Viewing cable 07FREETOWN112
Title: TFG01: SIERRA LEONE PRESIDENT KABBAH SAYS CONTE'S

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
07FREETOWN1122007-02-15 20:20:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Freetown
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OO RUEHPA
DE RUEHFN #0112/01 0462020
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 152020Z FEB 07
FM AMEMBASSY FREETOWN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0791
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 FREETOWN 000112 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/15/2017 
TAGS: PREL SL GV LI
SUBJECT: TFG01: SIERRA LEONE PRESIDENT KABBAH SAYS CONTE'S 
TIME IS OVER, OFFERS REFUGE 
 
Classified By: Ambassador T. N. Hull, Reasons 1.5 b/d 
 
 ¶1. (C) Summary: The Ambassador met with Sierra Leone 
President Kabbah on February 15. Kabbah was eager to discuss 
the situation in Guinea.  Kabbah emphasized that the United 
States has great credibility in Guinea and agreed that Conte 
must cede power to a transitional civil authority in line 
with the constitution.  Conte, he said, is isolated and 
distrustful of most African leadership, and therefore would 
be unlikely to listen to an ECOWAS delegation. Kabbah 
believes he still has some influence with Conte, but would be 
willing to intercede only if he felt confident of Conte's 
resignation.  He is hesitant to put himself in a position 
that would seem to endorse Conte's continuance in office 
fearing that it would disrupt Sierra Leone's fragile 
stability.  Nevertheless, recognizing the support Conte gave 
to Sierra Leone during the time of war, Conte  could have 
refuge in Sierra Leone, should he decide to step down. Kabbah 
is looking forward to the upcoming visit of Liberian 
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to discuss options, but is 
undecided about a possible joint visit to Guinea, proposed by 
her.  End Summary 
 
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Kabbah Deplores the Situation 
----------------------------- 
 
¶2. (C) Ambassador, accompanied by DCM, met with Sierra Leone 
President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah at his office during the 
afternoon of February 15.  The Ambassador, earlier in the 
day, had discussed Guinea on the margins of a public event 
with the Presiden, who indicated his desire to speak 
privately about the situation and to share his views on the 
way ahead.  The Ambassador conveyed U.S. concern for the 
situation in Guinea. Kabbah agreed and noted that early in 
the present crisis the Guinean Ambassador in Sierra Leone had 
delivered an emotional appeal asking him to speak use his 
personal influence to tell Conte to "back off". The Guinean 
Ambassador urged Kabbah to speak with President Conte's wife, 
First Lady Henriette Conte, if Conte himself were 
unavailable.  At that time the First Lady had told Kabbah 
that Conte would welcome a visit. Before Kabbah could go, 
however, Conte had agreed to name a Prime Minister. Kabbah 
decided that a visit would be inappropriate because he did 
not want to appear to be endorsing any one candidate. "Our 
fragile peace," he emphasized, "should not be obstructed" by 
people thinking Sierra Leone might be taking sides. 
 
¶3. (C) Kabbah called Conte an old man who is not taken 
seriously by other African leaders and therefore had 
disengaged himself from most African leadership.  Kabbah said 
Conte is not likely to accept an ECOWAS delegation and would 
only be willing to see personal friends, such as President 
Kabbah, President Jammeh of The Gambia and President Vieira 
of Guinea-Bissau. Kabbah had been approached by Nigerian 
President Obasango to represent ECOWAS, commenting that "they 
are pushing me to say to him to retire.  I was prepared to go 
before Eugene Camara was appointed as Prime Minister." 
 
¶4. (C)  Kabbah indicated that a political solution to 
Guinea's crisis must still involve Conte.  He feels that 
Conte must have a dialogue with key players and civil society 
leadership in Guinea. In the interest of public order, Conte 
must agree to a transfer of power and the appointment of an 
interim Prime Minister who is not chosen by him. 
Regrettably, Kabbah said, Conte has chosen to buy military 
loyalty by giving them money to "keep them happy."  Kabbah 
recently called General Kerfalla to express his concern with 
the situation. Kerfalla, he said, told him he was getting 
everything "under control."  Kerfalla did ask the Sierra 
Leone Ambassador to Guinea, apparently, for crowd control 
equipment.  He was told no, Kabbah said. 
 
--------------------------------------------- - 
Conte Must Go, Sierra Leone Would Offer Refuge 
--------------------------------------------- - 
 
¶5.  (C)  Presently Kabbah is considering a proposal by 
Liberian President Helen Johnson Sirleaf that they visit 
Conte. She is expected to be in Sierra Leone after her 
Washington visit in a few days.  Kabbah indicated, however, 
that he is dubious about visiting President Conte unless he 
can expect a positive outcome.  In an election year in Sierra 
Leone, he does not want to appear to be supporting Conte and 
his cohorts, he said.  The only message he would be willing 
to convey to Conte would be for Conte to step aside and 
accept a turnover of authority.  This message should also 
include justice on behalf of those civilians killed during 
the demonstrations.  Authority must be held accountable, 
Kabbah emphasized. 
 
¶6.  (C) Should Conte cede power and be uncomfortable 
 
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remaining in Guinea, he would be welcome in Sierra Leone, 
Kabbah said.  Kabbah has not forgotten the support Conte and 
Guinea provided when he and his government were in exile 
during the civil war. Kabbah is confident that Sierra 
Leoneans would respect such an outcome. "I would remind my 
people that he helped us during our problems." 
 
---------------------- 
The U.S. Has Influence 
---------------------- 
 
¶7.  (C) The Ambassador shared with President Kabbah U.S. 
concerns for the future of Guinea and the need to respect the 
rights of Guineans. The strikes, he pointed out, were merely 
symptomatic of the larger problems of Guinea whose citizens 
were fed up with their deplorable situation. He noted that 
Ambassador McDonald had conveyed these concerns to Prime 
Minister Camara and General Kerfalla during separate 
meetings. The military state of siege must end and political 
dialogue must begin, the Ambassador said.  Kabbah agreed that 
there needs to be a political, not a military solution and 
that the leadership must be held accountable for any abuse of 
power. 
 
¶8.  (C) Kabbah indicated that the United States is the most 
credible interlocutor to carry this message.  The U.S. is not 
perceived to have a vested interest in Guinea beyond a desire 
for Guinea's democratic and economic growth and understands 
that Guinea has an important regional role for the future 
stability of the Mano River area. The vast majority of 
Africans, he commented, do not take Conte seriously, and he 
in turn does not like them much. Conte would be unlikely to 
be willing to meet with an ECOWAS delegation and certainly 
would not listen to them if he did, Kabbah concluded. 
 
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Comment 
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¶9.  (C) President Kabbah recognizes that he may be the only 
democratic African leader who has influence with Conte, but 
he is cautious about using it for a variety of reasons.  He 
does not want to be the one to tell an old friend that his 
time is past, but appears to be willing to do so if Conte is 
willing to listen.  Knowing how stubborn Conte is, Kabbah is 
concerned that Conte will not read the handwriting on the 
wall, especially with his back to it.  Kabbah is not a risk 
taker, but may be more willing to intervene if President 
Johnson Sirleaf provides support.  Kabbah knows that Conte 
must go. Delivering that message is the hard part, and 
clearly he would prefer the U.S. to do so.  End Comment 
HULL