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CONNECT THE WORLD
Interview with Rapper Akon; Qatar Refuses to Accede to GCC Demands; Trump Uses Kennedy Center Performance to Attack Media; White House's Contradictory Foreign Policy. 11:00-12:00p ET
Aired July 2, 2017 - 11:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:00:11] BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: Defiance before a looming deadline: Qatar says it won't give in as its neighbors already look to new measures in a
row over terror funding. The very latest news and analysis this hour. We have the view from Qatar and here in the United Arab Emirates.
Also ahead, more than a fight for a city, the battle for Mosul is also a push to crush ISIS. Exclusive insight into that fight just ahead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AKON, RAPPER: America is known for having this -- a society that's been built like a puzzle.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: Rapper Akon talks to CNN about America today about immigration and the U.S. travel ban.
A very warm welcome. We are back with Connect the World here in Abu Dhabi. I'm Becky Anderson. It is just after 7:00 in the evening here. Today's
show is brought to you by the letter D. Right now, that letter is at the start of so many words people here in the Middle East are using, words like
demands, defiance, diplomacy, but perhaps most importantly of all deadline. That's what's facing leaders in a city, which also begins with D: Doha.
Now, Qatar has just hours left if it wants to meet a list of demands made by four of its neighbors. They've cut diplomatic ties and accused the
country of supporting terrorism.
Qatar denies that and says it will face whatever consequences it has to leading us to yet another word beginning with D: drama.
Jomana Karadsheh is in Doha, Nic Robertson is here with me in Abu Dhabi.
Jomana, let's start with you. As this deadline looms, what chance that Qatar agrees to what is this list of demands?
JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think, Becky, from the moment that that list of demands about 10 days ago was leaked, it
was pretty clear that it was going to be highly unlikely to see the Qataris agreeing to comply with this list of sweeping demands that they
described as unrealistic.
And we heard yesterday again from the foreign minister speaking at a press conference in Rome, they haven't outright rejected the demands, but he said
that this list was made to be rejected, not made to be accepted and reiterated what their position has been all along during this crisis, that
they're open for dialogue, open for negotiations, that they're ready to listen to the grievances of the other side, but that evidence needs to be
And one thing they say they will not do is allow anyone to dictate what their foreign policy should be. And this is what they believe this is all
And the foreign minister saying that there are international laws that would stop bigger countries from bullying smaller countries.
I think, Becky, they do know there will be consequences for their position. And, as you mentioned, the foreign minister saying they're ready to deal
with whatever the consequences are.
ANDERSON: What's the mood there on the street, Jomana?
KARADSHEH: Well, you know, Becky we're talking about how government officials have been speaking out during this crisis. But you hear what
they're saying also being echoed on the streets. There really is a mood of defiance and patriotism here in Doha.
KARADSHEH: Four years ago, Dana al Fardan ended her singing career to focus on composing music. But as her country of Qatar is facing an unprecedented
crisis, it's time to act, she says.
DANA AL FARDAN, SINGER/COMPOSER: All of a sudden, there was this embargo, and we were blockaded. I wanted to get this message of love and unity and
togetherness out. And I wanted to show this to showcase our strength and our unwavering loyalty for our leader.
KARADSHEH: Along with some of Qatar's most known musical talents and a volunteer expatriate choir, they recorded the song, "One Nation."
DANA AL FARDAN: Our home is being attacked, and we've gotta stand up for ourselves. We've gotta stand up for it. We've gotta take ownership of our
messaging. We've gotta take ownership of our narrative. We've gotta get this out there.
KARADSHEH: Qataris, like their government, feel the demands by the Saudi- led alliance, they say, aim to strip it of its sovereignty.
On the streets of Doha, it feels like National Day with what seem to be spontaneous shows of support for the country's leadership. The latest, this
wall with the emir's now iconic image where people leave messages of support and patriotism.
10-year-old Haja, perhaps too young to understand the politics behind this, says she's here to express her love for the emir and is proud of her
MAYA AL KUWARI, QATARI CITIZEN: Under this crisis and this blockade, it's brought us together. And to see people do this by, from the grassroot, from
bottom up because it's not forced by the government. So it's, I don't know. It's heartwarming to be here, too, with everyone.
