|09KHARTOUM247||2009-02-24 06:16:00||UNCLASSIFIED||Embassy Khartoum|
R 240616Z FEB 09 FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM TO SECSTATE WASHDC 3059 INFO DARFUR COLLECTIVE IGAD COLLECTIVE
UNCLAS KHARTOUM 000247
1. (SBU) SUMMARY: The Public Affairs Section (PAS) in Khartoum and
the U.S. Consulate General in Juba cast a wide net within civil
society for this year's African-American History Month programming.
Participants sought to learn from America's experience in combating
racism, addressing cultural diversity and, ultimately, arriving at a
sense of national identity. Pulled in two directions, Sudan's
population feels it belongs to both the Arab world and to Black
Africa. Discussions explored how the country can reconcile the two
and, through this meeting point, establish the nation's strength.
2. (SBU) The program began in Juba with a discussion via Digital
Video Conference (DVC) with Africa Regional Services (ARS) Paris.
With the Consul General as moderator, in Juba, Cultural Affairs
Officer Sheldon Austin discussed President Barack Obama's
autobiography "Dreams from My Father" to an audience of university
students, professors and local media. Like the Kenyans, southern
Sudanese "claim" President Obama as one of their own due to ethnic
and kinship ties. Interest in the topic was high. Participants
sought clarity on what President Obama's Africa policy would be, how
he could have a Muslim father and profess a belief in Christianity,
and why he would write a book on his father when it was his mother
who taught him the lessons of life. The program was a first in Juba
and demonstrated strong interest there in follow-up discussions on
related topics. Participants put election-related issues at the top
of their list of priorities for the next event.
3. (SBU) In Khartoum, PAS partnered with the Juba University
Equatoria Students Cultural Association (JUESCA) for outreach to the
far-flung Kadaro Campus of the University of Juba. JUESCA brings
together some sixteen ethnic groupings of the South. The campus had
not benefited from any U.S. Embassy programming in the past and was,
in fact, initially resistant to the idea. However, as southerners
in northern Sudan, these largeQe"@
classes to permit students to attend.
4. (SBU) "African-American Experience: First-Hand Testimonies"
featured a panel of seven African-Americans. Of these, four gave
presentations. The latter topics addressed issues of duality:
"First Impressions of the United States (Myth Versus Reality)"; "The
African Diaspora Experience," "Growing up African, Becoming
American"; "What Is Positive in American Society for
African-Americans, and What Still Needs to Change." Discussion was
lively and enabled students to dispel many popularly-held
misconceptions about the present state of race relations in America
and about African-Americans' sense of identity and assimilation into
American society. The frank and open dialogue created a bond
between the university and the Embassy, one which students and
administrators asked PAS to continue in the form of future
partnerships. In written comments about the program, one student
asked the Embassy to "assist students with effective skills in
communication, language, management, and leadership." The Embassy
made generous use of america.gov articles as well as IIP
publications and resource suggestions.
5. (SBU) The ARS Paris-led Khartoum DVC combined an audience of
intellectuals, journalists, nongovernmental organization
representatives and two VIPs. Speaker Eddy Harris hit a raw nerve
with his topic "Black Americans/Black Africans: What Are the
Commonalities beyond Race?" as issues of race and national belonging
are still sensitive in Sudan. Participants asked repeatedly how
they could learn from the American experience and use it to their
advantage, given Sudan's racial, ethnic and religious diversity.
Many stated they were pulled in two opposite directions: toward the
Arab world as well as the African heartland. One participant
recalled emotionally how at a conference in England, two opposing
groups - one Arab and the other Black African - literally pulled on
each of her arms in an attempt to get her to join their respective
sides. As a solution to the dichotomy, an educator participating
via DVC proposed that Sudan be the "meeting point." "[Sudan] is the
combination that brings people together," he noted, with regard to
the participant's crisis of identity. Eddy Harris ably fielded
challenging questions about accepting diversity and fostering
citizenship, suggesting, "the nation state is the new tribe of the
6. (SBU) At Omdurman Islamic University student center, the
Information Resource Center (IRC) presented the film "Everyday Use,"
based on the homonymous novel by Alice Walker. Three lecturers and
twenty-two students joined for this screening and discussion. IRC
material on African-American literature, the short story text, and
biography of the author were distributed.
7. (SBU) English-language independent daily "Khartoum Monitor,"
which presents a southern Sudan editorial and reporting line, ran a
quarter-page article on February 21 about the Juba University
cultural dialogue encounter. It quoted one of the panelists, who
praised President Barack Obama as a role model: "The most powerful
man in the world has a lovely family, which is showing the physical
and moral beauty of Black America at its best."