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Darfur Confict at Stanstill; The Floating City of Bongo

Aired September 2, 2006 - 00:00:00   ET


NADIA BILCHIK, GUEST HOST: Hello, I'm Nadia Bilchik. Welcome to INSIDE AFRICA, our weekly look at news and life on the continent.
Let's get right into the show. The conflict in Darfur is at an apparent standstill. The United Nations this week voted to send in U.N. peacekeepers into the troubled region. The Sudanese government is adamant it will not accept them, and stuck in the middle some 2 million refugees, whose livelihood depends on outside aid.

Earlier, we spoke with CNN's senior United Nations correspondent Richard Roth for a debrief on Thursday's vote.


RICHARD ROTH, CNN SR. U.N. CORRESPONDENT: Well, the resolution invites Sudan's consent. Until that happens, the United Nations Security Council resolution is in place, but the troops are not going to be going into Darfur. They're certainly not going to shoot their way in.

But Ambassador John Bolton of the United States says that means that it's in effect -- acquiescence is what's accepted, and they're going to proceed as if it's going to happen, though Sudan is certainly talking tough and resisting the resolution's terms.

BILCHIK: Tell us exactly what the Sudanese government is saying.

ROTH: Well, the Sudanese government has flatly ruled out U.N. peacekeepers on its soil. It regards it as illegal. There's concern in Khartoum, the capital, that the U.N. peacekeepers will eventually be used to hunt down any indicted war criminals over what's happened in Darfur.

BILCHIK: So, in a meanwhile, one has an impasse, because we know that the desperation and the desperate situation is escalating. So what is the U.N. plan to do and how does it plan to leverage its member states' power to try and create some kind of action?

ROTH: Well, until the actual consent does happen more clearly, the U.N. and its -- and the resolution will now beef up the existing African Union deployment there. More forces, more equipment, more money. The African Union deployment really is running out of money, and ends at the end of the month.

The U.N. may get more offers of troops from countries to go there, but they're not going to shoot their way in, and they're not revealing which countries are ready to participate, though it's believed to be African countries, other countries. The U.N. says it wants to make it as global and multinational a presence for political and military reasons as possible.

BILCHIK: In terms of the U.S. and U.K., who have really been behind and the initial sponsors of the resolution, what are they saying about sending troops?

ROTH: They're not going to be sending troops. They're likely to help, as usual, with logistical support and other guidance, but they will - - they're not expected to be participating.

BILCHIK: So, again, it's a catch 22, because nothing is going to happen until the Sudanese government allow the troops in, and you're saying that the troops are not going to go in. So again, it goes back to what happens now?

ROTH: It may come down to a possible meeting here at the annual General Assembly high level debate in September. President Bush might meet with high Sudanese official, and State Department officials have let it be known that they believe Sudan likes to say no right up until one minute before midnight and then eventually says yes. That may be a high stakes gamble, but they're still counting on Sudan giving consent.

BILCHIK: China, Russia and Qatar abstaining from the resolution. What pressure is the U.N. putting on China particularly which would make such a difference? And are they?

ROTH: Well, China didn't veto. So that's -- that's enough for the U.S. China has oil deals and needs Sudan's help in other business connections, but the U.S. was happy they didn't get a veto, and they're going to hope to have negotiations in Africa and elsewhere to try to wear down the Sudanese.

But this has been going on in Darfur for years. And there've been delays and cries of genocide, and this has still been a bad blemish on the U.N. image and the will of the international community to do something in light of how many people have lost their lives or been injured or displaced.


BILCHIK: That was CNN senior United Nations correspondent Richard Roth.

We also spoke with the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Jendayi Frazer. Frazer just returned from Sudan, where she met with top Sudanese officials. I began by asking her why the Sudanese government is so opposed to U.N. troops in Darfur?


JENDAYI FRAZER, ASSISTANT SECY. OF STATE: I did have a chance to meet with President Bashir and many members of his government. I think it's first important to say that not all of the government opposes the U.N. Security Council resolution and peacekeepers. In fact, his first -- first vice president, Salva Kiir, has come out in support of the U.N. operation, as has the senior adviser to the president, Minni Minawi, who's supporting the presidency itself.

So the government is divided, and I heard that many opposition groups also support a U.N. operation.