KARADSHEH: We're told the poster was put up by a Qatari businessman.
TURKI BIN FAISAL AL THANI, QATARI BUSINESSMAN: During the crisis, our government, they've done, I think they've done very well in handling the
situation and providing a normal life, a continued normal life for people, for maintaining the standard of living in the country. So this is just the
way for the people and for us to show our support to our government and to our leadership, who have really made us proud of them at this time of
KARADSHEH: This sense of national pride is a sure sign that Qatar will not be backing down any time soon.
KARADSHEH: And you know, Becky, it's not just this mood of nationalism, there is also a certain level of anxiety and uncertainty. People really
don't know what's going to happen next.
ANDERSON: Jomana is in Doha, then.
Nic with me here in the UAE. Qatar, Nic, insists it is open to dialogue, but that the demands to, for example, shut down al Jazeera, close a Turkish
military base and cut relations with Iran, they say, have been framed to be rejected.
What is the perspective from Saudi, then, and its allies like the UAE as this deadline looms?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, I think when we listen to what they're saying, and we listen to what they've been saying
recently, they're framing this much less, perhaps now, about Iran, although that was on the list, number one on the list of demands. They're looking
at Turkey and the way Turkey has sent additional troops as being very unconstructive. They're listening to what Qatar is saying, and they're
recognizing that there isn't going to be an agreement, that this deadline isn't going to be reached, and it's almost a shrug of what deadline,
because it doesn't matter which minute of the day you look at it's not going to be achieved.
So, I think when you listen to the sort of overall language, not so much about al Jazeera, that's still part of their concern, but the real concern
is the funding for extremism and terrorism. And why? Because they know that resonates with their allies in the west, particularly the United
States, particularly in Europe, there's something in it for those partners and allies.
So, this is the part that worries them, this is the part that they've been trying to fix, they say, for a long time. And so this is sort of the
direction that they're moving in. Anyone going into a negotiation knows they're not going to put their sort of low demand on the table first,
they're going to go with a high demand.
So, I think that when we look at it, look at it in that context for an understanding from the Saudi, UAE perspective.
ANDERSON: This definitive list of demands, 13 of them, in at least the list the we have seen, were released on the 23rd of June with a 10-day
deadline, which is why you and I are discussing this deadline looming, as you say, very loose it seems. You can't get anybody pinned down on
ROBERTSON: They've shrugged their shoulders, didn't they?
ANDERSON: Right, OK. But I guess we have to consider what happens if as seems likely Doha refuses to negotiate on any of these.
ROBERTSON: And I think what we're looking at here, and again the language that we hear is not a precise language, but you know something that's going
to evolve over a period of time, something that maybe to think about, you know, the Saudis, the Emiratis, the Egyptians, the Bahrainis, something
they need to think about and consider.
But I think the things that they are considering are going to make it more difficult for Qatar economically as sort of a tightening of the financial
screws as a way that we've heard it described in recent days. So, I think, you know, look at the way that perhaps some of, you know, other countries
that are aligned with Qatar right now, let's put Turkey in the frame, for example. Let's send additional troop. Could it be that Qatar's partners
right now will be, you know, put in a harder economic position.
ANDERSON: What would that mean, as far as Qatar -- Turkey is concerned.
ROBERTSON: Let's say for Turkey, for example, it does more business, significantly more business with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates
than it does with Qatar. So, from a -- if you're looking at this from the perspective of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, it doesn't make
financial sense for Turkey to do to take this position. Because if they do, then, put, you know, apply these barriers, these trade barriers, that
have been applied to Qatar to some of Qatar's trading partners, for example, Turkey, they're not saying that they're going to do that. But,
for example, if they were to, then that would economically hurt Turkey significantly and it stands to lose far more than it would if it sided
with, you know, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
I mean, when you try to frame things like this in purely what seems very rational and sensible economic terms, you miss the point that in people's
hearts when they think their sovereignty is being trodden on, that hits their hearts and heads and hearts don't always match up.
