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2001-06-01 06:18:00
Embassy Abuja
Cable title:  

In Depth Discussion on ECOWAS Capacity Building

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						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 ABUJA 001244 



E.O. 12598: DECLAS 05/14/2011
SUBJECT: In Depth Discussion on ECOWAS Capacity Building

(U) Classified by Ambassador Howard F. Jeter; Reasons 1.5
(b) and (d).

1. (C) SUMMARY: AF/RA LTC Mike Bittrick discussed ECOWAS'
capacity-building plans with newly arrived Deputy Executive
Secretary Diarra and ECOWAS Military Advisor Dikio on May


14. Diarra outlined his vision and the responsibilities of
his newly formed department. He identified areas where
ECOWAS would seek assistance, and emphasized primarily a
need for expertise. Dikio, as the sole active military
officer oN the Secretariat staff, discussed his over-
stretched role as military advisor, the need for a
maintenance culture in West Africa and the need for
oversight in ECOWAS. END SUMMARY.

2. (U) AF/RA Michael Bittrick and EmbOffs paid a call on
ECOWAS Deputy Executive Secretary (DES) for Political
Affairs, Defense and Security, General (ret) Cheick Oumar
Diarra, and ECOWAS Military Advisor Colonel M. Dixon Dikio.
A detailed and wide-ranging discussion of ECOWAS' capacity
building plans ensued.

3. (C) Diarra began by apologizing for Kouyate's absence,
and explained that the Executive Secretary was in Conakry
for meetings with President Conte. Diarra noted that at
the end of the last Extraordinary Summit in Abuja,
Presidents Obasanjo, Konare and Eyadema had been tasked
with organizing a mini-summit of the Mano River Union
States. The need for political dialogue was clear, and
Kouyate was assisting with this effort, Diarra said.


4. (C) Diarra explained that the ECOWAS Mechanism for
Conflict Prevention, agreed upon by ECOWAS Heads of State,
included four yet-to-be staffed departments under his
office: political affairs, humanitarian affairs, defense
and security, and the monitoring and observation center.
Pointing to himself and Dikio, he noted that presently
"there are a total of two people" in the department. (In
fact, as we spoke to him, an ECOWAS hiring committee
awaited his arrival to interview candidates for the four
sub-offices.) Diarra said that ECOWAS would immediately
undertake three steps, as directed by his office, to build
ECOWAS capacity to prevent, mediate and resolve crises in
the sub-region: Establish a monitoring and observation
center, train and evaluate stand-by units (SBUs) and
establish a Council of Elders (all three mandated by the

that the first step was to create the observation and
monitoring center. With conflict prevention the logical
first priority (peacekeeping and conflict resolution being
enormously more difficult and time-consuming), ECOWAS must

begin with the first piece of their prevention mechanism,
the early warning system. Observation headquarters would
be set up in four zones: Banjul (for Senegal, Cape Verde,
Guinea-Bisau, The Gambia), Ouagadougou (for Mali, Burkina-
Faso, Cote d'Ivoire, Niger), Monrovia (for Liberia, Guinea,
Sierra Leone, Ghana) and Cotonou (for Benin, Nigeria,
Togo). These would feed information on their duty-states
to the "Situation Center" at the ECOWAS Secretariat.
(Diarra noted that the four host countries had provided
accommodation for the offices, and that an agreement on the
status of the personnel had been signed with Burkina-Faso
and Benin, with The Gambia to sign the following week.)
Duty teams would cull and analyze information, and pass
their analysis and comment to the DES, who would then
report to the Executive Secretary. Diarra stated that, "We
think most of the problem with conflict prevention is a
lack of information," reiterating the need for an early
warning system.

6. (C) Individuals were being recruited from the 15 member-
states, and the ECOWAS Legal Department (which, he noted,
did not formally work for him, although the Department had
been performing the functions of his office for quite some
time) was assisting with the hiring process. Diarra said
that presently there were only five individuals assigned to
each office, and this was too few. He and Dikio both
stated that the planning for the observation HQs needed to
be "fine-tuned," and implied that now that Diarra was on
the job, this process had begun.