Now, those in the government who oppose it have given many reasons. One is that they said that they weren't sufficiently consulted. But the problem with this reasoning is that the government of Sudan acknowledged that after the Darfur peace agreement would be signed, that they would allow for U.N. operation. This is documented in the A.U. peace and security communique of March 10th. And so we've had extensive consultation with them.

Secondly, they've said that they can handle the situation themselves, and they presented a plan to Kofi Annan that would include 10,500 government of Sudan forces with the A.U. and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement and the Sudan Liberation Army.

BILCHIK: Sorry to interrupt you, dear Madam Secretary, but we do know that they're not capable of taking care, so how do you, as assistant secretary of state for African affairs, how do we take this forward?

FRAZER: Well, you're quite right, and the A.U. has clearly stated that it would like the U.N. to strengthen it in the immediate term and transition it to a U.N. force in the longer term -- longer term here being from anywhere from October 1st to December 31st. And I think that we have to concentrate on that decision. So intensive continued consultation with the government of Sudan to try to bring them around to the reality I think is important. The fact that they've launched an offensive makes it even more imperative that the U.N. act and act quickly to save innocent lives.

BILCHIK: OK. You say bring them around. How possible is that? And what timeline are we looking at? And what would it take to bring them around?

FRAZER: Well, the timeline is very short. When I met with President Bashir, he promised to send his foreign minister, Lam Akol, to the United States to continue the consultation. I understand that the foreign minister is in fact on his way to South Africa, to Congo, Brazzaville, and perhaps to Nigeria before he comes to the United States to consult with -- at the African leadership. The African leadership, the presidents and foreign ministers have spoken, and they said that the U.N. operation should come to Darfur to take over from the A.U.

And so, I think that they have to get a sense of reality, the government of Sudan. It's healthy that they're going around consulting at this point.

So I think if we all speak with one voice, the Arab League, Egypt and other countries within the Arab League, the African Union as well as the international community, the United States and the U.N. itself, that we may be able to convince them of the appropriateness to seek a non-military solution to the crisis in Darfur.

BILCHIK: Do you think the U.N. would ever get to a point that they would say it's -- the situation is too bad, we're going in with or without the Sudanese government's agreement?

FRAZER: Well, U.N. Security Council Resolution 1706 invites the consent of the government of Sudan. It does not require the consent of the government of Sudan. We have said as a matter of practicality we don't want to fight our way in, that we don't want the U.N. to fight its way in. But certainly, I think that we've learned our lessons from Rwanda, that we can't allow wholesale killing to take place. And we have lessons that -- or situations that had succeeded. For instance, in Burundi, the A.U. showed up first, they stopped the killing and then the U.N. came in and and helped them out.

So we have scenarios, we have experience that has worked, and it can work in Sudan if the government itself or those members of the government who oppose a U.N. operation would basically be reasonable.

BILCHIK: And finally, would the U.S. send troops?

FRAZER: Our plan is not to send troops at this time, certainly. That's -- that's, you know -- we haven't been asked by the U.N., and it wouldn't be our plan to send troops. The government of Sudan has used the excuse of the possibility of Western occupation, of -- you know, Western forces coming in to colonize their country. Well, that is not the intention of the United States. This -- we see this is really the core element of the operation being the African forces that are already on the ground, and we want to support the A.U. in its decision to have its forces strengthened by coming under U.N. mandate.

We don't intend -- we would continue to support that leadership, African leadership of this mission, African composition of the troops. And so, no, we're not intending for U.S. forces to deploy to Darfur.

BILCHIK: Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer, thank you very much for joining us on INSIDE AFRICA.

FRAZER: Thank you very much. It's a pleasure.


BILCHIK: The Sudanese government has launched a major offensive against rebels in Darfur. This brings new concerns about escalating violence. We spoke with the leader of Africa Action about the situation on the ground.


MARIE CLARKE BRILL, AFRICA ACTION: All of the intelligence we're getting from the ground in Darfur is that the situation is dramatically deteriorating, especially in terms of security. The expectation is that within the next couple of weeks, we'll see the most hot conflict we've seen in Darfur since early 2003 and 2004. And they're expecting that casualties will exceed the casualties in that early period in this genocide.


