Cablegate: Ugandans Attend All-Night Election Event - and Many Others

O 061329Z NOV 08



E.O. 12958: N/A

1. Summary: Mission Kampala's all-night Election Event on November
4th and 5th marked a high point in a robust series of
election-themed programs. Guests from government, politics, civil
society, academia, the media, business and the diplomatic community
gathered in a festive atmosphere at The Sheraton to watch election
returns and the much-anticipated announcement of the new U.S.
President. In the lead-up to Election Day, post sponsored over
twenty programs designed to engage Ugandans in discussion about
democracy and the electoral process. Post plans to continue such
programs in the future. End Summary.


2. The U.S. Mission in Kampala hosted an all-night event in the
Sheraton Rwenzori Ballroom to watch the U.S. presidential election
returns. Beginning at 8:00 p.m. on November 4, contacts from the
government, political parties, civil society, academia, the media,
other diplomatic missions and the business community gathered to
await the election outcome. Guests received packets of
election-related materials produced by the Embassy's Information
Resource Center (IRC), as well as election-themed pins, scratch pads
and stickers.

3. In a ballroom decorated festively with red, white and blue
balloons and garlands, as well as a democracy poster show, guests
watched television coverage of the election on two large screens and
chatted with Mission employees about the American electoral process.
A third screen showed internet coverage, while a laptop in the
lobby featured web chats hosted by the Office of International
Information Programs (IIP). Mission volunteers passed out
unofficial ballots to Ugandan guests, who enjoyed the opportunity to
"vote" in this historic election.

4. While the crowd thinned by midnight, 20 to 30 die-hard guests
stayed up all night to monitor election returns, which started
coming in just after 2:00 a.m. local time. Watchers, including
journalists and several Fulbright Scholars, stayed awake with the
help of coffee and homemade cookies contributed by members of the
Mission community. Some got a feel for how the Electoral College
system works by keeping track of returns on the scratch pads

5. By 6:00 a.m. on November 5, guests began arriving again, some
returning from the previous evening. With results rolling in
regularly, they focused their attention on CNN. The room watched
with rapt attention as the outcome became clear and presidential
hopeful John McCain delivered his concession speech. Barack Obama's
acceptance speech drew applause and cheering at key points, and
guests commented on the significance of the event they were
witnessing. Post concluded its election event shortly after
President-elect Obama closed his remarks.


6. In the lead-up to the presidential election, the Public Affairs
Section (PAS) facilitated over 20 programs to explain and discuss
America's electoral system, the candidates and democracy in general.
Programs fell into three broad categories: (1) Programs using PD,
Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) and/or IIP resources
directly; (2) Collaborative efforts between PAS and other
organizations; (3) Programs using Mission staff as speakers. Across
the board, audiences appreciated the opportunity to learn about
American politics and discuss democratic practices.

7. PAS built several election-themed programs around PD offerings.
In September, the IRC hosted university student leaders for an IIP
web chat on the Electoral College. PAS took advantage of two Direct
Video Conferences (DVC) offered by the Africa Regional Services
(ARS) in Paris. One DVC focused on U.S. Nominating Conventions,
while the other dealt with the 2008 U.S. General Election.
Politicians, Members of Parliament (MPs) and journalists who
attended the events participated actively, posing thoughtful
questions and discussing the content afterwards. Two well-attended
student programs featured Fulbright Scholars; one lectured on the
role of special interest groups in campaign finance reform, while
the other addressed factors influencing American voters' decisions.

8. A highlight of our pre-election programming came in the form of
U.S. Speaker Steve Wymer. A dynamic and knowledgeable presenter,
Mr. Wymer spoke to MPs and political party staffers about the role
of constituency offices in elections, to youth leaders about their
role in politics, and to members of the media about election press
coverage. In addition, he met with journalism students at Makerere
University and spoke to government communications officials about
media relations, particularly during a campaign. Mr. Wymer shared
his experience in politics, communications and student leadership
with audiences, engaging them in dialogue and encouraging continued
discussion and debate.

9. PAS held several events in conjunction with other organizations.
The week before the election, PAS and the Political/Economic Section
partnered with a new think-tank, Fanaka Kwa Wote, to sponsor a
public debate on "Challenges to Electoral Systems in Africa."
Following opening remarks by Ambassador Stephen Browning, Secretary
General of the ruling party (NRM) and Minister of Security Amama
Mbabazi debated opposition leader Maurice Ogenga Latigo on issues
related to electoral reform in Uganda. The debate was moderated by
Andrew Mwenda, Managing Editor of The Independent newspaper and an
International Visitor (IV) alumnus. In early September, PAS
collaborated with the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the
International Republican Institute (IRI) to host a panel on
nominating conventions for MPs, politicians and civil society
activists. The NDI and IRI Country Directors, and PAO Lisa
Heilbronn, moderated a discussion about campaigns and the electoral
process. In late September, DPAO and a USAID colleague participated
as panelists in a conference sponsored by the Makerere University
Muslim Students Association (MUMSA). The panel topic, "The Impact
of the U.S. Elections on Muslims," generated heated discussion and
prompted numerous provocative questions from the audience of about
60 Muslim students.

10. To supplement pre-election programming, PAS organized speaking
engagements at high schools and universities for Mission community
members to engage students on election-related issues. In total,
twelve speakers, including the DCM and several USAID employees,
addressed a variety of student audiences, all of whom expressed
strong appreciation for the chance to discuss the election with a
Mission representative. Programs took place in Kampala and other
areas, including Gulu and the American Corners in Fort Portal and
Mbale. The format for each session varied, ranging from video
screenings of IIP's Election and Sports DVD to interactive exercises
to presentations using IIP's 2008 U.S. Election PowerPoint. All
programs included a question and answer period in which the
generally well-informed students could raise issues. Many schools
requested that speakers return for future programs.


11. Post plans to take advantage of the excitement surrounding
Obama's election to continue programs for Ugandan audiences that
highlight democracy and the American electoral system up to and past
the inauguration in January, 2009.

12. On November 18, PAS will host a media panel at a local hotel to
discuss post-election issues. The panel will feature the various
Ugandan journalists who have participated in Debate and Election
Embed programs organized by the Foreign Press Center, the Murrow
International Visitor Leadership Program and American Studies

13. PAS also plans to request a Direct Video Conference (DVC) with
Sada Cumber, Special Envoy to the Organization of the Islamic
Conference (OIC). Post has also applied to IIP for a U.S. Speaker
on the transition of power. In addition, PAS will continue its
Mission Speakers Program, organizing outreach opportunities for
Mission employees to discuss democracy, civic responsibility, and
the transition of power with audiences around Uganda. Some of these
programs will use the collection of civic education and political
process books organized by Scholastic Books in association with


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