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Cablegate: Ambassador Grover Joseph Rees' Visit to Dakar

VZCZCXRO8519
PP RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHGI RUEHJO RUEHMA RUEHMR RUEHPA RUEHRN RUEHTRO
DE RUEHDK #0705/01 0880836
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 290836Z MAR 07
FM AMEMBASSY DAKAR
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7964
INFO RUEHZO/AFRICAN UNION COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 DAKAR 000705

SIPDIS

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

STATE FOR AF/W, AF/RSA AND INR/AA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SOCI TBIO PHUM PINS PREL KDEM KISL SG
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR GROVER JOSEPH REES' VISIT TO DAKAR

REF: STATE 039149 (NOTAL)

SUMMARY
-------
1. (U) In meetings with the Senegalese government, civil society,
NGOs and Catholic and Muslim religious leaders, Ambassador Grover
Joseph Rees, Special Representative for Social Issues, discussed
U.S. contributions to the fight against HIV/AIDS, the humanitarian
crisis in Sudan, U.S. problems with the Maputo Plan of Action, and
more effective multilateral engagement to better assist society's
most vulnerable. He urged Senegal to lead in condemning human
rights abuses in Sudan and Zimbabwe and in opposing the Maputo Plan
of Action. END SUMMARY.

THE FOREIGN MINISTRY
--------------------
2. (SBU) Ambassador Rees met with Mame Baba Cisse, who has just
become Director of the Foreign Affairs Ministry's Department for
International Organizations after a stint at the U.N. in New York.
Rees outlined the objectives that brought him to Africa, including
President Bush's wish to bring down infant morality rates, enhance
the efficacy of organizations such as UNICEF to which the U.S.
contributes heavily, combat violence against women and especially
rape, encourage African justice systems to be sensitive to the needs
of the vulnerable, expand development to the economically marginal,
and bring down the percentage of international organizations'
budgets that goes for conferences and consultancy fees so that more
donor funding can go directly to those in need.

3. (SBU) Ambassador Rees raised key African issues:

-- He emphasized the deplorable humanitarian situation in Darfur and
urged Senegal to lead in persuading the U.N. Human Rights Council
(UNHRC) to take a strong stand in response to Khartoum's refusal to
allow an UNHRC inspection team into Darfur. While recognizing that
African Union (AU) and Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC)
states usually take a common position, he appealed to Senegal's
sense of constructive diplomacy to break free from the mold and take
a stand against a brutal regime. A "no action motion," he
emphasized, is the exact opposite of what the U.S. sought on this
issue.

-- On Zimbabwe, Ambassador Rees condemned attacks on members of the
country's opposition party and pushed Senegal to lead the UN Human
Rights Council to speak out more forcefully against Mugabe's rights
abuses.

-- Ambassador Rees voiced U.S. concerns that the Maputo Plan of
Action requires countries to integrate all HIV/AIDS programs with
family planning/reproductive health programs, an integration that
would likely divert badly needed HIV/AIDS fund to family planning,
and also seemed designed to require African countries to make
abortion more widely available. He reminded Cisse that the Plan
contained indicators with which national health plans would be
expected to comply if the Plan of Action were adopted.

MINISTRY OF HEALTH
------------------
4. (SBU) On March 15, Ambassador Rees met at the Ministry of Health
with Secretary General Moussa MBaye; Technical Advisor for
Reproductive Health Dr. Aboubacry Sy (who had attended the Maputo
Conference); AIDS Division Chief Dr. Abdoulaye Wade; and MBaye Sene,
the Ministry's focal point for mutual health organizations. The
thrust of Ambassador Rees' message was U.S. concerns about the
Maputo Plan of Action, and U.S. expectations about the role and
effectiveness of multilateral organizations working in health. He
explained that the Maputo Plan of Action contained six indicators
that would effectively include abortion services as a mandatory
component of reproductive health; an inclusion that the U.S.
believes is inconsistent with the international consensus on
reproductive health.

5. (SBU) Health Ministry officials made clear Senegal has no plans
to legalize abortion. They affirmed that, as Senegal prepares for
the upcoming Johannesburg conference of African Union Ministers of
Health, they will consider very carefully all details, indicators
and exact language in the document. They did not promise that
Senegal would not agree to the document, but they indicated strong
agreement with U.S. concerns. In terms of HIV/AIDS and family
planning, there was a sense that integration should be encouraged
where it works and makes sense, but that governments should not be
forced to integrate in cases where it might dilute or divert funds
from one focus to another.

6. (SBU) During a 30-minute meeting with Minister of Health Abdou
Fall on March 21, Ambassador Rees stressed that the Maputo Plan of
action was not a consensus document, could create "an abortion
industry in waiting," implied that many African countries need to
change their legislative frameworks as related to abortion, and
required the integration of HIV/AIDS with family planning programs,

DAKAR 00000705 002 OF 003


which is not always a good idea. The Minister responded that these
are major health issues, especially in a country like Senegal, where
the U.S. is a major strategic partner. Fall noted national
differences, highlighting that different African countries have very
different HIV/AIDS infection rates and that abortion is a bigger
issue in countries where rape has been used as an instrument of war.
Fall said the GOS believed that abortion should only be legal in
extreme cases. Citing legislation outlawing female genital
mutilation, Fall said that laws should either encourage change or
aid societies in adapting to change.

