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UN boss said Tsvangirai was not a good politician

United Nations Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs/Emergency Relief Sir John Holmes told United States director for Multilateral Coordination and External Relations Margaret Pollack that Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai was not a good politician.

Pollack said that this implied that a Tsvangirai led government was not necessarily a solution to Zimbabwe’s problems.

Home had just said that Zimbabwe was a prolonged crisis and he did not see an end in sight.

Holmes was being asked about the situation in Zimbabwe especially the passive role that his man in Harare Antonio Zacarias was playing.

There was concern that Zacarias had not taken a stronger position with the government of Zimbabwe to defend humanitarian principles, to facilitate the operations of the humanitarian community, and to protect at-risk Zimbabweans.

Holmes said that working in Zimbabwe was “a very delicate balancing act”.

His office in Harare was not viewed affectionately by the government of Zimbabwe and that it was important, therefore, to keep a low profile, noting that the UN team in Zimbabwe had protested publicly and privately the restrictions placed by the government on NGO operations.

 

Full cable:


Viewing cable 08STATE77761, UN HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE IN ZIMBABWE —

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

08STATE77761

2008-07-18 22:10

2011-08-30 01:44

CONFIDENTIAL

Secretary of State

VZCZCXRO1355

RR RUEHDU RUEHMR RUEHRN

DE RUEHC #7761/01 2002215

ZNY CCCCC ZZH

R 182210Z JUL 08

FM SECSTATE WASHDC

TO RUEHSB/AMEMBASSY HARARE 2760

INFO SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE

RUEHBS/AMEMBASSY BRUSSELS 1058

RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 8685

RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 0070

RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 2520

RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 2973

RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 STATE 077761

 

SIPDIS

GENEVA FOR RMA

BRUSSELS/LONDON/PARIS FOR AFRICA-WATCHERS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/17/2018

TAGS: PREF PHUM ZI

SUBJECT: UN HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE IN ZIMBABWE —

DISCUSSION WITH U/SYG-ERC HOLMES

 

REF: A. (A) HARARE 615

B. (B) STATE 74571

C. (C) HARARE 593

 

Classified By: PRM/AFR DIRECTOR MCKELVEY FOR REASON 1.4(D)

 

——-

Summary

——–

 

1. (C) On the margins of the OCHA Donor Support group

High-Level Meeting in New York July 14, State PRM/MCE Office

Director Margaret Pollack and USAID/DCHA/OFDA Director Ky Luu

discussed USG concerns about the performance of the OCHA

office and Humanitarian Coordinator in Harare with Under

Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs/Emergency Relief

Coordinator Sir John Holmes. Holmes understood the concerns

but stressed the delicate balancing act that the UN must take

in Zimbabwe. He confided that the current Humanitarian

Coordinator Zacarias will be leaving shortly; no replacement

has been named. During the Donor Support Group meeting,

Holmes requested that donors all press the GOZ on the need

for NGOs to restart robust humanitarian programming. In

response to a suggestion that a high level OCHA visit was in

order, Holmes noted that as a UK national, he was not well

placed to make an effective visit; the Deputy ERC Catherine

Bragg (Canadian) might be. End summary.

 

——————————————— ——

Concerns about UN Performance Discussed with Holmes

——————————————— ——

 

2. (U) On the margins of the OCHA (UN Office for the

Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) Donor Support group

High-Level Meeting in New York July 14, State PRM/MCE Office

Director Margaret Pollack and USAID/DCHA/OFDA Director Ky Luu

discussed USG concerns

with UN Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and

Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes regarding OCHA,s

role in Zimbabwe. Specifically, Pollack and Luu raised the

following issues:

 

3. (C) Concern that the UN Humanitarian Coordinator had not

taken a stronger position with the Government of Zimbabwe to

defend humanitarian principles, to facilitate the operations

of the humanitarian community, and to protect at-risk

Zimbabweans: Holmes responded that his team — and the HC in

particular — had been pressing GOZ officials “quite a bit”

on all this, albeit in a quiet, non-public way. He

acknowledged that perhaps he and his staff could do a better

job of keeping interested governments apprised of OCHA,s

diplomatic efforts.

