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USA/Africa: Wikileaks Highlights, 1

AfricaFocus Bulletin
Dec 14, 2010 (101214)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

For Africa, as for elsewhere in the world, the cables released by Wikileaks - so far less than 1% of the full set - provide valuable nuance, some embarrassment, and confirmation of many suspicions by exposing a wide variety of reports by diplomats. The attempt to silence Wikileaks should be rejected. It is all the more important, however, that the cables should be used with the same caution that competent journalists or historians should apply to any other source.

Those interested in particular topics should take the time to read the cables themselves, since they are available, rather than simply relying on the proliferation of paraphrased accounts. These are currently available at the main Wikileaks site at

The site can be browsed through links on the left, by date or the origin of the cable.

If this site should be blocked, it should be possible to find alternate sources among the almost 2,000 Wikileaks mirror sites, through a Google search.

AfricaFocus will be taking a year-end break after this issue. Publication will resume in the second week of January. Best wishes for the holidays and the New Year to AfricaFocus readers.

This AfricaFocus Bulletin, and another released today and available on the web (at but not sent out by e-mail, contain four sample cables. This Bulletin contains a cable citing comments on Nigeria by Ann Pickard of Shell, and an account of a U.S. diplomat's interview with Ethiopia's intelligence chief Getachew Assefa. The other Bulletin contains cables relating to the shipment of tanks through Kenya to Southern Sudan, and comments by the South African Foreign Minister on Zimbabwe and other topics.

One glaring example of the misuse of Wikileaks cables, unfortunately propagated by sites including some normally reliable sources such as Sudan Tribune and Foreign Policy in Focus, began with an article in Wired magazine by David Axe on December 2, headlined "WikiLeaked Cable Confirms U.S.' Secret Somalia Op." (see / direct URL: Although this cable (see simply cited a United Arab Emirates Crown Prince, telling U.S. General John Abizaid "The Somalia job was fantastic," this was quickly and widely cited as confirming U.S. direction of Ethiopia's disastrous invasion of Somalia the month before.

But while few observers would doubt U.S. complicity in Ethiopia's actions (see, for example,, this cable could hardly be considered as significant additional evidence. Nevertheless, it resulted in misleading headlines such as "WikiLeaks Reveals U.S. Twisted Ethiopia's Arm to Invade Somalia." While we may hope that future cables do reveal more details of the U.S.-Ethiopian collaboration, stretching the evidence does no service to Wikileaks nor to the critique of U.S. policy.

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note++++++++++++++++++++

Frequently Asked Questions: Secret US Embassy Cables

What are the US embassy cables?

Wikileaks is releasing classified United States diplomatic cables sent to and from US embassies in countries throughout the world. These cables include orders sent out from the Department of State, embassy reporting about the local governments and details of US government activities in each country.

How many are there and what period do they cover?

Wikileaks will publish 251,287 cables, originating from 274 embassies and dating from 28th December 1966 to 28th February 2010. Of this total, 15, 652 of the cables are marked Secret, 101,748 Confidential and 133,887 Unclassified, although even the 'unclassified' documents contain sensitive information.


US authorities have said the release may put people at risk. Is this true?

Wikileaks has a four-year publishing history. During that time we have released documents pertaining to over 100 countries. There is no report, including from the US Government, of any of our releases ever having caused harm to any individual. For this release we are releasing the documents in a gradual manner, reviewing them with the assistance of our media partners.


Nigeria - Shell

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 ABUJA 000259



E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/02/2028


Classified By: Ambassador Robin R. Sanders for reasons 1.4. (b & d).

¶1. (S/NF) SUMMARY: Shell's regional executive vice president for Africa Ann Pickard and government relations representative Peter Francis met with the Ambassador on January 27 in Abuja and provided an update on problems in the oil and gas sector. Pickard said that things were going from bad to worse, especially the security situation. She said that Nigeria now had one of the highest negative ratings for maritime operations, creating problems for Shell in hiring oil tankers to load, as tanker operators will work only under highly selective conditions. Last year there were about 80 piracy attacks on land and water combined. This year already 15 have been tallied, which includes 3 for Shell and 3 for Exxon. On corruption, Pickard said that Nigerian entities control the lifting of many oil cargoes and there are some "very interesting" people lifting oil. Oil buyers would pay NNPC GMD Yar'Adua, Chief Economic Advisor Yakubu and the First Lady Turai Yar'Adua large bribes to lift oil. Pickard also reported an instance of the Attorney General Aondoakaa allegedly soliciting a $20 million bribe to sign a document. The International Oil Companies (IOC) are quite concerned about the "very flawed" new petroleum sector energy bill. The IOCs will be asking U.S., Dutch, and U.K. COMs to convey points on the bill to GON policymakers. Pickard agreed that the President's health is a guessing game. She said that in her recent meetings with Yar'Auda he seems alert, though very drawn in the face, thin, and frail. Her information is that the President was not in danger of dying soon, but also was unlikely to ever fully recover from his ailments. (Note: see septel on oil/energy sector issues for the Ambassador's meeting with the new Minister of Petroleum Resources. End Note). END SUMMARY.