A WOMAN'S VIEW OF SENEGALESE ISLAM
----------------------------------
7. (SBU) Ambassador Rees had coffee with Penda MBow, former
Georgetown researcher and lecturer at Michigan, who has just been
hired to teach at Columbia. MBow runs a modestly funded but
successful NGO (the "Citizen Movement"), is an expert on Islam and
especially on the Sufi Tidjane Brotherhood, and is outspokenly
critical of what she sees as Islam's shortcomings in providing
social protections.

8. (SBU) MBow said she had been chastised and, in the early 1990's,
beaten for her demands that Senegalese Islam reflect women's needs
and contributions to society and Islam. Sufi Islam is tolerant and
flexible, but its openness has not extended to women. Moreover,
Senegal's marabouts and other religious leaders have resisted her
calls for more attention to women's legal rights. As a target of
religious conservatives, she knew she had to live a life of
exemplary rectitude, and therefore "controlled" her lifestyle.
Fortunately, she said, her work was paying dividends: Marabouts who
censured her a decade ago now recognize the benefits of her social
activism.

9. (SBU) Both agreed international organizations must be made even
more efficient in lowering infant mortality and protecting rights of
women and children. Islam shares with other major religions an
emphasis on welfare of the neediest, but Senegalese Islam could do
more.

SENEGAL'S ISLAMIC INSTITUTE
---------------------------
10. (SBU) Ambassador Rees engaged Islamic Institute Director
Ibrahime Badiane on the responsibility for the protection of
society's vulnerable that is inherent in religious faith. The
Institute is financed in part by the Senegalese Government but is
largely independent. While Badiane told Ambassador Rees that he
monitors mosque sermons and calls imams if he hears they have
preached something disturbing, he has no authority to sanction or
dictate sermon content.

11. (SBU) Ambassador Rees and Badiane agreed that religious leaders
share a responsibility for identifying and trying to rectify
society's shortcomings. High rates of infant mortality and violence
against women, Badiane said, were simply unacceptable in a country
like Senegal which, by African standards, had relatively high
literacy rates, working communications systems, a commitment to
democracy and, especially, a religious presence, mainly Muslim but
also Christian, throughout the country.

LUNCH WITH THE WORLD BANK AND UNICEF
------------------------------------
12. (SBU) Over lunch, UNICEF Resident Representative Ian Hopwood
and Demba Balde, World Bank specialist in social development,
described their priorities. Ambassador Rees took advantage of this
very amiable meeting to press for greater efficiency and results in
the fight against infant and maternal mortality. All agreed that
Senegal and the rest of West Africa have a special responsibility to
curb abuse of the tradition of sending very young religious students
onto the streets to beg. This had once been a valid religious
practice, but now is often simply an avenue of exploitation in
cities like Dakar. Ambassador Rees urged with special emphasis U.S.
support for UNICEF Executive Director Ann Veneman's efforts to raise
UNICEF'sproductivity to a level commensurate with funding it
receives from the U.S. and other major donors.

THE ARCHBISHOP OF DAKAR
-----------------------
13. (SBU) Archbishop of Dakar Adrien Sarr received Ambassador Rees
at his home and seemed first surprised and then extremely pleased
that President Bush and Secretary Rice had established the new
diplomatic post for social affairs. The Archbishop indicated that
marital fidelity and abstinence were not prominent enough in African
anti-HIV/AIDS plans. The Church, he said, had established what he
estimated to be about four percent of Senegal's health facilities,
roughly comparable to the Catholic percentage of the population.
The Archbishop stressed that the Church is ready to work with the
U.S. to lower infant and maternal mortality in a way that respects
the right to life and maternal dignity.

WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION AND HEALTH RESEARCH

DAKAR 00000705 003 OF 003


---------------------------------------------
14. (SBU) World Health Organization Country Representative Dr.
Antonio Pedro Felipe gave a rundown of strategic and action plans
for child health they intend to implement with the Senegalese
Government. Rees commented that such plans were worthwhile but not
always fully implemented or fully successful in practice, Felipe's
staff outlined how plans had been or would be carried out on the
ground.

15. (U) In a brief morning coffee, Professor Souleymane MBoup, the
researcher who identified the HIV2 virus and the head of the
bacteriology virology laboratories at the university's Aristide Le
Dantec teaching hospital, explained some reasons why Senegal's
HIV/AIDS rate was low, including Islam's positive restraining
influence.

RADDHO
------
16. (SBU) Alioune Tine of the RADDHO human rights group had
returned recently from Sudan, called the situation in Darfur
genocide, and added that President Wade was the first African leader
to call it that. Tine said Wade was between a rock and hard place
as he will be hosting the next Organization of the Islamic
Conference (OIC) summit and most Arab states support Sudanese
President Bashir. Tine mused that some in the African Union resist
U.S. efforts in Darfur to reflect their opposition to the U.S.
presence in Iraq, adding that the African Union's "labor union
mentality" and Libyan dominance are hindrances to real action on
Darfur. He asked the U.S. to intensify lobbying on Darfur among
Africans in the U.N. Security Council.

17. (U) Ambassador Rees has cleared this cable.

18. (U) Visit Embassy Dakar's SIPRNET website at
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/af/dakar.

JACOBS

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