Cablegate: Somalia - Youth Enrichment Program On the Border

DE RUEHNR #2164/01 2561326
R 121326Z SEP 08




E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Somalia - Youth Enrichment Program on the Border


NAIROBI 00002164 001.2 OF 002


1. Following on the success of the inaugural Somalia Youth
Enrichment Program (YEP) in April (reftel), the Somalia Unit,
including the embedded MIST team, conducted a second YEP in the
border town of Mandera from August 25-28. Forty-five mostly Marehan
clan Somali youth came across the border to join 18 mixed clan
Kenyan youth for a week of sports, cultural activities, and
discussions. The youth ranged in age from 11 and 26 years old; most
were between 15 and 17 years old. Feedback from the participants
and media coverage have both been extremely positive. Atmospherics
and dynamics of the week will be reported septel. End summary.


2. The August 25-28 Somalia Youth Enrichment Program (YEP) in
Mandera, on the border of Somalia across from Bela-Hawa in Gedo
Region, proved to be a tremendously successful follow-on to our
inaugural YEP in April of this year (reftel). With the cooperation
of the Kenyan authorities in Mandera, 45 mostly Marehan Somali
youth, 11 of whom were females, spent five days and four nights with
18 Kenyan youth, most of whom were ethnic Somali of various clans.
The young people ranged in age from 11 to 26, with most between the
ages of 15 and 17. Activities included soccer, volleyball, and
handball. In addition, the youth participated in a Qaranic
recitation contest, an art contest, a poetry contest, and wrote
letters to leaders of their choosing, appealing for peace in

3. The youth came from a variety of organizations in Somalia,
including schools, sports organizations, and youth groups. We also
had several youth who were reformed militia, having turned away from
violence and now engaging in productive activities in Somalia. The
youth, initially suspicious of one another and their American hosts,
quickly grew into a cohesive unit, supporting one another in the
activities and trading ideas in both the formal activities and the
discussions that occurred during meals, break times, and in the

Logistical Challenges

4. The fact that the program took place in Mandera, over 1,000
kilometers from Nairobi over mostly unpaved roads, made the
preparations and execution a challenge. The Somalia Unit's PD
Assistant traveled to Mandera for a week of preparation in July,
working on details such as lodging, food and immigration
formalities. Most significantly, we were able to secure permission
from the Kenyan authorities to have the Somali youth cross the
border, which is officially closed, and remain in Kenya for a week.
The only condition placed on the activity was that Kenyan youth had
to participate.

5. The organizations through which we worked to nominate the youth
appeared to have gotten varying levels of information about the
event from our primary point of contact in Somalia, resulting in
students arriving in various states of preparedness. Many of the
students came with no provisions for the four nights at the school
dormitory, so they depended on the jerseys we provided and the
hygiene supplies we were able to purchase in Mandera. The female
participants were required to sleep in a different school from the
males, so the program included transportation to and from the
primary venue each morning and night.

6. Security proved to be an ongoing concern. The Mandera
authorities provided police presence to combat both hostile
individuals and the Mandera youth who loitered around the school,
and in fact became hostile when not given food or supplies that the
program participants were given. The septel cable on atmospherics
will elaborate on this point.

Youth Reactions

7. The youth, after some initial suspicion about our motives for
conducting the program, appeared to react very positively to the
week of activities. We were told by our Kenyan drivers, the school
administrator, and others that the students asked many questions
about why we were there. After being told uniformly by each of the

NAIROBI 00002164 002.2 OF 002

above parties that our goals were to promote reconciliation in
Somalia, focus on the role of youth in Somalia, and help the Somalis
to rebuild Somalia, the youth seemed to become more open to us and
to each other. Several of the poems, peace letters, and art work
proved extremely powerful. Post will be exploring ways to compile
these items and distribute them more widely both within the USG and
within Somalia. The youth also expressed great pride in receiving
awards at the closing ceremony for the sports and cultural

Results and Follow-up

8. Media coverage of the event is ongoing, and has been very
positive. We had several media outlets at both the opening and
closing ceremonies, and other media representatives at the
activities during the week. Even during the week, after the opening
ceremony's coverage was aired, we began getting inquiries from
farther inside Somalia about the program and how youth from other
regions could participate. In addition, the media covered the youth
reading their peace letters. We understand the impact of youth
reading their letters and poems, imploring leaders to work more
fervently for peace, had a significant impact among concerned
parties in Somalia, Kenya's Northeast Province, and throughout the
Horn of Africa.

9. While all of the youth certainly benefited from this program, we
noted a corps of especially engaged youth who obviously provided
some leadership among the youth. We will remain engaged with those
youth, hopefully visiting with them in Mandera on future trips and
communicating via email and phone until such time as we can meet
with them inside Somalia. We anticipate providing some grants to
the groups these youths represent, allowing to reach more into
Somalia and working less with Kenya-based Somalis.

10. Support from the MIST team, both in terms of personnel and
budget, allowed this program to develop into a significantly larger
operation than envisioned. We were able to increase the number of
participants from thirty to over sixty. We were also able to
provide uniforms, art and writing supplies, and awards in the form
of both medals and trophies. This was an excellent example of the
benefits afforded the Somalia Unit by the presence of the MIST team.

11. The Embassy and the Somalia Unit thank the Department for its
support in conducting this program.


© Scoop Media

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