BILCHIK: Africa Action is one of the oldest organizations in the United States to focus on African affairs, and it's holding a rally next Saturday in front of the White House in order to bring attention to the conflict and escalating violence in Darfur.

We're going to take a break here, but there is much more to come on INSIDE AFRICA. When we come back, we'll get a tour of a giant industry floating off the coast on Nigeria. Stay with us.


BILCHIK: A hundred twenty kilometers off Nigeria's shore floats a mammoth ship, over 300 meters long. No, it's not a gigantic cruise ship, it's the Bongo, a floating city on the water that pumps, processes and stores oil. Our Christian Purefoy got a tour of Shell's extreme oil machine.


CHRISTIAN PUREFOY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is Bongo, an FPSO, or floating production storage on a floating vessel. And it's all about oil.

Lying 120 kilometers off shore from Nigeria's Niger Delta region, Bongo pumps 225,000 barrels of oil per day, from over four kilometers beneath the sea through one of the largest in the world, and directly into the tanker, avoiding the insecure work environment onshore in Nigeria.

CHIMA IBENECHE, MANAGING DIRECTOR, SNEPCO: The best way to describe it (inaudible) floating (inaudible) facility is that it is a six-story building on top of three soccer football fields, end to end. (inaudible) refinery on a very big ship. It's very difficult. Well, you need to imagine this size, what is a very huge facility.

PUREFOY: Work was completed in November 2005, 10 years after drilling the first well.

Operated by Shell's SNEPCO company on behalf of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and in partnership with Esso, Agip and Els. Bongo was build in Korea, Singapore, the U.K. and Nigeria.

Long delays were a consequence of the coordination and logistical problems with finishing Bongo's construction off the coast of Nigeria. Official figures for the cost of Bongo at $3.6 billion, but sources say this figure is much closer to $5 billion.

While a high price of oil is often seen as a bad thing, it is for naval projects like Bongo to be realized and help keep Nigeria's oil flying.

IBENECHE: I think we're pushing it, though, but (inaudible) production (inaudible) high, otherwise it was a risky project when we started because of the size of the cost. But fortunately, with above $60 to $70 for barrel, we have reasonable chance to recover our money. But we're still trying to recover that. So, before we can really make money, it will take a little while.

PUREFOY: It has also brought a depth of experience for Nigerian workers.

SYLVESTER OFUNI, SNEPCO SUPERVISOR: We didn't have this technology before, but now we have Nigerians who are experienced in deep water projects. Example -- myself.

PUREFOY: Other companies are planning to work on at least three other FPSOs, with an estimated investment of $33 billion in the next five to 10 years, which means there will be plenty more work where this came from.

Christian Purefoy, CNN, the Gulf of Guinea, Nigeria.


BILCHIK: I just love that they called it Bongo. So from bonging to boasting. The South African authorities are boasting of doubling the number of tourist visits since the end of apartheid. But some argue that in this majority black nation, the tourism boom is benefiting mostly whites. Alphonso Van Marsh talked to one man who is speaking out about what he sees as a racial barrier.


ALPHONSO VAN MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Vistas like Cape Town's Table Mountain are credited for the explosion of tourism since the end of apartheid. But tour operator Jimmian Tantilly (ph) says in the new South Africa, where blacks and whites are supposed to be equal, blacks still aren't getting a fair share of tourism money.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It benefits a few. You know, we say tourism is like vital (inaudible) sometimes. With all those hotels -- show me black hotels. Then I will say it's vital to South African.

VAN MARSH: Tantilly (ph) takes tourists, like this German couple, into low-income township neighborhoods most tour operators avoid.

This tour company owner showing tourists there is a rich black cultural heritage here to embrace, not fear.

(on camera): Jimian Tantilly (ph) is an exception in South Africa. According to South African authorities, in this majority black country, more than 90 percent of tour operators, safari parks and game lodges are owned and operated by whites.

TAMI SOKUTU, TOURISM BEE CHARTER COUNCIL: What we would like to see is more and more white owners of business to go on their own, to do the right thing.

VAN MARSH (voice-over): The number of tourists has doubled in recent years, and Tami Sokutu, chairman of South Africa's Black Economic Empowerment Charter Council, says there should be a similar increase in the number of blacks who own or manage tourist attractions.

