Return to Transcripts main page


The World Fastest Growing Refugee Crisis; Saudi Arabia Gets New Crown Prince; Looking Inside Yemen's Silent War. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired June 23, 2017 - 14:00   ET



[14:02:32] CLARISSA WARD, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Clarissa Ward in for Christiane Amanpour.

The world should take Uganda's lead when it comes to welcoming refugees. That's what U.N. Secretary Antonio Guterres tells me tonight in an

exclusive interview.

He is in Uganda, home to the world's fastest growing refugee emergency in the world and the world's largest refugee camp Bidi Bidi. Larger even than

Zaatari in Jordan.

Today in Kampala, the U.N. is holding a solidarity summit to rally international support. More than 1.25 million people are taking refuge in

Uganda. The vast majority fleeing the conflict in neighboring South Sudan.

The number of South Sudanese in Uganda has skyrocketed from 229,000 just a year ago to a million today. 86 percent of them are women and children.

I started off by asking the secretary-general about why his visit to Uganda is such an important model for other countries.


ANTONIO GUTERRES, U.N. SECRETARY GENERAL: Well, I just came to visit the refugee settlement of the South Sudanese. And Uganda has been extremely

generous. They opened the borders, the doors, the hearts of the people. They share everything.

They provided land to the refugees. They can even farm. And this is an example that should be meditated in a world where so many borders are

closed, so many refugees are being rejected, so many hate speech against refugees appears in different countries around the world.

And so this is a moment in which we need the international solidarity to support Uganda, for Uganda to be able when it is a poor country to be able

to provide for all of the refugees that came to this country and at the same time to appeal for those that are behind the conflict in South Sudan,

for those that leave the parties to this conflict to stop this war because the people of South Sudan six years after independence is suffering in an

horrible, horrible way.

WARD: What specific measures taken by the Ugandan state have been so successful? What is it exactly that they're doing that has made this a

smooth refugee crisis to the extent that any refugee's crisis can be smooth?

[14:05:00] GUTERRES: The community has allowed the refugees to come. Land here is property of the community so they provided lands to the refugees.

They allow them to farm. They allow them to be in their schools. Schools that are now overcrowded. There are classrooms with 160 students. You can

imagine what that means.

You have in there health centers, their small hospitals, people sleeping on the ground because the Ugandans can see that they are their brothers and

sisters and they're entitled to live as they live and to have access to all of the equipments that serve the population. But as you can imagine, in

the areas where I've been, the population more than doubled.

WARD: Well, I was going to ask you that. Has Uganda's generosity come at a price?

GUTERRES: Yes, and that price is indeed the fact that they were complaining to me today that their children in school are having

difficulties because they have to share the same classrooms with all of the refugees. Their access to health is difficult, that jobs at cost --

because the refugees also have a right to access the labor market. So their jobs are also relatively more in danger.

So they are really paying a heavy price and this, I think, is a lesson. Namely a lesson for the developed world.

Last year, Uganda, a member of South Sudanese refugees that is triple, three times more the number of people that cross the Central Mediterranean,

namely from Libya into Italy. And you can imagine when the Ugandans have received three times what Europe has received, you can imagine the impact

in the Ugandan society.

WARD: I want to shift gears for a moment, though, if you'll allow me. You talked about the danger of the U.S. disengaging, creating some kind of a

vacuum that would be filled potentially by alternative actors or players.

Let me ask you now, do you feel at the U.N. that you can work well with the Trump administration?

GUTERRES: Of course. We are engaging with the Trump administration. We are working with the Trump administration. We've been doing our best in

order to make sure that the cooperation between the U.S. and the U.N. will be as positive as possible.

What I believe is to the extent that the country like the United States disengages from its foreign policy, from its influence in aspects of global

impact, but also of an enormous impact in the U.S. in itself because today, security is a global problem. Economy is a global situation. Environment

is also a global challenge. To the extent that when countries like the U.S. disengages, one thing is clear, other countries are ready to occupy

that space and that can be done to the detriment of American interests.

So I think it is good for the U.S. and it's good for the U.N. that the U.S. fully assumes its responsibilities as big priorities in order to make sure

that the world can have an economy that is most prosper, a security situation that is safer and at the same time the capacity to control

climate change.