¶2. (C) Shell's regional executive vice president for Africa Ann Pickard and government relations representative Peter Francis met with the Ambassador on January 27, 2009 in Abuja and provided an update on problems in the oil and gas sector. Pickard reported that Shell's meeting with Minister of Petroleum Resources Dr. Rilwanu Lukman scheduled for earlier that day had been cancelled; the third week in a row where key appointments had fallen through, with the excuse of being summoned to the Presidential Villa. (Note: Emboffs have observed that meetings with ministers and senior staff are indeed often cancelled with the explanation that they have been summoned to the Presidential Villa, even when the President is out of town. End note). Econ Counselor and Econoff (notetaker) also attended the discussion.


¶3. (C) The Ambassador took the opportunity to share with Pickard that the Mission was in the midst of completing its Strategic Plan and asked Pickard where she thought Nigeria was headed. Pickard said that things were going from bad to worse, especially in terms of security. She said that Nigeria now had the highest negative rating for maritime security, creating problems for Shell in hiring oil tankers to load; tankers will work only under highly selective conditions. She also noted that late on the evening of Saturday January 17, Nigerian militants attacked and boarded two vessels at a Shell crude oil loading platform in Bonny and took eight crew members hostage. Standard procedure on the tanker was followed: the ship went into immediate lock down; there were no injuries or fatalities from the boarding. The eight Nigerian crew members who were taken hostage were later released. The pirates who went through the sections of the boat to which they were able to gain access, smashing and stealing computers, electronics, and personal items of the crew members. The second vessel was a tug boat towing a supply vessel from Bonny to Calabar. Last year there were about 80 incidents of piracy; this year already 15 had been tallied, which includes 3 for Shell and 3 for Exxon. GON officials have told Shell to "hire more security." The price of doing business in the oil and gas sector in Nigeria continues to climb she concluded. [Note: The International Maritime Bureau (IMB), a division of the International Chamber of Commerce - www icc-ccs org - reports that the waters off the Gulf of Guinea (Nigeria) remain the second worst, with 40 incidents in 2008 to the Horn of Africa (Somalia) with 42 recorded incidents. The IMB notes that in 2009 the Horn of Africa will be more intense as Spring comes due to the large number of foreign warships in the region on active patrol to ensure the safety and security of vessels. The same increased security is not expected for Nigeria in 2009. End Note]


ABUJA 00000259 002 OF 003

¶4. (S/NF) The Ambassador asked what Shell's thoughts were on any potential for a coup. Pickard answered that there is little intellectual capital to plan and execute a coup and Shell sees little potential for one. Pickard then went on to say that corruption in the oil sector was worsening by the day. The Ambassador asked for a few examples. Pickard said that Nigerian entities control the lifting of many oil cargoes and there are some "very interesting" people lifting oil (People, she said that were not even in the industry). As an example she said that oil buyers would pay Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) General Managing Director Yar'Adua, (Note: not related to President Yar'Adua. End Note) Chief Economic Advisor Yakubu, and the First Lady Turai Yar'Adua large bribes, millions of dollars per tanker, to lift oil. The IOCs control the liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) cargos, so GON actors do not have the same opportunity for illicit gain. Pickard also said a former associate of hers (protect) had told her he had been present when Attorney General Aondoakaa had told a visitor that he would sign a document only if the visitor paid $2 million immediately and another $18 million the next day.


