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Conflict Minerals; World Cup 2010; Malawi and Madonna

Aired April 4, 2009 - 12:30:00   ET


ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, and welcome to INSIDE AFRICA. I'm Isha Sesay. On the program this week, as South Africa prepares to host the 2010 World cup, a stadium stampede in Ivory Coast provides a reminder of what can go tragically wrong. Pop star Madonna walks into another Malawian adoption controversy, but do the Malawian people really mind? And Congolese music star Awilo Longomba brings his signature sound and personal mission to U.S. audiences.

But we begin with a call to action in a fight against conflict minerals. The Enough Project is challenging manufacturers of electronics such as cell phones, videogame consoles and laptops to pledge that their product don't contain conflict minerals, and to open their supply chains to auditors. The mineral coltan is used to make many electronic products. It's commonly found and often illegally mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Rebel groups often sell it to buy weapons, perpetuating a regional conflict that dates back about 12 years and has killed an estimated 6 million people.

Now, a brutal hallmark of this conflict is what many activists and the United Nations consider the worst sexual violence in the world. Playwright and human rights activist Eve Ensler is trying to put an end to this scourge. And she's teamed up with Congolese physician Denis Mukwege, who treats rape victims at his Panzi Hospital in Bukavu. I recently caught up with them as they toured the United States to raise awareness about the problem. I asked Dr. Mukwege to describe a typical day on the job.


DR. DENIS MUKWEGE, CONGOLESE SURGEON (through translator): A normal day starts for me at 7:00 a.m. in the morning, and I start praying with all of my patients. Then I would do all the administrative and also the follow-up of my patients, and I would start with the surgeries, and then it would probably go up to 4 p.m. in the afternoon.

EVE ENSLER, HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST: What's interesting, is he doesn't tell you that he does 10 to 12 operations a day, most of them who's suffered severe atrocities. Dr. Mukwege, for most of the women, is the one piece of hope that remains in their life. He is the example that humanity is not over.

He said something to me very profound, when he left the hospital to come on this journey to the U.S. for a month, the women cried because he is really their father. Most women, he said, do not have homes, they don't have families. They actually don't even have their own bodies anymore. But I think because he exists, they have hope.

SESAY: Eve, you have, as we know, been to the hospital, you have spoken to these women that we're hearing of who've endured horrors that you can barely comprehend. How do they feel about you coming in and getting them to talk about what has happened, relieve what is the trauma that they've endured.

ENSLER: I think women really need to tell their stories. Women really need to say what's happened to them. We did, in September the campaign did these breaking silence events. And 10 women from Goma and 10 women from Bukavu came forward publicly and broke the silence for the first time in front of hundreds of people. And it was so powerful, and it was so amazing to see so many men come, and weep and cry and feel for the women, and feel their own rage and sorrow at the injustice and powerlessness they have felt in the face of all these militias who have broken into their homes and raped their children and raped their wives and raped their daughters.

MUKWEGE: I would say that love is very, very important when Eve, for instance is connecting with them. They really feel that love, true love coming out of her.

ENSLER: I have to tell you, I think in my life I have never seen such resilient women and such resourceful women and such clever women and such loving women. And I think really why I'm so invested in the Congo is that if we allow the kind of atrocities that are going on there to occur without intervention, without response, we have now expanded the boundaries for what is permissible throughout the world.

I also do want to say, though, in the last two years since we began this campaign, there are thousands of activists, grassroots activists around the world rising up in solidarity with our sisters in the Congo. I don't think it's people who don't care. I think it's governments. I think it's the U.N. I think the more as we people rise up and say this is unacceptable, the more pressure will be put on world leaders.

SESAY: So, what do you say to the U.N. when they say, well, we have peacekeepers, the largest U.N. peacekeeping force there? We are doing what our mandate is. What do you say to them?

