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African Journey

Aired July 13, 2003 - 20:00   ET


LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: A journey into Africa. A first for me professionally and personally.

So this would be a cell that the men would stay in.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And down there.

HARRIS: A rare view of the continent and people, often portrayed only through epidemics, poverty and war.

Africa is, indeed, misunderstood. I went in search of the truth -- in Senegal ...

HARRIS: Are you surprised we can hear about the different impressions that Americans have about Africa?

HARRIS: ... in South Africa ...

HARRIS: Soweto has plenty of crime and poverty and disease. But if you think that's all there is, you are in for a surprise.

HARRIS: ... and in Uganda.

HARRIS: The man who donated blood for you died?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. That's the situation we are talking about. That the collapse of the health infrastructure in Africa is never talked about when people are talking about AIDS. They only to talk about people screwing themselves to death

HARRIS: Frank and powerful stories of African lives that challenge your assumptions.

Those stories -- my story -- as CNN PRESENTS "African Journey."


HARRIS: Welcome to a special edition of CNN PRESENTS. I'm Leon Harris. President Bush is just back from his first trip to Africa, and the five-day, five-nation tour that focused for the most part on Africa's success stories -- its growing democracies, free economies and AIDS prevention.

But for many, Africa remains more easily defined by its failures than its accomplishments.

A few weeks ago, I, too, made my first trip to sub-Saharan Africa, just ahead of President Bush, to experience African life for myself. And like the President, I toured Senegal, South Africa and Uganda.

But that's pretty much where our journeys and, no doubt, our experiences diverged.


HARRIS (voice-over): Africa. Beautiful. Confusing. Even frightening, especially to a first-time visitor like me.

Our first stop -- Senegal, in West Africa. The capital, Dakar. We needed a guide. We got a good one.


HARRIS: Senegal's most-famous son, world music star Youssou N'Dour.

He's taken Senegalese music to the world, performed with Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Peter Gabriel, to name a few.

HARRIS: Are you surprised when you hear about the different impressions that Americans have about Africa?

YOUSSOU N'DOUR, SENEGALESE MUSIC STAR: Yes, I think, you know, he (ph) needs to know a lot of things, because I think sometimes people are looking more than what they show on the medias.

HARRIS: And black Americans, in our minds, sometimes there's this conflict. You think about Africa as being a place where, you know, a beautiful land full of beautiful people who happen to look like you and have a wonderful long history.

But then you see the chaos.

N'DOUR: Yes.

HARRIS: And the chaos makes you ashamed.

N'DOUR: Yes.

HARRIS: And it makes you want to distance yourself and say, I don't care about those people over there.

N'DOUR: Yes. Yes, yes. It's the contradiction. And this is my place.

HARRIS: Which one was your house?

N'DOUR: This one.

HARRIS: Our first stop, the neighborhood where he grew up. Medina, central Dakar.

He wanted to show us the importance of family in Senegalese life.

His grandmother is 90. Her story-telling influences him to this day.

What's that?

N'DOUR: She said, long time -- long time she doesn't see me here.

My music comes from this place of Dakar, called Medina. This is not the richest one. It's the middle class or poor class. And the music is around the world. People are really proud.

HARRIS: That's -- isn't that something? That's cool.

N'DOUR: Yes.

HARRIS: To think that something from Medina ...

N'DOUR: Yes.

HARRIS: ... could be all the way around the world.

N'DOUR: Yes, and when they get it back, they're really proud about it.

HARRIS: Yes. That's great. That's great.

N'DOUR: And myself, too.

My heart is really here.

HARRIS: Still right here.


HARRIS: N'Dour's music is about the everyday life of Senegalese.

This is a Muslim country.

N'DOUR: Yes.

HARRIS: But the women here are still allowed to be pretty much whatever they want to be. And, I see they wear what they want to wear. I see the women, they're not -- they don't seem to be afraid to speak up, ...

N'DOUR: Yes.

HARRIS: ... you know.

Why is that here?

N'DOUR: We respect what the Koran say. At the same time we have life.

