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Conflict Minerals; Soccer in South Africa

Aired May 23, 2009 - 12:30:00   ET


ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, and welcome to INSIDE AFRICA. I'm Isha Sesay. On the program this week, 2010 organizes youth football to instill global awareness in young South Africans, and some Maasai herdsmen end up in the big city while dreaming of greener pastures.

But we begin with a bill recently introduced in the U.S. Congress which is intended to ease the suffering in Eastern Congo. The measure aims to keep conflict minerals out of the electronic products bought and sold in the United States.


SESAY: These are some of the gadgets many of us can't imagine life without. But global demand for high-tech electronic products is indirectly helping to finance the world's deadliest conflict. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, multiple armed groups are committing mass murder and rape. Their aim in part is to control the country's rich mineral mines. Coltan, tin, tungsten -- all crucial to the global electronics industry. Manufacturers use them in virtually every electronic device imaginable. Profits from the so-called "conflict minerals," hundreds of millions of dollars a year, help fund the Congolese conflict. Now, some lawmakers in the United States are proposing legislation to help change that.

JIM MCDERMOTT, U.S. CONGRESSMAN: This bill is designed to get the State Department to say who controls the mines, and then to talk to the companies about whether they are using materials from those mines, and they give us a report. It's very similar to what we did with blood diamonds, and it is the only way to get attention and get people to focus on the fact that we have a terrible civil war, and violence to women in the central part of Africa that's got to be ended.

SESAY: The Congolese government is welcoming the measure.

DR. FAIDA MITIFU, DRC AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.: This would be the wise step, and hopefully other countries would follow in this -- in the footsteps of the Congress of the United States, to put boundaries, and to more or less regulate the flow of minerals in the eastern part of the country.

SESAY: Activists also say the bill is a step in the right direction. The advocacy group the Enough Project is among those calling on the consumer electronics industry to ensure their products are conflict mineral free.

JOHN PRENDERGAST, ENOUGH PROJECT: Basically, the idea is that we -- that the big companies at the top of the food chain, the cell phone companies and the lap-top, and the computer companies can apply significant pressure downward on their suppliers, and say, basically, we don't want to buy any more products, any more raw materials that come from places that fuel conflict.

SESAY: A few of the big electronics manufacturers say they already have policies on certain Congolese minerals. CTIA, the international association for the wireless telecommunications industry, said in a written statement, "The wireless industry is aware of the situation on coltan, and has been working with a leading third party organizations such as the Global e-Sustainability Initiative and Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition on the matter for several years."

So what can we as consumers do to make sure we don't fuel the violence in the DRC the next time we decide to buy electronics?

PRENDERGAST: I think the best thing that we can all do is to contact directly the cell phone providers, the laptop manufacturers, the companies that we work -- that we buy products from all the time, the big companies, the big electronic companies in North America and Europe and Asia, and just tell them, we would like our products to be conflict-free.

SESAY: But even for those companies who do want to act, it's not easy, because there is no certification system in place for the region to help differentiate between good and bad sources. And an outright ban on minerals from the region would deliver an economic blow to legitimate mines, so the search for solutions continues.

Meanwhile, the Enough Project is sponsoring a video campaign on YouTube to help raise awareness. As for the sponsored U.S. bill, its sponsors are hopeful.

MCDERMOTT: You're looking at an issue of human rights that people understand and feel they can do something about. I think that's why it will probably come out of committee.


SESAY: The fact is, most bills never make it out of committee in the U.S. Congress, so we'll be keeping a close eye on this one.

Well, it's a great big world out there. We'll show you how 2010 organizes are using football to teach South African teenagers all about it.


SESAY: Welcome back to INSIDE AFRICA. With just over a year to go before the 2010 World Cup kicks off, excitement is building in South Africa, and organizers are using this period of anticipation as a teachable moment for young players around the country. Robyn Curnow explains.


ROBYN CURNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For these South African teenagers, the football World Cup and next month Confederation's Cup have already kicked off.

They're playing at a school tournament where each South African province has adopted one of the teams competing in the Confederation's Cup. (inaudible) under 18 goals final, and the Iraqi team is in the lead. The Iraqi girls team comes from Gogoletu (ph), a poor township in Cape Town.

By flying the Iraq flag and others on the dusty pitchers of Johannesburg, FIFA and South Africa's Education Department are hoping to teach South Africa's youngsters about the world and the international teams arriving here over the next year.

(on camera): What do you know about Iraq?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know -- I know their language. I know the language.

CURNOW: What can you say?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can say shukran.

CURNOW: What else did you learn about Iraq? Do you know where it is?


CURNOW: You don't know where Iraq is.


CURNOW: So, they didn't show you on the map where it was? No? Do you know anything about Iraq? Do you know there was a war there?


CURNOW: Where is Italy?


CURNOW: Do you know that Egypt is in Africa? Do you know where Brazil is?


CURNOW: Where is Brazil?


CURNOW: Overseas?


CURNOW: OK, but where about overseas?


