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Cablegate: Haiti Disaster Competes with Domestic Priorities, But

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INFO ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
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SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL SCUL KPAO HA NI
SUBJECT: HAITI DISASTER COMPETES WITH DOMESTIC PRIORITIES, BUT
NIGERIANS STILL DONATE

REF: STATE 6918

1. (U) Nigeria media were initially slow to report on the
earthquake in Haiti. Initial reports largely derived from wire
services and contained limited factual reporting on U.S. support of
relief efforts. Early reporting and editorials largely criticized
the failure of the Nigerian Government (GON) to respond and offer
assistance. An editorial in the January 18 "Punch" newspaper
("Helping Haiti") was typical: "It is time to take that
humanitarian side of us into the new decade. We urge Vice
President Goodluck Jonathan to, without delay, dispatch Nigerian
troops to Haiti to help in the rescue operations. Medical and
paramedical personnel should accompany the soldiers. Many other
countries have committed immense resources; there is no reason why
Nigeria should not be prominent on that list ... It is not only the
government that can help. Individuals and businesses should
contribute cash and materials for onward shipment to Haiti."

2. (U) Per reftel, POLOFF contacted the Nigerian Foreign Ministry
(MFA) to determine Nigeria's assistance to the Haiti earthquake
relief effort. According to MFA Regions Department Director
Vincent Okedion, the GON planned to donate $1.5 million in funding.
Okedion told PolOff January 27 that his government had not yet
decided the mechanism or organization to which these funds would be
allocated, but that "the donation would be sent soon." In addition
to the federal government's contribution, Senior Special Assistant
on Foreign Relations Toyin Caxton-Martins of the Lagos State
Government informed PolOffs January 21 that the Rivers State
Government Executive Council decided to donate one million dollars
to Haiti disaster relief efforts. All Rivers State cabinet members
pledged personal donations of one thousand dollars each. According
to Rivers State Governor Chibuike Amechi, the state planned to send
donations through President Obama's Haiti Initiative headed by
former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush "to ensure that
the money and items get sent directly to the people of Haiti."

3. (U) Soon afterward, Nigerian media reported GON donations, with
the "The Guardian" reporting January 21 that Senate President David
Mark announced a one-million dollar donation to the people and
government of Haiti "to ameliorate the pains of the massive
earthquake that ravaged the country." "Leadership" also reported
January 21 that the House of Representatives planned to contribute
about 50,000 dollars, with each of the 360 House members expected
to contribute close to 150 dollars each. BBC Hausa Service
reported January 22 that Foreign Minister Ojo Maduekwe had
travelled to New York to present the GON's donation of 1.5 million
dollars for Haiti through the United Nations. Maduekwe told the
BBC that the GON "will come out with a plan on how individuals and
organizations can donate to relief efforts in Haiti," and added
that the country "will also send professionals like doctors and
engineers to assist in reconstruction efforts later."

4. (U) To focus Nigerian media on the U.S. humanitarian relief
effort in Haiti, Mission Nigeria sent an SMS blast on January 15
with a link to the U.S. Haiti relief page on America.gov to key
Nigerian media contacts. This triggered coverage in some weekend
papers, positively highlighting U.S. assistance. Mission sent an
updated USAID Fact Sheet number six and the Haiti Photo Gallery
January 20 to highlight the U.S. "diplomacy of deeds" and encourage
accurate reporting showcasing U.S. humanitarian relief efforts in
Haiti. Editorial and op-ed pieces carried divergent views on U.S.
humanitarian efforts, with the majority carrying positive coverage
reflecting information from the materials to which the Mission had
earlier directed them. An opinion article entitled "Haiti: A
global human tragedy" by Orji Uzor Kalu in the January 23 "Sun" is
typical: "The United States has demonstrated rare generosity and
brotherliness by the massive number of personnel it has drafted to
Haiti to help in the search and rescue operations. This is aside
from the 100 million it pledged in aid and reconstruction."

5. (U) As the story developed, we observed further placements of
U.S. public diplomacy materials, and media reports consistently
highlighted U.S. relief efforts in largely positive terms, although

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a few, less influential local media reprinted some of the initial
negative international press stories. The U.S. Mission is also
using the presence of a senior Nigerian naval officer on the Africa
Partnership Station ship USS "Gunston Hall," redeployed to Haiti,
to highlight U.S. support. We placed a photo of U.S. and Nigerian
naval personnel in Haiti and arranged a telephone interview January
26 between the Nigerian press and the Nigerian naval officer.

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COMMENT

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6. (SBU) Overall, media coverage of the earthquake in Haiti
continued to take a back seat to several high-profile domestic
issues, including the January 17 outbreak of communal violence in
Jos. END COMMENT.
SANDERS

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