Viewing cable 03ABUJA1937

03ABUJA19372003-11-12 05:05:00 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 001937 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/07/2013 
REF: A. ABUJA 1730 
     ¶B. ABUJA 1034 
     ¶C. ABUJA 1134 
     ¶D. ABUJA 1246 
     ¶E. ABUJA 1327 
     ¶F. ABUJA 1831 
¶1. (C) SUMMARY: The GON believes it has performed a major 
service by taking a leadership role in arranging Taylor's 
departure from Liberia, and committing its own troops to 
participate in needed related follow-up peacekeeping efforts. 
 Both have involved significant domestic political risk. 
Nigerians believe that Taylor is losing influence inside 
Liberia as the transition there moves forward.  There have 
been signs that President Obasanjo eventually plans to rid 
himself of Taylor, and the political burden that he 
represents, but likely only in a fashion that preserves GON 
integrity in commitments it made to get Taylor out of Liberia 
in the first place.  The GON is likely to react badly to 
overt pressure to turn Taylor over to the Sierra Leone 
special court too soon.  Such overt pressure risks a 
counterproductive inclination by at least some Nigerians to 
keep Taylor a bit longer than might otherwise be the case vs. 
appearing to give in to a fickle U.S. prevailing sentiment. 
¶2. (C) A better alternative would be to engage the GON to 
tell us what Obasanjo may see as an appropriate timetable for 
Taylor's departure to a Liberian court, and perhaps 
ultimately to the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL), a 
logical extension of the GON's public position.  A perceived 
threatening approach to the GON for an immediate turnover 
could result in embarrassment and a sharp if relatively short 
downturn in bilateral relations, and we believe it would be 
unlikely to get Taylor to the SCSL any sooner.  END SUMMARY. 
¶3. (C) Taylor was granted asylum in Nigeria as part of a deal 
the GON made at our request and in Nigeria's own interest. 
The USG also made clear on multiple occasions, including 
President Bush's visit to Nigeria in July (REF D), that 
Taylor's departure from Liberia was a prerequisite for any 
deployment of U.S. combat forces to that country and related 
progress in the peace process.  By agreeing to accept Taylor, 
with USG concurrence, the GON opened the door to allow the 
Free Port and other key objectives to be secured much sooner 
than would have been the case otherwise.  Indeed, the GON 
action could be argued as being the key that has led directly 
to the current transitional government. 
¶4. (C) Despite numerous international and some domestic calls 
for Taylor to be transferred to the SCSL, it is clear 
President Obasanjo does not plan to do so in the immediate 
future, and prefers us not to ask (REF A).  Obasanjo does not 
want to renege on exile for Taylor so soon, for credibility 
and reasons of African politics.  Obasanjo has stated 
publicly that he would, however, be in favor of sending 
Taylor back to Liberia if the new GOL wanted to put Taylor on 
trial.  For this reason, GOL coating for a request to send 
Taylor to the SCSL may be an easier pill for Obasanjo to 
swallow eventually. 
¶5. (C) Western public pressure or threats of sanctions are 
likely to make that pill harder to swallow.  Obasanjo also 
has been unmoved by sticks in previous cases, such as the 
sanctions over the 2001 Benue massacre (REF B), and probably 
would not obligingly agree to a USG request based on such 
threats.  Obasanjo has already taken heat among some 
Nigerians for granting Taylor asylum, overruling his Chief of 
Defense Staff by deploying two battalions to Liberia (REF E), 
and disregarding the wishes of his MFA and many top advisors 
by signing the Article 98 agreement (REF C) -- all in 
response to USG requests.  After already enduring the fallout 
from granting Taylor asylum in the first place, Obasanjo is 
unlikely to send Taylor to the SCSL in a way that will make 
him appear to be merely doing the USG's bidding again -- even 
if that bidding is perceived to have changed. 
¶6.  (C) In addition to the political aspects above, it is the 
Nigerians who have troops on the ground in Liberia and stand 
to lose if Taylor's influence there upsets the transition 
applecart.  The GON tells us that they see Taylor's influence 
in Liberia continuing to wane, and that reports he maintains 
contact with supporters in Liberia, while troubling, are 
neither surprising nor an insuperable obstacle.  With every 
day that passes and with every decision made by Gyude 
Bryant's transitional government, the Nigerians believe, 
Taylor's ability to influence events in Liberia from Nigeria 
¶7.  (C) The Nigerians do not doubt that Taylor will continue 
to attempt to meddle in Liberian affairs.  And they have 
signaled that major violations of Taylor's terms of exile 
could become a reason to send him to the SCSL.  The Nigerians 
point out, however, that Taylor can only cause serious 
trouble if he goes free, and that the SCSL cannot guarantee 
his conviction. 
¶8.  (C) A better alternative than overt pressure to move 
Taylor now would be to work out an understanding with the GON 
on how and why Taylor would end up at the SCSL.  Tactically, 
we would start by working our way toward Obasanjo's telling 
us what he sees as the appropriate timetable for Taylor's 
departure to the SCSL or a Liberian court.  This would not be 
an abrupt change.  We are already in a dialogue with the GON 
where we point out Taylor's misbehavior and tell the 
Nigerians the SCSL is the appropriate place to send Taylor if 
he misbehaves, and the Nigerians respond that Taylor's 
misbehavior is within expected bounds and the results of his 
misbehavior are less and less over time for reasons on the 
ground in Liberia.  Packaged with a GOL request that Taylor 
be moved somewhere, it would be hard for the Nigerians to 
avoid moving the present discussion forward in the direction 
it is already going. 
¶9.  (C) A threatening approach demanding Taylor's immediate 
handover, on the other hand, has costs no matter how it turns 
out.  If Obasanjo refused such a request, the cost would be 
embarrassment for us and a sharp but probably relatively 
short downturn in our relations with the GON.  And the 
shortness of the downturn assumes the SCSL eventually 
convicts, sentences and incarcerates Taylor.  If Obasanjo on 
the other hand caved in, which we believe unlikely at the 
moment, the cost would be major embarrassment for him and a 
lengthier but softer downturn in our relations with the GON.