US embassy cable - 01ABUJA1244

In Depth Discussion on ECOWAS Capacity Building

Identifier: 01ABUJA1244
Wikileaks: View 01ABUJA1244 at
Origin: Embassy Abuja
Created: 2001-06-01 06:18:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
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 04 ABUJA 001244 
E.O. 12598: DECLAS 05/14/2011 
SUBJECT: In Depth Discussion on ECOWAS Capacity Building 
(U) Classified by Ambassador Howard F. Jeter; Reasons 1.5 
(b) and (d). 
1. (C) SUMMARY: AF/RA LTC Mike Bittrick discussed ECOWAS' 
capacity-building plans with newly arrived Deputy Executive 
Secretary Diarra and ECOWAS Military Advisor Dikio on May 
14.  Diarra outlined his vision and the responsibilities of 
his newly formed department.  He identified areas where 
ECOWAS would seek assistance, and emphasized primarily a 
need for expertise.  Dikio, as the sole active military 
officer oN the Secretariat staff, discussed his over- 
stretched role as military advisor, the need for a 
maintenance culture in West Africa and the need for 
oversight in ECOWAS.  END SUMMARY. 
2. (U) AF/RA Michael Bittrick and EmbOffs paid a call on 
ECOWAS Deputy Executive Secretary (DES) for Political 
Affairs, Defense and Security, General (ret) Cheick Oumar 
Diarra, and ECOWAS Military Advisor Colonel M. Dixon Dikio. 
A detailed and wide-ranging discussion of ECOWAS' capacity 
building plans ensued. 
3. (C) Diarra began by apologizing for Kouyate's absence, 
and explained that the Executive Secretary was in Conakry 
for meetings with President Conte.  Diarra noted that at 
the end of the last Extraordinary Summit in Abuja, 
Presidents Obasanjo, Konare and Eyadema had been tasked 
with organizing a mini-summit of the Mano River Union 
States.  The need for political dialogue was clear, and 
Kouyate was assisting with this effort, Diarra said. 
4. (C) Diarra explained that the ECOWAS Mechanism for 
Conflict Prevention, agreed upon by ECOWAS Heads of State, 
included four yet-to-be staffed departments under his 
office: political affairs, humanitarian affairs, defense 
and security, and the monitoring and observation center. 
Pointing to himself and Dikio, he noted that presently 
"there are a total of two people" in the department.  (In 
fact, as we spoke to him, an ECOWAS hiring committee 
awaited his arrival to interview candidates for the four 
sub-offices.)  Diarra said that ECOWAS would immediately 
undertake three steps, as directed by his office, to build 
ECOWAS capacity to prevent, mediate and resolve crises in 
the sub-region: Establish a monitoring and observation 
center, train and evaluate stand-by units (SBUs) and 
establish a Council of Elders (all three mandated by the 
that the first step was to create the observation and 
monitoring center.  With conflict prevention the logical 
first priority (peacekeeping and conflict resolution being 
enormously more difficult and time-consuming), ECOWAS must 
begin with the first piece of their prevention mechanism, 
the early warning system.  Observation headquarters would 
be set up in four zones: Banjul (for Senegal, Cape Verde, 
Guinea-Bisau, The Gambia), Ouagadougou (for Mali, Burkina- 
Faso, Cote d'Ivoire, Niger), Monrovia (for Liberia, Guinea, 
Sierra Leone, Ghana) and Cotonou (for Benin, Nigeria, 
Togo).  These would feed information on their duty-states 
to the "Situation Center" at the ECOWAS Secretariat. 
(Diarra noted that the four host countries had provided 
accommodation for the offices, and that an agreement on the 
status of the personnel had been signed with Burkina-Faso 
and Benin, with The Gambia to sign the following week.) 
Duty teams would cull and analyze information, and pass 
their analysis and comment to the DES, who would then 
report to the Executive Secretary.  Diarra stated that, "We 
think most of the problem with conflict prevention is a 
lack of information," reiterating the need for an early 
warning system. 
6. (C) Individuals were being recruited from the 15 member- 
states, and the ECOWAS Legal Department (which, he noted, 
did not formally work for him, although the Department had 
been performing the functions of his office for quite some 
time) was assisting with the hiring process.  Diarra said 
that presently there were only five individuals assigned to 
each office, and this was too few.  He and Dikio both 
stated that the planning for the observation HQs needed to 
be "fine-tuned," and implied that now that Diarra was on 
the job, this process had begun. 