So, while we're talking about a deadline that's going to come and go with no big bang is what we've been told, you cannot rule out the unexpected.
Let's not predict it, but because hearts come into play, not just pockets and heads, this is a big deal.
[11:11:05] ANDERSON: Nic Robertson with me here in Abu Dhabi on what is an incredibly important story, not just here for this region, but around the
If you think this crisis is limited to a small peninsula in the Persian Gulf think again. This rift has repercussions everywhere from Washington
to Moscow. And that is just when it comes to diplomacy. There are also, as Nic was pointing out, major economic ramifications. Stay with us as we
go through some of the big issues in around 20 minutes time.
Thank you, Nic.
Iraqi forces have victory in their sights as they take on a dwindling number of ISIS fighters in Mosul. Now the militants have lost control of
all but a few city blocks of their former stronghold, but they are still putting up a fierce fight using snipers, booby traps and bombs.
Now, one photographer followed the Iraqi soldiers on the ground there. And Nick Paton Walsh has our exclusive report.
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From here to the river is all ISIS has left of Mosul and this is the story of
how it fell on the streets around the mosque they once held sacred but then destroyed.
Brazilian photographer Gabriel Chaim is on foot with Iraqi special forces. Every footfall could hit a booby trap. An eerie silence holds in just about
everything, endless soot.
The streets empty and each human they meet is either desperate to escape or the enemy. In the alleyways, two men approached them.
One is carrying a bomb. They rush in to help their wounded.
A second man carrying a much larger device. Gabriel struggles to breathe. The dust also means they can't see if there are any other bombers or
whether three dead and a dozen wounded colleagues lied.
The advance continues up to and around the mosque and civilians, human shields for weeks, stoop under gunfire or are even oblivious to it. Some
never leave the underground. Loud, constant blasts in the darkness.
Unable to walk, the first man feigns ignorance but soon admits ISIS are on the roof and have lined the entire street. The interrogator later tells his
team the man is, himself, ISIS.
For the past week, the desperate rush to life had continued. The U.N. estimated 150,000 people were trapped here, but in the end nobody had any
idea or how many lie left behind them in the rubble.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Water.
WALSH: "Water, water, I'm dying," she screams, her lips white. In crippling heat and panic, pray we never know thirst like this or what it is like to
carry your family out lifeless on a cart. This is his mother. "For God's sake, help me carry him," he cries. They try, running to the closest point
in the narrow street a vehicle can reach. "Stop the blood loss," they plead. It's unclear if the boy survived.
Even when this tract of dust is cleared of ISIS the killing in Iraq's fractured society won't stop and her private hell of memories won't
suddenly be washed away.
Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Mosul.
[11:15:20] ANDERSON: Well, on Monday we have a CNN exclusive exposing the human side of the war against ISIS. I'm going to get you to the
Netherlands where my colleague Atika Shubert speaks with a Syrian mother who receives desperate messages from her daughter stuck in Raqqa.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (text): I'm exhausted, mom. I can't bear this life anymore. My son is sick, and there's no medicine or clean water or
anything for my child. It was really hard to find some milk yesterday.
ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You've never seen your grandson before.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): No, I haven't seen him. My dear, I wake up in sadness. I go to bed in sadness. I don't know any
other emotion in sadness. Every day I live in fear of tomorrow.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: Well, hear more of those desperate messages and the response of hope from her mother Monday only on CNN.
Right, viewers, I want to get you up to speed on some of the other stories that we are on our Radar, or we're following right now for you. And a
suicide car bomber blew himself up while being pursued by police in Damascus, that's according to Syrian state television. Monitors say at
least 18 people were killed, including several pro-regime security personnel. Syrian authorities chase down and destroyed two other cars.
Pope Francis is calling for a peaceful end to the violence that's been gripping Venezuela for months. The pontiff offered prayers and expressed
solidarity with those who have lost their lives in anti-government protests there. 86 people have been killed during the unrest.