And when you go at night to my club, you see how twice (ph) woman are. You say -- you say, this country is going to be never fundamentalist country.

And it's great. We have in this country also, you know, different religions. And we respect everything. We write. And is right (ph).

HARRIS: Youssou got us to thinking about the tolerant style of Islam practiced in Senegal. One of the Dakar area's leading Muslim clerics agreed to meet us at this mosque to talk about it.

Before our appointment, we heard the call to prayer.

Even that seems different here. It has soul.

HARRIS: But we were not prepared for the arrival of Mohamed Gorgis Senegale -- God's caliph on earth. He came with an entourage -- about 20 women, 40 or 50 men. Not professional clerics, regular people -- street vendors, car mechanics and the like, who wanted to listen to and take notes of our interview.


HARRIS: The Caliph told us about his Islam. He says the original Islam, in which jihad is forbidden, where politics and religion do not mix. An Islam of tolerance and love.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Freedom is the core of the Islam. Freedom was creed, and tolerance. And, you know, practice. You must not criticize the others, because you are not God.

HARRIS: Senegal has its share of problems. What place doesn't. But it is a stable democracy. A 95 percent Muslim country where a Christian served as president for more than 20 years.

Youssou N'Dour is a rags-to-riches hero here because he stayed here. He could have moved to Paris or London or New York, but didn't. In fact, he believes high-powered, developed cultures can learn something from Senegal.

N'DOUR: Everybody, every country have something. The world sometimes, the United States means riches, economic.

And for me, for us, riches mean different things sometimes. Happy. Family.

I'm sure 100 percent it's better here. HARRIS: Better here.

N'DOUR: Better here. Better -- a lot of things is -- family, community, cultures. And never someone get better than home (ph).

HARRIS: The struggle to show, as Youssou N'Dour put it, the other face of Africa, continued to intrigue me after we met.

So before leaving Senegal, I wanted to talk with the woman they call the African Queen -- Marie Angelique Savane, sociologist, scholar and international consultant.

I sat down for a conversation with Mrs. Savane outside her home in Senegal.

HARRIS: We came here because we want to hear what Africans think about the misperceptions that Americans have about Africa and about Africans. What do you think?

MARIE ANGELIQUE SAVANE, SOCIOLOGIST: I think it's part of lack of knowledge and lack of information, because I have lived in America. And I used to remember everywhere people would ask me, you are from Africa? As if Africa was a country.

Every day they used to ask me whether I was living in the jungle. You know, this is common. Everywhere I have got mainly with kids, they will say, mommy, can we ask her where she's coming from? Did she knew (ph) lions? And so on and so forth.

They didn't have the feeling that we have cities in Africa. So, for them probably we are not wearing even dresses, you see?

And I have had some questions whether I used to be dressed like this. And I will say, well, we wear clothes.

Oh, we thought that you were just wearing this thing around your waist.

So I think this is the image you can get through TV, through any type of movie and so on and so forth.

HARRIS: These would be white people asking you these questions, or black people in America?

SAVANE: Oh, many white people. The black would not dare to show that they were ignorant of Africa. For various reasons, I could feel that they will not dare to ask questions.

It didn't mean that they knew better, but many times they were uncomfortable to ask or to show their ignorance about Africa. So, I think it's a kind of common situation.

So, there is a difference because the black will be more supportive or more sympathetic, but they didn't have more knowledge.

HARRIS: I would be insulted. I know that African-Americans are insulted when they hear white people say those sorts of things or ask those kind of questions.

Are you not insulted when people ask you things like that?

SAVANE: No, I'm not insulted, because I know it's based on ignorance, you know.

I can understand African-American reacting that way, because of the contradiction you have within your own society whereby you think that whenever a statement of this type is made, it's an aggression against you, because people know and they do it on purpose.

HARRIS: Islam has been offered to me as an explanation for why things in Senegal are not the same as in some of the neighboring countries around Senegal, which seem to be in conflict, I mean, chaos quite often.

Senegal has always -- seems to have been at peace for a long time. Democracy has flourished here, at least for some time here.