MUKWEGE: The real question is to find out beyond the numbers, what are the systems that are in place that really would protect all those women, because it's impossible to have the exact number of peacekeeper protecting each woman from rape.

SESAY: What are the challenges that the Panzi Hospital faces? What are some of the things you have to deal with?

MUKWEGE: Today, Panzi Hospital has an issue, a real problem. We are dealing with women that we would classify as incurable patients. And these women are completely stigmatized. They cannot go back to their villages, because they have incontinence. We have approximately 250 women in the hospital in this condition.

And currently we are -- we're working with Eve and we're working with AVIDE (ph), we're working with UNICEF to try to make the City of Joy project a success.

SESAY: You've talked a little bit about the City of Joy. What is the plan here?

ENSLER: I think the whole idea of the City of Joy is to create a space and a place for women survivors where they can be supported, where they can build leadership. We hope to have a radio station, we'll have a horticultural center, but to create a template for women who have been through the worst, but who are often, because they have survived that, the strongest. And so, really to develop them to become the next leaders of the DRC.

It would be a way of saying, we, women of the Congo, are taking back our destinies, are taking back our resources, are taking back our bodies, are taking back our future, and we will lead this country out of this disaster. I really believe there is a women's revolution brewing in the DRC. And I think it will help begin a movement throughout Africa of women taking back their power.


SESAY: Eve Ensler describes what's playing out in DRC as a femicide. Now, you can debate the use of that word if you choose to, but what you cannot challenge is that security is in short supply, and no one is succeeding in protecting the vulnerable. Many are pointing the finger of blame at Laurent Kabila, the president who holds the reins of power. His response to the violence against women and girls in the eastern part of his country has been underwhelming. Kabila, just like Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, has a duty of care to his citizens, and for as long as they occupy the seat of power, the buck stops with them.

But this doesn't mean the international community is off the hook. We cannot pick and choose which atrocities to be outraged by. The same diplomatic energy that is being expended to bring an end to the crisis in Darfur must be brought to bear in the case of DRC.

Some time ago, I asked an analyst to explain to me why the conflict in DRC has failed to take root in the public consciousness the same way the crisis in Darfur has. I was told it's because the situation in eastern Congo is so much more complex.

Well, let me take a crack at explaining it in terms, I think, we can all understand. The women who've been raped and tortured in Congo are someone's mother, sister, aunt and grandmother. They're not playthings. And the onus is on each and every one of us to make sure their cries do not go unheard. And that's just my two cents.


SESAY: Welcome back to INSIDE AFRICA. What should have been an occasion for pride and joy has left the families of 19 people grieving in Ivory Coast. Their relatives were killed in a stadium stampede just before World Cup qualifying match between Ivory Coast and Malawi. More than 130 people were injured. I asked "World Sport" how players, fans and officials are reacting.

PATRICK SNELL, CNN CENTER: Basically, a hard (ph) section of the fans saying we've been unfairly blamed for all of this, because, of course there was an immediate statement coming out from the government over there, basically saying, look, this was caused by fans arriving too late, some of them trying to get in without tickets. That caused the stampede. A lot of the fans turning around and saying, no, one of the key issues that actually caused all of this was local police firing tear gas, which is a standard practice by police in many parts of the world, including Europe. But that caused the panic, say these fans.

So basically both sides are sort of blaming each other, and that's not really the way forward, so they really need to look at this. It's yet again, it's -- as we've seen on the African continent, it's another tragic loss of life. Pressure now on FIFA, world's football governing body, to try and step in and do something and invest an infrastructure in that part of the world to assure that this doesn't happen again.

And of course reaction coming in from the players as well. These were the players that were involved in the game. Didier Drogba, the homegrown star, he alone, his presence alone, Isha, putting probably an extra 15,000 to 20,000 on the attendance there. Otherwise, I think it would have been kind of -- no disrespect to Malawi, but without Drogba, it probably would have been half the capacity there that was there. And he's -- he's just a national hero there, and he's been coming out and saying, look, we're -- as players, we're affected by this, we're devastated by what's happened in our homeland. Drogba himself saying, look, we want to dig in, contribute from our own pockets, and we want to do what we can to try and help family members and victims.

