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Cablegate: Niger: Mist Sports Caravan Scores Big Again

VZCZCXYZ0009
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHNM #1181 2551534
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 121534Z SEP 07
FM AMEMBASSY NIAMEY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3770
INFO RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC

UNCLAS NIAMEY 001181

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED

STATE FOR AF/RSA AND AF/W

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: MARR PROP PREL SCUL NGO

SUBJECT: NIGER: MIST SPORTS CARAVAN SCORES BIG AGAIN

REF: A. 06 NIAMEY 1106 B. 06 Niamey 898

1. (SBU) Summary. The 16-day Military Information Support Team
(MIST) sports caravan/tolerance campaign, lauded by local
authorities for its timeliness, reiterated last year's theme "One
Family, One Niger." Insecurity in the northern region of Agadez
prevented the Nigerien junior girls and junior boys national teams
from making a caravan stop there, but tens of thousands of Nigeriens
at eight localities in the seven other regions of Niger
enthusiastically welcomed the youth teams, the Ambassador's (AMB)
delegation and a cultural group (Troupe Artistique Mourna) with
their messages of tolerance. Broad media (radio, television, print)
coverage of every caravan stop provided outreach to hundreds of
thousands. The Embassy commends the MIST for its thorough
preparation and professionalism in coordinating this tremendously
successful activity with Embassy personnel. End summary.

2. (U) Nigeriens across the country, including the Government (GON)
President, expressed effusive appreciation for the sports caravan
and the theme of tolerance at a time when the majority of the
population is calling for an end to the violence in northern Niger.
The caravan also provided an opportunity for the youth team members
to travel some 6000 kilometers around Niger, for many the first time
to travel outside of the Niamey capital area. Preceded by MIST,
which passed out caravan-related materials (T-shirts, notebooks,
water bottles, etc.) to youth in small villages between caravan
stops, the Regional Security Office, Public Affairs Office and
Development Assistance Office accompanied Ambassador on the
caravan.

(Note: Ambassador also took advantage of the caravan stops to visit
Embassy special self-help projects and discuss a range of issues
with local officials and groups, such as concerns about security in
northern Niger, Embassy's democracy fund sponsored decentralization
training, food security and the status of tensions that occurred
several months ago between indigenous sedentary groups and nomadic
herders in eastern Niger. End note.)

3. (U) The sports caravan performed in eight localities in seven of
the eight regions in Niger. It has gained such popularity that
other sports federations and local community groups have asked to
participate in the event as well. For example, at a couple of
locations the Nigerien Judo Federation provided demonstrations, at
other locations youth recited peace-inspired poems and in yet other
locations youth and/or adult groups performed dance routines to
drums.

4. (SBU) The MIST remains an integral part of the Embassy country
team, with full participation in post activities and
representational functions. The following MIST members merit
special recognition for outstanding work on the caravan:

SSG Brad A. Thill (team leader)
SGT Joshua Hammond (assistant team leader)
SPC Carlos Sanchez (specialist)
SPC Natasha Miller (specialist)

5. (U) The total attendance for the caravan approximated some 60,000
and reached hundreds of thousands through broad media coverage
(Note: Ambassador provided radio and TV interviews at the various
caravan stops. Caravan attendees included regional GON officials
(governors, prefets, mayors), traditional chiefs, civil society
groups and youth. As was the case in past caravan phases, the
tolerance-related skits performed in local languages (e.g., Hausa,
Zarma) by the Troupe Artistique Mourna remain extremely popular.

6. (U) The next phase of the caravan, scheduled for November, will
use traditional wresting (Greco-roman style wrestling that is the
most popular sport in Niger) as a vehicle and we anticipate it will
draw much larger audiences than past caravan phases. Embassy
country team looks forward to supporting this activity that will use
as a theme the "fight against corruption."

ALLEN

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