Viewing cable 02ABUJA1805

02ABUJA18052002-06-17 16:09:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Abuja
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 001805 
E.O.12958: DECL: 06/10/12 
REF: STATE 102686 
¶1. (C) Summary: Recent discussions with two senior GON 
officials reveal GON ambivalence on Liberia. 
Vacillating between two divergent philosophical 
approaches, Nigeria's position on Liberia is fluid and 
not fixed to any coherent strategy. One contending 
belief, championed by Special Advisor on Conflict 
Resolution Uwechue and based on a vague pan-African 
romanticism, is that the Liberian conflict can be 
extinguished and Charles Taylor can be converted 
through discussion and neutral mediation. The other 
perspective, advanced by Presidential Special Advisor 
Ad'obe Obe, is tougher and edgier. This approach also 
starts with discussions but here Nigeria assumes the 
role of interested power not selfless mediator. If a 
party refuses Abuja's counsel, Nigeria sees a 
rejection of its sub-regional primacy and will draw 
distance between itself and that party. Because 
President Taylor recently rebuffed Obasanjo's offer to 
visit Abuja, the Obe viewpoint is currently ascendant. 
Because of Taylor's contumacy, Nigeria is willing, for 
the time being, to let the Liberian President continue 
to feel the press of the LURD at his back. End 
¶2. (C) During a conversation in late May with 
PolCouns, Special Presidential Advisor for Conflict 
Resolution, Ambassador Ralph Uwechue, extolled 
continued dialogue and mediation to resolve the 
Liberian crisis. Uwechue contended progress would not 
have visited Sierra Leone but for the GON policy of 
dialogue with Taylor. Everyone knew the path to peace 
in Sierra Leone went through Monrovia because of 
Taylor's mentoring of the RUF.  Nigeria could have 
ostracized Taylor and sought a military solution 
against the RUF. This, Uwechue expostulated, would 
have led to prolonged but inclusive fighting -- a 
perennial military stalemate. Uwechue mentioned that 
constant entreaties and overtures by Obasanjo asking 
Taylor to urge the RUF to cooperate in the peace 
process transformed the Liberian leader from chaperone 
of RUF mayhem to encouraging the group to down their 
weapons and take to the electoral hustings. 
¶3. (C) Although noting the contributions of Britain's 
muscular presence in Sierra Leone, UNAMSIL and the UN 
sanctions to the peace process, Uwechue remained loyal 
to his credo that dialogue was the most critical 
factor in the peace process. Now, he saw the need to 
employ the same tool to work with Taylor in his own 
front yard. Acknowledging the task in Liberia would be 
more difficult because the stakes for Taylor were 
higher, Uwechue advocated that Nigeria continue to 
talk to Taylor. Nigeria recognized the importance of 
dialogue in resolving African conflicts, including 
Liberia, he declared. Breaking the line of 
communication was anathema. Although this method 
seemed circuitous and time-consuming, it simply was 
not enough to develop a plan for peace; to be succeed, 
one must develop a plan for how to make Taylor believe 
that he has developed the plan for peace. The more 
Taylor feels that other countries are not interested 
in toppling him and think he is capable of good, the 
more reasonable he will be. While Taylor's book of 
misdeeds is voluminous, he is neither a devil nor are 
many of the rest of us saints, Uwechue posited. 
¶4. (C) Uwechue urged the USG to exploit Taylor's 
current predicament diplomatically. LURD success has 
rendered him off-balance; in his weakened political 
state, Taylor will be more amenable to compromise, 
Uwechue offered.  However, if the international 
community remains relatively mute in the face of an 
apparently tumescent LURD, he will suspect 
international support for the insurgents. Taylor's 
paranoia would increase, bringing more fighting and 
suppression of domestic dissent in its wake. 