And Islam has been given to me as an answer for that. Do you see it that way?

SAVANE: Islam and the religion in general. I think Islam is organized here. You have some big leaders. You know, we have real leaders, and the people tend to have the discipline to follow their leaders.

So the way Islam is organized here, it has more control on the people. So meaning that the tolerance between the two -- the different kinds of social organization has been quite helpful in avoiding social conflicts and so on and so forth.

The good side of thing in Senegal is that we always have an intellectual debate. Our first president was a Christian in a country of more than 80 percent of the adult (ph) rate, more than 80 percent of the population were Muslim.

And our first president, Leopold Sedar Senghor, was a Christian.

HARRIS: A Christian president of a Muslim nation.

SAVANE: That's right.

HARRIS: How does that happen?

SAVANE: Senegal. That explains to you the secret of why we were able to understand each other, to accept each other within our differences.

For example, when you come here for Christmas, you will see everyone partying, going out, having fun, et cetera. It's Christmas for everybody.

HARRIS: In a 90 percent ...

SAVANE: Mine (ph) is right, ... HARRIS: ... Muslim.

SAVANE: ... and now is 99 percent of Muslim, and still we have Christian and we have Christmas. We have Easter holidays. We have those holidays that you don't even have in the U.S. -- Ascension, Assumption, Pentecost, and all these things.

So this is -- I think this is something quite unique. People are open minded. They are tolerant.

And this is why we used to say that in Senegal, we grasp everything that's coming from outside.

HARRIS: Still ahead, the South Africa you haven't seen -- malls, ATMs and a middle class in the most unlikely of places.

But first, from the cells and shackles to the infamous door of no return.

HARRIS: This is the door of no return?

HARRIS: Goree Island -- a start reminder of a terrible past, of the countless numbers of Africans shipped from these shores to the New World, and into a lifetime of slavery.


HARRIS: You hear about places like Goree Island, infamous, notorious depots of human misery. But until you experience first hand the appalling realities of such a place -- well, of course, the facts are part of history.

Between the 16th and 19th centuries, Goree Island was a major shipping point in the slave trade, with untold numbers of men, women and children cast into bondage and sent off to the New World.

By all accounts, Goree Island was a way station to hell.

HARRIS: Well, right now we are about maybe two kilometers away from mainland Africa, pretty much almost just past the westernmost point on the continent.

As an African-American, this is more than just a pilgrimage. It's such a collection of thoughts and emotions that runs through you when you see something like this. That somehow, some way this place is in the back of every black man's mind or at the bottom of his heart somewhere.

We're not heading toward an island that is just about three kilometers off the place that was a major collecting point for slaves taken off the continent, assembled there before they were shipped off to points elsewhere.

All right. This is it. This is Isle de Goree -- Goree Island.

You know, definitely get a feel for just how old and how European the influences are here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) is a colonial (ph) economy.

HARRIS: Do you live here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. I live here. I am from the Tours Ministry, the tour guide comes (ph) from the tourism office.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They've been here 1444. The Portuguese, right. And they started to deport the black people from Goree Island in 1536.

But that one you're going to see is the last one, ...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... built by the Dutch in 1776, inculcated (ph) by the Senegalese government to be a symbol of black deportation.

HARRIS: And how ironic is that? A slave has to go here in 1776. That was the year of the Declaration of Independence of the United States.


HARRIS: This man has been the curator of the slave house here since 1962.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was the most important transit center in West Africa.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, one time on this house, all the family -- father, mother and the children -- were separated then in different parts.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And to go to America, it was depending to the slave owners ...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... for example, the father can go to Louisiana in the U.S. ...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... the mama Brazil or Cuba, ...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The children died (ph) or West Indies. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (IN FRENCH)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The separation was total.

HARRIS: So, let me get this straight. Let me get this straight.

What happened right here was that hundreds of slaves were kept here.


HARRIS: And their names were -- the names they grew up with were taken away from them, ...


HARRIS: ... and they were given a number?


HARRIS: So this would be a cell that the men would stay in.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And down there, too.

HARRIS: Seven, eight, nine -- so 20 would be in here.

