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Protests against Burundi's President; Israeli Prime Minister Must Form Government by Wednesday; Imagine a World. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired May 5, 2015 - 14:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight on the program: armed police, angry protesters, thousands of people fleeing their homes.
Is the African nation of Burundi on the brink?
I'll speak to a presidential spokesman.
Also coming up, deadline day for the Israeli prime minister to form a government. Why it's proving so challenging.
HOLMES: Good evening, everyone, welcome to the program. I'm Michael Holmes, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour.
Well, after a decade of fragile peace, is Burundi descending into chaos?
We've got the latest pictures to show you now from this small East African nation, where angry protesters are demonstrating against their president,
Pierre Nkurunziza. The former Hutu rebel leader wants to defy the country's constitution by standing for a third term in next month's
elections. More than a dozen protesters have been killed in clashes with the police and up to 30,000 people, perhaps even more, mainly Tutsis, have
fled to neighboring Rwanda and also the Democratic Republic of the Congo amid growing concerns the crisis in Burundi could catapult the region back
to the days of deadly ethnic cleansing.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who is visiting East Africa, said he is worried.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: We are deeply concerned about President Nkurunziza's decision, which flies directly in the face of the constitution
of his country. And the violence that is expressing the concern of his own citizens about that choice should be listened to and avoided as we go
forward in these days.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOLMES: I'm joined on the line now from Burundi by Gervais Abayeho. He is the official spokesman for the president of Burundi, Pierre Nkurunziza.
Now if I can start with this, according to his critics, the president's plan clearly violates the constitution as well as the peace deal that ended
the civil war.
So why is he running again?
GERVAIS ABAYEHO, BURUNDI PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON: The president is running again because the constitutional court, which was seized by Burundi
senate has found that the president (INAUDIBLE) is valued and he can run on this party ticket.
HOLMES: You mentioned the court; there's obviously fear among the judiciary, the vice president of Burundi's constitutional court actually
fled the country. Another judge reported to have said that judges had come under enormous pressure and even death threats.
That doesn't sound like a reasoned and impartial court decision, does it?
ABAYEHO: First of all, a professional judge cannot wreak out information or a decision that was reached in a meeting in camera whether in the
country or out of the country. It is quite normal for a bench of judges, if one of them expresses a dissention opinion, but going out and receiving
information in a meeting is behind closed doors for a professional judge. You end up questioning the credibility of his statement.
HOLMES: Well, it remains that one has fled the country and another is criticizing. A lot of people are concerned that Article 20 of the peace
accord said that the first transitional president shall be elected by the national assembly.
This is what happened. It's not a loophole. He can't run another time.
ABAYEHO: This is what the constitutional court looked into. We believe that these are -- the court is made of professional judges, who were
governed by -- who is guided by the law and who came up with the conclusion. This court is made of seven judges, six of them have found out
that they (INAUDIBLE) was valid for him to be able to run for another term in office.
HOLMES: The president has drawn a lot of criticism from human rights groups, also diplomatic sources as well because he cracks down on
journalists, activists, independent media, opposition parties boycotted the last election because they feared it would be rigged.
Has this been a good government, in your view?
ABAYEHO: If you look at the freedom we are
[14:05:00] expressing in Burundi, Burundi is -- you cannot find it anywhere in this region. But other place, as you know, opposition measure and
social measure has been assuring violence, is spreading the message of rhetoric, calling more on people to go on the street. Now the government,
as a preventive measure, has been obliged to sack some of those media so that law and order can be observed in this country.
HOLMES: Gervais Abayeho, he is the spokesman for the president of Burundi, Pierre Nkurunziza.
Thanks for your time.
Well, let's talk a little bit more about the wider implications of this crisis and whether other African nations might be drawn into this.
Dr. Phil Clark is an expert from the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.
You were listening there, Dr. Clark. It seems like according to the presidential spokesman everything is lawful and all is well.
DR. PHIL CLARK, SCHOOL OF ORIENTAL AND AFRICAN STUDIES: I think that's a very complacent view that we hear from the spokesman there and it's clearly
not a view that's shared by the thousands of protesters who've been on the streets of Bujumbura and other Burundian cities and towns in the last week
I think there's a sense amongst everyday citizens that it's extremely illegal, what the president is doing and it's a population that is sick of
this particular president. The last 10 years under his rule have been a time of real economic deprivation, a real sense of discontent across the
country and so most everyday Burundians, I think, are very keen for him to go.
HOLMES: So this has been simmering. It's not just about this decision to run again. This has been simmering for a while.
