Cablegate: West Africa: Uk Priorities, Counter-Narcotics and Elections

DE RUEHLO #2499/01 2761236
P 021236Z OCT 08

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 LONDON 002499


WHITE HOUSE FOR ONDCP E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/02/2018



Classified By: Political Counselor Richard Mills, reasons 1.4 (b/d).

1.(C) Summary. HMG sees narcotics trade as the biggest threat to regional stability in West Africa, FCO West Africa Team Leader Jonathan Drew told us on October 1. Drew said that 50 percent of the cocaine that enters the UK transits West Africa and both the UK and EU see this trade as a domestic threat (for more information on HMG views on drug traffic through West Africa see ref A). Drew also highlighted HMG concern that profits from the drug trade could fuel regional organized crime and possibly terrorist activities in the Sahel. If a youth gang culture develops around drug trade, as it did in the Caribbean, it may have the potential to cause cross-border conflicts and erode development gains. Discussing the situation in individual countries, Drew said elections would be HMG's primary focus over the next six months. Country-by-country comments follow. End summary.

Cote d'Ivoire -------------

2.(C/NF) The FCO sees Cote d'Ivoire's elections as key for regional stability because it is the last post-confict country in the region to hold elections. Drew said successful elections and a smooth transition period would be a significant marker in Cote d'Ivoire's democratic transition, and he suggested the key to supporting that effort is diplomatic and regional pressure to ensure the electoral process remains free of corruption and fraud. The UN SRSG and President of Burkina Faso are doing good work, but the French are best placed to lead coordination efforts on diplomatic pressure. They, however, may need "encouragement" from the USG and HMG to "fight their fatigue on Cote d'Ivoire." It is also important that the key political parties state publicly and soon that they support the electoral process and will respect the UN Certification Cell's judgment of the electoral process. The international community should be working to make sure that the actual process itself is clearly defined. On the UN Certification Cell, Drew noted that there is no real precedent for the UN to certify fairness of an election without actually conducting the elections and that the international community should be closely involved in supporting the UN's efforts. Drew also said more thinking needs to be done about what will happen to those candidates who are defeated and how to encourage them to accept the results.

Ghana -----

3.(C/NF) Ghana's elections are too close to call. In the run-up to the elections, if it appears that the National Democratic Congress (NDC) is going to lose, Drew said he is concerned there may be violence. While NDC leader John Atta Mills is "generally calm," his followers may not be. If, however, it appears that the National Patriotic Party (NPP) is going to lose, Drew is more concerned about fraud. While the rigging at the party's convention was dealt with appropriately, it points to the fact that elements of the party are willing to consider it. Also, President Kufuor's family has significant business interests, which may play a dynamic in the elections. Drew said HMG is providing financial support for elections observers for the first round and will likely also do so for the second round, which is "certainly going to occur." HMG is also pushing the EU and Commonwealth for observers.

4.(C/NF) Drew also noted that if the Cote d'Ivoire elections are delayed to December 15, then the second round would be on December 29, just one day after the scheduled second round of the Ghanaian elections. Drew suggested early work with the AU, ECOWAS, EU, and UN on possible reactions to poorly held elections would be useful, as these multilateral organizations are generally slow to react, especially at that time of year.

Guinea ------

5.(C/NF) Drew characterized the situation in Guinea as "really depressing": the peace deal is dead and rescission of the Rio Tinto concession will significantly lower business investment prospects. It is also unlikely that the scheduled December 14 elections will take place. Drew said HMG is LONDON 00002499 002 OF 003 arguing within the EU to withhold the final tranche of the 10th EDF funding (over 100 million euros) until the elections take place. Drew said the FCO is looking to "get tougher with Guinea, possibly stopping all development funding." He noted that "at least the Government of Guinea appears to be taking counter-narcotics (CN) a little bit more seriously."

Sierra Leone ------------

6.(S/NF) In Sierra Leone, HMG's number one priority is CN, and Drew noted U.S. and UK "cooperation on the ground is good." On the July 13 cocaine bust in Sierra Leone (reftel B), Drew said the GoSL needs to burn the drugs and charge the individuals arrested as soon as possible. He noted that if the U.S. citizens involved are extradited to the U.S., it might be helpful to work closely with the GoSL on any deals that are made in order to ensure GoSL's future CN cooperation. Drew also noted that it would be of considerable concern if senior GoSL officials are involved in narco-trade.

Liberia -------

7.(C/NF) Supporting the domestic security services and pacing appropriately the draw down of the UN PKO are the UK's main interests in Liberia. The Willis Knuckles corruption scandal was "particularly disappointing," and HMG hopes that President Sirleaf is not corrupt, as "she is the only game in town."

Nigeria -------

8.(C/NF) FCO Nigeria Section Head Catherine Inglehearn and Desk Officer Fiona Grant told us September 30 that HMG is "fine" with its communication and cooperation with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) right now, but the "jury is still out" on new EFCC Head Waziri. The UK's MEP Police told Waziri that HMG wants the EFCC to issue a statement on the state of corruption in Nigeria and a list of specific EFCC contacts to engage with on priority cases. Waziri promised to deliver on both accounts, "without being too unpatriotic in the statement," and HMG is waiting to see what she does. So far, Inglehearn said the communication has been open and productive. Inglehearn, however, noted that it is bizarre how frequently Waziri asks for additional information on major cases, details that she should already be familiar with if she is "really digging into her portfolio."

9.(C/NF) On the James Ibori case, Waziri told HMG officials that there are "some legal issues" with the case in Nigeria. The main one is that Ibori wants the case to be shifted to his home state of Delta (rather than Kaduma). Waziri told HMG last week that she met with the court of appeals judges, and she is "trying to speed things up and remove these legal impediments." The legal action in the UK against associates of Ibori, including his wife, also continues to move forward. Waziri said she spoke to the Attorney General, encouraging him to cooperate with the UK's legal request for evidence related to the case in the UK. (NOTE: According to Inglehearn, HMG has already received the necessary evidence for the UK prosecution from the EFCC, but the Nigerian Attorney General has complained that the appropriate legal route was not used and that the evidence should be returned to the Government of Nigeria. HMG anticipates that this could cause some legal problems in the UK case and hopes to get the evidence through the appropriate channels, i.e. the Attorney General's office. END NOTE.) The Attorney General has said the Nigerian case against Ibori has primacy, and the UK is not disputing that. In the UK, the case is more focused on Ibori's associates, and HMG officials think bringing the case to trial will send an important anti-corruption message to Nigerian government officials. HMG also arrested Ibori's UK-based lawyer last week on charges of corruption. The next steps for the UK on corruption in Nigeria are to invite the Attorney General to the UK to discuss the Ibori case, which should happen before Christmas. HMG also continues to lobby the Nigeria Attorney General to help establish a legal framework that will allow for the return of Nigerians in UK prisons (reftel C).

Mauritania ----------

10.(C/NF) Acting Mauritania Desk Officer Robert Brooks told us September 30 that HMG was "very pleased" with the AU's September 22 statement on Mauritania. Brooks said HMG is LONDON 00002499 003 OF 003 "waiting for the EU gameplan on Mauritania" and thought Mauritania would be addressed in the October 13 GAERC conclusions. Brooks said HMG does not think it has much leverage to affect the situation "through bilateral means" so it is looking for the EU to take the lead. Brooks characterized the French as "bilaterally in a wait-and-see mode," which was affecting the pace at which the rest of the EU formulated policy on Mauritania. Visit London's Classified Website: XXXXXXXXXXXX

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