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Cablegate: Summary of Eastern Sudan Issues Group Meeting

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DE RUEHKH #0106/01 0201056
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O R 201055Z JAN 10
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0039
INFO IGAD COLLECTIVE
UN SECURITY COUNCIL COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KHARTOUM 000106

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DEPT PLS PASS USAID FOR AFR/SUDAN
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TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM KDEM SU ER
SUBJECT: Summary of Eastern Sudan Issues Group Meeting

REF: 09 GENEVA 932

1. (U) Summary: British Ambassador Rosalind Marsden hosted the
first meeting of the newly-launched Eastern Sudan Issues Group on
January 18. The meeting, which was well-attended by approximately
thirty ambassadors and heads-of-agencies, included representatives
from both the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR)
and United Nations Development Program (UNDP). Discussion focused
on Eritrean refugees' issues in Eastern Sudan, as well as UNDP
plans to sponsor a Donors Conference in Kuwait some time after
Sudan's elections in April. End summary.

2. (SBU) British Ambassador Rosalind Marsden hosted the first
meeting of the newly-launched Eastern Sudan Issues Group on January
18. In her opening remarks, Ambassador Marsden noted that Eastern
issues are frequently overshadowed by international attention to
the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) and Darfur, and she hoped
that opening a forum for discussion on the East might draw back
some much-needed consideration to the troubled region.

--------------------------------------------- -------

UNHCR Presentation on Eritrean Refugees

--------------------------------------------- -------

3. (U) UNHCR made the first presentation of the meeting, which
detailed the refugee caseload and challenges facing UNHCR and NGOs
when dealing with refugees. According to information presented by
UNHCR, there are two distinct groups of refugees present in the
East.

4. (U) The first group, entirely composed of lowland Eritrean
Muslims, has been present in Sudan for over forty years, and is
approaching complete integration into the general population of the
area. This group enjoys several advantages, including a shared
ethnic identity with Eastern Sudanese, a common religion, a common
language, and special government documentation that allows them
relative freedom of movement throughout the Eastern states. Many
in this group were born in Sudan, and enjoy a high degree of social
integration into the Eastern Sudan community. Nonetheless, this
group suffers from acute malnutrition, high maternal and
infant-mortality figures, illiteracy, and poor sanitation. UNHCR
efforts are currently shifting away from protracted support of camp
infrastructure towards durable solutions and programs that focus on
self-reliance.

5. (SBU) A second group of refugees has also appeared in the area,
in ever-increasing numbers. This group, unlike the first, has not
integrated into the region. Predominantly composed of young,
Eritrean Christians from the highlands, these new refugees have no
ethnic, religious, or linguistic commonality with their Sudanese
hosts. This group is quite mobile, and uses Sudan as a
transit-point for a migration pattern aimed at the shores of
Europe-a treacherous journey that ends in death for some, and human
trafficking and exploitation for many others. In the last two
years, a total of approximately 40,000 new refugees have entered
Sudan. Of these, only about 5,000 remain. The rest have
"disappeared," many to Southern Europe. Few resources are in place
for the new refugees. Humanitarian and development services
provided to the first group (education, health, employment) are
targeted at Arabic speakers, and hold little value for this new
group of migrants. The migrants are fleeing the highly oppressive
and dysfunctional regime in Eritrea, at great risk to their own
safety. Short of significant change to living conditions in
Eritrea, it is unclear what can be done to stem the westward
migration of these refugees.

6. (U) All present at the Eastern Sudan Issues Group meeting
agreed that the questions raised by the UNHCR presenters merited
further consideration, and Ambassador Marsden announced her

KHARTOUM 00000106 002 OF 002


intention to host future meetings to discuss refugee concerns in
more detail. (Note: An October 2009 UNHCR donor mission which
visited refugee camps in the East is detailed Ref. End Note)

--------------------------------------------- -----------

UNDP Update on Planned Donors Conference

--------------------------------------------- -----------

7. (U) Following the UNHCR presentation on Eastern Sudan's
refugees, a UNDP representative gave an update on a planned Donors
Conference, which was originally slated for March, but will now be
postponed until after April elections. Kuwait has agreed to host
the conference, although plans are not yet finalized. The event is
intended to attract private-sector and civil society attention to
the under-developed East. A number of factors led to the
postponement of the proposed conference, not the least of which was
the recent and unexpected dismissal of a number of Sudanese
governors (walis) from office.

8. (SBU) Comment: It is encouraging to see this initiative to
bring much-needed attention and aid to Sudan's long-marginalized
Eastern region. End comment.
WHITEHEAD

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