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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
03ABUJA1358
2003-08-08 18:47:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Abuja
Cable title:  

NIGERIA: ECOWAS EXSEC CHAMBAS SAYS OBASANJO

Tags:  PREL MASS MOPS PHUM LI 
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This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 ABUJA 001358 

SIPDIS


E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/08/13
TAGS: PREL MASS MOPS PHUM LI
SUBJECT: NIGERIA: ECOWAS EXSEC CHAMBAS SAYS OBASANJO
IS FIRM ON TAYLOR DEPARTURE

Classified By Charge Dawn Liberi. Reasons 1.5 (b) AND (d).




1. (C) Summary. During an August 5 conversation with
Charge, ECOWAS Executive Secretary Mohammed Chambas
said President Obasanjo affirmed that Charles Taylor
would be evicted from Liberia if he refused to leave
willingly. However, Chambas characterized Taylor as
conflicted, pulled by his expansive ambitions and a
chorus of bellegerent hardliners on one hand versus
the pragmatic tones of the small band of GOL moderates
on the other. Although still voicing a commitment to
leave Liberia, Taylor had recently raised concern that
details of his departure-accommodation, size of his
coterie, and the fate of his personal effects-needed
to be finalized before he embarked on his last flight
from Liberia. Chambas planned to travel to Conakry on
August 7 to asked President Conte to make sure LURD
remained on its best behavior, given the ongoing
ECOMIL deployment. The process of finalizing a peace
agreement was moving forward; LURD and MODEL seemed to
be approaching the realization that control of the
transitional arrangement will be beyond their grasp.
His August 5 letter to Secretary Powell was not asking
for significant deployment of American troops but only
a small number of troops to Robertsfield Airport and
Freeport to show that America supported ECOMIL. End
Summary.




--------------------------


TAYLOR MUST GO


--------------------------






2. (C) Weathering the rigors of his job and the
Liberia crisis, a relaxed ExecSec Chambas told Charge
that he had met President Obasanjo August 5.
President Obasanjo iterated that Taylor would leave
Liberia voluntarily or involuntarily, but go he must.
Although Obasanjo had not given Taylor a specific
time, Chambas felt Obasanjo would give him a deadline
soon. Becoming uncharacteristically stern, Chambas
asserted ECOWAS realized that its troops would be in
an uncommodious position if Taylor did not leave.
LURD and MODEL would suspect the ECOWAS deployment was
a guise for protecting Taylor and they would be
itching to assault Monrovia once again. If Taylor put
ECOWAS in this vise, Obasanjo would retract the asylum
offer and Taylor would be left to his fate, Chambas
sounded.




--------------------------


TAYLOR: TALKING WITH TWO TONGUES


--------------------------






3. (C) Recounting his meeting in Monrovia with Taylor
and the Ghanaian and Nigerian Foreign Ministers,
Chambas recalled Taylor confirming that he would
announce his intent to resign an August 7 and promised
to fulfill that intention in an August 11 handover to
Vice President Blah. Chambas stressed, however, that
Taylor failed to state he would leave by August 11.




4. (C) Instead, Taylor raised logistical concerns
about the quality of accommodation awaiting him, the
number of people he could take and the disposition of
his vast inventory of personal property. Neither
Chambas nor the two foreign ministers could assure
Taylor but they got the distinct impression that they
had just witnessed a masterful display of
procrastination.




5. (C) Chambas surmised that internal conflict within
Taylor's inner circle as well as Taylor's inflated
powerlust were the main ingredients in his
temporizing. While moderates were warning that the
clock was soon to strike twelve, hardliners such as
Benjamin Yeates and J.T. Richardson were warning
Taylor that he should not leave them in Liberia.
Chambas was warned that if Taylor remained in Liberia
after the final handover to Blah, the hardliners would
increase their influence over Taylor, convincing him
to try to remain.




