Cablegate: Mano River Union Summit Unites Presidents but Produces No

DE RUEHRY #0480/01 1221406
R 021406Z MAY 07





E.O. 12598: N/A
SUBJECT: Mano River Union Summit Unites Presidents But Produces No
Formal Agreements

REF: 06 Conakry 1711

1. (SBU) Summary. From April 27-30, Guinea hosted the Summit of
Chiefs of State and Governments of the Mano River Union (MRU). The
primary stated goals of the meeting were to consolidate peace,
security, and stability in the MRU; resolve border issues; and
revitalize the Secretariat of the MRU -- themes similar to the MRU
conference in Conakry in November (reftel). President Lansana Conte
received Presidents Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia, Ahmad Tejan
Kabbah of Sierra Leone, and Laurent Gbagbo of Cote d'Ivoire. Each
country was also represented by high-level delegations of ministers,
government officials, and civil society representatives. While
there was discussion of the longstanding Yenga border issue, with
ministerial representatives reporting that Guinea had agreed to
withdraw its military forces, the governments did not release a
final communique confirming this. Instead, prior to her departure,
President Johnson-Sirleaf announced that each country will continue
to work on the recommendations submitted during the summit to ensure
strengthened relations among MRU members. End Summary.

--------------------------------------------- -
High-Level Delegations Express Common Concerns
--------------------------------------------- -

2. (SBU) On April 27-30, the Summit of Heads of State and
Governments of the Mano River Union convened in Conakry. It is the
second high-level meeting of MRU countries in Guinea in less than
six months (reftel). President Kabbah of Sierra Leone arrived in
Guinea on April 29, and President Sirleaf of Liberia arrived the
morning of April 30. Although Cote d'Ivoire is not officially a
member of the MRU, its delegation, led by President Gbagbo, was
warmly welcomed by the MRU countries (Guinea, Sierra Leone, and
Liberia), and its representatives actively participated in all
aspects of the meeting.

3. (SBU) During the first two days, ministers from the four
participating countries convened the Seventeenth Ordinary Session of
the Council of Ministers of the Mano River Union. They were joined
by civil society representatives from each of the three MRU
countries. The Council of Ministers was designated to prepare
specific recommendations on ways to strengthen peace and security,
resolve border issues, and promote socio-economic integration
through the revitalization of the MRU Secretariat.

Conte Presides Over Opening Ceremony

4. (SBU) President Conte presided over the April 30 formal opening
ceremony. Two hours after its scheduled starting time of 0930,
Conte walked unassisted to the head table. Guinea's president sat
attentively while Prime Minister Lansana Kouyate delivered remarks
in Conte's name. Kouyate opened the speech by stating that this is
a real moment of satisfaction for the people of Guinea, "being
honored by the presence of these leaders just two months after the
pain that our country has endured."

5. (SBU) For Conte, the Prime Minister thanked the nations of the
MRU for their support and friendship, proof that "together we can
transcend any problem." He extended a personal thanks to President
Gbagbo for his concern with the MRU stating, "We can only safeguard
the peace and security of the region if we do so with our friends in
Cote d'Ivoire." Conte's message concluded with an additional note
of appreciation for the Secretary General of the MRU and the
international community that "has stood by Guinea and committed
support for the integration of our nations." While the Prime
Minister's own prepared remarks were made available (and sent to the
Department via email), he did not present them.

6. (SBU) President Johnson-Sirleaf made the second (and final)
opening presentation. She began by thanking Conte for the welcome
reception and reiterating thanks to Gbagbo and extending an
invitation for his team to participate in all deliberations.
Sirleaf remarked, "The Mano River Union exists for the sole purpose
of bringing together our people -- the same people, history,
culture, traditions, and environment." She emphasized that none of
the countries present could achieve its development objectives until
all citizens are working together toward the same goals. Sirleaf
invited all present "to dedicate themselves to move forward in peace
and toward common development practices for the common good of our
people." She endorsed the MRU Secretariat, confirming that the
heads of state would adopt a working program to reactivate this
institution. Sirleaf acknowledged the recommendations from the
Council of Ministers and said that the heads of state would meet
behind closed doors and take firm decisions on them.

No Final Document Presented

CONAKRY 00000480 002 OF 002

7. (SBU) After Johnson-Sirleaf's presentation, the meeting was
adjourned with the announcement that the summit would reconvene for
the closing ceremony and the reading of the formal communique. The
visiting heads of state were accompanied by high-level delegations
from Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Cote d'Ivoire. Also in attendance
were the majority of ministers from Guinea's new cabinet,
representatives of the top military brass, President of the National
Assembly Aboubacar Sompare, and civil society leaders, including
several representatives from the Mano River Women for Peace Network.

8. (SBU) Approximately one hour after the opening remarks, protocol
officers announced that there would be no formal closing ceremony.
They told those gathered that the communique would be read on the
evening news. To date, no formal statement has been released.
Prior to her departure from Guinea on April 30, President
Johnson-Sirleaf stated that the heads of state would return to their
respective capitals and continue working together.
Hopeful Discussion, But No Agreement on Yenga

9. (SBU) Prior to the opening ceremony, an advisor at the Ministry
of the Interior and Security told Poloff that, on April 29, Guinean
and Sierra Leonean government and civil society representatives
agreed on Guinea's withdrawal of its military troops from Lilema, a
town near the Yenga border. This advisor said there was never a
question that Yenga was a Sierra Leonean village. Guinea had just
maintained its presence in order to protect the security of the
region during the civil war, he maintained. The advisor confirmed
his satisfaction that the Yenga issue "would be resolved and we can
finally put it behind us." Others at the ceremony, including from
the Mano River Women for Peace Network, told us that all interested
parties had reached an agreement on Yenga. However, none of the
heads of state made any public remarks specifically mentioning the
Yenga border issue prior to the conclusion of the summit.


10. (SBU) The Mano River Union Summit had high symbolic value, but
there was little substance shared publicly. Most of the documents
that were made available came from the Council of Ministers. (Note:
These documents are being sent via email to the Department.) We are
left to conclude that, in the absence of a formal statement, the
chiefs of state did not reach a final agreement about concrete
measures to consolidate peace, security, and stability in the MRU;
resolve border issues; and revitalize the Secretariat of the MRU.
Although he did not say a word (but managed to smoke two cigarettes
and eat a kola nut during the 10-minute opening presentation),
Lansana Conte appeared in reasonably good health. Conte's presence
alone was significant as he has not participated in any MRU
activities in years. Yet it was also clear that Guinea and its
neighbors still have a long way to go before they develop concrete
measures to begin setting and achieving common development goals.
Perhaps a new, reinvigorated MRU Secretariat will provide a vehicle
to facilitate this arduous process.


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