Viewing cable 07MONROVIA1012
Title: LIBERIA: REPORTS OF ARMS CACHES - MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
07MONROVIA10122007-08-15 17:28:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Monrovia
VZCZCXRO1206
PP RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHMV #1012/01 2271728
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 151728Z AUG 07
FM AMEMBASSY MONROVIA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9140
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 1473
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MONROVIA 001012 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR AF/W, INR/AA-BGRAVES 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: ASEC PGOV MCAP LI
SUBJECT: LIBERIA: REPORTS OF ARMS CACHES - MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING 
 
¶1.  (U) Recently there have been a slew of headlines in Liberian 
papers and in some international dailies on "arms caches" being 
discovered in Liberia and weapons being delivered through the 
airport.  The press accounts have also linked the discoveries of the 
alleged arms and weapons deliveries to the recent arrests of alleged 
coup plotters former General Charles Julu and former Speaker during 
the National Transitional Government (NTGL) George Koukou. 
Headlines in Liberian papers have used such terms as "insurgents" 
and "rebels" in connection with the ammunition and weapons 
discovered.  The press accounts are sensationalist and inaccurate 
and in one case, led to ethnic clashes in Bong County. 
 
ARMS CACHES NO MORE THAN SCRAP METAL 
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¶2.  (U) The first batch of sensationalist reporting, which made its 
way into international press accounts as a result of Reuters and 
other Liberia-based stringers feeding stories to the international 
wire services, concerned the discovery of so-called ammunition and 
weapons in Gbarnga in Bomi County on August 5.  Liberian dailies 
during the week of August 6-10 published and re-published 
sensationalist stories on the munitions discovered. 
 
¶3.  (SBU) The facts are that the items found consisted of 19 burlap 
bags of spent casings and unserviceable, rusty, mud-filled 
cartridges of various calibers discovered at the home of one 
Muhammad Sharif, a Muslim Mandingo scrap metal dealer in Gbarnga. 
Approximately one bag of unserviceable AK-47 and pistol rounds were 
culled from the 19 bags and were transferred to the Liberia National 
Police Headquarters in Monrovia.  Sharif was arrested by the LNP 
after the discovery. 
 
ARMS DELIVERY THROUGH ROBERTS INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT DESTINED FOR 
SECURITY SECTOR REFORM PROGRAM 
---- ------------  ------------  --------  -------- 
 
¶4.  (U) A second alarmist report of arms coming into the country 
occurred with an August 8 press account in the Liberian daily, "New 
Vision," which claimed that 71 boxes of arms had come in through the 
airport and were consigned to the attention of a Training Officer at 
SSR.  This press account sought to link this arms shipment through 
RIA to the munitions discovered in Gbarnga and spin it all into some 
web of insurgents planning attacks around the country. 
 
¶5.  (U)  This reporting also was misleading in suggesting the arms 
would be used by insurgents.  While it is true that 71 boxes of 
munitions came into Liberia through RIA, they were in fact destined 
for the US-funded SSR program being carried out by American 
contractors Dyncorps and PAE.  The shipment was approved by both the 
UN and ECOWAS. 
 
¶6.  (U)  While this second story of weapons coming through RIA was 
quickly clarified by Dyncorps and had no press "legs," the first 
account of munitions at the home of a Mandingo in Gbarnga resulted 
in inter-ethnic violence and an attack on a mosque. 
 
KPELLE-MANDINGO CLASHES AFTER REPORTS OF ARMS CACHES 
----------- ---------- ----------- ----------------- 
 
¶7.  (U)  When word of the discovery of "ammunition" at the home of a 
Mandingo in Gbarnga spread among the local population a group of 
300-400 Christian Kpelle congregated at the home of Sharif, the 
scrap metal dealer, and began throwing stones and attempted to set 
the house ablaze.  Concurrently, several individuals from the mob 
broke away and attempted to attack the Gbarnga city mosque, which 
was being guarded by 25-30 Muslim Mandingos.  Crowds of both Muslim 
Mandingos and Christian Kpelle gathered into the streets until the 
Bangladesh Battalion (BANBATT 11), supported by UN Police, the LNP, 
and a UN Formed police Unit (FPU) were able to restore control and 
disperse the crowds. 
 
¶8.  (SBU) Tension between the Muslim Mandingos and the Christian 
Kpelle tribes is a longstanding issue in Gbarnga.  The Mandingos, a 
Muslim tribe primarily concentrated along the border with Guinea are 
a commercially-minded community of traders and merchants.  Their 
relative prosperity and isolation from Christian communities often 
causes resentment among other ethnic groups.  The tension culminated 
in October 2004 when a large number of Mandingos were targeted and 
killed and their property destroyed.  Most Mandingos have returned 
but there are ongoing disputes over ownership of land. There are 
reports that Mandingos are increasingly frustrated by their 
displacement and a slow and dysfunctional judicial system unable to 
process their land claims.  Other tribes are fearful that the 
Mandingos will forcibly try to reclaim lands. 
 
¶9.  (SBU) What has concerned UNMIL security personnel was the 
alacrity with which the news of a discovery of unusable empty 
 
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cartridges and rusty, mud-filled munitions spread through the 
community and how quickly ethnically-based violence ensued.   A UN 
report on the incident urges the local administration in the area to 
work more diligently to mitigate ethnic tensions in the area and the 
need for the judicial system to resolve stagnating land disputes. 
This incident further demonstrates the fragility of the state and 
the ongoing need for a robust UN peacekeeping presence in Liberia. 
 
 
BOOTH