Cablegate: Au Summit -- Liberian President Johnson Sirleaf Upbeat
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SUBJECT: AU SUMMIT -- LIBERIAN PRESIDENT JOHNSON SIRLEAF UPBEAT
ABOUT LIBERIA'S FUTURE
This message is from USAU Ambassador Michael A. Battle
1. (U) January 30, 2010, 5:25 p.m.; Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
2. (U) Participants:
Under Secretary Maria Otero
Assistant Secretary Johnnie Carson
NSC Senior Director Michelle Gavin
Ambassador Michael Battle
Special Advisor Nicole Goldin
AU Desk Officer Ryan Bowles (notetaker)
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
Foreign Minister Olubanke King Akerele
3. (SBU) Summary: An upbeat President Johnson Sirleaf told U/S Otero
and the U.S. delegation to the African Union (AU) Summit that
Liberia is making great progress on its development agenda. She
reported on her discussions with Guinean coup leader Dadis Camara,
and agreed to consider associating Liberia with the Copenhagen
climate change accord. End Summary.
4. (U) U/S Otero and the U.S. delegation met with Liberian
President Johnson Sirleaf on the margins of the AU Summit.
President Johnson Sirleaf warmly greeted the delegation, and
provided an update on the current status of Liberia's development
Liberia's development agenda
5. (U) Turning first to peace and security, she noted that Liberia
is at peace, and thanked the U.S. for providing training and
mentorship for more than 2,000 Liberian soldiers. On December 31,
Liberia took over responsibility for its armed forces development
program, and will pursue offers of additional training from Nigeria,
Ghana, and Benin. President Johnson Sirleaf expects that UN
peacekeeping forces will be reduced to 8,000 this year, and hopes
this level can be maintained.
6. (U) On economic issues, she said Liberia was affected by the
global financial crisis, but is showing signs of recovery. Iron ore
mining is restarting, and a large international agriculture company
commenced operations on January 1. She hopes to get the private
sector on track by the end of 2010. Debt relief is on track, and
Liberia is negotiating with two vulture funds, which bought some of
Liberia's sovereign debt, to settle lawsuits. She planned to meet
World Bank President Robert Zoellick during the AU Summit and
planned to pressure him to turn commitments into cash that she can
use for roads and schools.
7. (U) Youth unemployment is of particular concern, and President
Johnson Sirleaf would like to focus more attention on vocational
education programs. She asked for U.S. assistance on these
programs, and A/S Carson agreed to explore what USAID could do.
8. (U) On the subject of governance and rule of law, President
Johnson Sirleaf said she was fighting corruption and trying to
create systems that remove discretion from Liberian officials.
Executive branch officials are required to declare their assets; she
hopes that the legislature will soon follow. The judiciary is still
weak, but is improving. There will soon be two grand juries
convened at any given time solely for corruption cases. She wants
to work harder on decentralization to local governments.
9. (U) Although President Johnson Sirleaf's administration is not
actively encouraging refugees to return because of concerns over
Liberia's ability to absorb them, many are repatriating themselves
voluntarily. Liberia is also receiving deportees, and is interested
in U.S. programs (primarily in Latin America) which help governments
re-integrate deportees after they arrive. U/S Otero offered to
investigate options for Liberia.
10. (U) U/S Otero inquired about microfinance in Liberia, and
President Johnson Sirleaf responded that some small programs in
Liberia have shown promise. She said that one program had a 100%
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repayment rate among women. President Johnson Sirleaf noted how
vocational and skills training are critically important complements
to microfinance tools.
11. (SBU) A/S Carson thanked President Johnson Sirleaf for her
efforts on Guinea. She recently met with Guinean coup leader Dadis
Camara in Burkina Faso, and said that she asked him to seek medical
attention. According to President Johnson Sirleaf, Dadis is "not
well." She asked him to call upon his people to support the
transition, but said that he was afraid of what might happen to him
as a result of the massacre on September 28. President Johnson
Sirleaf asked the United States to support Camara receiving medical
care and disappearing from public life somewhere outside of Guinea.
She does not believe he will contest the election in Guinea.
President Johnson Sirleaf said we need to get aid flowing now,
create livelihoods for Guineans, and reduce tension in the country.
12. (SBU) Carson said the U.S. is committed to the process, and
greatly appreciated Johnson Sirleaf's role. As the transition moves
forward, Carson said we plan to provide funds for development, and
will help to restructure Guinea's armed forces. We want to send
personnel to participate in the assessment mission, and provide
significant financial support to the election. President Johnson
Sirleaf supported the idea of an Economic Community of West African
States (ECOWAS) monitoring group with 30-50 civilian and unarmed
13. (U) President Johnson Sirleaf will run in the upcoming
election, which she says is the most critical event in Liberia's
transformation. She says the election must be free, fair, and
competitive. Fraud or violence would take Liberia backwards.
14. (U) U/S Otero asked President Johnson Sirleaf if Liberia would
associate itself with the Copenhagen climate change accord. She
said they would seriously consider the accord, but noted the
importance of Liberia's forestry sector and said she was
disappointed with the lack of a robust forestry package.
African Union Leadership
15. (SBU) On the question of the next chairperson of the AU, USAU
Ambassador Battle asked if President Johnson Sirleaf had any news
about Libya's lobbying campaign for a second term. She said she
thought "wisdom would prevail," and that the AU would continue with
the rotating presidency system that it has used to date, however she
did not disclose how Liberia would vote. (Note: A day after this
meeting, the AU heads of state elected Malawi's President Mutharika
as chairperson, thereby preserving the rotation system. End Note.)
16. (U) NSC Senior Director Michelle Gavin said that President
Obama appreciated President Johnson Sirleaf's contribution at the
lunch he hosted for sub-Saharan African heads of state in September.
Gavin said President Obama hoped to meet President Johnson Sirleaf
in Washington soon.
17. (U) Liberia was one of the first African countries to
contribute money to Haiti relief, and although it was a small
donation of $50,000, President Johnson Sirleaf was happy to have
been able to prompt other African states to make their own,
sometimes much larger, contributions. U/S Otero conveyed Secretary
Clinton's thanks for the contribution.
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18. (U) U/S Otero, A/S Carson, and NSC Senior Director Gavin have
cleared this message.