¶5. (C) Pickard reported that Shell, Exxon-Mobil and Chevron all have big license review disputes with the GON. Shell has taken its dispute to court and the court is supporting Shell's position. According to her, Shell is stepping back for the moment, however, to see how the other two majors negotiation fair, but is not taking its case out of court yet. The IOCs are quite concerned about the "very flawed" new petroleum sector energy bill. The bill is silent on what fiscal regimes would be applied. Shell says that the bill could reduce the corporation's overall value in Nigeria. GON discussions around the bill have mentioned the possibility of moving to five-year licenses and prohibiting exploring both oil and gas from the same source, which would contradict how oil and gas extraction works in practice. The bill is silent on joint ventures; it just states that NNPC will be incorporated. Pickard said the bill was "likely to sail through." The IOCs will be asking U.S., Dutch and U.K. COMs to convey points on the bill to GON policymakers. (Note: Pickard mentioned that the IOCs will not share company information directly; they will hire consultants, like McKinsey, to produce common themes so the messages from the IOCs to be shared with the relevant Ambassadors are clear and consistent. End note). Pickard lamented that the expected cycle of petroleum is at least five years for the first oil to flow, another 10 years of production to begin to break even. These numbers change when oil is $40 per barrel instead of $100 per barrel. Hence, a five year license would not be an incentive for investment and development.


¶6. (C) The Ambassador said that the Mission was looking at performance measures for the economy, i.e. the linkage between the country's electricity output and gross domestic product (GDP). The Ambassador shared that the Mission feels strongly that gas for feedstock is the key to Nigeria's power production, which is only about 2,800 average megawatts for a country of 140 million people. Pickard agreed and added that the U.S. got it wrong on its domestic natural gas policies, which it took over 20 years to sort out. So it is not surprising that Nigeria has it wrong at this point. She said there is not adequate infrastructure for gas. Gathering plants and pipelines to carry the product to the power plants still have to be financed and built. The Nigeria Independent Power Projects (NIPP) were located where there is no gas and no infrastructure. In addition, the international oil companies were coerced into building a power plant each, something they have no expertise in, and they are scrambling to deliver gas to these plants.


¶7. (S/NF) Pickard agreed that the President's health is a guessing game. She said that in her recent meetings with Yar'Auda he seems alert but drawn in the face and frail. She reported that a Julius Berger (protect) contact says that the President was not in danger of dying soon but has serious ailments from which he will never fully recover. Pickard shared that Berger provides transportation including planes for the President and has reportedly flown in doctors and technicians to attend the President (reftel). She said, for instance, that her Berger contact confided that they flew the President from Germany to Saudi in September 2008. Additionally, the Berger contact thought the President would not return to the Villa

ABUJA 00000259 003 OF 003

offices, as they were moving the President's personal things out of the Villa. (Note: What we think this means is that Yar'Adua is spending most of his time in the presidential residence and not in the Villa offices. End Note).


¶8. (C) The Ambassador asked how comfortable Shell was with the new appointment of Dr. Rilwanu Lukman as Minister of Petroleum Resources, and the appointment of Mohammad Sanusi Barkindo as the new NNPC GMD. Pickard sees the nationalism card cooling with the removal of former NNPC GMD Yar'Adua, given that new Minister of Petroleum Lukman is more "pragmatic" and will hold sway over deputy Minister Ajumogobia. (Note: Ajumogobia's technical assistant told EconOff in a meeting on January 14, 2009 that the State Minister was focusing on Gas, since before the mass cabinet change he was State Minster of Petroleum, with a separate State Minster for Gas.) End Note. She said she was also okay with NNPC chief Barkindo. She has worked with Barkindo several times over the past few decades, especially when they were both working climate change. She said Barkindo led Nigeria's technical delegation to climate change negotiations that produced the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)and the Kyoto protocol to UNFCCC during while he served on its Bureau at various times. She indicated that although his undergraduate studies were in political science, he obtained his MBA from Southeastern University in Washington DC and did postgraduate work in petroleum economics and management at Oxford University. Although she also said terms like nationalistic and Chavez she however said that she thought he could be steered in the right direction on the petroleum sector.


¶9. (C) Although Pickard clearly seems frustrated with the way things are going in the maritime security, oil sector legislation, and corruption which affects Shell's bottom line, it was useful to hear that she has hopes for the new Petroleum Minister and NNPC chief. Septel on the Ambassador's meeting with new Petroleum Minister Lukman will address many of these same issues.

¶10. (U) This cable was coordinated with Consulate Lagos.