WARD: And when you're traveling to Washington, D.C. next week, I believe, to talk with members of Congress about different issues facing and

affecting the U.N., is this something that you plan to bring up in these meetings, the idea that the absence of global leadership from the U.S. is

potentially dangerous or potentially damaging?

GUTERRES: We have dramatic problems in the world. I believe that the United States alone cannot solve these problems. But I also believe that

the importance of the U.S. in today's world is such that without the U.S. engagement, those problems also have no solution. And this can have a

dramatic consequence.

Look at global terrorism. Global terrorism today impacts every society in our planet. Nobody is safe.

WARD: I'm sure you have heard U.S. and Iraqi forces are saying that ISIS destroyed the notorious mosque where Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi gave his sermon

declaring the establishment of a caliphate.

How do you feel about how this war against ISIS has been going in Mosul? And are you concerned that enough has been done to prevent civilian


GUTERRES: I think it is absolutely necessary to fight ISIS, and it's also important to do it finding political solutions for the problems of the

countries where ISIS operates, because if we don't find political solutions, terrorists will always tend to be reborn. And, of course, it's

very important to guarantee the protection of civilians in this kind of conflict.

I understand that this is not always easy. I understand that in some situations, this probably has not happened in the best possible way. But

we should be very clear that being strongly in favor of taking adequate measures to protect civilian, it is absolutely essential to defeat ISIS and

to destroy ISIS.

Secretary-general, thank you so much for being with us on the program.

GUTERRES: Thank you very much.

[14:10:15] WARD: When we come back as Saudi Arabia gets a new crown prince, we have an exclusive look at what the gulf powerhouse is doing to

keep eyes away from its brutal war in Yemen. That's next.


WARD: Welcome back to the program.

This week Saudi Arabia appointed a new heir to the throne. In a surprise re-shuffle, King Salman removed his nephew as crown prince in favor of his

31-year-old son Mohammad Bin Salman. He has been appointed deputy prime minister and will continue in his role as defense minister where he has

been overseeing the Saudi-led war in Yemen.

The move also formalizes Mohammad Bin Salman's wide-ranging reform plan which seeks to scale back the country's dependence on oil and diversify the


Ali Shihabi is the executive director of the Arabia Foundation, a Washington-based think tank. I asked him about the significance of the



WARD: Thank you so much for joining us on the program. I guess I would like to start out by explain to us the significance of this reshuffle.

What does this mean?

ALI SHIHABI, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ARABIA FOUNDATION: Well, it was very important because it removed any ambiguity about the future succession of

the monarchy. There had been a lot of talk in the media and in social media over the last 12, 18 months of supposed competition or rivalry which

was overblown.

But at the end of the day, the country needed that certainty and particularly since you're moving from an older generation to the next

generation, that was always a very big move that people have anticipated, you know, could be bumpy for over a decade now.

So I think it's a huge move that has been carried out seamlessly and as you saw the former crown prince, you know, within minutes pledged his

allegiance to the new crown prince and did it on television.

So I think it has gone very smoothly and very elegantly, and it puts to rest any uncertainty about future programs, particularly the implementation

of the reform program that began over 12 months ago and is a long-term program.

So, you know, there were questions raised that this is a program that was headed by Prince Mohammad Bin Salman. And, you know, if there was a change

in monarchy in the future, would that reform program be derailed.

So I think all of that uncertainty has been eliminated. And you could see today at the Saudi stock market, which shot up, really, as the market

reacted very positively to the news.

WARD: And so just this now enable the young crown prince, because as you said, he has a very ambitious, progressive agenda where -- relating to

social issues, relating to economic issues.

Does this empower him to push those through more quickly? I mean, are we potentially looking at seeing women driving on the streets of Saudi Arabia

any time sooner?

SHIHABI: Look, it does empower him because certainly, you know, when you have a certain amount of uncertainty about succession, a bit of

cautiousness steps in.

So, you know, while one hasn't heard anything specific about women's driving, I wouldn't be surprised if, you know, this was to lead to some

major social and cultural developments in the kingdom over the next 12 months.

[14:15:00] WARD: I want to, if you'll bear with us, of course, you know, one of the main foreign policy challenges that we'll be facing the young

prince in his role, his continuing role as minister of defense is the war in Yemen.

For our viewers who are not following this closely, Saudi Arabia is leading a coalition of Arab states fighting against Iran aligned Houthi rebels and

the conflict of course has triggered a famine.