A U.S. navy destroyer has sailed near a disputed island in the South China Sea. The USS Stethem was conducting training exercises around Triton
Island, part of an archipelago claimed by China, Taiwan and Vietnam. The U.S .doesn't recognize Beijing's claim of sovereignty over the islands.
The former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has been released from prison. The 71-year-old had his sentence cut by a third last week. Olmbert
had been serving a 27-month sentence for taking bribes related to a housing project when he was mayor of Jerusalem.
You are watching CNN. I'm Becky Anderson. This is Connect the World live from Abu Dhabi. Seven minutes past -- or 17 minutes past 7:00 here. I'm
going to take a very short break. Back after this.
[11:20:12] ANDERSON: This is CNN and Connect the World. I'm Becky Anderson. A very warm welcome back. If you are just joining us, you are
very, very welcome.
U.S. President Donald Trump is spending this holiday weekend, U.S. holiday weekend, at his resort in Bedminster in New York, but he did return to
Washington briefly on Saturday night for an event at the Kennedy Center.
The celebrate freedom concert was held to honor U.S. veterans. Mr. Trump used the occasion, however, to attack one of his favorite targets: the news
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The fake media is trying to silence us, but we will not let them, because the people know the truth.
The fake media tried to stop us from going to the White House, but I'm president and they're not.
The dishonest media will never keep us from accomplishing our objectives on behalf of our great American people -- it will never happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: Well, Mr. Trump also pushed back against critics who want him to lay off Twitter saying, "my use of social media is not presidential, it's
modern-day presidential. Make America great again."
CNN's Ryan Nobles has more.
RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: The President of the United States started his holiday weekend early Saturday by tweeting about Mika
Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough.
Continuing his feud with the MSNBC hosts, Trump tweeting, quote, crazy Joe Scarborough and dumb as a rock Mika are not bad people, but their low-rated
show is dominated by their NBC bosses. Too bad!
It wasn't the only thing the President tweeted about. He also went on a Twitter rampage accusing the media of trying to get in the way of his
social media usage, suggesting that his Twitter feed is among the reasons that he is currently the President of the United States.
But there are many Republicans in Congress that are concerned about the President's use of Twitter and that it's getting in the way of his agenda,
including some important things happening this week, like his trip to Europe for the G20 Summit and the debate over health care.
Still, his aides say the President is diligently working on health care. He is expected to make calls to lawmakers over the July 4th recess with the
hope of coming to an agreement to repeal and replace ObamaCare when they return on July 10th.
Ryan Nobles, CNN, at the White House.
LU STOUT: Well, let's just show you U.S. President Donald Trump's latest salvo in his feud with the media.
So, what you're seeing here is Mr. Trump tweeting a video of himself wrestling with an opponent whose face is the CNN logo.
Here's CNN's official response, "it is a sad day when the President of the United States encourages violence against reporters. Clearly, Sarah
Huckabee Sanders lied when she said the president had never done so." She's a spokesman for the president, or spokeswoman. "Instead of preparing
for his overseas trip, his first meeting with Vladimir Putin dealing with North Korea and working on his health care bill, he is instead involved in
juvenile behavior far below the dignity of his office. We will keep doing our jobs, he should start doing his."
Well, presidential adviser Kellyanne Conway recently complained that the media is paying too much attention to presidential tweets and too little
attention to administration policies. Fair enough. Domestically and internationally, there is a lot to talk about.
Josh Rogin is a CNN political analyst and columnist for the Washington Post.
So, he joins us to discuss exactly that today.
The Trump administration's record, as it were, if nothing else, you know, these latest tweets could be seen as a distraction at a time when he has,
or at least should have, his mind on a whole set of issues, not least this G20 trip, for example, to Hamburg this week, correct?
JOSH ROGIN, CNN POLITICAL ANSALYST: Well, that's right. I think what's so fascinating about this latest tweet is the level of organization that it
shows and the level of deliberate, you know, coordination that the White House has put into these attacks against the media.
I mean, we have a video here that was collected from a pro-Donald Trump Reddit thread and then modified with some graphics that were taken from a
Trump supporter's Twitter feed and then put out on his Twitter feed this morning.
