Cablegate: Usaid Acting Administrator Visit to Nyala, South Darfur

Published: Wed 4 Nov 2009 09:13 AM
DE RUEHKH #1249/01 3080913
O 040913Z NOV 09 ZDK
E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: USAID Acting Administrator Visit to Nyala, South Darfur
1. (SBU) Summary: On October 25, USAID Acting Administrator Alonzo
Fulgham, Acting Assistant Administrator for USAID's Bureau for
Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance (USAID/DCHA) Susan
Reichle, and USAID Senior Policy Advisor Steven Pierce conducted a
seven-hour visit to Nyala, South Darfur, as part of an October 24 to
27 visit to Sudan. The delegation was accompanied by USAID Mission
Director William Hammink and USAID's Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster
Assistance (USAID/OFDA) Acting Country Representative Kate
Farnsworth. The trip included meetings with the South Darfur
Governor (Wali) and United Nations-African UnionMission in Darfur
(UNAMID) officials, a visit to Otash IDP camp, a tour of UN World
Food Programme (WFP) warehouses, as well as meetings with the Peace
Council at Nyala University, and the Area Humanitarian Country Team
(AHCT). End summary.
2. (SBU) The security situation in South Darfur dominated
discussions during the introductory meeting with the South Darfur
Wali, Mr. Ali Mahmoud Mohamed, at the VIP Lounge of Nyala's airport.
The Wali told the Acting Administrator that South Darfur is now
safe due to successful peace and reconciliation conferences between
different ethnic groups that the Government of Sudan (GOS) had
facilitated. According to the Wali, current insecurity is primarily
linked to fragmented armed opposition groups and banditry and
security incidents had declined dramatically.
3. (SBU) When asked about government's intent to arrest and
prosecute criminals engaging in car-jackings and kidnapping of aid
workers, the Wali replied that the full measure of the courts will
be applied when the guilty parties are detained. Mohamed lamented
that even his own staff are victimized by these elements, describing
a fatal ambush on a government convoy on the road to Kass in which
one person died and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM)
State Minister of Agriculture was nearly killed. (Note: The State
Minister of Agriculture for South Darfur has publicly accused
National Congress Party (NCP) officials in South Darfur of arranging
the attempt on his life in which he was injured and his bodyguard
was killed. End note.) The Administrator stressed that impunity
for criminals not only affects humanitarian work but also tarnishes
the reputation of Sudan in the United States.
4. (SBU) The Wali impressed on the delegation that, with security
restored in Darfur, the government is actively engaged in an IDP
return program that includes a "package" of interventions in rural
areas including community security, health, water, and schools.
Further, he invited the Administrator to visit one of the model
villages to see first-hand that internally displaced persons (IDPs)
are actively returning home. The Wali admitted that it will take a
long time to restore South Darfur to normal after the last years of
conflict. The Administrator pressed the Wali to comment on the role
of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Office
of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the returns
process. With reluctance, and after some insistence by the USAID
delegation, the Wali averred that IOM and UNHCR are now a part of
the returns team and that "we have to make use of them." The Wali
advised that the two organizations would be part of coordination
meetings on voluntary return and that he would be looking to the
organizations to support returns.
5. (SBU) Proceeding to UNAMID headquarters for a meeting with the
civilian staff of Sector 2 South, the Administrator received a more
detailed briefing on security in the region. UNAMID Acting
Officer-in-Charge and Humanitarian, Recovery, and Development
Liaison Team Leader Landing Badji informed the group that some
improvements in security had occurred since March 2009. Before
March, approximately 50 vehicles had been hijacked, whereas since
March only 5 had been taken successfully. (Note: USAID does not
believe this is an accurate figure as three vehicles were carjacked
during the week prior to the Administrator's visit, according to NGO
staff. This figure also does not address that there are currently
fewer NGO vehicles on the road in South Darfur than before March 5.
End Note) UNAMID noted the likelihood that carjacking attempts will
increase as elections approach.
6. (SBU) UNAMID also relayed the suspicion that security elements
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are involved in the carjackings, thus limiting the due process of
law when arrests are made; criminals are often out on the streets
after only a short period of detention. UNAMID stated that the
government has ordered that off-duty police men no longer carry arms
in an effort to reduce violent incidents, but it will be some time
before significant change is felt. UNAMID has suffered many
casualties in the course of their duties in Darfur, Badji reported.
Now, UNAMID "means business" and, with full endorsement of UN
Under-Secretary-General for Field Support Susana Malcorra who
visited recently, will fight back with full force in self-defense
when threatened.
7. (SBU) Asked how the IDPs view the election, the UNAMID civil
affairs head highlighted IDPs' dilemma. First, the IDPs were
excluded from the census, as were rebel-held "liberated areas."