We have spent months at CNN trying to get into the hardest hit areas. And in the course of doing so we discovered that it appears the Saudi-led

coalition is actively blocking international media and human rights workers from traveling to these hard hit areas.

We've commissioned local journalists to see what they are trying to hide.

Take a look and then we can talk about it afterwards.



WARD (voice-over): These are the images that Saudi Arabia does not want you to see. The youngest victims of a near famine that threatens the lives

of almost seven million people.

Baby Ahmad (ph) is just ten months old.

The nurse says he would be dead in two days if he hadn't come for treatment. But many Yemenis can't afford to get to a hospital. In a dusty

camp for those displaced by more than two years of grinding civil war, our team met husband, Hamza (ph). His 10-month-old son, Akram (ph) has been

malnourished for months.

"I cannot take him to the city because there's no money," he says. "We're hoping any aid group will come see us and help us but no one has come. We

await God's fate."

Access to the victims of this manmade famine has been drastically restricted. In recent months, CNN has found that the Saudi Arabia-led

coalition is deliberately blocking journalists and human rights workers from visiting the hardest hit areas.

The air, land and sea blockade imposed by Riyadh and its partners has brought basic services to a grinding halt. And deteriorating conditions

are being blamed for a vicious cholera outbreak with more than 1100 deaths in a matter of months, according to the World Health Organization.

For 25-year-old medic Rannah Sayid Farrah (ph), the days have become a blur. Like so many hospitals, hers is short-staffed and under equipped.

"How old is she," she asks? "Is she throwing up?"

The little girl, Ezra (ph), has been brought in by her parents. She is the third of their children to fall ill.

"I'm scared, of course," her father Ali (ph) says. "Your children are your world."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We wish we could finish this epidemic, this disaster. We want to finish this disaster. Patients are dying one by one. They will

die at anytime. You couldn't do anything for them.

WARD: Pleas for help appear to have fallen on deaf ears. President Trump's recent trip to Riyadh and the announcement of a massive weapons

deal was seen by many to embolden the kingdom, leaving Yemen's conflict for now a silent war.


WARD: Now, I should say we reached out to the Saudi ambassador to the United Nations, and he told CNN in a statement the following, "We assure

you that Saudi Arabia does not exercise any kind of censorship. Many news reporters and U.N. personnel had been granted access to Yemen. The Yemeni

government and not the Saudi-led coalition usually process visa approvals. We have raised the issue to our capital."

Well, we're still joined now by Ali Shihabi.

Ali, I just wanted to ask, you saw the report there. What's your reaction to the idea that this Saudi-led coalition and the Hadi government of Yemen

has been blocking access to international media and human rights workers?

SHIHABI: You see the problem with your report, Clarissa, is that you did not specify the specific locations of the pictures. Now there's multiple

civil wars and multiple conflicts taking place across Yemen. And the major port where food and medical supplies come in is controlled by the Iranian-

supported Houthi militia. And the Saudi government has been calling for months for the United Nations to take control of that port to supervise it

for the specific reason that food and medical supplies have been taken -- is sort of taken over by the Houthi militias and, you know, used as a

weapon of war to starve, for example, the city of Taiz in Yemen, which is one of the worst hit, is one that is suffering the blockade by the Houthis.

So that -- the Saudi government has been saying we want the United Nations to come in; we want the United Nations to control that port; we want to

have transparency in the supply of medical equipment and food, and that has not been happening.

[14:20:12] At the end of the day, Saudi Arabia is the only country that will be left worrying about Yemen, when you know the Yemen war goes out of

fashion and NGOs and the media go on to the next new conflict.

Yemen is stuck to Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia has, you know, over 1 million Yemeni immigrants and refugees living in the country. It has 300,000

Yemenis in school in Saudi Arabia at government expense.

So the issue that the kingdom of Saudi Arabia would want to inflict human punishment on Yemen just beggars belief. It does not make sense. The

Saudi government has been making huge efforts. Of course war causes a lot of disruption and civil war causes more disruption because you have an

element of criminality coming into it. So various Yemeni organizations take over food supplies and take over medical supplies and sell them in the

black market.

So it's a very complex problem that your little clip there showed simply as being a result of big, bad Saudi Arabia. And frankly, that's very unfair

and it's not correct.