So this is where the virgins would be kept.


HARRIS: How many women would be in here?


HARRIS: Young girls were more expensive because they were virgins.


HARRIS: So that's why you kept them separate.


HARRIS: This is where they were sent to be punished.


HARRIS: And how long would someone be forced to stay in here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was quite a lot -- forget to place (ph).

HARRIS: I wonder about the sounds that bounced off these walls. Children over here, women over there and girls back here, men huddled in here.

Men being punished, hiding in there. And then men upstairs drinking and laughing and enjoying life.


HARRIS: This is door of no return?


HARRIS: So at some point, some time, the DNA that's in me -- the DNA in here came through here.


HARRIS: Ten years after the end of apartheid, South Africa today is essentially a laboratory of democracy, with all the promise and pitfalls that come with a burgeoning, free society -- a society struggling to break away from old stereotypes and new hardships.

I saw that struggle up close as I made my way outside of Johannesburg, and into the sprawling tin-roof world of Soweto life.

The heart of Africa, right?

Sort of. This is a lunch time performance in a middle class neighborhood.

Surprise number two. The middle-class neighborhood is in Soweto, the sprawling black South African township outside of and with more people than Johannesburg.

When most people think of Soweto, they think of this. Dirt-poor shanty towns, where the white apartheid government could control blacks and so-called coloreds.

Make no mistake. Soweto has plenty of crime, poverty and disease. But if you think that's all there is here, you are in for a surprise.

They've got malls. They've got ATMs. They've got expensive cars.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So this center is not as (ph) everybody shows in Soweto.

HARRIS: Ten years after apartheid, they've even got tours.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Up front, they have got the house of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

The house is a 15-roomed house, double story, bullet-proofed windows.

The money to build this house came from the Libyan president, Mr. Qaddafi. HARRIS: The value of tourism, especially picture-taking, is a subject of debate in the streets.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But you keep on taking us some photos. No money, no food. The children, they can't go to school. There is no clothes because their parents, they are not to a "T."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now, other people are afraid of pictures. And yet pictures are there to let the world can see how do we live. And other people, maybe they can be helped some way.

HARRIS: You'll notice, no one mentioned the "A" word -- AIDS.

Despite all the billboards, health care workers tell us that there's a bit of denial here about that, from the top down, because they've got AIDS, too, in South Africa in a big way.

DR. GLENDA GRAY, PHYSICIAN: It's in your face. Every time -- if you walk in the street, you would brush shoulders with someone who is HIV infected.

You got into a taxi, and there would be maybe two or three people in the taxi that are HIV infected.

So, it's everywhere. It's your school teachers, it's your doctors, it's your merchant. It's your neighbors, it's your mom sometimes. It's your sisters other times. It's your daughter.

At a cemetery or at a mortuary, most of the people that have just died would have died because they were HIV infected.

So, whether you watch (ph) or blessing this country, everybody's affected. And you touch it on a daily level.

HARRIS: Entrepreneurs like Sakumsi (ph) believe health care will improve as the economy improves. That development and creating jobs is the way out of the misery.

SAKUMSI (ph), RESTAURANT OWNER: Hello. My name is Sakumsi (ph). I hope you are still comfortable here. All right. Thanks very much.

HARRIS: Sakumsi (ph) gave up a promising IT career and drained his retirement account to start a restaurant.

SAKUMSI (ph): This side is our kitchen, ...

HARRIS: He has 10 employees now, and big plans for the future.

SAKUMSI (ph): And then (ph) is time we'll be having many Sakumsi (ph) restaurants, because it should be a franchise. We should be having one in Atlanta, France, Canada.

You'll be looking after my Sakumsi (ph) restaurant at site (ph).

HARRIS: Mina Mekoro (ph) is trying to get a bed and breakfast going. MINA MEKORO (ph), BED-AND-BREAKFAST OWNER: ... the three bedrooms I had. This, we call it a twin bed.

HARRIS: She wants to get tourists out of the big hotels in Johannesburg and into Soweto.