6. (C) To lessen the influence of these elements,
Chambas hoped that Taylor could be convinced to leave
immediately after the planned August 11 resignation
ceremony. Presidents Chissano (as AU Chairman),
Kufuor and Eyadema planned to attend. With these
Heads of State present, the extremists in Taylor's
camp will be on their best behavior; this would be the
best chance to escort Taylor out with a modicum of
difficulty. Chambas added that Taylor's reluctance to
leave was reinforced by his lack of desire to settle
in Nigeria. At one point, Taylor had suggested
Burkina Faso as a better site but President Kufuor, as
ECOWAS Chairman, quickly stuck a pin in that idea.




--------------------------


DEPLOYMENT - ALL WELL SO FAR


--------------------------






7. (C) Chambas remarked Nibatt I's deployment was
proceeding smooothly. The LURD had not raised any
obstacles. Rumors that the GOL had contrived some
incidents proved to be unfounded. Still, Chambas was
warried that LURD might misbehave. Thus, he planned
to visit Conakry to ask Conte to use his avuncular
suasion to keep the LURD behaving responsibly.




8. (C) Chambas added that current ECOWAS thinking was
to deploy a force of only 2300 instead of 3000. The
make-up would be the two Nigerian battalions and a
composite battalion from Ghana, Mali and Senegal.
Regarding per diem for the force, Chambas explained
that ECOWAS would be hardpressed to ask ECOMIL troops
to accept less than their brother effectives in
ECOMICI (Cote d'Ivoire) who were receiving 20 dollars
a day plus 4 dollars for food. He mentioned that the
UN had expressed willingness to foot the soldiers'
food bill. Meanwhile, the UK had indicated it might
give up to 3 million pounds to pay the per diem and
for other soldier sustenance. (Comment: In separate
conversation between Charge and British High
Commissioner, the latter indicated amount was more
likely to be 1 million pounds. End Comment). Chambas
mentioned the need for logistical support as well.
ECOWAS was establishing a special account in EKO Bank
in Ghana for donor contributions. Additionally,
Chambas stated ECOWAS would soon request the United
States and perhaps the U.K. to second military
procurement experts to help manage the use of proceeds
from this fund.




--------------------------


PEACE AGREEMENT ON TRACK, HOPEFULLY


--------------------------






9. (C) Chambas was sanguine about the negotiations in
Accra, commenting that the rival delegation has shown
signs of increasing trust and compromise. The GOL
team had dropped its objections to the draft
agreement, he noted. LURD and MODEL were starting to
soften their opposition to being excluded from the
interim presidency or vice presidential slots(s).
Another reason for going to Conakry was to persuade
LURD Chairman Sekou Conneh to drop completely the
LURD's official stance against the draft agreement.
Chambas said that he might bring Conneh to Nigeria to
confer with Obasanjo in hopes of convincing him that
no one was against his political aspirations but that
he must pursue them via elections and not as a down-
payment for being a factional leader. However,
Chambas admitted that ECOWAS was still searching for a
candidate, acceptable to all sides, to lead the
interim government after October.




--------------------------


ONLY A FEW GOOD AMERICAN MRN


--------------------------






10. (C) Regarding his August 5 letter to Secretary
Powell, ECOWAS believed an American presence at
Robertsfield Airport and Monrovia's Freeport would
help secure those important transportation facilities,
easing the deployment of more peacekeepers and of
humanitarian assistance. Moreover, a visible American
presence would sober the factions. The LURD would be
more willing to withdraw and the GOL less willing to
exploit that withdrawal by trying to retake the
facility. Chambas elaborated that ECOWAS was not
seeking a large American footprint in either location.
He felt a noticeable yet minimal presence at both
sites would serve the desired function, particularly
if accompanied by regular fly-over by US military air
assets.




--------------------------


COMMENT


--------------------------






11. (C) Chambas was generally upbeat about the recent
trajectory of events in Liberia. The cease-fire was
mostly holding, the deployment was finally underway
and factional opposition to the peace process was
diminishing. However, Taylor's departure remained
uncertain and Chambas is not under any illusion as to
why. He knows that the only time Taylor is not lying
is when he is not talking. Chambas realizes that
ECOWAS must keep the diplomatic pressure, backed by
the threat of arrest, on Taylor.


LIBERI