DE RUEHDS #0738/01 0731401
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 141401Z MAR 06
FM AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9539
INFO RUCNFUR/DARFUR COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ADDIS ABABA 000738
DEPARTMENT FOR AF/FO, AF/SPG, AF/RSA, AF/E, AF/PD. LONDON AND PARIS FOR AFRICA WATCHERS.
E.O. 12958: N/A TAGS: PREL KPKO SU KPAO AU SUBJECT: DARFUR - AMIS MEDIA STRATEGY NEEDS HELP
REF: ADDIS ABABA 723
SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED. NOT FOR INTERNET DISTRIBUTION.
1. (SBU) Summary/Action Request: The African Union (AU) recognizes that its mission in Darfur, Sudan (AMIS) requires a more proactive public outreach approach, especially in light of the March 10 AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) decision to approve transition of AMIS to a UN operation. AU Spokesman for Sudan Amb. Assane Ba and Darfur Integrated Task Force (DITF) Public Information Officer David Lemon met with PAO, poloff and Canadian poloff March 9 to outline AMIS draft media strategy and request that partners provide political support, as well as equipment. Post requests Department guidance on what support the USG is prepared to offer to improve AMIS media strategy (see paragraph 10). End summary.
GETTING AMIS MEDIA STRATEGY FOCUSED
2. (SBU) Addis-based partners working with the AU on Darfur have long highlighted the need to improve AMIS public outreach. On March 9, AU Spokesman for Sudan Dr. Assane Ba and DITF Public Information Officer David Lemon met PAO, poloff and Canadian poloff for an exchange of views on the AMIS draft media strategy (circulated to AF/SPG).
3. (SBU) The AU team had identified the need to properly manage AMIS transition in the media following the expected March 10 PSC decision. Ba and Lemon acknowledged that the AU should also reach out to Darfur civilians in order to avoid the impression that transition means abandonment. The partner team noted that the AU needs to convey the message that AMIS will redouble efforts to provide security in Darfur during the transition period, without raising expectations of AMIS capability.
4. (SBU) The AU and partner representatives agreed that AMIS target audiences should include the international community, with a focus on Arab media, press in AMIS troop contributing countries (TCC), civilians in Darfur, and NGOs.
CURRENT STATE OF PLAY
5. (SBU) According to Ba and Lemon, AMIS has a Public Information Unit Head in Khartoum, with one staff member. There is also a Senior Information Officer in El Fasher. One AMIS information officer is supporting the Darfur political talks in Abuja. AMIS Headquarters in Khartoum issues press releases and compiles news summaries for dissemination to a mailing list. Ba said that AMIS holds irregular press briefings. The AU arranged for a press tour for international media representatives in May 2005. AU headquarters has also circulated a CD-ROM on "The African Union and the Conflict in the Darfur Region of the Sudan", which contains AMIS photos and documents such as the AU Chairperson's report on Darfur. The AU maintains a website dedicated to AU involvement in Darfur at www.africa-union.org/Darfur/homedar.htm, where it also posts Cease Fire Commission Reports (albeit far too slowly).
6. (SBU) Lemon said that AMIS was granted two hours of air time per week by the Sudanese Government. The DITF is not briefed on radio programming content, nor has Lemon visited the field to make contact with AMIS media experts.
- GETTING THE STRATEGY UP AND RUNNING, WITH HELP
7. (SBU) Immediately following the March 10 PSC decision, the AU organized a press conference to explain elements of the outcome. According to Amb. Ba, the AU plans a series of op eds on AU efforts to build peace in Sudan, a book containing PSC decisions on Darfur, a poster series, and a media tour for international and TCC press. The AU plans to rely heavily on the AMIS radio segment, or to establish its own broadcasting system.
8. (SBU) Amb. Ba emphasized the importance of public partner political support for AMIS and AU-led mediation in Abuja. Lemon cited the need for broadcasting equipment and media personnel with local language expertise.
9. (SBU) Comment/Action Request: Based on AU and NGO descriptions, AMIS media posture to date has been largely
ADDIS ABAB 00000738 002 OF 002
reactive, rather than proactive. The March 10 PSC decision to accept transition of AMIS to a UN mission is positive, but creates additional challenges for the AU's public image. The future of AU-led peacekeeping requires highlighting AMIS success and portrayal of the transition as a natural process. Populations in Darfur must also be reassured that AMIS is not abandoning them, and informed of AMIS mandate. A proactive media strategy for AMIS and the AU-led Abuja talks will also help facilitate the transition process and delivery of necessary, but ever sensitive, partner assistance to the AU.
10. (SBU) The AU is in many ways starting from ground zero when it comes to public outreach. Former AU Spokesperson Desmond Orjiako highlighted severe short-staffing and technical constraints as major obstacles to AU proactivity. Amb. Ba and Lemon indicated that proactive AMIS media strategy still needs to be sold politically to AU leadership, and requested partner assistance. Post requests Department guidance on how the USG may be able to help the AU take control of its public image on Darfur, including through provision of equipment or technical assistance. Other AU partners are also considering assistance, but Post recommends a coordinated assistance package for proposal to the AU soonest. Addis-based heads of mission will soon meet with AU Peace and Security Commissioner Djinnit to press for progress on key issues to render AMIS more effective. One of these points will relate to AMIS media posture. End comment/action request. HUDDLESTON