MEKORO (ph): A lot of black people in the tourism business, in other businesses that have, even though there were no opportunities for us, we came up like balloons. We still didn't want to go down, though, till we still came up.

And I'm very proud of me and the others.

HARRIS: We don't pretend to understand all the complexities of a place like South Africa -- a laboratory of a growing democracy. After all, we spent only three days in Soweto.

But on a mellow Sunday in the Puree (ph) neighborhood, it's clear most of these people want what most of the rest of us want. Peace, opportunity for advancement, a better life for their kids. It would be easy to forget this beautiful girl named Princess is an orphan. More than 10 million children in Africa who's parents died of AIDS.


HARRIS: She cooks, cleans, cares for her grandfather, and misses her mother.

HARRIS: If I take this tape, that we're making right now, and I show it to some other kids, what would you tell them?

PRINCESS: I would tell them to respect to their mother's if they still have one, and to go to school everyday so that you can be successful one day.

HARRIS: The entrepreneurs want people to stay longer, and get to know Soweto better. They tell us that fear of crime is overblown.

NINA: There is a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of tourists coming to Soweto.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I know you haven't -- they come in buses.

HARRIS: You've seen them.

NINA: Bus in, and they walk up to have lunch quickly, and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) clinging to them, and they back (ph) to their bus quickly out. I want to see change. I want to see those tourists being dropped off, and their buses go back to town, and leave them here with us.

HARRIS: You want to see the buses go back empty.

NINA: Empty. And they can come back in two, three days, pick them up, and take them back. And we can assure you guys, they will be safe.

HARRIS: Later that night, Nina took us to a traditional Shabime (ph), a drinking house literally in somebody's house. There were two white people partying there on a Saturday night. People in Soweto hope there will be more.

HARRIS: Coming up, he is a priest, a husband, a father, and he is living with HIV.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I left the information center, and the counselor had said Man of God, what are you going to do?

HARRIS: A remarkable man. His amazing story and the secret to Uganda's success in the fight against AIDS. When CNN PRESENTS continues.



HARRIS: Welcome back to CNN PRESENTS. Uganda is a nation of 25 billion people in East Africa. And just 15 years ago it had one of the continent's highest rates of HIV infection. But there has been a dramatic turn-around in Uganda.

While other African nations ignored the pandemic of AIDS, Uganda, it's president, and the remarkable man you're about to meet, confronted HIV-AIDS with a groundbreaking mixture of science and fate.


HARRIS (voice-over): Another day of struggle for Reverend Canon Gideon Byomugisha, a priest at Uganda's Anglican Church. He lost his first wife to AIDS in 1991, a year later, a test reveals he was HIV positive.

REV. CANON GIDEON BYAMUGISHA: When I left the information center and the consultant said you are positive. Actually I remember him saying "man of God, what are you going to do?" For a priest like me to discover I was HIV positive, you know, it was stricken (ph). I didn't know how my church would react.

HARRIS: How did they react?

BYAMUGISHA: It was a mixed reaction, some people were so appalled that I had HIV, but others were so astounded by the degree of honesty that I had shown by the meeting at the time.

BYAMUGISHA: So the president is there with his wife and I am sitting in there.

HARRIS: Byamugisha was giving a lecture the day he got the results. He had 20 minutes to decide what to tell his colleagues.

That's a pretty important 20 minutes in your life. BYAMUGISHA: Well, yes, it was -- I was sweating. I don't know how people would react. Either they could react by stoning me, because, you know, we have had stories of people being stoned to death. We've had stories of people who have been killed, people who have been stabbed to death because they are positive. People who have been abandoned in hospitals. Anything could have happened, you know, but I was saying, well it doesn't matter what they will do. What matters is for me to be honest, to these people. If they react badly, too bad for me. And fortunately, every time I shared, people said we will support you, we will love you. And that encouraged me to share more and more.

HARRIS: Byamugisha became the first practicing priest in Africa to declare openly he was HIV-positive. His openness on AIDS was mirrored by the attitude of Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni. Museveni confronted AIDS in 1986 and devoted resources to combat it after seeing his country devastated by the disease. Since then, Ugandan's AIDS infection rate has dropped from 30 percent of the adult population to 6 percent. Meanwhile, Byamugisha was facing up to another aspect of his life, his sexuality.

