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Cablegate: Somalia - Request for Government Outreach Voluntary Visitor


DE RUEHNR #0202/01 0331202
R 021201Z FEB 10



E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Somalia - Request for Government Outreach Voluntary Visitor

REF: 07 STATE 116686

Unclassified - entire text

1. Project Description: Somalia Unit, based at Embassy Nairobi,
requests the creation of a Voluntary Visitor (VOLVIS) program that
will enable a team of four people from Somalia's Transitional
Federal Government (TFG) to study options for enhancing their
outreach efforts on behalf of the TFG. We request a four or five
working day program.

2. Post Objective: This VOLVIS program seeks to encourage the TFG
to more efficiently and effectively conduct their outreach
activities, thereby 'winning the hearts and minds' of the Somali
people, which is a vital element in the success of the TFG.
Currently, the TFG is not capitalizing on opportunities to reach
out to their constituents - the Somali people - in a systematic
manner, with frequent and targeted media appearances. The
objective of this program would be to expose the TFG officials to
media and public affairs professionals who would guide the TFG
officials in recognizing opportunities for and situations that
require outreach, and then educating them in the most effective
means of accomplishing that outreach. At the same time, the
Minister of Information will be exposed to a variety of U.S.
policymakers, practitioners, and experts, which should positively
affect his view of the United States and the U.S. government's
efforts to improve Somalia.

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3. Background: The current administration of the TFG came to power
almost exactly one year ago. The transitional period in which to
organize elections was extended for two years, from October 2009 to
October 2011. The Sharif administration had gained significant
positive momentum until, in early May 2009, the extremist group
al-Shabaab began a sustained offensive aimed at toppling the TFG.
The offensive continues to this day, and has required the TFG to
focus almost exclusively on security, rather than the transitional

4. The current Minister of Information, who was appointed in August
2009, ran a media outlet before his appointment and has proven to
be very motivated and resourceful. His most notable success has
been the late 2009 revitalization of the TFG radio station, Radio
Mogadishu. The station had been limping along for many years with
a skeleton staff operating outdated and inadequate equipment. The
Minister independently secured a new FM transmitter from private
donors, which instantly boosted the broadcast reach of Radio
Mogadishu to 100 kilometers outside of Mogadishu. The station is
roundly cited as one of the most successful operations being
overseen by the TFG. The Minister has also overseen the
development of a new website, and a well-coordinated effort among
the international community to provide much-needed assistance to
his ministry.

5. The Somalia Unit supports the addition of the Minister of
Justice, a Member of Parliament, and the Information Minister's
Senior Advisor to this program. All three additional members are
vital parts of the TFG's ability to reach out to the Somali people,
countering the extremist messaging propagated by al-Shabaab. The
addition of a Member of Parliament will allow a member of the
legislative branch to absorb information about messaging along with
his colleagues from the executive branch of the TFG.

6. Post Recommendations: Post recommends the following three themes
for the program:

a. Understanding the importance of proactive and systematic
outreach - How does a government coordinate itself to administer an
effective outreach operation? How does a government decide which
events merit an aggressive outreach campaign or response? When
should a government refrain from engaging in a 'war of words' with
groups who are not governed by norms of media work?

b. Developing appropriate messaging in order to achieve policy
goals - How should a government shape messages in a situation in an
often-hostile physical environment? How does a government counter
messages from a well-funded extremist group that is not bound by

rules of factuality and decency? What tools are the most
appropriate for various situations?

c. Understanding U.S. policy goals in Somalia - What are the United
States government's primary goals in Somalia? How do the U.S.
government's goals complement the goals that Somalis hold for
themselves? What is the U.S. government doing to affect positive
change in Somalia? In contrast to the extremist propaganda, what
is the reality of U.S. engagement with Somalia?

7. Post recommends the team meet their respective counterparts at
the following U.S. institutions (if possible):

* Foreign Press Center.

* One or more studios of major media outlets.

* Think tanks.

The team would like to understand the processes and tools used in
mounting effective media campaigns, whether short or long term.

8. Timing: Somalia Unit requests that this program take place as
soon as possible. The Minister of Information, the leader of this
delegation, is planning a wide-ranging trip to visit the United
Kingdom and Canada, in addition to the United States. We are
coordinating with our Nairobi-based British and Canadian
counterparts to ensure this trip has maximum effectiveness and
efficiency. As such, we are requesting that this program be
conducted in late February or early March, depending on when the
Minister receives his U.S. visa and begins his travel. The
Minister is slated to be back in Africa for a meeting starting on
or about March 5.

9. Nominees: The group will be composed of four TFG representatives
with different areas of oversight and responsibility for outreach
on behalf of the TFG. Full bio data are available for the nominees
in the EVDB under project number E/VFE-2010-0178.

10. Support: The TFG will pay for the international airfare for the
group. Somalia Unit asks that ECA/PE/V/F/E contribute per diem,
housing, and internal transportation for the group during the
proposed program.

11. Points of Contact: PAO for Somalia Mark. V Zimmer,, 254-20-363-6181, fax 254-20-363-6329.
Alternate POC: Public Affairs Assistant Ali Issack,; 254-20-363-6198.

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