7. (C) COMPOSITE STAND-BY UNITS: Diarra said the second 
step would be to oversee the training and staffing of the 
ECOWAS/ECOMOG SBUs.  Each member-state had agreed to 
provide anywhere from a company to a battalion to create an 
early response capacity within ECOWAS.  ECOWAS planned to 
train these units to "harmonize procedures," Diarra said. 
Dikio expressed concern that some member-states might 
identify units that would then be redirected to internal 
missions, thereby weakening the SBU structure.  Diarra 
explained that Dikio would be leaving the same week to 
travel to member-states to review the proposed units, speak 
to their commanders, discuss training and exercises, 
determine assistance needed, and ascertain their ability to 
participate effectively in the force. 
8. (C) ECOWAS would also look to create two depots, one in 
the interior of the sub-region and one on the coast, to 
store equipment for the SBUs, Diarra said.  He explained 
that when Niger had volunteered troops for the planned 
Guinea-Liberia border force, it had been able to offer 
soldiers and rifles only.  The equipment stored at these 
bases would allow ECOWAS to equip such troops in the 
future, he said.  At present, he said, ECOWAS stored (but 
did not maintain) mostly out-of-service equipment brought 
back from Liberia at a warehouse in Lagos. 
9. (C) COUNCIL OF ELDERS: Diarra then noted that the 
mechanism included a "Council of Elders," made up of former 
Heads of State and other notable West African "eminent 
persons," who would act to mediate conflicts.  The Council 
would be established quickly, he said, since it would 
require few resources to operate.  He expected the first 
meeting of the Council to take place in Niamey on the 27th 
or 28th of June (a postponement of the initial May start-up 
10. (C) ECOWAS MORATORIUM ON SMALL ARMS: Separately, Diarra 
noted that the ECOWAS Moratorium's formal mandate would 
expire at the end of October 2001 (a three year renewable 
mandate).  He explained the process by which states must 
apply to import small arms.  Requests are sent to member- 
states' national committees, which if approved, would 
forward the requests to ECOWAS.  (COMMENT: Small arms 
requests to ECOWAS have thus far been handled by Colonel 
Dikio.  END COMMENT.)  ECOWAS then forwards the application 
with comment to other member-states.  If no one objects, or 
if there is no response within one month, the importation 
request is approved.  Diarra noted the need to train 
national security forces on the small arms issue, and to 
have more discussions with manufacturers.  Dikio added 
that, to his mind, manufacturers had been extremely 
cooperative thus far, in some cases more so than member- 
states.  Diarra said that ECOWAS was planning a meeting, 
with PCASED assistance, to assess the Moratorium and 
develop a recommendation on renewal. 
11. (C) Diarra identified four assistance requirements: 
expertise and planning capability, equipment, training 
(both for the SBUs and for staff) and security programs. 
On this last point he said ECOWAS had identified a need but 
did not yet have a clear program, so it was not yet asking 
for help. 
that ECOWAS had a vision, but needed expertise.  For 
example, he said, the Mechanism set forth a Secretariat 
"situation center," but neither he nor Colonel Dikio knew 
exactly what it should "look like."  He also noted that his 
department would need a planning and management cell for 
operations.  He explained that he desired expertise to 
design his military advisory structure, and would prefer 
not to have to call on the UN or member-states' military 
staff each time an operation was required.  Dikio agreed 
with the need for a planning cell, noting that he alone had 
planned the Guinea-Liberia border force (including the 
planning, travel to the border, and travel to view the 
forces offered by member-states).  He said that he had 
eventually recommended support by UN and member-state 
personnel for the border force planning process, because it 
was "too much" for one person to handle.  He added that he 
had not been involved in the ECOWAS training exercise in 
Togo because of his other responsibilities. 
