Viewing cable 06CONAKRY1711
Title: Mano River Union Conference: Consolidating Peace and

06CONAKRY17112006-11-21 07:24:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Conakry
DE RUEHRY #1711/01 3250724
R 210724Z NOV 06
E.O. 12598:  N/A 
SUBJECT:  Mano River Union Conference: Consolidating Peace and 
Security in the Region 
¶1. (SBU) SUMMARY.  On November 16-17, Guinea hosted the Conference 
for the Consolidation of Peace and Security in the Mano River 
Region.  The event brought together delegations from Liberia and 
Sierra Leone with officials from various United Nations agencies, 
foreign governments, and diplomatic missions based in Guinea.  The 
conference delegates debated and presented amendments to a draft 
"Pact on Good Neighborliness, Stability and Solidarity Between the 
States and the Peoples of the Mano River Union."  The conference was 
a clear effort to re-invigorate regional cooperation, promote peace, 
advance mutual understanding and tolerance, and establish mechanisms 
to promote common interests among Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and 
Cote d'Ivoire. 
¶2.  (SBU) Guinea was greatly assisted by the United Nations Office 
for West Africa, UNDP, and UNHCR in funding and organizing the 
event.  While there was little prepared content other than the pact, 
participants proposed a number of concrete actions and projects. 
More important was the mere fact of the event, bringing together 
representatives of government and civil society in personal 
encounters where they aired frustrations, openly discussed difficult 
border issues, and worked together across national and linguistic 
differences to propose common solutions.  Guinea's effort represents 
a significant leap from its isolated history as it attempts to 
re-define itself from merely a haven in a war-torn area to a 
sub-regional actor in an international forum.  End Summary. 
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Mano River Delegations Vary in Size and Stature 
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¶3.  (SBU) The November 16-17 Conference for the Consolidation of 
Peace and Security in the Mano River Region, brought together 
hundreds of delegates from Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone in 
Conakry.  Initiated by the Guinean government in coordination with 
the United Nations Office for West Africa, the host delegation was 
dominated by Guinea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  The conference 
invitations went out under the name of Minister of State for Foreign 
Affairs and International Cooperation Mamady Conde, who led Guinea's 
delegation.  On November 16, the conference was opened by Minister 
of State for Presidential Affairs and Coordinator of Government 
Actions Fode Bangoura.  Also present at the opening ceremony were 
Minister of State for Territorial Administration and 
Decentralization (i.e., interior) Moussa Solano and Minister of 
Energy Thierno Habib Diallo. 
¶4.  (SBU) The Guinean armed forces delegation was led by General 
Kandet Toure, Director of Cabinet at the Ministry of Defense. 
General Ibrahima Diallo, General Inspector of Guinean Armed Forces, 
also took part in both days of events along with representatives 
from Guinea's navy and air force.  Although the Ministry of Foreign 
Affairs had been keeping a close hold on the conference, there were 
mid-level officials from various ministries including Security, 
Cooperation, Social Affairs, and Territorial Administration and 
Decentralization.  (Note: Until last week, key government personnel 
charged with regional affairs -- including Guinea's relationship 
with the AU, ECOWAS, and the local representative of the Mano River 
Union Secretariat, had been unaware of the conference.). 
¶5.  (SBU) Liberia was well represented with a high-level delegation 
led by Ambassador George Wallace, Minister of Foreign Affairs.  The 
Liberian Minister of National Security, Anthony Kromah, also played 
an active role in the conference.  Freetown, however, did not send a 
delegation of equal stature.  Sierra Leone was represented by Ajhaji 
Ali Badara Kamara, the Charge d'Affaires from its embassy in 
Conakry.  Both Liberia and Sierra Leone had government 
representatives from regional centers as well as officials from 
various ministries.  There was limited participation by civil 
society actors from MRU countries.  Most of those in attendance were 
invited by the United Nations rather than the member states.  Cote 
d'Ivoire was invited to take part in the conference as an Associate 
Member.  However, we are not aware of any Ivoirian delegates.  The 
Ambassador of Cote d'Ivoire to Guinea was not present at the event. 