WARD: Well, my little clip was the result of an extensive investigation, and you still haven't answered the question as to why or whether the Saudi-

led coalition is blocking international media from getting to Sana'a, and I should say to our viewers that most of the video footage that you saw in

that report is from in and around Sana'a, which is the capital in the north of the country.

A U.N. official, a U.N. humanitarian worker has told CNN in no uncertain terms that the people preventing journalists and human rights workers from

getting into Sana'a and these hard-hit areas are the Saudi-led coalition and the Hadi government of Yemen.

SHIHABI: Well, there are two things that issue with Sana'a. First of all, Sana'a is controlled by the Houthis. Having said that, a number of foreign

reporters and representatives of NGOs and think tanks have been to Sana'a recently.

So the Saudi -- there have been flights going into Sana'a. There had been U.N. flights going in to Sana'a and a lot of the members of the media have

been able to piggyback on those flights. So, you know, I take a bit of exception the fact that the Saudi coalition does not control Sana'a and

that there are direct -- that there U.N. flights --


WARD: No, but they control the air space over Sana'a.

SHIHABI: Yes. But there are United Nation flights going in where members of the media have been over the past few months using to access Sana'a.


WARD: And those flights have been told they are not allowed to take any international journalists.

SHIHABI: Well, that hasn't happened because, for example, there was a member of international crisis group that just drew up a report on her

visit to Sana'a and she went in with the United Nations -- on a United Nations flight.

So now having said that, also Sana'a is not a neutral location, because when you go to Sana'a, you are received by the Houthi public relations

machine. They take you where they want to take you; they give you their narrative; they give you their story so you don't get exposed to an

independent -- you have no way to independently verify events, and that's what happens.

And, obviously, you know, pictures of human suffering are very moving and emotional and people get affected by it, but you really need to do a lot of

due diligence to see exactly where, how, why. And, for example, Sana'a is not one of the city that are suffering from famine. So I'm surprised that

you say these pictures are on Sana'a because Sana'a is not one of the city suffering from famine.


WARD: So --

SHIHABI: But, in fact, the main city suffering from famine is being surrounded by the Houthis, who are not letting food --

WARD: Taiz.

SHIHABI: Taiz is not applied -- is not allowing food and medical supplies to come in. So --


WARD: Just very quickly, how do you think the new crown prince will endeavor to resolve ordeal with the crisis in Yemen?

SHIHABI: The crisis in Yemen began because a civil war and internal dynamics were taken advantage of by the Iranians, you know. And members of

the press and think tank community have been saying for years that Iran has not been involved in Yemen until the Iranians themselves admitted that they

were involved in Yemen.

So that caused Saudi Arabia and the coalition to react, to try to interdict the flow of weapons and to try to send the message to the Houthis that they

will not allow them to become allies of Iran.

I always give the analogy that, you know, if Mexico in the cold war had -- elements of Mexico had reached out to the Soviet Union and the Soviet Union

had started to help the local militia in Mexico work against the United States, reaction in America would have been very similar to Saudi Arabia


So it's a complex issue. And it really can't be reduced to a sound bite or to a selective, you know, display of pictures, which are really very -- you

know, very disturbing to everybody concerned and it's an unfortunate by- product of war.

[14:25:00] WARD: OK. Thank you.

Listen, thank you very much for your perspective.

SHIHABI: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: That's why we wanted to have you on the show. We're grateful for it.

Ali Shihabi, thank you so much.


WARD: When we come back, we imagine the European cities letting refugees take over their restaurants to mark World Refugee Day.


WARD: And the final thought tonight as the world pause to think on World Refugee Day earlier this week, we imagine a taste of what refugees have to


In six European countries, 13 cities and 84 restaurants, people are cooking up a storm for the Refugee Food Festival. Lasting until the end of the

month, the festival sees refugees from Sudan to Syria, taking over restaurant kitchens with the help of local chiefs and offering up a flavor

of their homelands to Europeans.

The initiative is organized by French charity Food Sweet Food and the United Nations. The festival started in France last week. It's now

passing through Greece, a country on the forefront of the refugee crisis. On top of providing some tasty grub, the festival helps integrate the

budding chefs into the food industry in their new homes.

Well, that's it for our program tonight. Remember, you can listen to our podcast, see us online at and follow me on Facebook and

Twitter @ClarissaWard.

Thank you for watching and good-bye from London.