Viewing cable 07MONROVIA902

07MONROVIA9022007-07-25 18:50:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Monrovia
DE RUEHMV #0902/01 2061850
R 251850Z JUL 07
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/23/2017 
     ¶B. MONROVIA 627 
     ¶C. MONROVIA 846 
Classified By: Ambassador Donald Booth for reasons 1.4(b) and (d) 
¶1. (U)  SUMMARY: Deputy Assistant Secretary for African 
Affairs Todd Moss visited Liberia July 11-17, and met with 
leaders from the Government of Liberia (GOL), business and 
banking representatives, members of the legislative 
opposition, UNMIL and international partners, and directors 
from key sectors of Liberia's fragile economy.  Although the 
visit was designed to be a broad familiarization tour of key 
Liberian issues and personalities, Liberian interlocutors 
stressed the urgent need for continued or renewed focus on a 
handful of priorities: rehabilitation of the port of 
Monrovia, electricity generation and distribution, and 
security sector reform.  Liberian leaders often thanked DAS 
Moss for the generous assistance from the USG, but pleaded 
for more rapid disbursement of pledged funding.  END SUMMARY. 
¶2. (C)  On July 12, DAS Moss and Ambassador Booth visited the 
Freeport of Monrovia and met with recently appointed National 
Port Authority (NPA) Managing Director George Tubman.  Tubman 
claimed that the security situation at the port had improved 
since a series of thefts and other crimes in or near the 
Freeport in May (refs A, B).  He said that the July 9 melee 
(ref C) at the NPA between the Liberian Seaport Police (LSP) 
and Liberian National Police (LNP) had been a setback caused 
by poor communication. (Note: a Board of Inquiry released a 
report of the incident on July 17 that laid much of the blame 
on LNP Chief Beatrice Sieh. End note).  Nevertheless, Tubman 
admitted that the security provided by a patchwork of private 
security guards, LSP, LNP and UNMIL troops was unwieldy and 
the neighborhood surrounding the NPA remained volatile.  A 
subsequent tour of the port revealed practically no security 
around Liberia's only petroleum jetty at the Freeport. 
¶3. (C)  Tubman highlighted a number of urgent needs at the 
port.  He said it was imperative that the NPA receive a 
USAID-financed tugboat soon and Ambassador Booth pledged 
there would be no further delays in getting funds released. 
(Note: Funds are now available and the tug is reportedly on 
the way to Monrovia. End note).  Tubman explained that 
warehouse facilities were inadequate and the cargo handling 
contractor, Safebond, was unsatisfactory.  (Note: the NPA 
published a tender for new cargo handling equipment on July 
¶18.  Embassy has submitted a Trade Lead to the Department of 
Commerce. Bids are due on August 23. End note).  During a 
tour of the port, Tubman illustrated the precarious state of 
the primary wharf.  The pier is limited to one ship at a time 
due to a 300-foot shipwreck blocking the north end and the 
collapse of a center section of the wharf on the south end. 
The lack of nighttime navigational aids further limits port 
operations, thereby raising freight costs, he said.  Tubman 
added that channel dredging paid for by the World Bank was 
complete but he had his reservations on the quality of the 
work done.  In addition, without a full dredging of the wharf 
area, the port was unable to accommodate deeper, larger 
¶4. (C)  In response to DAS Moss' request for a long-term 
solution to modernizing the port, Tubman's first priority was 
to "get people to respect the integrity of the NPA."  Tubman 
referred to a 1975 Port Master Plan and claimed there was no 
need for outside management proposals - NPA could manage 
modernization itself.  He said the NPA needed a new master 
plan for the container age, not a breakup of NPA into pieces 
to be developed privately.  (Comment: NPA management 
continues to grouse over the loss of much of the Port of 
Buchanan to Mittal Steel.  Recently published tenders from 
the Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy (MLME) for the 
western cluster iron ore concessions suggest that northern 
sections of the Monrovia Freeport bundled with those 
concessions will also likely remain out of NPA bounds. End 
Liberia Electric Company 
MONROVIA 00000902  002 OF 005 
¶5. (U)  At the Liberian Electric Company (LEC) on July 12, 
Managing Director Harry Yuan told DAS Moss that at its peak 
in the 1970s, the LEC generated 75 megawatts (MW) of power 
(65MW from Mt. Coffee Hydroelectric power plant and 10MW 
diesel generator) and had 30,000 paying customers.  Today, he 
said, the LEC distributes only 2MW of power to 460 customers 
in central Monrovia, thanks to generators, fuel and 
transmission lines provided by the EC, USG, Norway and WB 
under the Emergency Power Program (EPP).  Rick Whitaker, 
Chief of Party for International Resource Group, a USAID 
sponsored consultant supporting the re-commercialization of 
the LEC, reported that LEC collected $1.5m in revenue in 
2006/07 and is now able to pay its modest operating expenses. 
