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Cablegate: U.S. Election Night Celebration Draws Record Crowds

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RR RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHTO #1085/01 3221208
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 171208Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY MAPUTO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9562
INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY
RUEHPA/AMEMBASSY PRAIA 0024

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MAPUTO 001085

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AF/PD FOR CANYASO, DTITUS AND LALLISON

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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KPAO KMDR PREL PGOV KDEM MZ
SUBJECT: U.S. ELECTION NIGHT CELEBRATION DRAWS RECORD CROWDS

REF: MAPUTO 963

MAPUTO 00001085 001.2 OF 002


1. SUMMARY: In the final weeks of the 2008 U.S. Election,
Mozambicans remained captivated, and Public Affairs Maputo responded
with a number of programs, culminating in a grand elections night
bash with close to 600 people at the national conference center.
The November 4 celebration is not the end of elections programs,
however. There is great interest in th transition process and the
coming presidency, which provide an excellent opportunity to
continue to engage Mozambicans on issues of democratic development
and U.S. policy toward Africa. END SUMMARY.

2. On November 4, our rented pavilion at Mozambique's National
Conference Center was a vision in red, white and blue as close to
600 guests - academics, journalists, civil society, government
officials, and American citizens -- celebrated the end of the
campaign. At the largest U.S. Mission event on record, non-American
guests participated in a mock-vote; took pictures with the
candidates' cut-outs (printed copies of the photos offered to them
as "favors" at their departure); engaged with Embassy officials on
the facets of the U.S. electoral process; viewed on various screens
across the room live news coverage, the presidential debates and the
candidates' biography films; and cheered on Mozambican university
students as they did a mock debate playing the roles of Obama,
McCain, Biden, and Palin. The Charge d'Affaires later hosted an
early breakfast on November 5 for a group of 30 Ambassadors and
government officials, fortuitously timed to coincide with
President-Elect Obama's victory speech.

ENTHUSIASM HIGH IN THE FINAL MONTH
----------------------------------

3. Turnout on November 4 was so high in part due to sustained
elections programming beginning in July. We used our Public Affairs
Center to show all four U.S. Debates (taped). While we could not
offer them in Portuguese, enthusiastic students, most of whom have
at least some English, attended and watched attentively. The PAO and
PDO led discussions afterwards to clarify concepts like "Joe the
Plumber" and to engage the audience on what they thought not only of
the candidates' performance but on the style of American debates.
Responding to the interest on campuses, Public Affairs took one of
the debate programs outside of town to 100 students at the Higher
Institute of International Relations (ISRI).

4. On October 8, we supported two local NGOs -- the Center for
Mozambican and International Studies (CEMO) and the Martin Luther
King Institute (IMALK) - for a panel discussion on the U.S. Election
and foreign policy to a crowd of 200 at a local hotel. Two Embassy
officers spoke respectively on each party/candidate, with a local
media editor and a university professor giving commentary. The
following Q and A led to some debating, "Would an Obama presidency
really benefit Africa more?" The media commentator underscored that
the Bush Administration has given unprecedented levels of aid to
Africa and cited PEPFAR, PMI and MCC. (The distribution of our
Mission newsletter "Estamos Juntos" at the event likely helped spur
the idea.)

STUDENT DEBATES KICK OFF AROUND TOWN
----------------------------------

5. The October 8 event served as a catalyst for a series of
student debates with university students around the Maputo area that
followed in the four weeks leading up to Election Day. Four student
finalists were selected from that debate series. Representing the
Democratic and Republican parties, they squared off in true
American-style debates (Presidential and Vice Presidential) at our
Election Night celebration. In Mozambique, where gender equality
suffers, guests were enthralled by the petite young female student
representing Joe Biden; the international relations student had
studied the Democratic Senator's policies to a tee and gave a
riveting performance deserving of the large crowd that
enthusiastically gathered around the stage to see her. (A male
candidate stood opposite her playing Sarah Palin.) The debates were
moderated by accomplished journalist and editor Salomao Moyane, who
had covered the final U.S. Presidential debate in New York on the
Foreign Press Center's October tour.