The obvious fear I guess, Doctor, is a resumption of ethnic violence between Hutu and Tutsi.
But do you see the opposition to the president, a sectarian issue or does this cross the divide, if you like, the ethnic divide?
CLARK: This is a problem that goes a long way across the ethnic divide, the opposition to Nkurunziza is, I would say, quite evenly split among Hutu
and Tutsi. And that's largely because of the economic situation in the country.
It also has a lot to do with rampant corruption within his government, the president and his inner circle are, I think, very well known to have lined
their pockets over the last 10 years and that's been to the detriment of everyday Burundians. So that's the real source, I think, of the
It should be said, though, that there is a certain ethnic element to some of the violence that we've seen in the last week or so and the reason for
that is that the main Hutu opposition group, the FNL, have said that they will not put their supporters on the streets, that that is meant that most
of the protesters that we've seen on the streets in Bujumbura have in fact come from Tutsi political parties and their supporters.
HOLMES: So the fear -- so the fear does exist, the potential that it could become a sectarian issue?
How quickly could that get out of control?
CLARK: I think that's the danger at the moment. So that even though the protests are cut right across the ethnic divide, the specific violence that
we've seen in the last week or so has been targeted mainly at the Tutsi population. And so the concern, I think, is that that could get out of
control. That's certainly the concern of the neighboring countries, Rwanda and Congo in particular, that this conflict that over the last year or two
hasn't had a specific ethnic nature might take on that kind of characteristic. And that's something that I think is particularly
dangerous for the region as a whole.
HOLMES: And you touched on this. And that is my next question, Rwanda's foreign minister already said she's worried about the unrest in Burundi and
Rwanda, of course, shares the same ethnic mix and that's where the '94 genocide was born and we saw 800,000 people killed when Tutsis and Hutus
Could, with the refugees crossing the border and that already creating a problem for Rwanda as well as the DRC, could Rwanda be dragged into a
regional conflict here?
CLARK: I think at the moment it looks unlikely that Rwanda would get dragged into any kind of regional fight. I think Rwanda's real concern is
just with the sheer number of refugees coming across the border. That puts real pressure on the Rwandan government to care for those refugees. It
creates a certain amount of insecurity around the borderlands.
Rwanda is worried about the possibility of Hutu militias in Congo and in Burundi coming across the border and wreaking havoc in Rwanda. But I think
at the moment Rwanda has the situation quite well under control. So I wouldn't see Rwanda getting dragged into any kind of regional war at this
HOLMES: Worrying situation evolving. Appreciate it, Dr. Phil Clark there, expert from the School of Oriental and
[14:10:00] African Studies in London. Appreciate your expertise. Thanks for that, Phil.
CLARK: You're welcome.
HOLMES: Well, as Burundi struggles to find an answer to ethnic tensions, we turn now to Israel, facing its own race troubles. I'm going to ask one
of the country's most respected reporters, Ari Shavit, about what is next for his country. That's when we come back.
HOLMES: Welcome back, everyone.
The clock is ticking in Israel for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to form a government and it's not coming easy for Bibi. Foreign Minister
Avigdor Lieberman's surprise announcement yesterday that he will not join the coalition means that Netanyahu is barely hanging on to his majority in
parliament. Now this news coming just as the prime minister is struggling with other major challenges, for example, the release of a new report on
last year's war in Gaza, which alleges serious misconduct on the part of Israeli soldiers.
Also as we've been coverage this week, the eruption of major anti-racism protests over the treatment of Ethiopian Jews. Well, who better to talk
about all of this than one of Israel's most respected observers of politics and society, Ari Shavit is a senior correspondent for "Ha'aretz," joins me
now from Los Angeles, where he is on tour for his new book, "My Promised Land."
Ari, thanks for being with us. Congratulations on the book. Let's start with the formation of the government, the withdrawal of Foreign Minister
Lieberman from the coalition.
What impact is that going to have?
What's gone on behind the scenes?
ARI SHAVIT, "HA'ARETZ": Pretty dramatic. Israeli politics is quite tragicomic. On the one hand, Israeli is such a wonderful, lively, vibrant
democracy; on the other hand, it's a pretty dysfunctional one. And we are witnessing this right now.
What has happened that in the elections Mr. Netanyahu won big-time. I would say the people have spoken, whether we like it or not. And they've
really chosen him.
But the weird Israeli coalition process actually now makes Mr. Netanyahu quite weak. He cannot form the rather wide, stable right-wing government
that he wanted and he's faced with two problematic choices, either an extreme right-wing government that will be narrow, fragile and, in many
ways, problematic because he'll be under the pressure of real extremists; or try the very last moment bring about a unity government with Mr. Herzog,
which does not seem very probable. But the option is there.