You know, Donald Trump is not a technical guy. He can't do this by himself. It shows that his team actually went to a lot of effort to put
this together. And what that -- when you combine that with the speech that you showed from last night, it -- this is their strategy, for better or
worse. They're intentionally distracting us, the people, the media, his supporters, not because they're not doing things on his domestic and
foreign policy, but because he doesn't want to talk about those things, because those things are not good news stories. The health care bill is
ANDERSON: Well, Josh, let's you and I talk about these things. Let's talk about the domestic agenda. Six months in, where are we?
ROGIN: You know, it's just been a ton of missed deadlines on the domestic front. We have a health care bill that's stalled in the Senate. It's
unclear what's going to happen when Senators come back from their recess. He can't seem to craft the health care plane that can appease both
conservatives and moderates in his own part, much less get any Democartic support. And that's a big problem, and that's what a lot of Republican
lawmakers are hearing as they're going home for their July 4 breaks.
On the foreign policy front, it's been pretty much an unmitigated disaster. We've seen a series of really terrible interactions with world leaders. He
now heads to the G20 at a time when according to the Pew global survey, America's image and the president's image around the world is at historical
lows. He's decided to be with president -- Russian President Vladimir Putin, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but represents a huge risk for
an administration embroiled in a scandal over Putin's hacking and interference in the U.S. domestic election.
So, these are all bad news stories, even though they are very active on all these policy fronts, none of them are working out the way that they
promised or the way that they want.
ANDERSON: Let's -- as we're talking foreign policy, let's just close out this conversation with a sense of where you see the White House under
Donald Trump as opposed to the narrative out of the State Department or the Pentagon. And let's use the Qatar-Saudi-led allies spat, as it were. Is
it clear whether there is a disconnect between where Donald Trump stands in that, or on this, for example, where the state and Pentagon employees and
ROGIN: Sure. And my own reporting supports this, but it's obvious just if you look at the public statements of Donald Trump and some of his top
aides, including Secretary Mattis, Secretary Tilerson, National Security Adviser McMaster, they're all sending out different, incongruent,
conflicting messages when it comes to this spat between Qatar and its Gulf allies. Tillerson and Mattis have come out very strongly for mediation.
And Donald Trump has come out very strongly on the Saudi side.
I mean, there's just no way to reconcile it.
There's a competition of ideas inside the administration, which is really bizarre considering the fact that all of these people work for the
president, yet they still can't seem to get on the same page.
ANDERSON: I'm going to let you get a drink of water. And we are going to take a very short break. It's been a pleasure having you on, sir. Out of
Washington, analysis on the very latest.
The latest world news headlines are just ahead, as you would expect on this show. Plus, it may seem like just a regional row, but the Qatar crisis
could have global ramifications. We're going to do more on that as you would expect from us in just a moment.
[11:32:22] ANDERSON: I want to get you back to our top story tonight, the Qatar crisis engulfing not only the gulf here where we are based and the
Middle East, but it also has global implications.
By addressing some of the geopolitics we'll learn why the world should care.
First, what kind of support does each side have for its -- half its respective position and from whom could we see Turkey, Iran and even Russia
side with Qatar while on the other side the U.S., Israel and the UAE, for example, aligning with Saudi Arabia.
And speaking of the U.S., does the Trump White House has a cohesive position on Qatar? I'm not saying does Washington have a cohesive
position, I'm asking our expert analyst tonight, who is with me here. Fawaz Gerges, who is a regular guest on this show. If you are a regular
viewer, you will recognize Fawaz. He is professor of international relations at the London School of Economics. And I make that distinction,
Fawaz, for a reason. Does the Trump administration have a position on this Gulf crisis? And if so, is it different from that of the State Department,
FAWAZ GERGES, LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS: Well, there are some tensions between the State Department and the Defense Department on the one hand and
the White House. President Trump has made it very clear as late as Friday just two days ago that Qatar must stop its finance of terrorism, that Qatar
-- he accused Qatar of providing support for extremist groups.