 The collection rate is 91 percent and power is billed at 34 
cents per kilowatt hour (KWH), while the cost of production 
is 33 cents per KWH.  LEC also receives a subsidy from the 
GOL worth about 4 cents per KWH.  Whitaker said that hydro or 
heavy fuel oil generation could knock down generating costs 
by 15 cents / KWH or more.  Yuan thanked the USG for its 
assistance in meeting the goals of EPP, but lamented that 
funds from some donors have been slow and the GOL had been 
unable to deliver on promises for expanded power.  (Note: 
USAID has requested an additional $4.9 million for Liberian 
power projects for the coming year, and USTDA has finalized 
the Scope of Work for a Mt. Coffee feasibility study. End 
Liberia Economic Development Fund 
¶6. (C)  Community Habitat Finance (CHF) Country Director 
Laurin Banner told DAS Moss on July 12 that the Liberia 
Enterprise Development Fund (LEDF) will kickoff in September 
when President Johnson Sirleaf visits the U.S. and the first 
loans should start flowing in October.  Initially LEDF 
intends to target small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) 
with loans ranging from $20,000 to $1 million at interest 
rates from 15-25 percent and terms of one to five years.  The 
goal for the first 12 months is 100 loans for a total of $3 
million.  The LEDF is now a separate legal Liberian entity 
but still awaits approval from the Central Bank of Liberia 
(CBL) to operate as a non-bank financial institution.  Banner 
said the CBL is worried about the impact on the banking 
sector, and LEDF has promised to share experience and 
capacity with commercial banks, and possibly provide 
guarantees for commercial bank loans in order to improve 
sustainability in the sector.  DAS Moss suggested that CHF 
track job creation and government revenue generation during 
the life of the program. 
United Nations Mission in Liberia 
¶7. (C)  UNMIL Acting Special Representative for the Secretary 
General (SRSG) Jordan Ryan explained the proposed drawdown 
plan that would shrink troops on the ground from 14,000 at 
present to 11,000 by the end of 2008 and 9,000 by 2010.  He 
said the remaining force would be more mobile, backed by air 
support and focused on hotspots along the borders, in Sinoe 
and in Monrovia.  Ryan said that while the threat of a 
military incursion remains low, concerns along the borders 
remain high and UNMIL is conducting joint patrols with the UN 
in Ivory Coast, and with Guinean and Sierra Leonean armed 
forces.  The bigger issue, according to Ryan, was political 
instability caused by "rising hardship" among Liberians as 
prices rise without large scale job creation. 
¶8. (C)  Ryan also updated DAS Moss on the status of the 
Liberian National Police (LNP) and Armed Forces of Liberia 
(AFL).  He said there were now over 3,500 LNP officers but 
that they still had very little equipment, particularly in 
rural areas.  He noted that jurisdictional issues (such as 
the port fracas in ref C) remain, and the corrections 
institutions were inadequately staffed and equipped.  Ryan 
appealed for help in solving funding delays to the AFL and in 
particular to ensure a pledged $5 million for a Quick 
Reaction Unit (QRU) in the LNP is delivered soon. 
MONROVIA 00000902  003 OF 005 
Ministry of Defense 
¶9. (C)  At the Ministry of Defense (MOD) on July 12, DAS Moss 
told Minister Brownie Samukai that support for the AFL was 
strong and bipartisan and he assured the Minister that 
funding was in the pipeline.  Samukai thanked the USG for its 
backing and expressed hope for additional support, including 
training for military leaders, a slot in US officer courses, 
legal training for MOD counsel, assistance in developing an 
intelligence section at the MOD, help in assessing 
cross-border national security threats, and support for a 
maritime affairs branch.  Samukai reiterated Liberia's desire 
to become a base for Africa Command (Africom), noting that 
Liberia may have infrastructure issues but it also offered a 
strong political climate and support for the United States. 
