Viewing cable 03ABUJA1272

03ABUJA12722003-07-25 09:17:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 SECRET Embassy Abuja
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 ABUJA 001272 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/21/13 
Classified By Ambassador Howard F. Jeter. Reasons 1.5 
(b) and(d). 
¶1. (C) Summary.  During a late evening July 19 
discussion with Ambassador Jeter, President Obasanjo 
decided Nigeria would deploy two OFR-trained 
battalions to Liberia.  Obasanjo gave the green light 
to deploying one of the battalions currently in Sierra 
Leone and also a battalion currently in Nigeria. 
Obasanjo hoped that he could leverage deployment of 
the two battalions into future OFR-style training for 
an additional five battalions as discussed during 
President Bush's July 12 visit to Nigeria. Stressing 
that Nigeria was prepared to deploy quickly, he 
discounted reports that ECOWAS would not be ready to 
deploy until mid-August.  Obasanjo said that when he 
visited Conakry July 14, President Conte had agreed to 
restrain LURD but that Conte had not followed through 
this promise.  Obasanjo stated that once Nigeria 
troops had deployed he would give Charles Taylor a 48- 
hour ultimatum to go into exile or face arrest. 
Currently, a Liberian delegation headed by Minister of 
State Jonathan Taylor was visiting Nigeria, ostensibly 
to prepare for Taylor's asylum.  End Summary. 
¶2. (C) During a July 19 meeting at the Presidential 
Villa, Ambassador delivered the demarche on the use of 
OFR-trained battalions to President Obasanjo. 
Obasanjo responded positively that Nigeria would 
deploy OFR-battalions.  The first battalion could be 
one currently deployed in Sierra Leone. Mentioning 
that UN SYG Annan had raised this possibility with 
him, Obasanjo said he told Annan that Nigeria would 
not object to shifting a battalion from Sierra Leone 
to Liberia provided the level of assistance (i.e. 
equipment, logistical support and per diem) were 
commensurate to that received in Sierra Leone. 
Obasanjo said he did not want his soldiers receiving 
less pay in exchange for Liberia's greater danger. 
That would be callous and the soldiers would grumble 
that I was stealing their money, Obasanjo asserted. 
(Comment: Obasanjo's point is well taken from his 
perspective.  It would be difficult to ask soldiers to 
receive less in the face of greater danger in Liberia. 
Moreover, if the stipend for the Nigerian battalion 
coming out of Sierra Leone must match UN levels, it 
will be difficult not to apply the same daily stipend 
to the entire ECOWAS deployment in Liberia. End 
¶3. (C) Obasanjo continued that the second battalion 
would be an OFR battalion currently in Ogoja, Cross 
Rivers State.  That battalion was deployed in Ogoja 
due to the friction with Cameroon over the Bakassi 
peninsula; however, with the de-escalation of tension 
resulting from the ongoing bilateral dialogue with 
Cameroon, Obasanjo felt comfortable in moving that 
battalion.  Obasanjo had briefly contemplated using 
the battalion headquartered at Agenebode, Edo State. 
However, elements of that battalion have been advanced 
to Warri in contemplation of a police action against 
Ijaw militants who have taken over control of the 
environs around Warri and disrupted oil production. 
Hinting that action in Warri might be imminent, 
Obasanjo concluded he would not interrupt the 
deployment of these forces.  (Note: We subsequently 
learned from General Akoji, Director of Army 
Operations, that 26 Battalion in Sokoto would deploy 
to Liberia, not the Ogoja battalion.  The Ogoja 
battalion had already served in Sierra Leone but was 
not OFR-trained.  Because it was once deployed in 
Sierra Leone, Obasanjo apparently had thought that it 
was an OFR-trained unit.  End Note.) 
¶4. (C) Obasanjo interrupted his conversation with 
Ambassador Jeter to telephone Chief of Defense Staff 
General Ogomudia.  Obasanjo instructed Ogomudia that 
Nigeria should deploy the two OFR battalions to 
Liberia.  Ogomudia dissented, offering that battalions 
currently in Plateau and Taraba States be sent to 
Liberia.  Obasanjo overruled his Defense Chief's 
objections, explaining that demonstrating maximum use 
of the OFR battalions would build a strong argument in 
favor of USG-OFR-style training for an additional five 
battalions.  After ending the telephone conversation 
with Ogomudia, Obasanjo said that his Chief of Defense 
Staff was "hopping mad" and that he would need to show 
the army that Nigeria had received some benefit for 
deploying the OFR battalions.  Obasanjo then remarked 
that President Bush should honor Nigeria's request to 
train an additional five battalions.  Obasanjo 
repeated this tacit quid pro quo several more times 
during the meeting. 
