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Cablegate: Afghanistan Reconstruction and the Nigerian

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ABUJA 003309

SIPDIS


FOR STATE AF/PD, AF/W, PA
LAGOS FOR PAS, POL/ECON


E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KPAO SOCI AF
SUBJECT: AFGHANISTAN RECONSTRUCTION AND THE NIGERIAN
PRESS


Reftel: STATE 251043


1. Summary. Interest in Afghanistan and USG actions
in rebuilding the country is low among Nigeria's
southern journalists. There is more interest in the
print media in Nigeria's mostly Muslim north, which
occasionally publishes Afghan-related material, mostly
in the context of stories on Iraq, which remains the
lead international story. Radio newscasts of
continuing developments in Afghanistan are more
frequent, and have a much wider audience in Nigeria
than television or print journalism. Common
misperceptions regarding Afghanistan center on Afghan
President Karzai as a U.S. puppet leader with no
popular support, as well as accusations of massive
Afghan casualties suffered during the removal of the
Taliban government. Public affairs strategies to
improve Nigerian understanding of Afghanistan should
focus less on the USG and more on
commentaries/statements by UN officials, key Muslim
figures in Afghanistan, and regional leaders from
Islamic countries who support Karzai and continued USG
actions in Afghanistan. End Summary.


Afghanistan Not a Media Priority in Nigeria
-------------------------------------------


2. Afghanistan is no longer a story that generates
much media attention in southern Nigeria, where
average Nigerians are far more focused on the upcoming
national elections, the continuing debate over the
riots surrounding the Miss World contest, and pressing
domestic economic and political issues. In Nigeria's
mostly Muslim north, news regarding Afghanistan is
more common, although it largely consists of straight
news stories and statements by USG officials carried
on VOA and BBC. Northern print journalists often
include references to Afghanistan within the context
of articles on Iraq, which remains the lead
international news story in the north and the south.
Public opinion among Muslims regarding the U.S. role
in Afghanistan tends to be negative and simplistic,
with the U.S. regarded as having imposed its will on
the country as part of its global war against
terrorism and Islam. Afghan leader Hamid Karzai is
generally viewed as a puppet leader installed by U.S.
military force, and someone who lacks popular support
among the Afghan people. Coverage on Afghanistan also
centers on the U.S. military role rather than on
reconstruction efforts. Stories in the print media
continue to assert that Afghanistan suffered large
numbers of civilian casualties during the U.S.
military campaign against the Taliban. A December 9
story in the northern-based independent newspaper,
"Daily Trust," said that "the war, just like the
(terrorist) attack on the U.S., left thousands of so-
called terrorists and civilians dead, killed by "un-
smart" bombs in these days of "smart bombs."


3. A USG public affairs strategy for Nigeria should
focus less on USG officials speaking on Afghanistan
and more on statements from UN officials, Afghans, and
Muslim leaders from the Middle East and South Asia.
While the U.S. is playing a positive role, focusing on
USG leadership in the reconstruction effort will
unfortunately reinforce negative perceptions of
unwanted USG domination of the Afghan people. The USG
should emphasize the strong UN role in Afghanistan as
well as Afghan ownership of the Bonn process and
reconstruction strategy. The USG role should be
viewed as supportive of the international community's
strategy for Afghanistan. That said, we should
continue to make certain that the Nigerian public is
aware of international humanitarian contributions to
Afghanistan and America's leading role in prodding the
international community to do more. We also need to
continue pressing the theme of how bad life was for
average Afghans under the Taliban and how hope for an
improved future exists today due to the Taliban's
ouster.


4. Public affairs strategies that would enhance the
Nigerian Muslim public's knowledge of the USG
commitment to Afghanistan could include Hausa language
radio interviews with Afghan religious leaders who
support Karzai and the USG, as well as interviews with
Kofi Annan and the UN Secretary General's Special
Representative Lakhdar Brahimi on the Bonn process, UN
activities in Afghanistan, and the continuing need for
USG support for Afghanistan. Messages regarding
Iranian government support and that by other Islamic
leaders for Karzai would also be useful in countering
Karzai's image as a President whose appeal does not
extend beyond the United States. The U.S. mission to
Nigeria publishes a Hausa-language magazine ("Magama")
that targets Hausa-speaking elites; excerpts or
digests of radio programming could be included in
upcoming issues. Finally, we would suggest a press
tour in Afghanistan for a small group of African
journalists (preferably Muslims or those from Sub-
Saharan countries with large Muslim populations),
which would provide a first-hand opportunity to speak
with Afghans and international community officials on
how far Afghanistan has progressed in the post-Taliban
period.


JETER

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