Ethiopia - Hardliner Views

Monday, 08 June 2009, 12:33
EO 12958 DECL: 06/07/2019
Classified By: Ambassador Donald Yamamoto for reasons 1.4 (B) and (D).


¶1. (S) In a rare meeting with the elusive head of the Ethiopian National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) and main hardliner within the powerful executive committee of the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) party, Ambassador and NISS chief Getachew Assefa discussed a wide range of regional and bilateral issues. Getachew made clear during the four hour private meeting that Ethiopia sought greater understanding from the U.S. on national security issues vital to Ethiopia, especially Ethiopia's concerns over domestic insurgent groups like the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF). He spoke at length about former Addis Ababa Mayor-elect Berhanu Nega XXXXXXXXXXXX; VOA's biased reporting; the dangers of former defense minister Seeye Abraha's growing authority within the opposition; Ethiopia's views on democracy and human rights; Eritrea's role as a rogue state in the region; and regional issues including the importance of supporting the Transitional Federal Government and a rapprochement with Alhu Sunna Wal Jama'a (ASWJ) as the only option for Somalia's survival; and the need for U.S. reconciliation with Sudan. End Summary.


¶2. (S) Through the arrangements of former U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia, Irv Hicks, Ambassador met with Ethiopia's national intelligence chief, Getachew Assefa, for a four hour private meeting on June 4. Getachew, noted for his eccentric behavior and elusiveness, explained to the Ambassador that he welcomes greater dialogue with the U.S. Embassy, but underscored the importance of deeper U.S. understanding of Ethiopia's security concerns. Characterizing the U.S. relationship as sound and expressing appreciation for the cooperation with the U.S. on special projects on counterterrorism, Getachew emphasized that Ethiopia shares U.S. views on high value targets (HVT) like Robow and al-Turki as threats to regional stability. But domestic insurgent groups, like the OLF and ONLF, should also be treated as terrorists because they have safe haven camps in extremist-held areas in Somalia and receive support and assistance from the very same HVTs that the U.S. and Ethiopia are trying to neutralize. Such support makes the ONLF and OLF accomplices with international terrorist groups, Getachew argued. Just as Ethiopia would not meet with domestic U.S. insurgent groups, referring to individuals and groups who would conduct bombings of U.S. government offices, abortion clinics and advocates of racial and gender hate, Ethiopia would not want U.S. officials to meet with Ethiopia's domestic insurgents who bomb and kill Ethiopian officials and citizens.

¶3. (S) Getachew added that the GOE does conduct talks with the ONLF and OLF and there are groups, like the Ethiopian elders, who reach out to the membership in an effort to end the violence. Getachew stressed that this is an Ethiopian process by Ethiopians and should remain an Ethiopian-led, Ethiopian-directed and Ethiopian-coordinated process. Ambassador made clear that the U.S. Administration does not meet with the ONLF and that the U.S. is in close consultations with Ethiopian authorities on their views on the ONLF and OLF, and that the U.S. supports the work of the Ethiopian Elders to end the violence. Getachew noted the visit to European Capitals and Washington of ONLF senior leaders and said they met with staffers in the U.S. Vice President's office. The Ambassador said that we had no evidence that a meeting took place with the Vice President's staff and stressed that the State Department did not meet with the ONLF group. Further, the U.S. military no longer meets with alleged ONLF supporters in the volatile Ogaden region of eastern Ethiopia because of security concerns. The Ambassador stressed that such meetings in the past was for force protection of U.S. military civil affairs team working in the dangerous Ogaden region near Somalia, but in the last few years there has been no contact. The Ambassador added that there should be closer discussion between he U.S. and Ethiopia on this issue.


ADDIS ABAB 00001318 002 OF 004

¶4. (S) Getachew complained pointedly that Voice of America (VOA) is biased and gives a platform for extremist elements. XXXXXXXXXXXX

¶5. (S) Getachew also discussed the VOA reports covering former State Department official Greg Stanton of Genocide Watch, who charged Prime Minister Meles of crimes against humanity as a result of Ethiopia's incursion into Somalia in 2006. Getachew complained that VOA Amharic reporting was biased and not even handed. He did note that VOA English was fine. VOA Amharic service does not interview Ethiopian officials who can refute "false assertions" espoused in the VOA interviews. Getachew praised Germany's Deutsche Wella service for its balanced and yet hard hitting reporting. Getachew underscored that if the GOE is doing something wrong or does not have the support of the people, news services have an obligation to highlight such problems. Getachew said VOA, however, seeks to report only what is anti-government or lend support for the opposition. Getachew concluded that the U.S.G., because of VOA Amharic service is an official arm of the U.S.G., lacks neutrality in its support for the opposition and this undercuts relations between the two countries. The Ambassador replied that VOA is a very independent media and the U.S.G. does not have oversight and control over the content of the reporting.