CURNOW: You know what? You're the first kid out of all of these kids when I've asked that question that knows where their country is.

(voice over): Teaching South Africa's disadvantaged kids about the world beyond their poor neighborhoods is as important as building airports, roads and stadiums, says Danny Jordaan, the head of the local organizing committee.

DANNY JORDAAN, 2010 LOCAL ORGANIZING COMMITTEE: And when you talk about the future, you have to begin to focus on the youth, and those at school, and this is a first program that we've launched. We have identified many shortcomings. We have to address that to strengthen the educational side of this program.

CURNOW: So, FIFA says, it will keep on trying, calling on even the most senior Iraqi diplomat in South Africa to help educate South Africa's youth.

RASHEED MUTLAK, IRAQI EMBASSY, SOUTH AFRICA: I'm very happy to see most of the students are supporting Iraqi team.

CURNOW: Geography and politics aside, the drama of the game took precedence.

And so did the joy of winning, no matter whose flag flew on top.

ANESIPHO KRAQA, "IRAQ": We're proud of our team. We're proud of (inaudible). We're proud of (inaudible).

CURNOW: Robyn Curnow, CNN, Johannesburg, South Africa.


SESAY: With so much excitement surrounding the 2010 World Cup, an organization called "The Dreamfields Project" is trying to harness it. The group is promoting investment in football facilities and equipment for children in South Africa's townships and rural areas. Our Jim Clancy asks Dreamfields founder John Perlman how it works.


JOHN PERLMAN, DREAMFIELDS PROJECT FOUNDER: I think the World Cup is a unique opportunity to give ordinary South Africans and particularly young people the feeling that they're part of this amazing event. In the township, in rural schools where we work, there are lots and lots of young people who have really positive attitudes, and they express that in particular through the game they love most, the beautiful game of soccer. Most of them will play, in one way or another, on a barren piece of field. They'll play with whatever is round and rolls -- and rolls around like a soccer ball, but we felt there was an opportunity to do something more, to do something better, and in the process of that, trying to uplift the educational environment in the schools.

JIM CLANCY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Dreamfields, though, reaches out with what they call Dream Bags (ph), it's really a symbol of getting started.

PERLMAN: Yes, indeed. We felt we needed a project that was really accessible. So, Dream bag is enough football kits, including boots, for 15 players. It costs a reasonable amount of money, and we wanted to create something that was not only easy to give up, but also easy for somebody to donate. So, we've given out nearly 650 bags of kits around the country in about 15 months, and what's really warmed my heart is that it hasn't just come from corporates. It's also come from individuals as well.

I believe that every child has a right to play sports with reasonably decent equipment against other children who are as keen to play as they are. We're a non-profit organization. We were set up with funding money by two multinationals, Old Mutual and the mining group BHP Billiton. And basically, we work with anyone and everyone. We have no real message that we're putting out, except that playing football is fun and playing sports is going to make your school a better environment.


SESAY: Who knows, maybe we'll see a few of these young South African footballers playing in the World Cup tournament someday.

Well, Maasai warriors have become a common sight on the streets of Dar Es Salaam. We'll show you what they're doing and why.


SESAY: You're watching INSIDE AFRICA. Welcome back. Now, let's take a quick look at some African stories in the news.


SESAY: Nigeria's military has launched a major offensive against militants in the oil-reached Niger Delta, leaving casualties on both sides. The military says it overrun at least two major camps, and rescued more than a dozen hostages, mostly foreign oil company workers.

An Egyptian billionaire and a former police officer have both been sentenced to death in the murder of a Lebanese pop singer. Hesham Talaat Moustafa was convicted of paying the former officer to kill Suzanne Tamim after she ended an affair with him. Egypt's Grand Mufti must review all death sentences before they can be carried out.

The Somali government is appealing for international help to set up a coast guard. Somali officials say they would use such a force to wipe out piracy along their coast.


SESAY: A recent spike in violence in war-ravished Somalia is driving hundreds of thousands of Somalis to seek safer ground. Medecins Sans Frontieres estimates that about 5,000 arrive each month at already overcrowded camps on the Kenyan border. Donna Canali, a project coordinator and nurse with MSF just got back from those camps. She told me the refugees face alarming shortages of food, water and shelter.


DONNA CANALI, MEDECINS SANS FRONTIERES: These camps were built to house 90,000 refugees. As of today, there are over 272,000 refugees in the camps. There is not enough water. There is not enough food. The sanitation is deplorable. And conditions are so bad in the camps that a number of refugees have decided they would prefer going back to Somalia and take their chance with the bullets rather than die a slow death in (inaudible).

SESAY: It really is an outrageous situation that you describe. Tell me the kind of diseases that are -- that are striking up in this kind of environment.

CANALI: Fortunately right now, we don't have a public health emergency in terms of an epidemic at this moment. But we certainly have a humanitarian emergency, because of water, the sanitation, the lack of adequate food and shelter.

So, the concern is that this is a public health emergency ready to happen. So when people are malnourished, they're more likely to get diseases, they're more likely to die from those diseases, and it's more likely to spread.

