S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 ABUJA 001272
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/21/13
TAGS: PREL MASS MOPS PHUM NI LI
SUBJECT: NIGERIA:-TWO BATTALIONS CAN DEPLOY QUICKLY TO
LIBERIA-BUT NEED HELP
Classified By Ambassador Howard F. Jeter. Reasons 1.5
Â¶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.
WE CAN DEPLOY OFR BATTALIONS
Â¶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
Â¶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.)
Â¶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.
WE CAN DEPLOY QUICKLY
Â¶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.
LURD MUST STOP
Â¶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.
Â¶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.
THE U.S. ROLE
Â¶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.
48 HOURS OR ELSE
Â¶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.
Â¶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
Â¶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.
Â¶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.
Â¶13. (U) This cable was delayed in transmission; core
content was relayed to the Department by other means.