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Cablegate: Ialogue Between U.S. And Northern

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 000630

SIPDIS


STATE FOR IIP/SC AND IPI, IIP/T/ES, AF/PDPA
IIP/G/AF, INFO AF, AF/RSA, AF/W, NEA/PPD
LAGOS FOR PAS


E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KPAO SCUL PREL OIIP NI
SUBJECT: IALOGUE BETWEEN U.S. AND NORTHERN
NIGERIAN MOSLEM OPINION LEADERS

1. Summary: Hosted by the Emir of Kano, a two
day dialogue to discuss perceptions about U.S.
Middle East Policy, the U.S. and Islam, the
Global War on Terror and Poverty Alleviation in
Northern Nigeria took place in the ancient
Northern Nigerian city of Kano on January 27-28.
The conference, the first of its kind in Nigeria,
and a long-standing Embassy priority offered an
opportunity to hold a candid discussion and hear
the views of some leading Moslems in Northern
Nigeria. Ambassador Jeter, 16 Mission staff, five
U.S. invited speakers, along with 18 Moslem
traditional leaders, intellectuals, and activists
participated in the conference. The conference
served to expose deep suspicions about the U.S.
among Northern Nigerians, as reflected by the
academic, political, and religious elites who
participated in the Conference. It also was a
chance for us to clear the air, to some degree,
of conspiracy theories and clash of culture
analysis. The conference was a positive step in
helping to bridge the gap in perceptions between
Nigeria Islamic North and the United States.
Participants agreed that continued dialogues and
similar conferences should be held using Mission
resources and personnel. The Embassy plans to
repeat the conference in a series of such
gatherings in key Northern cities in the future,
beginning with Katsina following Nigeria April
National Elections.


--Post appreciates the Herculean effort by IIP
and AF/PDPA to support the conference and to
recruit U.S. Speakers Gwen Mikell, Alan Godlas,
Lannon Walker, Jennifer Cooke, and Nabeel Khoury.
This cable evaluates U.S. speakers. Septel
follows with comprehensive reporting on the
conference.


2. ngaging Islam: the Evolution of Islam in
Nigeria and in the U.S. -Ms. Jennifer Cooke,
Center for Strategic & International Studies, and
Dr. Alan Godlas, University of Georgia, responded
to Professor Ibraheem Sulaiman presentation on
he Sharia Initiative in Nigeria. Sulaiman
asserted that the partnership of Nigeria and
other Sahelian countries with Islam had been
rewarding and fruitful and the partnership with
the West had been minatory. He claimed the
influence of Islam in West Africa was wholly
beneficial while the influence of Western culture
and economics was negative. He maintained that
Western thought was inimical to Islam.


--Ms. Cooke noted that Americans knew little
about Islam and that the media tended to shape
the perceptions of the general public. She
stated that Americans were not nti-Islam ut
were concerned that radical Islam posed a threat
to the U.S. Factors included traditional
suspicion of government, different perspectives
on the separation of church and state, and the
psychological impact of Sept. 11 and the 1998
East African Embassy bombings. Her frankness and
sincerity made her highly credible.


At a separate event, Ms. Cooke also lectured on
emocracy and Good Governance o 50 members of
women groups. They questioned her extensively
and shared their views of women participation
in Nigerian politics.


--Dr. Godlas attempted to show that a lash of
culture as avoidable. He did a comparative
analysis of American odernist alues and
viewpoints with those of Islam. His conclusion
was that there were more commonalties than
differences. He also asserted that there was a
drastic change among American Moslems after
Sept.11 who are now more outspoken about taking
back slam rom the extremists.


While some Nigerian participants challenged his
portrayal of Islam in America, Dr. Godlas
established easy rapport with Nigerian
participants, many of whom were familiar with his
Islamic Studies web site. Dr. Godlas also
lectured on slam in the U.S. o 20 members of
the Moslem Youth Organization of Kano. The Q&A
was stimulating and often in Arabic. He was
interviewed by the Gamji web site and BBC
stringers.


3. ngaging Poverty in Nigeria and U.S. Efforts
--Ambassador Lannon Walker (Rtd.), Dr. Gwendolyn
Mikell, Professor and Director of African
Studies, Georgetown University, responded to Dr.
Tijjani Naniya presentation on the ntecedents
to Poverty in Nigeria hat blamed colonialism,
globalization, and over-reliance on oil for
Nigeria widespread poverty.


--Ambassador Walker gave an excellent analysis of
the Nigerian economy and recommended increasing
credit to small and medium zed enterprises,
the creation of a new approach to debt repayment
and national development, the downsizing of
government, increasing crop production, and the
development of the non-oil sector of the economy.


--Dr. Gwendolyn Mikell suggested alleviating
poverty by focussing efforts on youth, women and
the elderly; she suggested that projects similar
to Ghana ack to the Farm outh program might
be useful, but also cautioned against a ne-
size fits all evelopment strategy where Nigeria
would uncritically mimic what has been applied
elsewhere. Her lecture in Kaduna following the
conference was cancelled due to security
concerns.


4. .S. Policy in the Middle East"
--Dr. Nabeel Khoury reviewed current U.S. peace
initiatives and challenged participants to name a
country other than the U.S. that has invested
more human and material resources to resolve the
Israeli/Palestinian conflict. His lecture in
Abuja on .S. Middle East Policy as carried on
network TV two consecutive evenings, and his
interview with the ew Nigerian ewspaper was
front-page news. Dr. Khoury public lecture and
radio interview in Kaduna and Kano were cancelled
at the last minute, following a call to the
Ambassador from President Obasanjo expressing
concerns about the public lecture which, he
thought, was too soon after the iss World
Kaduna riots.


5. he Global War on Terror
--DCM Tim Andrews chaired this session that began
with a videotaped message from Ambassador Francis
Taylor followed by a viewing of Secretary
Powell January 20 speech on terrorism at the
UNSC.


--Dr. Saddiq Mohammed of Ahmadu Bello University
shared research on northern Nigerian opinion
showing understanding of the United States
position on the GWOT yet justifying the increased
terrorism as a logical consequence of alleged
biased U.S. policy in the Middle East.


6. Conclusion: Candid, at times emotional, the
conference was a success. Participants were
unanimous in requesting more dialogues. IIP and
AF/PDPA deserve the lion share of the credit.
Despite short notice, holiday leave, and
uncertainty about Iraq, Maureen Howard, Peter
Piness, Mona Esquetini, Brenda Butler, Inga
McMichael, and Pat Attkisson provided
extraordinary support to make this groundbreaking
conference a reality.


JETER

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