There had to be reductions in food calories distributed in April, by 30 -- 30 percent, I believe it was. You know, this was -- this was an alarm, that if this would continue, the number of particularly children, the most vulnerable population, the number of them suffering malnutrition would increase drastically.

SESAY: Explain to us, what kind of action is on the way to improve the condition in these camps. I know that your trip to D.C. is related to this.

CANALI: We're making a round of talks here to -- to talk to donors, talk to U.N. agencies about what I saw there. The conditions are incredibly congested. We need the Kenyan government -- we need donor -- donor agencies, donor nations, to find a resolution to the issue of land, and to bring -- and to have space for all the new refugees that are coming in. There needs to be an immediate influx of funding. The agencies that are taking care of water and the sanitation don't have all the resources they -- they need. There's not an emergency backup of food from the World Food Program that -- that can take over, if necessary, if pipelines dry up. There is no reason at this point why this has to be in such dire condition.


SESAY: Donna Canali of MSF there with a firsthand perspective on a growing refugee crisis.

In Tanzania, circumstances have forced many Maasai men to leave their communities in order to support them. We'll hear from a few of them about the struggle they face.


SESAY: Welcome back to INSIDEA AFRICA. For the Maasai people of Tanzania, rain is a lifeblood of their communities. Without it, the grass doesn't grow and the animals have nowhere to graze. Lately, well, there hasn't been nearly enough of it. And that reality has forced scores of Maasai men to find new ways to make a living.


SESAY: It's a familiar sight -- a Maasai walking along a grassy path, but these not the savanna plains of northern Tanzania. This is the route this former herdsman takes to a Dar Es Salaam hotel, where he works as the security guard. Samuel says reduced rainfall in his native Arutia (ph) has forced him to do that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (though translator): Our herd depends on wild grass to survive and when our cattle are full and happy, we too are happy. But for example this year, we are still waiting on the rains and the herders are scrambling to find patches of fresh grass. So we are never happy because out cattle are starving.

SESAY: Paolo (ph), also a recent Maasai transplant, agrees.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): It used to rain heavily and the cattle could graze, but the rains don't come as often as they used to.

SESAY: Many young Maasai men moved to Dar to generate income for their families. This group makes money by braiding women's hair in the style of Maasai warriors. It's considered taboo in their culture, but breaking taboos is just one of the adjustments Maasai men say they have to make to survive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Our norms dictate that young men braid their hair and women must shave their heads bald. However, when we discovered that urban women like to braid their hair in our natural style, we decided to start our own business.

SESAY: They say they must do this to provide for their families, but there are some compromises they refuse to make.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We never marry outside of our tribe. We want women who understand our laws and way of life.

SESAY: Most of these young men have wives back home, but they only see them every few months.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We cannot bring our wives here because there won't be anyone to look after our parents.

SESAY: Like Samuel, most young Maasai men who moved here work as night guards for homes and businesses. He believes it's a natural fit, because they're taught to be warriors or marani from a young age.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): When you are about seven years old and you are introduced to herding cattle in the bush, then when you are of age you are taken for initiation and live in the bush for three months learning various techniques, going into the bush and fighting lions.

SESAY: They created a tribal support structure to help each other adjust to the new urban surroundings. And they wear tradition clothes in order to spot each other easily.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We enjoy being together. If I go to any part of the country, I will first look for a fellow Maasai.

SESAY: Not a surprising sentiment. Their relations with Dar Es Salaam residents can be tense.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Sometimes, out of spite, people will dress up like us and go steal or vandalize property. If people see them, they think that it is the Maasai who have stolen or vandalized that property. They mock us and think that just because we wear our traditional clothing, we are inferior and don't understand our rights.

SESAY: Despite the difficulties, most Maasai are determined to maintain their cultural traditions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Our culture and traditions will remain.

SESAY: But if climate change is to blame for their plight, the obstacles to their traditional way of life are only expected to grow.


SESAY: So, what exactly has been impact of climate change of sub- Saharan Africa, and what does the future hold? I asked Peter Webster, a professor at Georgia Tech School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences.


PETER WEBSTER, GEORGIA TECH CLIMATE EXPERT: The first world, the United States and Europe, has a greater chance of adapting to climate change. They can change their farming practices quite easily. But when you get to the developing countries, that becomes much, much more difficult. The resources that one needs to adapt to a changing climate are very difficult. And on top of that too, we have increasing populations. So even with no climate change, but just variations of climate natural cycles, it becomes more difficult when the population increases, resources are stretched all the time.

I think when one looks at what's happening in the Sudan and the tragedy of Darfur, where you have different ethnic groups essentially fighting over the same land, because there are more people and the climate has been so difficult over the last 50 years, I do believe that climate can cause great conflicts. And I think there are other parts of the world where there (inaudible) too. Bangladesh is one of them, and Africa particularly, where -- where things now are very difficult, and I think will become more difficult.


SESAY: And there we must leave it. I'll be back with a brand new INSID AFRICA next week. Thank you for watching.