The bottom line, regardless of the nuanced differences between I mean, the State Department and the White House, the bottom line of the U.S. position
is the following: Qatar must stop its finance for extremist and radical groups and Qatar must basically accede to some of the demands to its
neighbors and resolving the crisis as soon as possible.
The Americans are concerned about the unity of the Gulf Cooperation Council and the fight against IS. But the reality is, the U.S. position sides with
the Saudi-led coalition.
ANDERSON: Remind us why the U.S. cares so much about what is going on in a small kingdom in the Gulf peninsula.
GERGES: Well, the Gulf, for your international viewers, this is one of the most important strategic and economic theaters in the world. More than
two-thirds of oil and gas resources come from this part of the world. Where you and I are here in the United Arab Emirates. The biggest cash
flow in the world, Becky, is not in China, the biggest cash flow is in this part of the world. This is a huge market economically, in terms of arms,
in terms of finance, and also in terms of its relation to the fight against ISIS and al Qaeda.
I mean, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia are critical players in the U.S.-led campaign against ISIS and al Qaeda.
ANDERSON: As is Qatar with a very big U.S. military base. Fawaz, the UAE minister of state for foreign affairs has spoken to my colleague Nic
Robertson. Anwar Mohammed Ghogash said he told U.S. Senator John McCain that the U.S. airbase in Qatar would be unaffected by this standoff.
Let's remind viewers of just how big that facility is. It is $60 million, was completed back in 2003, and it can host 11,000 personnel and 120
aircraft. The bases of extremely strategic importance for the U.S. in this region. As you rightly point out, not least in the fight against ISIS,
upcoming offensive, for example, on Raqqa.
GERGES: Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and Egypt and Bahrain have made it very clear there is no military option. They're not
threatening to use military option against Qatar. In fact, Mr. Anwar Ghogosh has made it very clear that the next step, if Qatar rejects the
demands, it seems to me the Qatari foreign minister yesterday said that we will not, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia and their allies will
gradually and systematically impose more economic sanctions.
My take on it, Becky -- and this is an analytical point of view, Qatar is a fragile state, small state. It's a wealthy state, but it's fragile. It
does not have many options. The longer the crisis continues, the more likely it will affect not only the Qatari economy, but also Qatar's
relations with its Gulf neighbors.
ANDERSON: It has allies, Turkey is one. It says it understands Qatar's position. It has troops in Qatar. It had increased its troop deployment
there of late. But what is it stand to lose if the alignments harden, do you think? The UAE, for example, is a major trading partner with Turkey as
is Saudi. And when you put the two together, according to Turkey's foreign ministry the UAE are leading trade partner with a volume of $4 billion or
so in 2010. The UAE also among the biggest export markets of Turkey with annual exports reaching $3.3 billion.
What is Turkey to do? And is Turkey's position in support of Qatar over and during this spat? Is it a President Erdogan position or is it a
Turkey, a wider Turkey position? And does that matter, in a way?
GERGES: It's really President Erdogan's position. Qatar has fully -- Turkey has fully sided with Qatar. And as you said, you just I mean laid
out the arguments, Turkey I mean has so much to lose. Its investments in Saudi Arabia, its investment in the United Arab Emirates and the Gulf
itself. The reality is Turkey is the only state that has come out in support of Qatar.
How about Iran? Iran is a liability for Qatar. The closer Qatar gets to Iran, the more it will reinforce the arguments of the four states -- Saudi
Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt and Bahrain, that Qatar is siding with a spoiler state, the enemy of the Arab people, because Iran is
seen by the four states and by Arab states as a spoiler state, infiltrating the Arab world.
At the end of the day, Qatar faces major, major reckoning in the next few days and next few weeks. And my take on it, I could be wrong, the longer
the crisis continues, the more it will harm Qatar. Not only the Qatar economy, in fact political stability inside -- I mean, the small country
ANDERSON: If you've hadn't worked out why what goes on in the Gulf doesn't stay in the Gulf, doesn't stay in the Gulf, I hope it is clearer as a
result of our conversations tonight. Fawaz, it's always a pleasure. Thank you.