13. (C) EQUIPMENT: Diarra said the primary need was for 
expertise, but ECOWAS would also welcome provision of 
needed equipment.  He identified, as priorities, 
communications gear for the observation stations and video 
conferencing capability for the Secretariat (to connect 
with the UN and any operating force headquarters).  Diarra 
said that the EU had provided ECOWAS a one-time grant of 
about 2 million Euros for the observation and monitoring 
center.  ECOWAS had spent Euro 1 million already, and would 
spend the rest between April and December of 2001.  After 
December, he noted, member-states would become fiscally 
responsible for the mechanism.  Denmark and Norway had 
indicated that they might provide some additional funding, 
but it was unclear at this point what they would offer.  He 
noted that ECOWAS had contracted a firm to develop and 
supply software for the situation center and to provide an 
electronic screen.  In any case, he noted, more would be 
needed, and would be welcome. 
14. (C) TRAINING: Diarra said that ECOWAS would need 
assistance for training exercises for the SBUs and for the 
staff of his department. 
15. (C) After Diarra departed to interview staff, the 
conversation continued with Colonel Dikio for another 45 
minutes.  Dikio expanded on Diarra's remarks and made a 
number of other notable points.  He argued that the method 
of fighting insurgencies with traditionally organized 
forces and long logistical lines needed to be rethought. 
Using Operation Focus Relief as an example of "excellent" 
training, he emphasized that it had been designed to meet a 
certain need, and stated that similar training would be 
valuable to future ECOWAS forces. 
16. (C) On assistance to ECOWAS, Dikio said that it would 
be best if the U.S., France and the UK (and other partners) 
jointly assist ECOWAS to avoid duplication.  He noted that 
this applied to expertise, direct assistance and training. 
Dikio used Blue Pelican as an example where France and the 
UK had worked together, but regretted that while the event 
was useful, it was "one time only."  He also was receptive 
to the idea of seconded personnel from the UN or elsewhere, 
assuming the approval of the Executive Secretary, and to 
the idea of exchanges between ECOWAS and other 
17.  (C) Dikio then turned to issues of accountability, and 
noted that the assistance prvided by the EU included a 
contractor, who provided oversight.  Implying that without 
oversight there could be problems with waste, Dikio noted 
that oversight was important to ensure that work was 
completed.  He also mentioned that while 60 - 65 percent of 
the ECOMOG equipment from Liberia was unserviceable, ECOWAS 
had brought the equipment to Lagos for accountability 
reasons.  Dikio also acknowledged the need for equipment 
given to ECOWAS to be properly maintained, and said, "There 
is no point in giving equipment if it will suffer a 60 - 70 
casualty rate."  He lamented the lack of a maintenance 
culture in the Nigerian military and in the sub-region, and 
expressed hope that now that the Nigerian military is no 
longer involved in "other matters," an emphasis on 
maintaining equipment would return within a few years. 
18. (C) Bittrick mentioned the need for long-range planning 
by ECOWAS for donors to anticipate and provide assistance. 
Dikio said that now that Diarra had assumed his position, 
ECOWAS would be able to provide long-range planning.  He 
expected a one-year plan would be available in the next 
three months. 
19. (C) While the Embassy has reported in the past on the 
structures ECOWAS has formally created, it is clear that 
with the arrival of DES Diarra, the real construction 
process has begun.  Perhaps the most positive note is 
Diarra's realization of the need to build institutional 
capacity as evidenced by his focus on expertise rather than 
equipment or money (though these were not forgotten). 
Coordination with other donor nations seems essential here. 
20. (C) The Mechanism was preliminarily adopted by Heads of 
State on December 10, 1999.  In the Final Communique of the 
Heads of State Summit in Abuja on April 11, 2001, the 
participants noted several continuing problems: 1) the 
staggering amount of arrears "owed by most member-states;" 
2) "delay" in implementation of the small arms moratorium 
(most states have yet to establish their national 
committees, even as the moratorium is set to expire in four 
months); 3) delay in the ratification of the mechanism 
itself (only two have done it).  Despite these continuing 
obstacles, the ECOWAS Secretariat has now embarked upon the 
actual erection of the Mechanism's security structures. 
The U.S. and other partners have the opportunity to assist 
the ECOWAS response capacities and to positively influence 
exactly how the mechanism functions on the ground.  END 
21. (U) LTC Bittrick cleared this cable. 
22. (U) Freetown Minimize Considered. 

Latest source of this page is cablebrowser-2, released 2011-10-04