He admits the goal cannot be legally enforced, but says there is a financial incentive for compliance.

SOKUTU: Government is unlikely to give jobs or to give contracts. Tourist contracts -- charter contracts, to (inaudible) they're not diversifiers.

VAN MARSH: Jimian Tantilly (ph) says he'd like to see more black- owned tour companies working alongside him, not just in South Africa's townships, but across all of South Africa's breathtaking attractions on offer to the world.

Alphonso Van Marsh, CNN, Johannesburg, South Africa.


BILCHIK: The continent of Africa is mourning the death of a celebrated author this week. Nobel Prize winning author Nagoub Mahfouz was given a state funeral Thursday in Egypt. There was also a small ceremony earlier in the week at Al-Hussein (ph) mosque as he'd wished. The mosque is in the heart of historic Cairo, where many of his novels were set. Nagoub Mahfouz, the only Arabic writer to win the Nobel Prize, was 94.


BILCHIK: Barack Obama may be an American senator from Illinois, but his roots go back to Kenya. He recently paid a visit to the continent, and our Africa correspondent, Jeff Koinange, caught up with Senator Obama during his rare and emotional visit home.


JEFF KOINANGE, CNN AFRICA CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He came, he saw and he wowed a nation of millions more used to worshipping athletes then politicians. Barack Obama is a rising star in the Democratic Party in the U.S., but now he's just as famous in Kenya.

When he arrived in western Kenya, where his family is from, there were t-shirts emblazoned with his name and face, posters, and even the local Senator bear was renamed Obama for the occasion.

Barack Obama wasn't born here, but the Obamas are prominent among the Lual (ph) people. His father herded goats here before moving to the United States, where his son worked his way through Harvard Law School.

So in the streets of Kisumu (ph), the junior senator from Illinois was greeted as a favorite son.

Many perched in trees to catch a glimpse of him, while others sang newly composed songs in his honor, like this one, which goes, "Clear the way, Obama is coming."

And when Senator Obama tried to address the crowds, pandemonium.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: I just want to say that I am so proud to come back home...

KOINANGE: Proud, but also with a serious message for his audience about the disease that's ravaged Africa.

OBAMA: AIDS ravaged (inaudible). There are too many people who've gotten sick, too many children who have gotten sick. So (inaudible) my wife and I are going to get tested for HIV/AIDS.

KOINANGE: Many in Kenya are afraid to get tested for fear of learning the worst. Some 2 million people here are thought to be HIV-positive. 1.5 million have already died from AIDS.

Obama decided to lead by example, by taking the 20-minute test.

OBAMA: I want to make sure that everybody is encouraged to make the time to get tested. Tests will be available. I appreciate all of you.

KOINANGE: An hour's drive away, at the recently named Barack Obama primary school in his father's home village, thousands more turned up.

Btu perhaps the emotional highlight of the day was this: Obama's reunion with his 82-year-old grandmother, and a chance for the senator to introduce his children to their great grandmother.

Obama recalled the last time he was here 14 years ago, when he traveled by bus.

OBAMA: Had some chickens in my lap. You remember that? And then later I had a couple of (inaudible) in my lap...


OBAMA: And you know, so it was a fun experience.

KOINANGE: On the six-day visit, he is whisked from one engagement to another, drawing crowds and national media attention wherever he goes, and ending his tour with a tough prescription for Kenya's ills.

At Nairobi University, Senator Obama spoke out against what he calls two evils plaguing Kenya's growth and development: corruption and ethnic divisions.

OBAMA: Today, we're starting to see that the Kenyan people want more than a simple changing of the guard, more than piecemeal reforms to a crisis that's crippling their country. The Kenyan people are crying out for real change, and real frustration with continued tolerance of corruption at high levels.

KOINANGE: Not since the late pope last visited Kenya more than a decade ago has a foreigner received such a euphoric welcome here. Senator Obama may have been born and raised in a far-off country, but he's still a hero in the land of his ancestors.

Jeff Koinange, CNN, Yangoba village in western Kenya.


BILCHIK: Well, that's all for this week's show. I'm Nadia Bilchik. We leave you today with the preview of "The Lion King." The musical is set to open in South Africa next year. This week, organizers had a preview. Paul Tilsley shared this video with us.




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