Live from Abu Dhabi, you are watching Connect the World. We've got some unmissable television for you next when one of the most remarkable people
I've ever come across tells me how he went from stealing cars to helping millions across Africa. We have with Akon. Stay put.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, ACTOR: I'll be back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[11:41:52] ANDESON: Arnie's unforgettable one liners, Einstein's baffling equations, and the guy who invented jeans, they all have one thing in
common: they all once walked through America's once famously open door. But it feels that door has been closing just a little bit, doesn't it? And
a lot of that is down to this man: Donald Trump and his travel ban.
Parts of it came back just a few days ago, keeping some people from six countries out of the U.S.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No Muslim ban, no border wall.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: Well, many find the idea of that to be, well, unAmerican. Among them, Madeleine Albright, once Washington's top diplomat and immigrant
herself. She's calling the U.S. president's ban cruel.
Well, it's certain to keep families apart, a very different kind of country, then, to when those icons made it home. Among others who have,
the rapper/philanthropist, and frankly fantastic guy, Akon, who told me about what it was like for him coming to America.
ANDERSON: Akon has come a long way since his big breakthrough in 2004. He sold 35 million albums around the world, earned five Grammy nominations,
and helped launch the career of lady Gaga. He's even collaborated with the king of pop himself, the late Michael Jackson.
But Akon insists it's the immigrant experience, not show business, that shaped the man he is today.
AKON: I never really looked at it like as if I was African or American, or African-American.
ANDERSON: I caught up with the Senegalese-American rapper and philanthropist during a recent visit to the UAE.
Just talk about being a young, mostly African brought up kid in the States back in the day?
AKON: It was an interesting time when I came. There's always been this lack of education of foreigners. As much as America allowing them to live
that dream, that dream can also easily become a nightmare, because you're living it in amongst of a word that doesn't quite understand you, or
doesn't quite understand themselves to an extent because when you look at culture and history in America it's always been borrowed from different
So, America is known for having this -- a society that's been built like a puzzle. You've got pieces that come from everything that just makes this
beautiful picture, right. But then you take one piece away then there's something missing. And there's always been these edges that's just never
been complete. The picture looks like is one thing, but it clearly is something else because those pieces haven't been put together. And I think
that's what America is dealing with today.
My pops made sure that we was all born in the States, all my brothers and sisters, because he never wanted us to have this immigration issue, which
clearly he was thinking the future, because believe me I thought about that today, I don't know what kind of conversation we'd be having, right.
I used to get made fun of all the time in school, because I was African. And I had, you know, nappy hair and I was extra dark-skinned. And back
then, dark skin wasn't really in style. You know, the light-skinned curly haired guys took all the girls. So, I was almost ashamed to be African.
And then later, as dark skin started to become more in style, I was promoting the fact that I was African, because it made me feel more
ANDERSON: There's been a lot of bombastic rhetoric, about immigration, new executive order, who can come in, who can't. What's your message?
AKON: Embrace the world as it is today. Don't try to create yesterday for tomorrow's future.
ANDERSON: You think that's what's going on at the moment?
AKON: That's exactly what's going on. I mean, they're holding on to the past. The younger mind, you see, development. They see future from a
standpoint of growth and non-bias, non-sexual orientation, non you know racial. They don't look at all of that. They just look at progress. They
look at love. They look at happiness.
But the older generation are still holding on. They might been hurt by the past or their mom and dad might have went through. And they're holding
other people accountable for actions that they weren't even alive to make. And it just doesn't make sense, because as long as we continue to hold our
past and hold ourselves accountable for what our ancestors or our past, grandpops and moms have created or whatever that energy was at that time,
that's not the same energy today. So, we just have to allow that past to go, learn from it, and figure out how we can move forward together.
ANDERSON: I think you're probably one of the best humanitarians I've ever met. And you are quiet and humble about what you do. But what you do is
actually remarkable. I think am I right and saying a billion dollar credit line of investment now to ensure that the work you're doing will light
AKON: The lack of electricity and energy poverty in Africa itself is the reason why it's been standing still for so long. If people themselves can
be in the position to build a country from a standpoint of just being an entrepreneur, you know, but there's nothing you can do without electricity.