BYAMUGISHA: Since I had the most (INTELLIGIBLE) that I was not born to be celibate by getting married in '87, I was not so sure that I could remain abstinent for life, but I also knew if I committed adultery, or killed someone with my virus, I would miss heaven. So I was saying how do I miss life on earth and miss life in heaven. You know, it was something that I did not want to have happen. So I said, in order to stop this from happening, get a woman who is HIV positive, who has lost a husband to AIDS and get married so that you stop this pressure.

HARRIS: Some of his friends were surprised.

BYAMUGISHA: Well they said you are (UNINTELLIGIBLE) moral, why do you want to get married. People did not think that positive people can get married to each other and live a life.

So this is the woman has made my world.

HARRIS: He married Pamela in 1995. The full-blown AIDS wife and HIV-positive husband decided to have a child.

BYAMUGISHA: I wanted to have that child, because of the love of the mother. The mother said, I would not want to die without having a child and you promised me that we would postponing having pregnancy until a time where we can safely have a baby. And the time has come. Do you want to keep your promise, or do you want to go back on your promise? That was a tough decision for me to make.

HARRIS: Today Racondo (ph) is a healthy HIV negative one-year- old. Pamela was treated during labor with a Neverapine, which can block the transmission of HIV from mother to child. Both parents are responding positively to anti retroviral treatment.

BYAMUGISHA: Where do we begin from? Where do we start?

HARRIS: Byamugisha now gives speeches around the world to combat the stigma surrounding AIDS and fight misconceptions about Africa.

BYAMUGISHA: Those Africans are screwing themselves to death.


BYAMUGISHA: You know I've heard people say like that. Even when a person has had lawful sex, that does not enough protection against HIV-AIDS, which passes through ejections, which passes through blood, which passes through unsafe sex. Even when it is lawful.

If President Bush was sitting in this chair right now and not me, what would you tell him?

BYAMUGISHA: I would say, thank you very much, I would shake his hand and say we are really grateful to have a man who is very caring like you, and I would encourage him to continue doing more and say, where you got your $15 billion, go back and see in the pockets, where you can to also get another 15.

50 years from now, one of the biggest question researchers will be asking themselves will be, how come that a largely preventable, a largely manageable illness, managed to kill millions of people, destroy promising economies, and leave millions of orphans desperate at a time when people knew much and had much. You know, that's a question we are not likely to escape, and that's the question that will inspire the minds of the people in the future. Who were the world leaders at that time? People will want to know. To allow this type of genocide happen?

HARRIS: It's likely the first AIDS cases in Uganda occurred in villages on Lake Victoria and treated at this rural hospital. Locals call the disease "slim" because of the wasting effect. But the legacy today, about 1 million children orphaned by aids. This school was set up by a nonprofit catholic group. The orphans here are too poor to travel from their neighborhood to the free public schools. It's crossed Canon Gyamugisha's mind, his beloved Ricondo (ph) could, one day, join their ranks.

BYAMUGISHA: People are saying, don't you feel that you've put this child at risk of being an orphan? And another way of saying it would be to put myself in the shoes of the child, I mean, you are born and you find at the age of 8 or 10, you have been orphaned, and they tell you the story. Your father was positive, your mother was positive, but there came chance a to have a baby who is not positive, and they took a chance, and you were born. But because there was not enough medicine for them to keep alive they died, and that's why you are an orphan.

So it's the child to see how they can make it better. To blame the parents for having taken the risk of producing the child, or whether to wish the world would have been a better place, a world which is more supportive, more encouraging. The world where people do everything they can to keep their members alive.

HARRIS: Coming up, the beat of Africa.


HARRIS: Throughout my journey in Africa, through Senegal, South Africa, and Uganda, wherever I went there was one constant. Music. All kinds of music. So what better way to go out tonight to say goodbye, than with the pulse of Africa.



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