Cablegate: Darfur: Ngo Forum Addresses Security Issues

Published: Fri 18 Aug 2006 04:39 AM
DE RUEHKH #1969/01 2300439
P 180439Z AUG 06
E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Darfur: NGO Forum Addresses Security Issues
REF: Khartoum 01912
1. Summary: NGOs discussed the worsening security environment and
decreasing humanitarian access in Darfur during an August 10 NGO
forum in Khartoum. Key points raised were strong USG support for
the DPA and condemnation of violence, the fact that security
conditions had made it difficult for NGOs to carry out their
operations, that the Voluntary and Humanitarian Act restricted civil
society development and NGO activities, that security violations
continued to increase - with eight humanitarian workers killed in
July alone - more than in the two previous years combined, and that
humanitarian access is at its lowest point in the past three years,
with humanitarian indicators in danger of reversal. Furthermore,
the inability of AMIS to provide basic protection has stirred
interest in transitioning to a UN peacekeeping operation. End
NGO Forum Raises Security, Humanitarian Access Issues
2. On August 10, an NGO forum in Khartoum dealt with concerns of
NGOs operating in Darfur, with an emphasis on the changing security
environment and limits to humanitarian access. The Charge presented
the position of the USG, reiterating its strong support for the
Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) and the need for all groups to fully
cooperate with the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS). He took
the opportunity to distribute the recent Department of State press
release condemning violence in Darfur, and stressed the need for all
parties to respect international law and for threats to humanitarian
workers to decrease in order for them to carry out their vital
assistance to the displaced people. The NGOs noted that the strong
push for the implementation of the Joint Assessment Mission (JAM)
under the current security conditions makes them and their work seem
partisan and endangers their staff.
NGO Activities on Operational Minimum Due to Risks
3. The NGOs submitted that their activities were already on an
operational minimum providing only life saving support to the
displaced people in camps. The ongoing threat to their workers,
however, has impacted on their ability to recruit and deploy staff
to Darfur and to retain them. Many organizations begin to think
about suspending operations in Darfur. One representative noted
that headquarters and trustees are reflecting on the question of how
many deaths among staff they are willing to accept. Another
representative noted that it is no longer a question of what action
to take "if" a death occurs, but rather "when" it occurs.
Voluntary Humanitarian Act Restricts Civil Society
4. The NGO Forum stressed the fundamental importance of a vibrant
civil society to demand government accountability. The new
Voluntary and Humanitarian Act released in March is restrictive to
the development of such a civil society. The NGOs have appealed it
in the constitutional court, but the Act has not been suspended.
The Act heavily impacts on international NGOs' ability to operate in
Darfur and even worse in the rest of Sudan, particularly in the East
and in the Three Areas. National NGOs are more severely affected.
The main message to the international community was the need for a
joint effort to reduce violence, adhere to the ceasefire, and
respect humanitarian operations.
Post-DPA Darfur Security Incidents
5. The signing of the DPA did not lead to a resolution of security
concerns in Darfur; the number of incidents continues at an
unacceptable level. A list of reported security incidents since the
May 5 signing compiled by the AU details 94 specific security
incidents reported in South Darfur, 74 violations in North Darfur,
and 70 in West Darfur, and the AU states the list is not
comprehensive. (Note: This list was challenged at the Joint
Commission meeting on August 3, however, with the Chairman directing
the AMIS Force Commander to return to the September Joint Commission
meeting with a full investigation of all those reported violations
that had not been witnessed by AMIS personnel. End note.) Security
concerns are adversely affecting humanitarian work. The number of
incidents reported is trending upward over time - relatively few
security incidents were reported in May, more incidents were
reported in June and still more in July.
Deteriorating Security and Shrinking Humanitarian Access
6. In July 2006, eight humanitarian aid workers were killed in
Darfur, more than the total of the past two years combined. In
addition to these deaths, hijackings, robberies, and incidents of
intimidation have also increased. Aid agencies are in uniform
agreement that the situation has significantly deteriorated since
the May 5 signing of the Darfur Peace Agreement. In addition, the
UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
states access to people in need in Darfur is at its lowest level
since the conflict began. More than 45,000 people have been
displaced in July alone. Unsubstantiated rumors of government aid
workers poisoning water supplies and vaccines have led to outbreaks
of violence among IDPs. Aid workers have responded by curtailing
KHARTOUM 00001969 002 OF 002
services and hours of operation, further exacerbating the
humanitarian situation. Most troubling, improvements in
humanitarian indicators made across the past three years are in
danger of reversal.
AMIS Struggling to Maintain Control
7. The independence and effectiveness of the African Union Mission
in Sudan (AMIS) is now seriously in doubt due to AMIS' bungled
stewardship of the DPA and almost complete lack of ability to
protect civilians in and around IDP camps. AMIS is so unwelcome
that it has completely withdrawn from six major IDP camps. Most
disturbing, there are reports of a spike in the number of rapes of
women venturing outside of IDP camps in search of firewood (reftel).
AMIS' inability to conduct adequate firewood patrols has destroyed
any credibility the force held in the past. IDPs increasingly
demand the transition of AMIS forces to those of the UN, though they
undoubtedly harbor unrealistic expectations as to what the UN can do
in the near term to increase security.
View as: DESKTOP | MOBILE © Scoop Media