So Netanyahu won the elections but already lost the process of government building. And he cannot have the government he wanted to have.
HOLMES: Can he govern effectively with what could be a 61-seat government? That's a tiny majority in what can be a fractious Knesset, where tiny
parties can wield enormous power via the leverage they then hold.
[14:15:00] SHAVIT: Absolutely. And what troubles me so much about this scenario is, you know, Israeli elections in many ways were a referendum on
hope versus fear. Sadly, hope was shallow and hollow; fear was very deep. And this is why we had this result.
But the Israeli electorate was not that extremist, as many people think, because many extreme right-wing parties have actually lost power. We don't
have what we had throughout Europe, which is a kind of neo-Nazi parties. So actually the news about the elections was not as bleak as meets the eye.
But if Netanyahu will be held hostage by the extremist party that will be his partners in this 61-member government, then we will see a very
troubling Israeli government that does not offer any hope, does -- cannot participate in any way in the peace process, cannot free settlement and in
many ways cannot be a constructive player. And that's a very dangerous scenario.
The other side of is that that government will be a short-lived government. I mean, the life expectancy of such a government will be very limited. So
we might -- again, we are faced with other and extremist government but with a strong opposition or a completely different option that is not yet
likely but might appear in the coming 24 hours.
HOLMES: You know, another interesting quote I read, you wrote about what would seem like an almost schizophrenic electorate.
You said this -- and I'll just quote you -- "Although in their everyday lives, Israelis are dynamic, creative, vibrant and optimistic, people who
crave social justice and affordable housing and cheaper consumer goods, the good life, once in the voting booth," you wrote, "they act from a deep
sense of fear of existential angst."
What do you mean by that?
SHAVIT: Absolutely. Look, I would say the following. The problem with the international community and with the Israeli peaceniks is that for a
long time we've not been addressing the legitimate fears of the majority of Israelis. We had four, five courageous, audacious priests, peace
initiatives in the last 15-20 years. They all failed. They all ended in turmoil.
We are seeing the old corrupt order of the Middle East collapse with violence, tribalism, fanaticism, all over. And yet we -- I would put
myself in it -- the moderate people in America, in Europe and in Israel, have not produced a new peace concept that will deal with the failures of
the peace in the past and with this dangerous bubbling, simmering region that is all around Israel.
So when Israeli -- reasonable people -- centrist Israelis, who in the past voted for peace, gave it a chance, but are traumatized by the results, when
they are not giving a new, benign realistic option, they vote with fear rather than with hope. This is what I meant when I said that sadly we've
been giving the reasonable Israelis shallow hope and this is why fear has won.
If we wanted change -- and I think change is needed in Israel -- it's essential -- we need to bring about a new kind of thinking that addresses
the harsh realities of the region.
HOLMES: Speaking of peace, let's talk about war and in particular that breaking the silence report by any measure stunning allegations in this
report, the sort of things you heard Gazans saying during the war. But this time coming from Israeli soldiers, officers, many of them, things like
the targeting of civilians without due course, houses being wantonly destroyed in the war in Gaza, random shelling and shooting.
What did you make of this report?
And what impact might it have?
SHAVIT: First of all, we did not need this report to understand we had a tragic horrific summer in Gaza and in Israel. Israelis were traumatized
because they feel they pulled out of Gaza, dismantled settlements and yet Tel Aviv was attacked. Just imagine how America would have reacted if New
York would have been under fire for 50 days.
On the other hand, Israel used massive firepower, which brought about many deaths, terrible disruption and in Gaza. So we knew to begin with that
this was a very, very troubling round of violence.
SHAVIT: (INAUDIBLE) in this report must be checked. If any specific wrongdoings of the kind that is described in this report is true, the
Israeli system must deal with this in a courageous and moral way not to whitewash anything.
On the other hand, I -- let us remember the context in two or three ways.
One, Israel, the only democracy around, where such a report can be produced; two, this happened within a context when Israel was in danger and
the life of Israeli soldiers was in danger and, three, as I said, this is in the context where Israel, for once, did the right thing and tried to end
occupation and war and extremism was the result.
[14:20:00] My experience, when I was a soldier myself, I saw some wrongdoings by Israeli soldiers, my friends. It was horrific for me to see
it but then I was impressed by the way that the system dealt with the complaint I issued myself.
I really hope that we will see a decent, courageous Israeli law system dealing with whatever went wrong. But on the other hand, let's not take
these accusations as a given before this is properly checked and inquired.
