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Cablegate: Ecowas: 34th Session of the Heads of State And

VZCZCXRO6436
PP RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHUJA #1264/01 1821340
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 301340Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY ABUJA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3257
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RUEHOS/AMCONSUL LAGOS 9516
RHMFISS/HQ USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE
RHEBAAA/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHDC
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
RUZEJAA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ABUJA 001264

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR AF/W, INR/AA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL AORC SNAR ECON NI
SUBJECT: ECOWAS: 34TH SESSION OF THE HEADS OF STATE AND
GOVERNMENT

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: On June 23, 2008, ECOWAS held its
Thirty-Fourth Ordinary Session of Authority of Heads of State
and Government in Abuja, Nigeria. Nine heads of state and
six minister-level delegates attended the session, which was
opened with speeches by Nigerian President Umaru Musa
Yar'Adua, Burkinabe President Blaise Compaore, and Liberian
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. During the closed-door
meeting, the delegates heard reports by Commission President
Dr. Mohamed Ibn Chambas, the ECOWAS Council of Ministers, and
member states' Ministers of Agriculture, Trade, and Finance.
The Session's Final Communique contained no major new
decisions or declarations. However, in both the closing
ceremonies and in a second, separate communique, ECOWAS
expressed concerns over food security issues and the poor
state of the region's infrastructure. The Ambassador
attended the opening event as well as the closing ceremonies,
along with other invited diplomats and UN Envoys Ibrahim
Gambari and Said Djinnit. Ambassador also held a separate
bilateral meeting with Dr. Chambas which will be reported in
septel. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) President Yar'Adua opened the 34th Ordinary Session
of the Authority of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government with
a speech applauding the "relative socio-political and
economic stability within our region", as well as the fact
that "there is at present no 'active conflict'" in West
Africa. (Note: The written copy of the President's speech put
"active conflict" in quotation marks, presumably to note
interstatal conflict and issues in Guinea, and not Nigeria's
own ongoing crisis in the Niger Delta. End note.) In
addition, he highlighted the need for progress in regional
economic integration efforts, such as the Protocols on the
Common External Tariff (CET), Free Movement of Goods and
Persons, Right of Residence, and Right of Establishment, and
called for a resolution to the conflicting interpretations of
these protocols that have delayed their adoption. (Note:
Nigeria is by far one of the worst offenders in lack of
implementation of the CET. End note.) He also asked for
consideration of unspecified "requisite structural and
institutional reforms," and voiced Nigerian support for
recent recommendations made by the ECOWAS Session of
Ministers of Agriculture, Trade, and Finance.

3. (U) The President of Burkina Faso Blaise Compaore, who is
completing 18 months as Chairman of the Commission, declared
the 34th Session open by delivering an address congratulating
the region on the gains made in stabilizing Cote D'Ivoire and
calling for the Community to aid Guinea in recovering from
its ongoing political and security crisis. He also
reaffirmed ECOWAS' "total" support for the governments of
Mali and Niger as they dealt with internal insurgencies, and
urged member states to be committed to a national, as well as
regional, fight against narcotics trafficking. He emphasized
the importance of the West Africa-European Union Economic
Partnership Agreement (EPA) as a tool for reducing regional
poverty. Finally, President Compaore requested a region-wide
effort in solving West Africa's food crisis, made more severe
by ongoing desertification and drought.

4. (U) Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf affirmed
ECOWAS' important role as a building block toward an
"unwavering" commitment of creating a "Union Government for
Africa." She noted that both Sierra Leone and her own
country have gone from being "breeders of armed conflict" to
being "exporters of peace," thanked the Community for its
support for Liberia's ongoing stabilization, and highlighted
Nigeria's, Ghana's, and Benin's roles under the leading roles
of the U.S. and UN. She echoed Compaore's emphasis on the
potentially destabilizing effects of hunger, and asked that
the region's agriculture and trade ministers be tasked with
establishing a database on food production and supply, a
mechanism for trading food surpluses, and a means to share
information on agriculture best practices.

5. (U) On June 24, Commission President Chambas called
together representatives of foreign missions to distribute
the Session's Final Communique. In reviewing the region's
economic performance, the Communique lamented the fact that
member states' otherwise strong 5% growth rate was
insufficient to meet Millennium Development Goals,

ABUJA 00001264 002 OF 002


particularly in light of high fuel and food prices. It also
stressed the important role of infrastructure in ensuring
heightened economic performance, and noted that the
Presidents of Cote D'Ivoire and Guinea-Bissau, Laurent Gbagbo
and Joao Bernardo Vieira, had been tasked with coordinating
regional infrastructure building efforts. (Note: A separate
communique was distributed at the meeting highlighting this
fact. End note.) The implementation of the above mentioned
Protocols was urged, as was the establishment of the CET and
food supply security mechanisms. In the security sector, the
Session condemned the insurgencies in Mali and Niger, and
called upon Niger Delta militants to desist from violence.
Finally, it noted that the regional conference on drug
trafficking would be held in October 2008, presumably in
Guinea-Bissau.

6. (SBU) COMMENT: While the 34th Session highlighted
important progress, especially the EPA and the stabilization
of Sierra Leone and Liberia, the regional leaders made no
important new decisions or declarations at the event. The
leaders virtually ignored a number of major issues, such as
Nigeria's crisis in the Niger Delta and fighting in northern
Mali and Niger. The crisis in Zimbabwe was only mentioned
briefly, in response to an inquiry from a foreign mission
member. Dr. Chambas mentioned that ECOWAS had partially
deployed an election observation team which would have been
led by former Nigerian President Yakubu Gowon (though given
the turn of events in Zimbabwe, Gowon never deployed). An
observer might fairly conclude that, while the opening
speeches were interesting, and West Africa faces no shortage
of serious challenges and important opportunities, at present
ECOWAS is not the forum of choice for its leaders to make
serious headway or make pronouncements on the region's or
continent's most important political challenges, such as
Zimbabwe, or even Nigeria's own downward-spiralling Niger
Delta conflict. END COMMENT.
SANDERS

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