Cablegate: Norway and Africa, a Relationship Undergoing Change


DE RUEHNY #1113/01 3231113
R 191113Z NOV 07





E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (U) Summary. The GON has made Africa a priority,
expanding activities there beyond its long-standing
development presence. One concrete example is the GON,s
commitment to contribute a 200 person engineering battalion
to the UN mission in Darfur. A more negative example is the
recent expulsion of Norwegian diplomats from Ethiopia.
Reflecting this growing interest, Theresa Whelan, Department
of Defense Deputy Assistant Secretary for Africa, visited
Oslo on October 31 and met with Norwegian Defense officials
and NGOs. Her visit reassured NGOs and GON officials
regarding the "comprehensive" civilian military approach that
will characterize AFRICOM and the broad USG agenda on Africa.
End Summary.

NGOs Pleased by Increased U.S. Interest in Africa but Warn of
--------------------------------------------- -----
2. (U) Whelan briefed representatives from the Norwegian Red
Cross, Norwegian Refugee Council, Norwegian Church Aid and
leading think tank on AFRICOM. All expressed appreciation
for Whelan,s visit and for her comments regarding the
importance of close cooperation between the military, NGOs
and humanitarian workers on the ground in Africa before a
crisis. Whelan,s explanation of how AFRICOM will be set up,
including its stress on the humanitarian and disaster relief
efforts and the fact that a civilian from the Department of
State will be the deputy commander helped to clarify the role
that the U.S. military will play in Africa. The NGOs all
stressed the potential positives that could stem from an
increased U.S. presence and knowledge of African affairs.
They also stressed the need to avoid traps such as host
governments playing up the danger of terrorism to obtain U.S.
support in internal struggles, as well as the danger of
compromising NGO work through too close association with the

MOD Enthusiastically Welcomes AFRICOM
--------------------------------------------- --
3. (SBU) Whelan next met with the Deputy Minister of Defense,
Espen Barth Eide, who enthusiastically welcomed her and
participated in a detailed conversation after Whelan,s
presentation. MOD and MFA officials also participated in the
briefing. Barth Eide was quite interested in Whelan,s
presentation of AFRICOM,s setup and described Norway,s
focus on UN efforts and on strengthening the African Union
(AU) as the only real international organization which can
represent all of Africa. Whelan and Barth Eide discussed:
China,s presence in Africa and shifts in Chinese behavior
which may indicate a more positive Chinese role; the need for
security assistance to emphasize the place of military in
society, not just to build a more efficient military; the
need for the UN, the EU and NATO to coordinate activities,
and the role of NGOs and development organizations in African
society. Barth Eide mentioned joint Nordic plans for
training of African militaries and wondered if that might be
an area where Norway could work with the U.S.

Norway in Africa: A Mixed Bag
4.(U) Norway,s presence in Africa has a long history but has
been primarily development focused. When the current
government took office in 2005, one of their goals was to
increase Norway,s involvement in Africa. Some of this
increase has taken the form of new embassies in Africa. A
new Norwegian Embassy opened in Algiers this fall and soon
Norway will open in Liberia, bringing its embassies in Africa
to nineteen. These increases have been funded by reductions
in staffing at several European Embassies. New embassies
have been matched by increased diplomatic efforts, primarily
concerning Sudan and the Ethiopia/Eritrea conflict.

Waiting to go to Darfur(
5. (SBU) The most prominent example of a non-development
African focus is the commitment to provide half of an
engineering battalion (in cooperation with Sweden) for a UN
mission to Darfur. The Norwegian contribution would be
approximately 200 personnel. After much discussion with the
UN and the AU over issues such as force protection this joint
battalion is ready to deploy whenever final agreement is
reached with the Sudanese government. If approved, this will
be Norway,s first military operation on the African
continent. Norway is a member of the Sudan contact group and
takes an active role in coordinating meetings as well as
encouraging the various factions in Sudan to abide by the
Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

Kicked out of Ethiopia
6. (SBU) In late August the Ethiopian government kicked out
six Norwegian diplomats from Addis Ababa because of
"dissatisfaction" with Norway,s conduct in the Horn of
Africa. Norway had been critical of the Ethiopian incursion
into Somalia and has been very active in attempting to
promote negotiations on the Ethiopian-Eritrean border in the
region as well as in the UN. These activities may have been
regarded as too meddlesome by Ethiopian authorities.
Norwegians reacted in surprise to the expulsion Qtheir
diplomats as this did not fit theirQn self-image aQgood
guys". The GON expressed frustration with the Ethiopians,
stating that this would affect a substantial bilateral aid
program. Diplomatic relations were not broken and the
Norwegian embassy remains open.

Rain Forest Win over African Development
--------------------------------------------- -----
7. (SBU) Norway,s tradition of development aid to Africa is
long, but is showing signs of change. Norway,s development
efforts in general have been a topic of some debate in NGO
and elite circles, with critics calling Norway,s aid
ineffective and unmonitored while defenders stress the
importance of maintaining Norwegian efforts in Africa despite
some inefficiencies. However, this debate involves mostly
party and NGO specialists and has not generated much public

8. (SBU) The personal influence of the Minister of
Development, Erik Solheim, is a very important factor and his
recent appointment as Minister of Environment in addition to
his Minister of Development role is likely the most
significant reason for some shifts in Norway,s development
policy. Solheim, who had been the main force behind the
GON,s Africa efforts, has now, at least partially, shifted
his focus to environmental issues. He was quoted recently as
saying "We must think of the environment in all we do" and
had shifted aid to Latin America and to projects such as
rainforest preservation instead of Africa. According to some
critics, Solheim's new focus on the environment may weaken
the GON commitment to help the poor in Africa. Despite some
changes, it appears that the GON's stress on African issues
will remain central. Aid to Africa remains part of the
coalition's central policy platform document and PM
Stoltenberg is very interested in the UN Millenium Goals,
particularly child and maternal health.

9. (SBU) Comment: Solheim,s personal interest and a general
belief that Norway has an obligation to help those countries
less fortunate drive interest in Africa. As Norwegian
presence expands beQd development to military operations
and active pursuit of peace nQtiatiQ, it is clear that
such action may come at some cost. Norwegians were clearly
surprised by the expulsion of their diplomats from Ethiopia
although it was obvious to observers that greater Norwegian
involvement in Africa,s conflicts would bring the risk of
being seen as less than evenhanded. Similarly, if a
Norwegian force is deployed in Sudan there is an inherent
risk that Norwegians could suffer casualties. There has been
no general public debate over the GON,s Africa commitments
to date, but this could change rapidly if unfortunate events
occur because of this commitment. End Comment

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