6. While most programming was in or near Maputo, the Charge used
his trip to the northern city of Nampula to give the mostly Muslim
population there a chance to engage with him on the U.S. elections.
In an informal setting at Nampula's Catholic University, the Charge
took questions on the candidates' policies and the electoral process
from a group of 65 students, educators and media members.

MOZAMBICAN JOURNALISTS OFFER A FIRST-HAND VIEW
--------------------------------------------- ---

7. In addition to Moyane), we assisted two other prominent
Mozambican journalists to travel to the U.S. during the elections

MAPUTO 00001085 002.2 OF 002


period: a Noticias (state-owned daily national newspaper) writer
attended the Edward R. Murrow International Visitor program and sent
in regular stories about his experience engaging American citizens
across the nation. Independent media Soico editor participated in
the Foreign Press Center's "embed" tour, spending three weeks in the
United States and doing live (call-in) broadcasts on S-TV, which is
now a station with near national reach. His more than adozen
articles in the newspaper O Pais gave Mozambicans a chance to
understand the U.S. elections from the perspective of a respected
Mozambican voice.

8. On November 5, the Charge held a press conference in his home to
talk about the results. Fifteen media reps, including three
editors, came and quoted the Charge's comments in that evening and
the next day's news.Due to IIP's fast translation work for us, we
sent out translated Portuguese versions of the President-Elect's
victory speech and the concession speech by Senator McCain. The
former was used in at least two newspapers.

9. Finally, from November 4 - 5, two Mozambican television stations,
S-TV and TIM (Independent Television of Mozambique) did special
hours-long block reports on our Elections Night event interspersed
with the results coming in from the U.S. TIM featured a lengthy
interview with the PAO, who explained in Portuguese the concepts of
National Party Conventions and the Electoral College, and also aired
several interviews with Americans and Mozambicans from our grand
event. Both stations broadcasted the IIP-produced short videos on
"Obama Volunteers" and "McCain Volunteers" which we had subtitled in
Portuguese for them.


INFORMATION CENTER AT ELECTIONS NIGHT GALA A HIT
--------------------------------------------- ---

10. In addition to providing copies of elections-themed e-Journals
and translated America.gov and IIP publications, such as the
candidates' bios/family bios and articles on their expected Africa
policies at our IRC, American Corners and other events, guests at
the November 4 bash visited a mini-information center where they
could collect IIP materials. The IIP elections PowerPoint formed
the backdrop for the Mission panelists' presentations on the U.S.
electoral process, while the two short IIP videos on campaign
volunteers were a huge hit with party guests. Visitors to the IRC
continue to ask for information on President-elect Obama and the
electoral process.


IT'S NOT OVER YET
-----------------

11. The Obama victory continues to dominate headlines. Taking
advantage of the sustained interest, the PDO chose as our monthly
Public Affairs Center movie on November 6 the biography film on
President-Elect Obama. It was one of the best-attended film
screenings to date; participants also received copies of Obama and
McCain speeches translated overnight by IIP.

COMMENT: Profound Impact a Unique Opportunity
---------------------------------------------

12. The new ground broken in our political experience has resonated
strongly here. Mozambicans currently campaigning for their own
elections here are evoking the American experience; analysts and
commentators are publicly asking, "What about Africa? What about
Mozambique?", questioning whether this continent can get over racial
and ethnic divisions as the United States has appeared to have
accomplished. The transparency of our entire elections process,
from the primaries to the conventions to the concession speech and
President Bush's open cooperation with President-Elect Obama has
deeply impressed Mozambicans and led them to call for the same.

13. Floods of emails, cell phone text messages and phone calls came
in after November 4 congratulating our Elections Night event and our
new President-Elect. We face a time of amazing opportunity to win
over skeptical Mozambicans now heartened by the elections. This
nation's founding father's widow, American citizen Janet Mondlane,
told the Charge and PAO at a recent lunch that "This is the time to
bring together the peoples of both countries," and we plan on doing
so with increased outreach, taking advantage of new exchange program
offerings like YES (Youth Exchange and Study) and working up until
and after January 20 to explain what is "a peaceful transition in
the world's most powerful nation."

14. The success of Mission programs was greatly aided by the volume,
variety, and quality of IIP materials we received, and the speed
with which they were translated into Portuguese, so we send our
thanks to IIP/Africa and the translation office in Cape Verde.

CHAPMAN

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