7. (C) COMPOSITE STAND-BY UNITS: Diarra said the second
step would be to oversee the training and staffing of the
ECOWAS/ECOMOG SBUs. Each member-state had agreed to
provide anywhere from a company to a battalion to create an
early response capacity within ECOWAS. ECOWAS planned to
train these units to "harmonize procedures," Diarra said.
Dikio expressed concern that some member-states might
identify units that would then be redirected to internal
missions, thereby weakening the SBU structure. Diarra
explained that Dikio would be leaving the same week to
travel to member-states to review the proposed units, speak
to their commanders, discuss training and exercises,
determine assistance needed, and ascertain their ability to
participate effectively in the force.

8. (C) ECOWAS would also look to create two depots, one in
the interior of the sub-region and one on the coast, to
store equipment for the SBUs, Diarra said. He explained
that when Niger had volunteered troops for the planned
Guinea-Liberia border force, it had been able to offer
soldiers and rifles only. The equipment stored at these
bases would allow ECOWAS to equip such troops in the
future, he said. At present, he said, ECOWAS stored (but
did not maintain) mostly out-of-service equipment brought
back from Liberia at a warehouse in Lagos.

9. (C) COUNCIL OF ELDERS: Diarra then noted that the
mechanism included a "Council of Elders," made up of former
Heads of State and other notable West African "eminent
persons," who would act to mediate conflicts. The Council
would be established quickly, he said, since it would
require few resources to operate. He expected the first
meeting of the Council to take place in Niamey on the 27th
or 28th of June (a postponement of the initial May start-up

noted that the ECOWAS Moratorium's formal mandate would
expire at the end of October 2001 (a three year renewable
mandate). He explained the process by which states must
apply to import small arms. Requests are sent to member-
states' national committees, which if approved, would
forward the requests to ECOWAS. (COMMENT: Small arms
requests to ECOWAS have thus far been handled by Colonel
Dikio. END COMMENT.) ECOWAS then forwards the application
with comment to other member-states. If no one objects, or
if there is no response within one month, the importation
request is approved. Diarra noted the need to train
national security forces on the small arms issue, and to
have more discussions with manufacturers. Dikio added
that, to his mind, manufacturers had been extremely
cooperative thus far, in some cases more so than member-
states. Diarra said that ECOWAS was planning a meeting,
with PCASED assistance, to assess the Moratorium and
develop a recommendation on renewal.


11. (C) Diarra identified four assistance requirements:
expertise and planning capability, equipment, training
(both for the SBUs and for staff) and security programs.
On this last point he said ECOWAS had identified a need but
did not yet have a clear program, so it was not yet asking
for help.

that ECOWAS had a vision, but needed expertise. For
example, he said, the Mechanism set forth a Secretariat
"situation center," but neither he nor Colonel Dikio knew
exactly what it should "look like." He also noted that his
department would need a planning and management cell for
operations. He explained that he desired expertise to
design his military advisory structure, and would prefer
not to have to call on the UN or member-states' military
staff each time an operation was required. Dikio agreed
with the need for a planning cell, noting that he alone had
planned the Guinea-Liberia border force (including the
planning, travel to the border, and travel to view the
forces offered by member-states). He said that he had
eventually recommended support by UN and member-state
personnel for the border force planning process, because it
was "too much" for one person to handle. He added that he
had not been involved in the ECOWAS training exercise in
Togo because of his other responsibilities.