DAS Moss explained that the precise footprint of Africom 
remained undecided and would likely be much smaller than 
current expectations in the region.  Samukai argued that the 
mere presence of the U.S. military would contribute to 
regional stability. 
¶10. (C)  Minister Samukai also asked why the international 
community had only advanced a plan to train a force of 2,000 
for the AFL.  DAS Moss said the focus was on quality not 
quantity and Ambassador Booth noted that ultimately Liberia 
will decide the size of the AFL and that the initial 2,000 
figure was driven by funding limitations and an analysis of 
the size force the GOL could afford to pay and maintain.  He 
said that the initial training will provide Liberian military 
leadership with the capacity for ongoing recruiting and 
training.  Samukai expressed concern about the LNP QRU, 
saying he distrusted the quality of UN training for the unit. 
 He suggested the QRU should have better vetting and 
curriculum plans.  Ambassador Booth noted that UNPOL was 
asking the U.S. to recruit a project manager for the QRU and 
trainers would be brought to the program through CIVPOL to 
form a small group based on the SWAT model and integrated 
into normal police units. (Comment: Samukai, who was 
instrumental in setting up anti-terrorist operations and 
creating the Black Beret force in the early 1990s, is 
jockeying to enhance the purview of the MOD and would welcome 
having the QRU or its equivalent under his umbrella.  He is 
thus involving himself in the policies and planning for a 
unit that falls within the LNP and the Ministry of Justice. 
End comment). 
Ministry of Finance 
¶11. (SBU)  Minister of Finance Antoinette Sayeh told DAS Moss 
on July 16 that the GOL was getting close to passing the 
2007/08 budget.  She explained that the government was 
operating without a continuing resolution and paying only 
salary arrears from previous fiscal years.  She remarked that 
it was getting increasingly difficult to stay the course in 
the face of populist pressures, but that the GOL was 
determined to pass a budget that does not undermine poverty 
reduction priorities.  Legislative earmarks, she argued, 
would face a certain veto. 
¶12. (SBU)  Minister Sayeh thanked the USG for the hard work 
it had expended on the clearance of Liberia's debt arrears 
but lamented that some shareholders were resisting the policy 
changes to HIPC that would be necessary to take note of the 
Liberia case, notably the requirement for a specific track 
record under PRGF.  GOL has proposed an amendment to accept 
its current track record, rather than asking for any special 
treatment.  Sayeh asked for US Treasury support for "one last 
push to dislodge the fence-sitters."  Sayeh said Liberia 
would remain in the post-conflict carve-out for one year 
after arrears clearance.  She also noted that the situation 
with the Nigeria Trust Fund at the African Development Bank 
(ADB) remains unresolved and that the ADB still did not have 
any entity on the ground in Monrovia to make disbursements. 
So far Liberia has only benefited from a $4 million capacity 
building project from the ADB. 
¶13. (SBU)  Sayeh commended overall good donor support from 
the European Union (EU), the United Kingdom (UK), and United 
States but said Liberia and its allies needed to do more 
outreach to non-G8 European countries in order to get on 
MONROVIA 00000902  004 OF 005 
their assistance list.  She also noted that donor money was 
slow, and in particular, there were many commitments from the 
World Bank (SB) that had still not been disbursed because of 
procurement problems and other reasons.  She highlighted the 
urgency at the port where WB cost estimates for emergency 
infrastructure upgrades had failed to account for the true, 
higher cost, and that projects had not been completed as a 
result.  She added that the GOL had also been slow to review 
the Terms of Reference for a management contract, and 
suggested that while NPA management had changed, a largely 
ineffective Board of Directors remained in place. 
