This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS DJIBOUTI 000926
State for AF, AF/E, AF/PD; London/Paris for Africa Watcher
E.O. 12958: N/A TAGS: PREL KPAO PGOV SCUL DJ SUBJECT: Talking about Katrina in Djibouti
1. (U) SUMMARY: The country's largest circulation newspaper, published on page one a letter in French from the Ambassador expressing thanks to the Djiboutian government and people for their support during Hurricane Katrina. Misinformation in the country regarding the disaster seems to revolve largely around the racial identity of those killed or injured. END SUMMARY
2. (U) On September 13, La Nation, the country's largest circulation newspaper published an open letter to the Djiboutian government and people expressing thanks for Djibouti's support during Hurricane Katrina. Text from the letter drew from guidance issued by the Department (see para 5). The letter was paired with a sympathetic story La Nation ran about September 11 commemorations in the U.S. Post also held a small ceremony and moment of silence on September 11.
3. (U) In addition to the letter, PD has been addressing Katrina misinformation by devoting 30 minutes of each of its nightly conversation groups to answering questions about the disaster. Questions in the groups seem to be of general concern, but one reoccurring concern is the misperception that only African- Americans died or were displaced. The Public Diplomacy officer has used Department guidelines to answer questions in these groups. These answers have led to interesting and insightful questions about poverty, welfare and self-help.
4. (U) The Post-sponsored English language conversation groups are currently active in five English night schools throughout the city and six more schools are on a wait list. About 130 youth ages 16-25 participate in the groups each week and discuss civic topics with native speakers from the Embassy and US military. The groups continue to be an important aspect of PD's hearts and minds campaign and a venue for sharing the US message while simultaneously providing important insights into Djiboutian culture and attitudes.
5. (U) An English translation of the Ambassador's letter follows. Begin text:
I want to express the heartfelt thanks of the President, the United States Government and all Americans, to the leaders and citizens of Djibouti, for their kind and generous support in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. More than 500,000 residents have been affected by this disaster in the southeastern United States that has destroyed cities, divided families and killed untold numbers. We're touched and deeply grateful for Djibouti's offer of assistance and the profound feelings of friendship and sympathy that prompted it.
Support from our friends around the world is more important than ever in the face of the long rebuilding process ahead. The State Department is coordinating closely with the Department of Homeland Security to match many generous offers of international support with the needs of those affected. Assistance will help with immediate evacuations, relocations and repairs and well as longer-term needs as those areas and citizens hit by Katrina recover and begin to rebuild their lives, their families and their futures.
Recently, we have seen the American people respond generously to help others around the globe during their times of distress, such as during the recent tsunami. Today, we are seeing a similar urgent, warm and compassionate reaction from the international community in response to Katrina. Thank you for reaching out to us and for your ongoing support and friendship.