This omission affects the districting divisions in Darfur, which
will impact the election. Under the voting rules, one must be
resident in a location three months prior to the election in order
to vote. IDPs are unlikely to want to vote in IDP camps, as IDP
votes will not have a significant impact in the districts where most
camps are located, typically in large towns with high pro-government
constituents. Similarly, IDPs fear that if they vote as residents of
a camp, they will compromise their future land claims in rural
areas. At the same time, the current occupants in IDPs' rural areas
of origin will vote in rural areas as residents, thus negating the
displaced individuals' claims to those lands. South Darfur Area
Humanitarian Country Team (AHCT) members and UNAMID predict
increased insecurity as elections approach due to the uncertainty of
IDP participation, and lack of political space for election
8. (SBU) In addition, UNAMID noted that the GOS has not permitted
armed opposition groups to register as political parties, further
narrowing the electoral space. And perhaps most importantly, UNAMID
representatives noted that a state of emergency still exists in
Darfur, which permits the government to deny basic rights included
in the National Election Law and required for campaigning, including
freedom of assembly, expression, and press. UNAMID highlighted the
point using the October arrests of 24 SPLM members in Nyala and Ed
Daein for holding meetings related to next year's elections. As
long as the GOS-mandated emergency situation prevails, the elections
in Darfur are compromised even before beginning, UNAMID said.
9. (SBU) From the UNAMID headquarters, the delegation traveled five
kilometers to Otash IDP Camp, a camp first established in 2004 to
accommodate 1,500 IDPs and today housing more than 70,000 residents.
The March 2009 expulsions of CARE, Action Contre la Faim (ACF), CHF
International, and the International Rescue Committee (IRC) severely
affected health, nutrition, protection, and livelihoods activities
in the camp. UNICEF, in coordination with GOS counterpart
ministries, has intervened to continue providing water, while
USAID/OFDA partner World Vision as well as the German NGO Humedica,
the Kuwaiti Patient Helping Fund, and national NGO Rufida are
working to provide health services. The Acting Administrator
visited the USAID/OFDA-funded World Vision clinic and observed the
array of services provided.
10. (SBU) In an animated meeting with IDP leaders, or sheikhs, in
the presence of the South Darfur Humanitarian Aid Commission (HAC)
representatives, the Administrator received a briefing on the needs
of the camp, including education, health, sanitation, and food. The
sheikhs complained that attracting teachers to the camp remains a
challenge due to the cost of transportation between Nyala and the
camp, as well as lack of available funding for teacher salaries.
The schools lack benches and text books. The parents are
contributing to pay an incentive to the teachers in lieu of salary
to attract them to the camp, but this has not solved the problem.
In addition, since the expulsion of IRC, access to hospital care is
limited, as IRC previously paid hospital fees for the IDPs. Since
IDPs cannot afford to pay hospital fees, they are forgoing transfers
to the hospital. According to the sheikhs, a reduction in soap
distributions has resulted in increased signs of skin disease.
(Note: The USAID/OFDA health advisor notes that increases in skin
disease are "soft indicators" of potentially larger problems to
come. USAID/OFDA provided USD 2.0 million to the UN Children's Fund
(UNICEF) for soap in Darfur in Fiscal Year 2009. End note.) The
IDPs also complained that the current food ration comprises only 70
percent of the previously provided food basket and requested that
the visitors press WFP to return the ration levels to 100 percent.
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11. (SBU) IDP women representatives interjected that the departure
of CHF and the cessation of income generating activities has
resulted in a loss of family income that helped to fill the gap in
the humanitarian aid. In a side meeting with USAID/DCHA Acting
Assistant Administrator Reichle, the women further explained that
the CHF work had enabled them to meet and talk about women's issues
outside the home environment, fostering a greater sense of
independence and self-reliance. The women also noted that domestic
violence remains a part of their lives and that the CHF women's
centers offered a reprieve and shelter from violence at home, at
least temporarily. HAC representatives listened and took notes
throughout Reichle's meeting with the women.
12. (SBU) Moving from the camp, the Acting Administrator arrived at
the WFP South Darfur warehouse. The sprawling, but organized,
complex of Rubb Hall tents holds up to 39,000 metric tons, or three
months worth of food for the area at any one time. The caseload for
South Darfur varies from 806,000 beneficiaries during the
post-harvest season to 1.2 million during the June-September hunger
13. (SBU) In a tent filled with USAID bags of sorghum, the Acting
Administrator received a briefing from WFP staff on the proposed new
strategy to reduce the number of general food beneficiaries.
Acutely aware of the growing dependency on food aid in Darfur, WFP
has decided to seek opportunities to shift from general food
distributions to a safety net approach, utilizing improved
targeting, food and milling vouchers, and other interventions. The
Darfur Food Security Monitoring System, which tracks market and
other data throughout the region, is serving to pinpoint where and
when such interventions should be initiated. WFP acknowledged that
the WFP food ration card remains one of the economic factors that
discourage IDPs from leaving the IDP camps permanently.
14. From the WFP warehouse, the group moved to the University of
Nyala peace center, where USAID Office of Transition Initiatives
(USAID/OTI) partner Academy for International Development (AED) had
organized a meeting of students working for grassroots peace
building under the guidance of the head of the peace center and
chancellor of the university. The students noted their desire for
unconditional peaceful co-existence of all ethnic groups in Darfur
and asked for support to reach out to communities and other students
to share the message. The administrator noted that the "Last Mile"
USAID project, which introduces technology to connect various
groups, might be useful in this context. The students relayed hopes
to be involved in voter education and noted that a workshop held the
previous week had revealed how little was known in South Darfur
about the elections.
15. (U) The USAID delegation cleared this cable prior to departure.
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