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Cablegate: Meeting with Northern Nigerian Interfaith "Bridge

VZCZCXRO1608
PP RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHUJA #2356 3121507
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 081507Z NOV 07
FM AMEMBASSY ABUJA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1405
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RUEHOS/AMCONSUL LAGOS 8240
RHEBAAA/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHDC
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK

UNCLAS ABUJA 002356

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR AF/W, INR/AA
ENERGY FOR CAROLYN GAY

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM NI
SUBJECT: MEETING WITH NORTHERN NIGERIAN INTERFAITH "BRIDGE
BUILDERS"


1. SUMMARY: PolOffs and a visiting DRL/IRF PMF participated
in an "Interactive Session with Interfaith and Faith Based
NGOs in Kaduna State," sponsored by the Bridge Builders
Association of Nigeria, a group of Christian bishops, Muslim
clerics and activists which promotes interfaith dialogue and
ethnic harmony. The consensus of participants was that a
combination of political and economic factors, more than
religion, provoked communal violence in the north, and that
USG participation in interfaith dialogue was welcomed. While
many interlocutors expressed a general disillusionment with
US foreign policy, community leaders expressed a desire for
USG help in building local capacity to address unemployment,
poverty, health and governance issues, which are shared
across faiths and ethnic groups. END SUMMARY.

2. Despite media portrayals of the U.S. as anti-Muslim and
suspicion of US motivations, most of the approximately 80
representatives from about 20 NGOs who attended the Bridge
Builders event welcomed USG participation in interfaith
dialogue and saw it as a positive force for promoting peace,
stability and development in northern Nigeria. The groups
agreed that a sustained and regular dialogue between USG and
communities in the north is needed. They identified many
sources of religious conflict, including youth unemployment,
media agitation, poor governance that left social ills
unaddressed, and incitement by political and economic elites
for their own benefit. Many participants urged the USG to
engage with grassroots NGOs rather than just high level
officials.

3. Some attendees expressed admiration for the USG, in
particular its promotion of women into positions of public
trust, and of America as a multi-cultural society. One female
participant noted that although women are the primary victims
of conflict, they are never part of peace talks; another
suggested that if women had more influence, there would be
less conflict in Northern Nigeria. PolOff's observation that
our incoming Ambassador, and current DCM, Assistant Secretary
of State for African Affairs and Secretary of State were all
women brought sustained applause from the women in the
meeting.

4. A former Nigerian diplomat described the need for serious
efforts to counter the "misinformation, misunderstanding and
misinterpretation of events" that spread conflict along
religious lines and called into question U.S. principles and
motives. PolOff noted that several American interventions in
recent years have been to better the lives of Muslims around
the world i.e. Bosnia, Kosovo, tsunami relief, and a less
positive experience in Somalia. PolOff acknowledged that the
USG has not been as successful as it would like in getting
its message to, and in having a meaningful dialogue with,
communities like theirs in northern Nigeria, but that we were
making efforts to change that.

5. COMMENT: The dialogue at the forum was frank, animated,
and respectful, and seemed much appreciated and well received
by all. The heavy turnout for the event indicated a strong
desire on the part of civil society in the North to engage
with the USG. Post intends to continue this dialogue, and
will include USAID and PAS staff on future visits. END
COMMENT.
PIASCIK

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