Strong Presence of International Community 
¶6.  (SBU) In addition to civilian and military representatives from 
the Mano River states, the international community made a 
particularly strong showing.  The financial and logistic support for 
the conference was shared by the United Nations Office for West 
Africa (UNOWA), UNDP, and UNHCR.  The dais for the opening ceremony 
included Hans Dahlgren, the EU representative to the Manu River 
Countries, who spoke of his more than ten years of experience with 
Guinea.  Ambassador Miguel Angel Fernandez de Mazarambroz, Director 
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of Spain's Plan of Action for Sub-Saharan Africa, pledged a 
four-fold increase in funding from Spain to advance development in 
Guinea and other nations in West Africa.  Ambassador Nasser Borita, 
Director for United Nations and International Organizations from the 
Moroccan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, promised to extend election 
support and continued cooperation on regional peace and security. 
Rounding out the dais was Mbaranga Gasarabwe, UN Resident 
Representative, Stefano Severe, UNHCR Country Representative, and 
Jordan Ryan, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General 
for Recovery and Governance from UNMIL's Liberia delegation. 
¶7.  (SBU) Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, Special Representative of the UN 
Secretary General for West Africa, opened deliberations on the 
second day of the meeting.  Although he was expected to attend, 
Ibrahim Gambari, Under-Secretary General and Special Advisor for 
Africa at the United Nations, was not present.  Jean-Francois Joh 
Epoko, Political Affairs Officer in the UN Department of Political 
Affairs, told Poloff he was assigned to cover the event and brief 
Gambari on the conference as soon as he returned to New York.  Epoko 
said that Gambari would probably make a trip to Guinea in December 
to address several issues, including elections and Mano River Union 
integration.  Members of the diplomatic corps resident in Guinea 
also participated as observers. 
Promoting a Pact on Good Neighborliness 
¶8.  (SBU) Prior to the conference, delegates were presented a draft 
document entitled, "A Pact on Good Neighborliness, Stability, and 
Solidarity Between the States and Peoples of the Mano River Union." 
(Note: We scanned the draft document and sent it via email to the 
Department.)  It was used as the basis for two days of deliberations 
within four working groups on the following themes: 
1) Disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programs, fight 
against small arms trafficking and the consolidation of peace; 
2) Cross-border issues, opportunities, and challenges to the free 
movement of people and goods; 
3) Human rights, humanitarian issues, and the consolidation of peace 
and security in the sub-region; 
4) Commitment of youth and women to the consolidation of peace and 
security in the Mano River Union. 
Each group was charged with delving into a section of the draft pact 
-- to make amendments and to propose relevant joint programs. 
¶9.  (SBU) Chapter I of the Pact outlined several principles of 
peaceful coexistence.  Chapter II of the draft document outlines the 
objective of the pact.  It reads, "This pact shall serve to promote 
and to build confidence among the member States; to strengthen and 
maintain cooperation, peace, security and stability among the 
communities of the Mano River Union, in an atmosphere of mutuality 
and solidarity...these measures shall strengthen and complement the 
objectives of ECOWAS and of the African Union by means of 
concentrating on the actions taken in key areas covered under the 
Pact, with a view to consolidating regional peace and security". 
The conference organizers said the delegates' recommendations would 
be submitted to each country for further amendments and a final 
document would be adopted at the next Summit of Heads of State of 
the Mano River Union. 
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Stolen Mangoes, Rape, and Other Family Secrets 
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¶10.  (SBU) During the working group deliberations there were many 
references to the member states as "good neighbors" and "family 
members."  The small group sessions on the first day of the 
conference were consumed by an almost palpable need to bear witness 
to and try to make sense of transgressions and crimes that crippled 
the region.  This mood was especially pronounced in the session on 
cross-border issues.  Eschewing the agenda, Mbemba Bangoura, the 
governor of Faranah, spoke passionately about Sierra Leoneans and 
Liberians sneaking over the border to steal Guinea's rich mangos and 
pineapples.  He alleged the fruit is stolen and sold in neighboring 
countries for many times more than they could be sold in Guinea. 
Bangoura said he was not so pained by the act of pilferage, but 
frustrated by a Guinean economy that is so much feebler than its 
war-torn neighbors.  The participants addressed the thorny issue of 
Yenga and agreed that a buffer zone should be developed for 
international commerce. 
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¶11.  (SBU) Some women spoke matter-of-factly about being raped by 
gangs of combatants, many of them young teenagers known to them. 