13. (C) EQUIPMENT: Diarra said the primary need was for
expertise, but ECOWAS would also welcome provision of
needed equipment. He identified, as priorities,
communications gear for the observation stations and video
conferencing capability for the Secretariat (to connect
with the UN and any operating force headquarters). Diarra
said that the EU had provided ECOWAS a one-time grant of
about 2 million Euros for the observation and monitoring
center. ECOWAS had spent Euro 1 million already, and would
spend the rest between April and December of 2001. After
December, he noted, member-states would become fiscally
responsible for the mechanism. Denmark and Norway had
indicated that they might provide some additional funding,
but it was unclear at this point what they would offer. He
noted that ECOWAS had contracted a firm to develop and
supply software for the situation center and to provide an
electronic screen. In any case, he noted, more would be
needed, and would be welcome.

14. (C) TRAINING: Diarra said that ECOWAS would need
assistance for training exercises for the SBUs and for the
staff of his department.


15. (C) After Diarra departed to interview staff, the
conversation continued with Colonel Dikio for another 45
minutes. Dikio expanded on Diarra's remarks and made a
number of other notable points. He argued that the method
of fighting insurgencies with traditionally organized
forces and long logistical lines needed to be rethought.
Using Operation Focus Relief as an example of "excellent"
training, he emphasized that it had been designed to meet a
certain need, and stated that similar training would be
valuable to future ECOWAS forces.

16. (C) On assistance to ECOWAS, Dikio said that it would
be best if the U.S., France and the UK (and other partners)
jointly assist ECOWAS to avoid duplication. He noted that
this applied to expertise, direct assistance and training.
Dikio used Blue Pelican as an example where France and the
UK had worked together, but regretted that while the event
was useful, it was "one time only." He also was receptive
to the idea of seconded personnel from the UN or elsewhere,
assuming the approval of the Executive Secretary, and to
the idea of exchanges between ECOWAS and other

17. (C) Dikio then turned to issues of accountability, and
noted that the assistance prvided by the EU included a
contractor, who provided oversight. Implying that without
oversight there could be problems with waste, Dikio noted
that oversight was important to ensure that work was
completed. He also mentioned that while 60 - 65 percent of
the ECOMOG equipment from Liberia was unserviceable, ECOWAS
had brought the equipment to Lagos for accountability
reasons. Dikio also acknowledged the need for equipment
given to ECOWAS to be properly maintained, and said, "There
is no point in giving equipment if it will suffer a 60 - 70
casualty rate." He lamented the lack of a maintenance
culture in the Nigerian military and in the sub-region, and
expressed hope that now that the Nigerian military is no
longer involved in "other matters," an emphasis on
maintaining equipment would return within a few years.

18. (C) Bittrick mentioned the need for long-range planning
by ECOWAS for donors to anticipate and provide assistance.
Dikio said that now that Diarra had assumed his position,
ECOWAS would be able to provide long-range planning. He
expected a one-year plan would be available in the next
three months.


19. (C) While the Embassy has reported in the past on the
structures ECOWAS has formally created, it is clear that
with the arrival of DES Diarra, the real construction
process has begun. Perhaps the most positive note is
Diarra's realization of the need to build institutional
capacity as evidenced by his focus on expertise rather than
equipment or money (though these were not forgotten).
Coordination with other donor nations seems essential here.

20. (C) The Mechanism was preliminarily adopted by Heads of
State on December 10, 1999. In the Final Communique of the
Heads of State Summit in Abuja on April 11, 2001, the
participants noted several continuing problems: 1) the
staggering amount of arrears "owed by most member-states;"
2) "delay" in implementation of the small arms moratorium
(most states have yet to establish their national
committees, even as the moratorium is set to expire in four
months); 3) delay in the ratification of the mechanism
itself (only two have done it). Despite these continuing
obstacles, the ECOWAS Secretariat has now embarked upon the
actual erection of the Mechanism's security structures.
The U.S. and other partners have the opportunity to assist
the ECOWAS response capacities and to positively influence
exactly how the mechanism functions on the ground. END

21. (U) LTC Bittrick cleared this cable.

22. (U) Freetown Minimize Considered.