 

4. (C) Concern over the apparent voluntary withdrawal by

OCHA of two planned protection staff at a time when they were

crucially needed: Holmes said this was the first he had

heard of this and agreed that if the explanation for this

action was that OCHA did not want to provoke an incident with

the GOZ, then OCHA should have forced the issue and placed

the burden directly on the GOZ to request that the one staff

member already in country be removed from the country. He

said he would look into this.

 

5. (C) Concern over the participation by GOZ officials in

UN assessments about the viability and safety of IDP returns:

Holmes did not specifically comment on this point, but took

our concerns under advisement.

 

6. (C) The need to ensure that the HC and OCHA,s field

operations are strengthened with the right personnel and

sufficient resources in place to adequately and robustly

engage the GOZ on humanitarian operations: Holmes clearly

heard the message that a new HC, with the requisite

humanitarian operations/diplomatic skill mix, was very much

needed. He said that the current HC — UN Resident

Coordinator Antonio Zacarias — has asked to leave. The

position is currently being advertised, Holmes said, and

commented that he thought it would be difficult to recruit

candidates (“Who wants to work in Zimbabwe these days?”).

 

STATE 00077761 002 OF 002

 

 

Holmes noted that problems with the HC have existed for a

while now and that the HC and OCHA staff in Zimbabwe “do not

get along.” (Note: When asked more formally during the ODSG

High-Level meeting what recourse the ERC had to deal with

non-performing HCs, Holmes sidestepped the question,

commenting that he now has “compacts” with eight of the 26

HCs, which help the HCs identify and focus on priorities and

provide a documented basis for mutual accountability.)

 

———————————————

OCHA Donors’ Support Group High-Level Meeting

———————————————

 

7. (C) Zimbabwe was also an agenda item (along with Burma)

on the ODSG High-Level meeting. The “basic problem,” said

Holmes is that Zimbabwe is a “prolonged crisis” and that he

did not see any end in sight. (Comment: in an aside during a

meeting break, Holmes told Pollack that Zimbabwe opposition

leader Morgan Tsvangirai was not a very good politician —

implying that a Tvsangirai-led government was not necessarily

the solution.) Holmes noted that the already bad food

situation is only getting worse, along with a continuing

deterioration of Zimbabwe,s infrastructure (e.g., health)

compounded by the worsening food situation. He said 2-4

million Zimbabweans are in need of outside assistance.

 

8. (C) Holmes said that OCHA is not viewed affectionately

by the GOZ and that it was important, therefore, to keep a

low profile, noting that the UN team in Zimbabwe has

protested publicly and privately the restrictions placed by

the government on NGO operations. On the NGO issue, Holmes

said that NGOs could continue some small operations, but that

in practice the NGOs found it very difficult to really

operate; he speculated that while the restrictions still

exist, that perhaps it was just a matter of time before the

GOZ would ease the restrictions. He said that humanitarian

operations “will be okay for a few more weeks,” but that it

would become a real problem if the restrictions went on

longer than that. The UN can only fill small gaps in NGO

operations and he encouraged donors, noting that the UN has

pressed at all levels, to similarly press the GOZ on this

issue. He ended his remarks by saying that working in

Zimbabwe was “a very delicate balancing act.”

 

9. (C) The ensuing discussion was equally cautionary. The

UK representative expressed concern that parts of the UN were

not ready for a deteriorating situation and that more

realistic contingency planning was needed. Ireland echoed

this concern, asking specifically what was being done by OCHA

on possibly large refugee outflows. On this point, Holmes was

very clear that UNHCR had the lead and that UNHCR had a good

contingency plan in place and was working very closely with

OCHA and governments in the region. (Pollack re-emphasized

this point with the Irish rep during a break.) Canada urged

Holmes or Deputy ERC Catherine Bragg to visit Zimbabwe and

expressed concerns about the HC that were similar to ours. In

response to another USG point regarding the critical

communication leadership role OCHA needed to play with the

humanitarian community in Zimbabwe, Holmes acknowledged that

more needed to be done, noting that Zimbabwe was one of

OCHA,s “principles of partnership” pilot countries. In

response to Canada,s point on a high-level OCHA visit,

Holmes said that he was the wrong nationality (British) —

and noted that when such a suggestion was made publicly by

British officials, it was immediately dismissed by the GOZ.

Holmes did suggest that perhaps Deputy ERC Bragg (a Canadian

national) could visit, but acknowledged that the GOZ will not

accept a UN Special Envoy position.

RICE

 

(6 VIEWS)

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