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2003-07-22 16:41:00
Embassy Abuja
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						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ABUJA 001246 


E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/18/2013

REF: (A) ABUJA 1210
(B) ABUJA 1211

(B) AND (D).

1. (C) SUMMARY: During a July 12 meeting with
Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Kansteiner,
former Nigerian Head of State General Abdulsalaam
Abubakar discussed the proposed deployment of an
ECOWAS force and the establishment of a transitional
government in Liberia. Abubakar said Nigerian BG
Festus Okwonko had been named the Force Commander and
that Nigeria could field two battalions on short
notice. Abubakar said 3,000 of the desired 5,000-man
force would come from ECOWAS members with Nigeria,
Ghana and Mali shouldering most of the load in the
beginning and Senegal possibly contributing to the
force after the initial deployment. He hoped the
remaining 2,000 soldiers would come from contributions
from the United States, South Africa and/or Morocco.
Abubakar thought that Taylor should leave Monrovia
within the next one-two weeks, lest Taylor start
obfuscating and the LURD resume fighting. Abubakar
was also concerned that, to prevent chaos,
peacekeepers should deploy before Taylor leaves.
Abubakar and A/S Kansteiner discussed a Taylor
departure simultaneous with the arrival of the
peacekeeping force as a possible course of action.

2. (U) During a July 12 meeting with Assistant
Secretary for African Affairs Walter Kansteiner,

former Nigerian Head of State General Abudulsalaam
Abubakar discussed deployment of an ECOWAS force to
Liberia. Abubakar said Nigerian BG Festus Okwonko
would be the Force Commander. Okwonko planned to
accompany Abubakar to Accra the afternoon of July 12.
(NOTE: Abubakar indicated Okwonko had served with
ECOMOG forces in Liberia. He was most recently
assigned to the Command and Staff College in Jaji and
was formerly the Nigerian DATT in Addis Ababa. END

3. (C) Abubakar thought ECOWAS could eventually field
3,000 of a desired 5,000-man force. Nigeria, Ghana
and Mali would furnish most of the troops while
Senegal and others were expected to make smaller
contributions once the initial force was already on
the ground. Abubakar expected the remaining 2,000 to
come from the United States, South Africa and Morocco.
He had not yet heard whether South Africa or Morocco
would participate. He indicated that ECOWAS forces
would require significant logistical support from the
U.S. or other donor countries. Abubakar said the
Liberians wanted the U.S. to lead the mission and that
it was essential to deploy forces to Monrovia

4. (C) A/S Kansteiner emphasized that President Bush
had not yet decided whether to deploy American troops
and that we were still considering the full range of
policy options on Liberia - from financial assistance
only to full troop deployment. A/S Kansteiner
commented that, should Taylor step aside and if a
decision to commit troops were taken, the quickest the
U.S. could deploy would be on or about August 1.
Abubakar gave a time-table of a week or two for
Taylor's departure. Waiting any longer, he felt,
could further destabilize the situation - Taylor might
start playing tricks and the LURD would not remain
bridled. Thus, it was imperative that some force get
on the ground quickly. Kansteiner asked whether a
quickly deployed but small ECOWAS force would be
challenged by the LURD, MODEL and perhaps the GOL.
Abubakar acknowledged that possibility but felt that
the potential consequences of not deploying would be

5. (C) Abubakar was dismayed that the ECOWAS Joint
Verification Team (JVT) was stuck in Freetown and had
not yet visited Monrovia. With UNAMSIL's refusal to
provide lift for the JVT and uncertainty over
Nigeria's ability to do so, it was unclear when the
JVT would be deployed. A/S Kansteiner and Abubakar
agreed the JVT was important for both logistical and
symbolic reasons and that it must complete its mission
before any ECOWAS force could go to Liberia.

6. (C) Responding with concern to A/S Kansteiner's
assertion that Taylor's departure was a prerequisite
to any possible U.S. troop deployment, Abubakar
worried that anti-Taylor sentiments had grown so
strong that the cease-fire might break down if a force
were not deployed soon. A/S Kansteiner asked whether
a simultaneous Taylor departure/U.S. troop arrival was
a tenable solution; Abubakar felt this concept might
present a way forward.

7. (C) Abubakar did not think it necessary for the
peace process to address the fate of members of
Taylor's cadre who also fear indictment by the Special
Court for Sierra Leone. He said that extracting
Taylor quickly would calm the situation and open the
door to working other problems. Responding to
Kansteiner's concerns about recent LURD threats
against peacekeepers should any deploy before Taylor's
departure, Abubakar said such statements were worrying
and that he had been counseling the LURD to desist.

8. (C) On the transitional government, Abubakar
emphasized the importance of maintaining the
constitutionality of the transfer of power upon
Taylor's departure. He stated that Taylor should hand
power to Vice President Blah or to whomever he
selects, such as Roland Massaquoi, to replace Blah as
Vice President. That Vice President, in turn, should
step aside in favor of an interim government by
October 2003. The interim government would be charged
with beginning the demobilization process and
preparing for elections in October 2004. Abubakar
agreed with A/S Kansteiner that the transitional
government should be led by an experienced and
respected civil servant. He also commented that he
had told LURD and MODEL leaders they should not expect
a place in the transitional government if they intend
to seek office in the October 2004 election.

9. COMMENT: After having sat around the table for many
hours with LURD and GOL representatives, Abubakar's
main concern is the prompt removal of Taylor.
Abubakar had gauged the LURD's patience and
presciently found it to be wanting. Abubakar sensed
that the cease-fire would not hold much longer if
Taylor's departure remains more promissory than
definite. Because he has probably spent more time
recently with the LURD than anyone else, his
observations are credible and should continue to
inform our thinking. END COMMENT.