The women said they were less pained by the rapes themselves than by 
the utter unresponsiveness of their neighbors.  Saran Daraba Kaba, 
President of the Mano River Women Peace Network, admonished 
participants in the session on women and youth to "never again" turn 
away when neighbors are suffering.  Sierra Leone and Liberia have 
their respective truth and reconciliation commissions to deal with 
the emotional and legal fallout of the wars that have ravished them, 
but Guinea lacks any such outlet, she said.  Guineans have not been 
ravished by war, but they clearly wanted their neighbors to know 
they too suffer.  By the end of the first day, participants seemed 
ready to work towards concrete suggestions and adhere to the agenda. 
¶12.  (SBU) On the second day, the working groups returned in earnest 
to the tasks at hand - developing concrete proposals for action.  In 
the readouts from the working groups, there were few changes to the 
draft Pact on Good Neighborliness.  All delegates agreed that their 
collective action was needed to improve the situation in the region 
to guarantee sustainable peace and prosperity.  The afternoon was 
punctuated by traditional music from a local musical troupe of 
Guinean youth.  Saran Daraba Kaba and other women from the Mano 
River Women Peace Network exhorted participants to their feet to 
enjoy the music.  In the main conference room, lines of protocol 
were dropped as governors and ministers danced with representatives 
from civil society, and ambassadors and generals moved to the 
traditional rhythms of the region. 
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Transforming the MRU from a "Den of Death and Despair" 
--------------------------------------------- --------- 
¶13.  (SBU) In his opening remarks, Liberian Foreign Minister George 
Wallace said, "The people of Liberia are committed to transform the 
Mano River Union from a den of death and despair into a space of 
serenity, calm, and peace.  We have all paid for civil uprising and 
war and have said goodbye to actions that risk national unity.  A 
responsible Liberia is re-entering the community of nations and we 
intend to build mutual trust with our neighbors".  Wallace continued 
his remarks by stating that security was the foundation for 
development and "Liberia is willing to enforce the Pact to the 
letter."  This sentiment was shared by other members of the Liberian 
¶14.  (SBU) The Ambassador spoke with Liberian Foreign Minister 
Wallace on the margins of the conference.  The Ambassador noted that 
the level of Guinea's anxiety about Liberia had diminished since 
Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf's election and, especially, since Charles 
Taylor's incarceration in The Hague.  He said that, with Taylor in 
jail, Guinea no longer feared another rebel attack and appeared open 
to normalizing its relations with Liberia.  The Ambassador 
recommended that Liberia appoint an ambassador to Guinea without 
delay to facilitate communication between Conakry and Monrovia, and 
to rebuild confidence between Guinea and Liberia.  Foreign Minister 
Wallace agreed, saying that he already had a candidate in mind. 
¶15.  (SBU) In his closing remarks, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah 
congratulated Guinea for its constant efforts in support of the 
region.  He encouraged all MRU states to keep reaching across 
borders to develop collective solutions to improve the everyday 
lives of the population.  He also said that Guinea needs to focus on 
developing a national dimension to the themes of the international 
conference it is hosting.  Ould-Abdallah encouraged Guinean leaders 
to reach out internally to civil society, political party leaders, 
and other key segments of its population to promote peace and 
stability in Guinea.  "We must reinforce the connections between the 
nations and we must reinforce the linkages among the people within 
each nation," he said.  Ould-Abdallah encouraged firm follow-up to 
continue the forward momentum. 
¶16.  (SBU) The conference was the first such forum for Mano River 
Union representatives from governments, security forces, and civil 
society to have such an honest dialogue.  The fact of the meeting 
was more important that the actual substance of the discussions. 
Most significant perhaps was that the regional initiative was led by 
Guinea, with its history of isolation.  It marked Guinea's effort to 
emerge from the shadows of its neighbors' civil wars.  Many 
difficult issues were put on the table, including gross human rights 
violations, ongoing border issues, and airing the "dirty laundry" of 
wars, rebel incursions, and their aftermath.  The atmosphere was 
friendly, warm, and "good neighborly".  All agreed that it marked a 
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very positive step in the right direction. 
¶17.  (SBU) The conference organizers repeatedly encouraged the 
development of projects to be submitted to donors.  Post plans to 
coordinate with U.S. Missions Liberia and Sierra Leone to determine 
what type of collaborative projects may be viable.  We also plan to 
work closely with our Guinean contacts to encourage them to mobilize 
national resources in support of these priorities.  During the 
conference, we reminded them that donor engagement should 
compliment, rather than replace, the MRU members' commitment.  While 
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs hosted the conference, much of the 
vision (including the draft documents) was contributed by various 
United Nations offices.