¶7. (S) Getachew commented on Ethiopia's opposition leadership underscoring that he wishes to see a vibrant opposition movement, but currently, the NGO community and foreign missions support the opposition blindly without critical analysis.  XXXXXXXXXXXX

ADDIS ABAB 00001318 003 OF 004



¶9. (S) Getachew echoed common themes advocated by the ruling EPRDF party stalwarts from the Prime Minister to the party faithful. He stressed that the EPRDF supports democracy and that it is the goal for the ruling party to eventually give way to other parties of common vision in fighting poverty and a commitment to support the process of democratization. Getachew said he would support opposition parties if they have a better message to help Ethiopia overcome poverty, improve health care and education, and raise the standard of living of the Ethiopian people. He added that the U.S. and others should look at Ethiopia's democracy efforts and human rights record as a work in progress. It will take time but Ethiopia is moving in the right direction that will make Ethiopia a democratic state.


¶10. (S) Getachew described Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki as "no martyr," who sought to survive and establish himself as the predominate leader in the Horn of Africa. Ethiopia stands in the way of Isaias' grand design and it is his goal to divide Ethiopia and weaken it through terrorism. Getachew remarked that one of Isaias' bodyguards was in Dubai and then defected to Ethiopia. The bodyguard remarked that Isaias was a recluse who spent his days painting and tinkering with gadgets and carpentry work. Isaias appeared to make decisions in isolation with no discussion with his advisors. It was difficult to tell how Isaias would react each day and his moods changed constantly. Getachew added that Eritrea trains over 30 rebel groups at Camp Sawa near the Sudan border and graduates are infiltrated into Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia to enhance instability and target Ethiopian interests. Getachew expressed dismay with Kenya in allowing Eritrean intel officers and military trainers who support al-Shabaab in Somalia, to bribe their way out of Kenya and return to Eritrea. He explained the activities of Abraha Kassa, Eritrea's elusive intel chief who directs Eritrea's Somalia operations.

¶11. (S) On Somalia, Getachew said the only way to support stability was through support for the ASWJ which attracts a wide range of support from all the clans, especially those groups in conflict with each other. The ASWJ has been effective in countering al-Shabaab and is ideologically committed to Sufism and the defense of Islam against the extremist salafists which form al-Shabaab. Getachew said the U.S. can best help by supporting the ASWJ and TFG to cooperate, to pay salaries of TFG troops and support the IGAD and African Union which are seeking to sanction Eritrea, implement a no fly zone, and close ports used by extremist elements.

¶12. (S) On Sudan, Getachew urged the U.S. to engage Bashir and the Sudanese leadership. Sudan, more than Somalia, poses the greatest threat to regional security and stability, Getachew argued. The prospects for a civil war which destabilizes the region would be devastating. The only country that would benefit would be Eritrea.


¶13. (S) It is interesting that Getachew's description of President Isaias mirrors Getachew's own character, as well.

ADDIS ABAB 00001318 004 OF 004

Getachew avoids speaking with foreigners and few foreigners really know him. He is not well liked within his own agency for decisions he makes in isolation which, at times, make little sense and are not discussed in consensus with his staff. His apparent hot temper and reclusive habits have made it difficult for his staff to gauge his moods and understand his thought process. The Prime Minister himself and other EPRDF leaders have remarked to the Ambassador that it is difficult to talk with Getachew and to meet with him, but that his loyalty to the EPRDF is never in question. Despite his poor reputation, Getachew is regarded as a strong EPRDF hardliner and commands considerable authority and influence within the powerful EPRDF executive committee which lays down the policy for the ruling party and the government. While relations with NISS officials below Getachew's rank are extremely cordial and, depending on the unit, very close, the Ambassador has met with Getachew only twice in the past three years, and other Embassy staff have also met with little success in engaging him. Even visiting senior U.S. intel officers have not been successful in meeting Getachew. Ambassador will pursue future meetings with Getachew but he will never be a close contact.
End Comment. YAMAMOTO

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

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