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Cablegate: Embassy Continues Outreach in the North

VZCZCXRO8420
PP RUEHGI RUEHMA RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #1261 2250649
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 130649Z AUG 07
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8177
INFO RUCNFUR/DARFUR COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS KHARTOUM 001261

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR AF A/S FRAZER, AF/SPG
NSC FOR PITTMAN AND SHORTLEY

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL AU EAID UN US SU

SUBJECT: EMBASSY CONTINUES OUTREACH IN THE NORTH


1. (SBU) Summary: In an August 9-10 visit to the northern town of
Shendi in River Nile State, and also birthplace of Sudanese
President Omar Al-Bashir, CDA Fernandez met with the newly-appointed
commissioner, presented books to the vice chancellor of Shendi
University, and toured area farms and textile factories. CDA used
his trip to convey the message that the United States is committed
to deepening its understanding of -- and interaction -- with all of
Sudan, and that its interests extended beyond the South and Darfur.
USAID, POL and RSO also accompanied on the visit. End summary.

--------------------------------------
SHENDI TRIP BOTH SYMBOLIC, SUBSTANTIVE
--------------------------------------

2. (SBU) Meeting with the new commissioner of Shendi, Jaafar Benaga
El-Tayib, CDA told him that the US recognized the need to have a
complete picture of Sudan, a picture too often dominated by its
interests in the South and in Darfur. The commissioner encouraged
this approach and welcomed CDA's visit to Shendi, describing the
town as a microcosm of Sudanese society and politics. "It's a model
for the country," he said, citing its mixed religious population and
lack of security concerns (it is also the home town of President
Al-Bashir and much of the NCP elite). CDA used the meeting as an
opportunity to advocate the smooth implementation of UNSCR 1769 and
to explain the considerable interest the American people took in the
issue of Darfur. CDA likened it to the Sudanese people's concern for
Palestinians; both issues carried symbolic heft in the respective
public opinions, even though they took place outside national
boundaries. (Note: At dinner later in the evening, the commissioner
again welcomed CDA's visit, praising it as a step in the right
direction for improved mutual understanding and a true indicator of
US interest in the whole of Sudan. End note.)

3. (SBU) In a subsequent visit to Shendi University, CDA presented
Vice Chancellor Dr. Abdel Gafar Ali Adam with a set of books for the
university's admittedly paltry library (although Shendi University's
infrastructure is far better than that found in most other rural
universities, especially in the South). Touring the university, CDA
took the opportunity to discuss future scholarship and training
possibilities. CDA also visited a textiles factory and two area
farms, where intensive mango, citrus and banana cultivation was
underway.

---------------------------------------------
JUST LIKE ONE OF US, ACCORDING TO LOCAL PRESS
---------------------------------------------

4. (SBU) CDA's trip was the first visit to Shendi by an American
official in recent memory (likely the first by any foreign
representative). The commissioner, university officials and area
farmers were overwhelmingly enthusiastic about the visit, and
stressed the importance of continued outreach to other areas of the
country. The press was also not immune to the perceived unorthodoxy
of this type of "highway diplomacy;" on August 12, Arabic daily
Akhbar al-Yawm, referring to CDA's recent visit to the NCP Shura
Council as well as his Shendi trip, ran the following headline: "The
American Charge d'Affaires Enters the National Congress, Visits
Shendi and Stays at the Kawther Hotel!" The columnist went on to
note with amazement that the CDA visited Shendi without a security
detail, did not request special accommodations (preferring to
overnight in one of Shendi's "three-star" hotels), and thought
nothing of making the two-hour trip to Shendi by car.

FERNANDEZ

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