Viewing cable 03ABUJA1246

03ABUJA12462003-07-22 16:41:00 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 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.