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.
++++++++++++++++++++++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
- - - - - -
- - - - - -
¶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
¶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
¶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.
¶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. áXXXXXXXXXXXX
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
¶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.
AfricaFocus Bulletin can be reached at
Please write to this address to subscribe or unsubscribe to the
bulletin, or to suggest material for inclusion. For more
information about reposted material, please contact directly the
original source mentioned. For a full archive and other
resources, see