SESAY: What part, if any, is FIFA playing in the investigation that's taking place in the Ivory Coast?

SNELL: Just basically saying they want all the details, you know. On Monday, they asked for all the details. It's probably going to be quite some time until they get a complete dossier. And then they will peruse that, and then hopefully the president of FIFA, Sepp Blatter, will come out and sort of give this some sort of much needed attention.

I know African football is very special to Mr. Blatter's heart, so I think it's something that he will be very keen to address as well.

SESAY: Do we believe, is it our sense that lessons will be taken away from what happened there in Ivory Coast?

SNELL: Well, you hope so, but going back even as far as 2000, 2001, I mean we had Ellis Park, Johannesburg in South Africa. We had a loss of life there. Matches in Zimbabwe in 2000, Congo and Ghana in 2001. We hear this every time there is a loss of life, lessons need to be learned. And it's the same thing here. Will lessons be learned? We very much hope so, but, you know, unless the correct investment is made, I think there is a risk that, sadly, there is always a risk that there could be a re- occurrence.

SESAY: 2010 organizers in South Africa say they're not about to let the same kind of tragedy happen on their watch. Nkepile Mabuse has details on stadium security plans from Johannesburg.


NKEPILE MABUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: South Africa knows all too well just how horribly wrong things can go. At football matches in 2001, 43 people were killed and 155 injured here in Johannesburg when fans tried to push into an overcrowded stadium.

Now, 2010 organizing chief Danny Jordan says none of that will be happening during the World Cup here next year, because fans will be expected to arrive three hours before kickoff and no one will be allowed anywhere close to the stadium without their ticket in hand.

Nkepile Mabuse, CNN, Johannesburg.


SESAY: Well, here's hoping for a fun and, of course, orderly 2010 World Cup.

Well, Madonna is causing controversy once again. Find out why not everyone approves of wealthy celebrities plucking children out of poverty.


SESAY: You're watching INSIDE AFRICA. Welcome back. A court in Malawi has ruled that Madonna cannot move forward with the adoption of a four-year old girl from that country. The pop star who already has an adopted son from Malawi spent several days there ahead of the decision. She says she doesn't understand why anyone would object, but as David McKenzie tells us, some child welfare activists aren't big fans of the practice.


DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Mega star Madonna's attempts to adopt a young girl in Malawi has certainly stirred up controversy, and this, of course, is not the first time she's done this. She adopted David Banda, a young boy from the country when she went a few years ago. But now she's doing it again, and this has certainly had a diverse set of opinions brought up about this issue.

Legal researchers in Malawi say maybe it's the best thing for this child, that if she went to the U.S., she'd get a good education, she'd have the option of a whole lot of choices in the future, and if she stayed, she'd basically grow up in an orphanage. This is a far cry from the opinion of international aid agencies, and even the U.N. They say that the best option for an orphan in Africa is to be raised by the extended family.

DOMINIC NUTT, SAVE THE CHILDREN, U.K.: We believe that children in poverty should be best looked after by their own people in their own environments, and that people like Madonna and organizations like Save the Children best are (ph) helping those families by building schools and supporting them to look after these -- these so-called orphans, and not transporting them to live in -- in -- across the world in mansions, in pop stars' mansions, that sort of thing.

MCKENZIE: Well, he certainly doesn't mince his words. But on the local level, at the village level of Malawi, the second poorest country in the world, there`s often a more pragmatic approach. Madonna is building schools in the country, and some of the villagers at those schools say that this is the best thing for the child.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Once she adopts another child, I think it's better that he -- the child has to come back here, so that she is not, you know, be away from his culture.

MCKENZIE (on camera): But it's a good idea to adopt?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, so much good idea.