HOLMES: Really appreciate it, could talk a lot longer, but we've got to leave it there, Ari Shavit, senior correspondent for "Ha'aretz" in Los
Angeles. And touring with his book, "My Promised Land."
Ari, always good to get your thoughts.
SHAVIT: Thank you so much.
HOLMES: Well, a race against the clock to form Israel's government. When we come back, the time it counts down to the British election -- that's
HOLMES: Finally tonight, imagine a world where you wake up without a clue as to who leads your country. That may well be the case for millions in
the U.K. on Friday after the general election.
To try and divine an answer, Christiane Amanpour met with Professor Anthony King.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Professor King, here we are, outside this resplendent Parliament, some might call it the mother of all parliaments.
What is it, apart from its history and its architecture, that has so inspired so many around the world?
ANTHONY KING, AUTHOR AND PROFESSOR, ESSEX UNIVERSITY: I think the simple explanation is that it's a very beautiful building. It's a very powerful
looking building. The only trouble at the moment is it's actually about to fall down, though it doesn't look it. It's going to cost a fortune to hold
AMANPOUR: Well, let's talk about that because actually we can see some of the construction over there. You've got some cover up there, some
What is happening? I mean, it's not that old. It's only a couple of hundred years old.
KING: You say only a couple of hundred years old, but the wiring, for example, is ancient. And to fix the place properly, they really have to
close it for several years and move MPs out and spend a great deal of money.
AMANPOUR: Many people around the world really wonder will it still be a united kingdom after the election?
KING: It will be a united kingdom after the election if the Conservatives win, they won't countenance anything that would cause the U.K. to break up.
If Labour wins, even if Labour has to be supported by the Scottish National Party, quite apart from anything else, the SNP doesn't want
[14:25:00] another referendum.
Why doesn't it want another referendum? Because it knows it would lose.
AMANPOUR: This building has been designed, hasn't it, for that kind of two-party attack dog kind of politics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR (voice-over): You know, you've got a line down the middle practically that separates the two parties, who are eyeball to eyeball and
who spend most Wednesdays yelling at each other.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Order! Order! Order!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: The fact that the two parties or the many parties face each other, as though they were about to have a swordfight, is sort of relevant but not
very. The fact of the matter is that if you have a horseshoe parliament, people of opposing parties are nearing -- nearer each other than they are
at Westminster and can actually fight more easily -- and do.
AMANPOUR: But I think you think that more consensus is better than more adversarial. You point to the Nordic countries as successful governing
KING: Yes, I do think that. I think you're likely to make better policy if you involve more people, if you consult more people, if you get more
people's fingerprints on whether it is -- whatever it is you agree.
And the truth of the matter is that they have far more stable policy in the Nordic countries than they do at Westminster.
AMANPOUR: So this is the very grandly named and grandly built Foreign and Commonwealth Office. This is where British foreign policy is worked out.
But it hasn't really featured in this election campaign at all.
KING: Absolutely not. It's very striking.
AMANPOUR: It is a big of an existential election, if you look at it from a European perspective. David Cameron has promised an in-out referendum
under pressure from the Far Right, UKIP.
What will happen, do you think?
What will Britain vote?
KING: I think that probably very few people aren't all exercised about that, as a proportion of UKIP voters are, quite a few conservative
activists are, but by and large, people are not too worried about Europe.
AMANPOUR: And they'd rather stay in, by and large.
KING: And they would rather -- they would rather stay in.
AMANPOUR: But what about Britain's role in the world beyond Europe, which is massively important?
You know, the special relationship, Americans are a little bit worried that Britain, because of its defense budget, because of all sorts of things, is
maybe not shouldering the same kind of burden or standing as tall as it used to do on foreign affairs.
KING: The British political class has to make up its mind. It either scales back British ambitions, including a relationship with the United
States, or it decides it wants to go on playing a role in the world. And if it does that, it has to be more outward looking.
But it also has to be prepared to spend more improving on the fence.
AMANPOUR: Here we are, outside Number 10, arguably the most famous political doorway in the world, a massive, well-known global brand.
Who's going to be walking through there May 8th?
KING: I'm not a betting man. And I'm not going to take a bet with you.
My guess is that there will be a hung parliament, as they say in Britain, with no party having an overall majority and that it will take days. It
could take weeks in order to form a government.
Until then, David Cameron stays there.
AMANPOUR: On that note, Professor King, thank you very much indeed for joining us in this very, very unpredictable and interesting election.
HOLMES: And that is it for our program tonight. Thanks for watching and goodbye for now from the CNN Center.