¶5. (C) Obasanjo dismissed the report that ECOWAS would 
not be ready to deploy until August 16.  The President 
claimed that neither he nor his Chief of Defense Staff 
knew the source of that report.  Obasanjo stated that 
he was trying to locate General Abubakar, the ECOWAS 
negotiator, to see if he knew the source of this 
untimely message.  Obasanjo stressed that he was 
prepared to deploy Nigeria troops within a few days 
provided the needed logistical support was given. 
¶6. (C) Ambassador Jeter told Obasanjo that the LURD, 
quickly advancing on Monrovia, must be compelled to 
stop its offensive.  Monrovia risked descent into 
chaos that would make troop deployment almost 
impossible.  Obasanjo revealed that his July 14 visit 
to Conakry was to tell President Conte to bridle the 
LURD before they entered Monrovia.  He warned Conte 
that he would hold the Guinean leader responsible 
should one Nigerian soldier be hurt or killed by a 
LURD bullet.  Conte, Obasanjo recalled, acknowledged 
that he had leverage with the LURD and would act to 
throttle its offensive. 
¶7. (C) The MFI's Advisor for Africa interjected that 
the Guinea Foreign Minister had admitted that Conte 
had not yet contacted the LURD.  Obasanjo stated that 
he would attempt again to talk to Conte.  At that 
point, he received a telephone call from General 
Abubakar.  Abubakar said that he had advised LURD 
Chairman Conneh to end the attack.  Abubakar also 
planned to issue a statement calling for the 
restoration of the cease-fire. 
¶8. (C) Ambassador Jeter stressed that President Bush 
had not made the decision on whether to deploy 
American troops.  However, we will do our best to 
provide assistance such as lift and equipment.  He 
mentioned the possibility of the U.S. dispatching an 
assessment team to Nigeria to help determine the pre- 
deployment needs of the Nigerian battalions. 
Ambassador added that should President Bush decide to 
send American troops, the troops could only deploy 
after Taylor departed. 
¶9. (C) Obasanjo envisioned the deployment of Nigerian 
and possible other ECOWAS contingents prior to an 
American arrival.  After the sub-regionals deployed, 
Taylor would be given 48 hours to leave for asylum. 
If he did not leave within 48 hours, "I will arrest 
him," Obasanjo asserted.  (Note: Prior to the meeting 
with President Obasanjo, A/DCM had a brief discussion 
with Special Presidential Envoy for Conflict 
Resolution, Raph Uwueche.  Ambassador Uwueche said 
that he had visited Monrovia July 16 to confirm 
Taylor's willingness to leave Liberia.  He said Taylor 
continued to voice willingness to leave provided that 
an orderly succession was arranged so that a power 
vacuum would not ensue.  Uwueche returned to Abuja 
with Liberian Minister of State Jonathan Taylor and 
three other GOL officials in tow.  This quartet came 
to survey Nigeria preparations for Taylor's exile and 
report back to their embattled leader in Monrovia. 
End Note.) 
¶10. (S) Obasanjo realizes that the pace of events on 
the grounds is much more rapid than ECOWAS planning. 
The events shaping Monrovia's fate are measured in 
hours or days.  Meanwhile, ECOWAS deployment planning 
has been in terms of days and weeks.  For the hundreds 
of thousands of unprotected civilians in Monrovia, 
their last best chance to avoid the specter of 
violence and deprivation is for LURD to halt its 
¶11. (C) Strong pressure must be placed on those in 
Guinea and perhaps Sierra Leone who can, in turn, 
pressure the LURD or stop its supply lines.  If that 
can be accomplished, the pace of ECOWAS planning must 
be accelerated rapidly as any cease-fire will be 
fragile and inherently hard-lined.  Obasanjo 
recognizes the need to bring the ECOWAS forces to bear 
quickly; thus, his readiness to quickly deploy 
Nigerian battalions in possible harm's way.  We should 
applaud him for this. 
¶12. (S) For his troops to deploy, Obasanjo will be 
looking for, at minimum, significant USG logistical 
assistance.  He will also be knocking at our door for 
future OFR-type training for five battalions.  If 
Nigeria deploys in Liberia, his request for future 
training will become a central aspect of future 
cooperation with Nigeria in peacekeeping.  It will 
also be a crucial test for Obasanjo in the eyes of his 
reluctant military.  If Obasanjo fails to deliver on 
the additional training, his stature will diminish in 
the eyes of a reluctant military. 
¶13. (U) This cable was delayed in transmission; core 
content was relayed to the Department by other means.