Cablegate: Us Presidential Elections Capture Minds and Hearts Of

DE RUEHBP #0883/01 3171353
R 121353Z NOV 08




E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: A.) BAMAKO 793 B.) BAMAKO 574 C.) BAMAKO 875

1. Summary: U.S. Embassy Bamako's public outreach on the 2008
Presidential elections began in May 2008 in the northern city of Gao
and culminated in a festive election night party attended by several
hundred Malian notables on November 4. The election night party
attracted many of Mali's senior Muslim leadrs, who were clearly
captivated by the U.S electoal process. The Embassy continues to
receive a teady stream of congratulatory letters that praisethe
American process and people, as well as wishPresident-elect Obama
every success in his tenure in office. End Summary.

Malian Interest in U.S. Politics

2. The long US electoral campaign captivated Malian audiences and
provided important oQortunities for public outreach on American
history and government, in addition to active debates on race and
gender relations in America. PAS Bamako began targeted outreach on
the electoral process in May 2008 at the American Corner in Gao with
a lecture on U.S. Presidential Elections and a week-long film
festival which celebrated American political life. Over 300
students, journalists, and professors attended the lecture, while
close to 100 people attended the films each night. As part of the
Embassy's in-house speaker program, the Pol/Cons Officer addressed
an audience of 100 Malian university students in Bamako on the U.S.

3. In August 2008, ARS Speaker Steven Ekovich (Ref. A) presented a
series of lectures to Malian audiences on subjects including the
U.S. Political System, the electoral process, and the upcoming
Presidential elections. In addition to carefully presenting a very
balanced discussion of the relative strengths and weaknesses of each
of the two major parties and its candidates, Dr. Ekovich skillfully
crafted each of his lectures to address the important roles that
different sectors of a country's population play in the democratic
process, further highlighting the shared values between Malians and

4. In September 2008, Malian journalist Alassane Soulemaye
participated in an FPC tour on "The First 2008 U.S. Presidential
Debate," providing timely, accurate and positive coverage of the
elections on Malian national radio. In October 2008, PAS Bamako
worked with the most popular private radio station, Radio Kledu, to
provide weekly interviews on the U.S. elections. Participants in
the radio programs included Dr. Ekovich (reporting from Paris), the
DCM, the PAO, and several American Fulbrighters in Mali. A
principle journalist from Radio Kledu also participated in the FPC
Election 2008 Visiting Journalists Program Embed tour, providing
"live coverage" for Malian audiences. DCM Leonard additionally
participated in two separate television interviews on the elections,
one on regional television AFRICABLE (with an audience of 50
million) and on Malian national television (which covers 80% of
Malian territory). Also in October 2008, PAS provided a small grant
to help offset the travel of an important Malian television
personality, Salif Sanogo, who covered the elections from

Election Night Festivities

5. On November 4, the Embassy culminated its outreach efforts with a
festive and interactive Election night party. Over 200 guests,
representing a broad cross section of party leaders, religious
figures, academics, and USG program alumni, shared the US election
experience through a variety of activities. In addition to a
super-sized video screen broadcasting live election coverage, the
event offered guests the opportunity to browse IIP literature on the
candidates, ask embassy officers questions about American elections,
hear mini-lectures on the Electoral College, and view podcasts and
interactive internet sites covering a variety of election-oriented
topics. Many invitees posed for pictures with life-sized figures of
the candidates and took the opportunity to cast a secret ballot for
the candidate ticket of their choice.

6. The party was the occasion for the newly arrived Ambassador to
emphasize America's 200 year unbroken tradition of peaceful
transitions and our allegiance to a process, rather than a
personality. Echoing the sentiment of many of our guests, the
Malian press praised the event in wide media coverage, noting the
varied participation of notable Malian political, judicial, and
religious leaders and the festive environment created by the Embassy
staff. The voting booth that allowed guests to symbolically
experience the selection process "as if they were themselves

BAMAKO 00000883 002 OF 002

American citizens" made a particular impact.

Local Religious Leaders

7. The election night was particularly well-attended by Mali's
religious leaders, including senior members of Mali's Christian and
Muslim communities. Christian leaders Jean Marie Traore and Timothy
Diallo, along with senior members of the High Islamic Council
(HCIM), spent several hours at the event discussing the American
electoral process. Although Malian Imams generally shy away from
questions of national politics, members of the HCIM were clearly
fascinated by the American presidential race. Their presence was
also a strong indicator of the success of the Embassy's outreach
program and of senior Malian Muslim leaders' comfort level with
Americans. The participation of Cherif Ousmane Madani Haidara
(arguably Mali's most recognizable Muslim leader, frequently
appearing on television and radio broadcasts participation) was
particularly noteworthy (Ref. B).

Post-Election Congratulations

8. The November 6 editions of Malian newspapers provided euphoric
coverage of the election of the first African American president.
Many of the newspapers dedicated numerous pages to the subject and
featured interviews with a wide variety of Malian notables. Almost
all interlocutors praised the wisdom and "maturity" of the American
people and admired the strength of our political process and social
progress. These same sentiments have been expressed widely to
Embassy employees via countless e-mails, phone calls, text messages,
and letters from President Amadou Toumani Toure (Ref. C) down to
regular people on the street. Perhaps the most touching letter came
from an unknown businessman who wrote to the Ambassador the
following message:

Begin (translated) text. "It is with a heart full of courage and
joy that I decided to write to you to express my deep happiness for
this symbolic American victory. You have once again proven to the
rest of the world, through these elections, that you are definitely
the leaders of the world. You deserve this title because you have
always been an example. I would like to salute these model
candidates who are not focused on either victory or defeat, but
rather on the best interest of their beloved country. I hope that
they will serve as an example for all other democratic leaders. I
hope that Barak Obama is the President of change that can best
respond to the needs of the American people and that he always keeps
the interests of the American people as his primary focus. One more
time - a great Bravo for the American people." End Text.

© Scoop Media

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