President Johnson Sirleaf 
¶14. (C)  President Johnson Sirleaf told DAS Moss in a July 16 
meeting that the U.S. has been a strong partner for Liberia, 
particularly in the security sector.  She assured DAS Moss 
that Liberia would ensure that the UNMIL drawdown coincides 
with the emergence of adequate national capability.  She 
noted the importance of the QRU and pledged to use funds from 
a supplemental budget to support the QRU.  President Johnson 
Sirleaf admitted that she remained uncomfortable with the 
professionalism of the LNP, despite vetting.  She said the 
core of the force still did not have the proper education on 
use of force and human rights and required further training, 
incentives, and better leadership. 
¶15. (C)  The President explained that community development 
and local governance was also improving thanks in part to USG 
support, but she pleaded for assistance in "shortening the 
period between commitment and cash."  She also implored the 
U.S. for more help in expanding electricity capacity in 
Liberia.  She decried the slow pace of the USTDA Mt. Coffee 
dam feasibility study and urged the USG to quickly assist 
Liberia to draw up proposals for lower cost generation and 
quickly draft tenders for bids.  She noted that roads were 
also languishing from delays in donor pledges, and that the 
employment expected from public works still had not been 
realized.  She reiterated that the top priority for the GOL 
was employment and further measures to attract people away 
from the cities and into the rural areas.  When asked by 
Ambassador Booth about land reform, the President claimed she 
was still waiting for land reform proposals from the 
Governance Reform Commission (GRC).  On corruption, she said 
the GRC had finished a Code of Conduct but the 
Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) remained in development. 
Minister of State Morris Saytuma added that the plan is for 
the ACC to be able to issue indictments but that a special 
court in the judiciary branch would be used for adjudication. 
¶16. (C)  DAS Moss asked the President about plans for 
addressing the precarious situation at the Port of Monrovia. 
The President admitted that the GOL had not done enough in 
matching its response to the urgency at the port.  She 
reviewed that she had received a draft Terms of Reference for 
a management contract at the port from the World Bank but 
noted that the upgrades required large amounts of capital, 
resources that the GOL does not possess and cannot presently 
borrow.  Ambassador Booth mentioned having heard interest 
from possible investors but only if the agreement was for a 
significantly long-term Build-Operate-Transfer deal. 
¶17. (C)  President Johnson Sirleaf conceded that public 
pressures from rising commodity prices were mounting and that 
problems at the port were partly to blame.  She also 
mentioned that a revised revenue code would help ease 
pressures on retail prices.  Opposition politicians were 
using the price issue -- as well as the Taylor trial and 
commotion over recent Auditor General statements -- to turn 
around popular support for the GOL.  She said George Weah was 
trying to fuel discontent in order to regain relevance, while 
Liberty Party leader Charles Brumskine was reacting to a 
perceived leak from the GOL regarding his lobbying activities 
for a cellphone company.  (Note: In his meeting with Moss, 
Brumskine provided his interpretation of the same issue, 
noting it was standard behavior for the GOL to engage in 
character assassination of the opposition, that he had no 
connections with the cellphone companies, and that very 
little distinguished the Sirleaf government's tactics from 
Taylor's when it came to behavior vis a vis the opposition. 
End note).  The President noted that the opposition game in 
MONROVIA 00000902  005 OF 005 
Liberia was always to demonize the government and that would 
not soon change. 
Other meetings and activities 
¶18. (U)  Embassy also hosted several other meetings and 
events for the visit of DAS Moss, including meetings with 
Central Bank governor Mills Jones and Liberty Party leader 
Charles Brumskine, a banquet with Liberian banking leaders, a 
roundtable with US-funded GEMAP experts, a dinner with 
justice sector advisors, and a reception with a wide 
assortment of business representatives.  In addition, DAS 
Moss traveled on July 13 to Tubmanburg to observe several 
USG-sponsored projects including a USAID/OTI funded market, a 
school and clinic renovated by USAID contractor DAI under 
LCIP, and a legislative outreach office set up with support 
from the National Democratic Institute (NDI).  DAS Moss also 
conducted a radio interview with OTI-funded Radio Bomi in 
Tubmanburg.  On July 14, DAS Moss accompanied EmbOffs on a 
tour of the abandoned Bong Mines concession and a trip along 
the rehabilitated Bong Mines railway. 
¶19. (U) This cable has been cleared by DAS Moss.