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Cablegate: Media Reaction: President-Elect Barack Obama

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OO RUEHGI RUEHMA RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #1627/01 3121030
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O 071030Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
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TAGS: PGOV PREL KPKO SOCI AU UNSC MCAP KPAO SU
SUBJECT: MEDIA REACTION: PRESIDENT-ELECT BARACK OBAMA

1. (SBU) Summary: Pro-government and independent press here featured
front-page photos of the president-elect and reported the Ministry
of Foreign Affairs'(MFA) statement congratulating the United States
on Senator Obama's election, with Foreign Minister (FM) Deng Alor
hoping for "positive contributions" from the new administration.
Editorial writers and columnists in a range of papers took turns in
commending American democracy for Obama's selection, but also
criticizing the past policies of the Democratic party toward Sudan.
End Summary.

2. (SBU) Sudanese FM and Southerner Deng Alor expressed unbridled
optimism at the prospect of an Obama administration through a press
release on November 5, in which he noted the Government of Sudan
(GoS) intends to open a "new chapter" with the United States. Alor
claimed to have spoken with U.S. officials close to Obama who had
promised they would make progress on normalizing U.S.-Sudanese
relations, and even concluded that Obama has Sudanese blood, as his
ancestors are descendents of the Luo tribes, Nilotic cattle herders
such as Alor's own Dinka, which migrated from southern Sudan to
Kenya centuries ago. The official spokesman of the MFA, northerner
Ali al-Sadiq, was comparatively less enthusiastic, but still strove
to contrast an Obama administration to GoS perceptions of the Bush
administration. "We would hope that the slogan of President Obama -
'change' - would be reflected in the foreign policy in the United
States, especially towards Sudan and oppressed countries, the
Palestinians, the Iraqis and the Somalis. We would like to see some
real change between Sudan and the United States."

3. (SBU) Editorial columnists differed in their analysis of the
elections. El Hindi Izzedin, writing in the pro-government Akher
Lahza, commended the U.S. for its elections, and encouraged other
countries of the world to follow suit. Osman Mirghani, writing in
the independent, non-Islamist paper Al-Sudani, interpreted the
results by praising what he saw as American meritocracy, and
criticizing Sudan's obsession with racial and tribal differences.
Mirghani asks rhetorically: "Which would have been better - to bomb
several buildings with planes on September 11, or to invest in its
flexible political system, as Obama did? Which would have been
better - to kill over three thousand Americans in the World Trade
Center or convert three thousand Americans to Islam?"

4. (SBU) In his commentary article "I Have a Dream," in the
independent daily Al Ayam, Al-Sadig Mahdi al-Sherief cautions
Sudanese against hoping that an Obama presidency will improve
relations with Sudan: "Do not dream of a happy world! As soon as a
Caesar dies a new Caesar is born." Awkwardly paraphrasing Martin
Luther King, Jr., he continues, "We, as generations who inherited
this situation, have a dream too! Our dream is that Obama's America
should balance and discern between its interests and our interests."


5. (SBU) Pro-government writer Mohamed Abdel Gadir, who recently
accompanied GoS Vice President Ali Osman Taha on a trip to the UN,
reiterated a common Sudanese fear that the incoming Democratic
administration intends to follow a much harsher policy towards Sudan
than its predecessor. In pro-government Al-Rai Al-Aam, he writes,
"Even though the Sudanese street is happy due to the new president's
African roots, emotions should not distract us from the essential
facts in review of the future of relations between Khartoum and
Washington under the new Democratic administration." While calling
the U.S. "the country of opportunities and miracles," he
simultaneously warns that Senator Obama is prepared to embrace Susan
Rice and John Prendergast, both former Clinton administration
officials feared and despised by the Islamist regime, and so
Sudanese should "not dream of a happy world... Khartoum and Obama's
administration, what is coming is even worse!"

6. (SBU) The gold medal for hyperbole in the Sudanese press
following the election of Senator Obama goes to Mekki al-Maghribi,
in Al-Sudani, with an article entitled, "I Support McCain!"
Al-Maghribi tells the Sudanese of his concerns about the Democractic
Party by reminding them of the 1998 missile strike on al-Shifa
pharmaceutical plant, and then veers far afield to imply that Obama
intends the worst in Africa. "The modern Democratic Party has
nominated a powerful knight called Barack Hussein Obama to implement
the white man's interests easily! In fact, Democrats are wicked
even more than the Republicans! Mr. Obama will infect the third
world and the Islamic world ... to prove his impartiality!"

7. (SBU) Comment: Today's positive press reflects general Sudanese
interest in the U.S. election and a local twist on the pan-African
pride regarding Senator Obama. In fact, had two local independent
newspapers not taken the drastic step to stop the presses for three
days (with Ajras Al-Hurriya personnel observing a one-day hunger
strike) to protest government censorship, Post expects that articles
in a similar vein would have been even more plentiful. Editorials

KHARTOUM 00001627 002 OF 002


critical of the U.S. are nothing new in the Sudanese press, but
today's criticism reveals a deep abiding fear within Khartoum's
National Congress Party of President Bashir that a Democratic
administration will pursue a tougher policy of confrontation and
destabilization. This is in contrast with giddy congratulatory phone
calls Charge Fernandez has received from several Darfuri rebels,
opposition party leaders and an enthused Foreign Minister Alor. End
Comment.

FERNANDEZ

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