MCKENZIE: She's adopting another child from Malawi. What about that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Very good. Very good.

MCKENZIE (voice over): So certainly depending on who you talk to, you'll get a different side of this story. On one side, people saying that inter-country adoptions should just not be done unless it's absolutely necessary. On the other side, saying that if someone has a welcoming home, then why not give it to an underprivileged child.

David McKenzie, CNN, Nairobi.


SESAY: Oprah Winfrey is responding to another scandal at her Leadership Academy for girls outside Johannesburg. A representative for the American talk show host says four students were recently expelled and three were suspended. Now, according to South African media reports, they were accused of trying to force other students into relationship or sexual contact. The school would not confirm those reports. In a statement issued by her production company, Winfrey said, quote, "I'm disappointed that several of our students chose to disregard the school's rules."

A Congolese musician is using his popularity for a good cause. He calls himself Superman, and he's fighting for peace, health and literacy for his people.


SESAY: Welcome back to INSIDE AFRICA. We began this week's show by telling you about efforts to stop the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Recently we caught up with a flashy young musician from Congo who's waging his own campaign to help his people. His name is Awilo Longomba, and he's got big plans for his career and his country.


SESAY: He calls himself Superman, and he believes his fight is the world's fight.

AWILO LONGOMBA, CONGOLESE MUSICIAN (via translator): There are ongoing wars that won't stop. There is a misery and even hunger in the developed countries. As a singer, I use my voice to bring awareness about these issues.

SESAY: Issues the Congolese superstar knows all too well. Awilo Longomba has watched suffering plague his native country of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The ache is often reflected in his songs.

LONGOMBA: In "Coupe Dibamba," I sang about how people in Africa are suffering a lot and my country, Congo, is suffering a lot, but all this suffering has to stop. I also sang about illnesses that hurt Africa such as malaria.

SESAY: And for Longomba, the healing begins with awareness. So, Longomba is asking everyone to do their part.

LONGOMBA: These who lead us, the politicians and those who lead the world should think about Africa. (inaudible).

SESAY: The Awilo Longomba Foundation aims to tackle these problems through education, preparing future generations of Congolese through literacy. The award-winning artist hopes to fund his dreams by making his career more profitable beyond the African continent where piracy of recorded work is a major problem.

LONGOMBA: The dream of any African artist is to come to a super- developed country, such as the United States, to try to find a market for their music. I think there is a public here. I think there is a place for my music here in the United States.

SESAY: The former drummer's music is striking a cord as seen here in this performance in the U.S. city of Atlanta.

LONGOMBA: My music is African music. It's dance music -- it is music of joy. (inaudible) the dance music, which I call Techno-Soukous, Techno- Soukous.

SESAY: Whether he's singing about love, or voicing support of millions of fellow Africans, Longomba says he believes in a better tomorrow.

LONGOMBA: I am a good believer. I believe in God. I am asking that this millennium becomes the millennium of people and dignity in Africa and around the world. That's my prayer.

SESAY: Spreading his passion for music, winning over fans in America, and helping those in need in his native country, Africa's Superman is certainly on a mission.


SESAY: With a nickname like Superman, we're expecting big things from Mr. Longomba.

Well, the former president of Botswana also entertained an Atlanta crowd recently. Festus Mogae hosted a premiere party for the HBO network series "Number 1 Ladies' Detective Agency," starring Jill Scott. It's a first major production to be filmed entirely on location in Botswana. The fictional series follows the adventures of Botswana's first female private detective, who relies on her intuition to solve crimes. Mr. Mogae was that country's president for 10 years. He told the Atlanta audience that the series captures the spirit of Botswana.

And there we must leave it. Be sure to tune in next week for a brand new episode of INSIDE AFRICA. Nkepile Mabuse will take us behind the scenes of the Capetown international jazz festival. So you won't want to miss that. Thanks for watching.