Cablegate: Senegal's Role As Mediator in Niger


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E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) PolCouns met with Mamadour Ndiaye, Chief of Staff of the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as Ambassador Mamadou Sow,
senior adviser to the Foreign Minister, and Mouhamadou Sarr, head
of the MFA's America and Oceania Division, to discuss Senegal's
role as a mediator in Niger. Ndiaye noted that the heads of state
of the member countries of the Economic Community of West Africa
(ECOWAS) had selected Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade to serve
as mediator before the coup d'etat. He reported that Minister of
State for Foreign Affairs Madicke Niang was en route for Niamey
when the coup happened. As a result, the Foreign Minister never
arrived in Niger, only getting so far as Ouagadougou. Given the
new situation, Ndiaye said it was impossible to know at this time
what the members of ECOWAS would decide regarding how to manage the
crisis in Niger. He emphasized that Wade had been selected to
mediate between a sitting president and the opposition; he was not
empowered to mediate between a military junta and a deposed
president. With this in mind, Ndiaye stressed that Senegal would
follow the will of the African Union (AU) and ECOWAS regarding how
to proceed from this point on, underscoring this point by noting
that the GOS has officially condemned the attempted coup d'etat
echoing the position of the AU. Ndiaye undertook to get in touch
with the Embassy at some point next week to further discuss Niger
and Senegal's role after the situation had become more clear. He
went on to say, given that there is an American embassy in Niamey,
the GOS would appreciate any information the United States could
provide regarding the evolving situation in Niger.

2. (SBU) Poulcouns spoke with his French counterpart, Laurent
Chevalier, regarding Senegal's role as a mediator. While noting
that it is much too early to make any definitive judgments,
Chevalier expressed doubts regarding Senegal's ability to be an
effective negotiator in Niger (as opposed to Mauritania) noting
that Senegal does not have the same historic ties to Niger that it
has with Mauritania. That said he acknowledged that Senegal would
not be acting more or less unilaterally as it did in Mauritania.
Instead, Wade would be acting at the behest of and with the support
of ECOWAS and ostensibly the AU and one would imagine the major
donor countries, which should give him the legitimacy he would need
to succeed.

3. (SBU) Comment: President Wade sees himself as an international
statesman of the first order and lives for being put in charge of
managing this type of crisis. He is a serial conflict mediator (or
would-be mediator) and has told numerous interlocutors that he
believes he deserves a Nobel Peace Prize. Since becoming
president, Wade has mediated or attempted to get involved in the
mediation of conflicts and crises in Mauritania, Guinea, a
Chad/Sudan border conflict, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, the
Israeli/Palestinian conflict, United States/Iran. While it is true
that Wade was selected by ECOWAS to mediate between the opposition
and a sitting president and not the junta and the deposed
president, there is a strong probability he will use his previous
assignment as a basis for a new one focused on restoring a return
to constitutional order in Niger. It is important to note, given
the reaction of Senegal to recent coups d'etat in Mauritania and
Guinea, that Senegal is not likely to be overly insistent on
returning President Mamadou Tandja to power. Instead, the
Senegalese are likely to take a practical rather than a principled
approach and focus more on quickly reestablishing stability and
constitutional order even if "democracy" -- in the form of
democratically elected president not being returned to power --
suffers in the process. That said Wade is an agile politician who
will not want to lose face or political capital to a losing
proposition. If any future negotiations were to bog down, Wade is
likely to quickly divest himself of ownership of the crisis. To
wit, he attempted to do just that when negotiations between the
presidents of Chad and Sudan began to break down during talks he
mediated on the margins of the last Summit of the Organization of
the Islamic Conference (OIC), which Senegal hosted in 2008. In
that case, when it seemed that the talks would fail, Wade announced
at the 11th hour that he had never really want to be the
facilitator. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon had to
stiffen Wade's spine and push him to finish what he started.
Finally, assuming that Senegal is placed in the lead to help
mediate a solution to the crisis in Niger, it is unclear if the
Foreign Minister, Niang, will be as skilled a mediator as his
predecessor Cheikh Tidiane Gadio. End comment.

© Scoop Media

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