¶5.  (C) Uwechue thought we should implement a policy 
of what could be termed "positive containment." Under 
this strategem, we would inform Taylor that his ouster 
is not our objective but he must cease encroachments 
into neighboring real estate. If extra-territorial 
ambitions continued to rule him, we would actively 
oppose these designs; as long as he desisted from 
cross-border misconduct, Taylor could expect our 
indifference, at the very least, even in the face of 
some degree of continued misrule at home. Moreover, 
willingness for political and economic openness at 
home could turn that benign indifference -- matching 
each constructive, reform-oriented step on his part by 
one on ours -- into a more positive engagement. Part 
of that positive engagement would include pressing 
Guinea to be a much less gracious host to the LURD. 
¶6.  (C) In the final analysis, Uwechue claimed, 
Liberia was not amenable to a military solution. The 
prospect of chronic stalemate between the LURD and the 
GOL was depressing.  The political pedigree of the 
LURD leadership was equally frightening; that group 
promised to govern no better than Taylor, if they 
managed to oust him. 
¶7. (C) Both in tenor and substance, Presidential 
Advisor Obe's view of Liberia differed significantly 
from Uwechue's. Obe recalled President Obasanjo trying 
to consult with and counsel Taylor; yet Monrovia 
remained deaf to Abuja's voice. Now, President 
Obasanjo has little patience or sympathy for Taylor, 
Obe contended. 
¶8.  (C) Obe saw almost no possibility for peaceful 
resolution in Liberia due to Taylor's intransigent 
meanness.  Embedded in Taylor's pathology is an innate 
inability to follow reason when it does not 
immediately sate of his appetite for power. When 
confronted between what is rational and what he 
desires, Taylor will choose the latter. Talk alone 
cannot sway him. The offer of some political carrots 
is unlikely to hold influence because Taylor wants to 
own the entire farm. The only thing that attracts 
Taylor's undivided attention is a demonstration of 
force, Obe maintained. Obe doubted that Obasanjo would 
attempt to reach out to Taylor any time soon. If he 
does not want Nigeria's involvement in resolving this 
crisis, he will not get it. Taylor has made this mess 
for himself, now let him flail in it, Obe scoffed. 
¶9. (C) In a certain sense, the views on Liberia 
expressed by Uwechue and Obe reveal as much about 
their personalities as their input into GON policy. 
Uwechue is by nature ebullient and an optimist. There 
are few people he dislikes; he would talk to a boulder 
if told there was a slight chance it might budge. The 
acerbic Obe has a much more cynical worldview, and not 
everyone is his friend.  Indeed, others at State House 
sometimes call him the "Most Obnoxious Nigerian" 
(given the number of other formidable contestants, 
this is a truly stinging characterization with which 
we do not really agree). Because of his avowed pan- 
Africanism, Uwechue's stance on regional conflict 
resolution has a precatory quality. Promotion of the 
pan-Africanist ideal requires Nigeria to remain 
involved in conflict resolution and continue to reach 
out even when rebuffed. Not so with Obe. Unlike 
Uwechue, he is not a staunch pan-Africanist, and there 
is little space for romanticism in his creed. He does 
not easily countenance insolence from Nigeria's lesser 
neighbors. If another country crosses Nigeria, he is 
prone write off that country. 
¶10. (C) Both men profess to know and reflect 
Obasanjo's GON views on Liberia, and, paradoxically, 
we believe both are correct. Obasanjo operates as his 
own foreign minister, particularly on Liberia. 
Obasanjo's personality -- and his approach to Liberia 
-- have elements of Uwechue's congeniality and Obe's 
jagged edges. Angered by Taylor's stubbornness and 
rejection of the invitation to visit Abuja (the second 
rejection this year), Obasanjo currently is probably 
closer to Obe's position. However, that might not last 
long. Events in Liberia, further discussions with 
other regional leaders, or something extraneous could 
cause Obasanjo's mood to swing back toward engagement. 
¶11. (C) Affecting all of this are the time constraints 
imposed by the President's demanding schedule. 
Obasanjo is has a busy travel itinerary for the 
remainder of June and much of July. This could limit 
the attention he gives Liberia during the next several 
weeks. Moreover, as Nigeria's electoral season 
steadily moves toward full swing, the desire and 
opportunities to be fully engaged on Liberia will 
diminish for Obasanjo, particularly with the need to 
shore-up his re-nomination bid before the PDP national 
convention slated for October.