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2005-01-09 11:37:00
Embassy Djibouti
Cable title:  

Outreach in Djibouti -- Out of Step with Needs?

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						UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 DJIBOUTI 000032 


London/Paris pass to Africa Watcher, ARS; CJTF-HOA pass to
IO; State pass to AF/PD

E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Outreach in Djibouti -- Out of Step with Needs?

1.(U) This is an action request; see paragraph 10.

2. (U) SUMMARY: The lack of resources to address English
language education is a serious detriment to public outreach
in Djibouti. An extremely weak civil society and lack of
technology limits Post's ability to pair with local partners
for the reliable and successful administration of existing
Department of State English language programs. A critical
key to public outreach in this country, across class, tribe
and gender, is English language education. Unfortunately,
Embassy Djibouti is currently ill equipped to address this
need on a large scale. END SUMMARY

3. (U) While Djibouti is considered an ally in the War on
Terror and a moderate nation, it is also 99 percent Muslim,
an Arab League Member and rated "high" by the US government
for transnational terrorism. It has porous borders and is
located in the infamously rough neighborhood of the Horn of
Africa, which also includes Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea,
Yemen and Sudan. More than 50 percent of Djibouti's
population is under the age of 25, and 40 percent of its
citizens live below the poverty line. The country has seen
an increase in Wahabbist activity and influence since
independence from France in 1977 and is in need of effective

4. (U) Although there are tribal, ethnic and class
divisions, a unifying feature of Djiboutian society is the
desire to learn English, which is considered the language of
the world market and the key to relations with most other
nations. Contacts have noted that even most regional
business is conducted in English, due to differences in
Arabic dialects and the country's geographic isolation from
other Francophone countries. An unofficial poll at Post
found officers have been approached about English language
education from an astounding range of sources, including
officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, police
officers, members of the Chamber of Commerce, herders in
villages, high school students and even a khat seller on the

5. (U) There is no formal system for learning English in
Djibouti. The English teachers who do exist often have
language skills that do not exceed the State Department
language rating of 1+/2, as evidenced recently during a
workshop on teaching methods jointly organized by Post's
Public Diplomacy Office and the English Teacher's
Association of Djibouti. Even those who do acquire
rudimentary English skills have difficulty advancing them,
due to extreme poverty and a lack of scholarships or other
financial assistance for higher education. There is no
public library in Djibouti.

6. (U) While the need for Embassy outreach via English
language education is clear, the lack of a developed civil
society and limited human resources at Post, pose an
enormous challenge. While other small Posts have partner
institutions for American Corners and other English language
projects, Djibouti's weak institutions make locating
trustworthy and reliable partners nearly impossible. The
government, while willing to help, will not guarantee public
access to English materials. For example, Post must
regularly visit the country's only university to ensure that
library materials we have donated are available for student
use. Frequently we find them locked away and inaccessible
and must appeal to the school administration to unlock the
library's doors during school hours.

7. (U) Post's Public Diplomacy section, which is entering
its second year of existence, has spent much of its time in
institution building, with some notable successes. We are
active with an English Club at the University and have
established an English Language Laboratory there with EACTI
funds. We have funded the start-up of the country's only
independent press group, which is now publishing newspapers
semi-regularly and in three languages. We have helped the
English Teacher's Association lay the groundwork for
financial solvency and are about to sign an American
Corner's agreement with them for their newly established
classroom space. We are in the midst of pursuing an
International Visitors alumni group and an agreement to
regularly air "Connect with English," (a Department of State
English teaching video series) on local television. A focus
of 2005 is identifying partners to begin hosting English
language conversation groups, which we hope to provide with
native English speakers with the help of the Combined Joint
Task Force-Horn of Africa.

8. (U) In addition, other agencies at Post have addressed
the English education question. The Department of Defense's
U.S. Liaison Office has established a $300, 000 language
laboratory for the Djiboutian military, and USAID has
facilitated the arrival of five teachers from the
International Foundation of Education and Self-Help (IFESH),
who are working at various schools in the capital. Despite
all of our inter-agency progress, however, we believe there
is still a long way to go.

9. (U) A variation on the American Corners theme would be an
enormously successful tool in Djibouti. However, for Post to
have confidence that its resources were being used properly,
and that free and open access was being provided, it would
require that we both rent the space for the Corners and hire
a LES to manage it. French Cooperation currently operates a
similar and enormously successful reading room in the
capital which has about six tables and offers French-
language periodicals and fiction and non-fiction books.
Djiboutians can borrow books from the reading room for a
marginal annual fee (about $3 US for students; $8 US for
others). The reading room services approximately 500
Djiboutians each week, according to French Cooperation.
COMMENT: This would also solve Post's need for publicly
accessible programming space which is extremely limited now,
due not only to security concerns but also to space
constraints on the compound. (For example, until recently,
our Political Officer's desk was located in a hallway due to
lack of space). END COMMENT

10. (U) Action requested: Post requests a one-year grant to
rent off-compound space for a reading room and to hire a
temporary LES for management. At the end of the one-year
trial the project can be evaluated for effectiveness with a
set of criteria jointly developed by Post and Washington. If
the project is deemed unsuccessful, resources will be
donated to schools and local associations via the Public
Diplomacy grants program.