though not uniquely those whose
home regions in Chad are far from the eastern area. The USG has no
established cooperative agreement with UN DSS or MINURCAT to ensure
that US Embassy personnel, whether US citizen or Locally Engaged
Staff members, traveling on official business under Chief of Mission
authority would be availed assistance.


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