It's just nothing you can do.
ANDERSON: Akon, I'm fascinated to find out from you how you got together with Beacon of Hope, which is an initiative which is all about light and
AKON: When you look at our beliefs what we believe as far as what we were representing to help the people and what they were already pretty much
doing as far as helping refugees, it was almost like two organizations from the same background moving parallel but are connected in so many difference
ways. And we figured coming together as a partnership would be amazing.
Because when you stop and you think about how these refugees are living today, they're living in a tent, a dark tent, with no heat, no lights,
barely any food. I mean, they're sharing bottles of water. I mean, no one -- you wouldn't want to wish that on anybody. And more than anything
they're being punished for not doing anything, like absolutely nothing, but just wanting a better life for their families.
ANDERSON: So you are in how many countries and how many towns and how many cities?
AKON: The last time I had an interview related to this we were in 16 countries. We probably added about five, six more since then.
And it's actually great because when I first did this it wasn't ever for the publicity, I just wanted to be able to do something, I wanted to create
about building my legacy as who I am and the fact that I was put in a position to make that difference. I wanted to make that difference,because
I always felt like if god put you in a position to have so much blessings, he's not just passing the blessings for you to enjoy it, he's passing you
the blessings to pass it on to others, right, so that's always been my mind state.
And I mean, it's just so ironic that light does that to people, like when you flash it on one person, if flashes on anybody in that area. So, it's
like a subliminal kind of thing as well, too.
ANDERSON: And this is for-profit. Let's just remind our viewers. And you make no excuses about that, right?
AKON: No, absolutely not. I mean, I don't -- places like Africa, you know, rural areas of the Middle East and Latin America and India and
certain parts of China, if you don't empower the people to do for themselves you're going to always have poverty. And I feel like the best
way out of poverty is to put people in position to work themselves out of it, because once they work themselves out of it they will never have to go
Now only would they be able to accumulate skills, and the process of it, but they also making money to where they don't have to actually beg for it.
ANDERSON: You do come to the Emirates a lot. What does it do for you?
[11:50:06] AKON: The Emirates is really a great model for Africa, because they have limited resources. I mean, they're known for oil, but that's it.
And then you have Africa that's known for oil and everything else. And it's like and it's bigger. So, it's like how come they're not doing that?
But then I think about it again and say, wow, this -- what they're doing in Emirates is so incredible. They are the model for how countries can really
develop. Everything is done to the top. The best people, the best experience, the best everything. And they don't settle for nothing less,
because they don't feel they deserve anything less. And I think that mindset alone is something that needs to be honestly pasted, like literally
copied and pasted.
ANDERSON: Do you feel like an American or do you feel like an African?
AKON: I feel like both. When you've been around and been, you know, exposed to different cultures and you've been a part of the culture itself
it becomes you. And so I never really looked at it like as if I was African or American or African-American for that matter. The root stems
more from Africa, because Africa just feels more genuine, if that makes sense.
You know, even in America, family feels like business, even all the way down to marriage and, you know, kid and child custody, everything is about
money, money, money, money. And Africa it's like family comes first. And it's -- the money how you pull it from family, but how you gather it so
family can benefit from it.
ANDERSON: You're a big name, you've got a big reputation. Politics, is that somewhere you want to go, going forward in The States? Just listening
to what you say, you'd make a great politician.
AKON: I mean, I don't ever see myself actually going into politics, but then I'd never saw myself actually being this, either, because I started I
was a criminal, like literally I was robbing, stealing cars and all kind of craziness. But I just go and just let god like follow me or guide my path
wherever it leads at this point.
ANDERSON: Right. Check this out. Ruins that ruined the expansion of a transport network. CNN's Ben Wedeman has your Parting Shots this evening.
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Scratch the surface in Rome and you find history. It's an archaeologist's paradise, but for
officials overseeing the long-delayed construction of the city's newest subway line, Line C or Linea C, Rome's embarrassment of ancient riches is a
curse that keeps on giving.
While digging a shaft for the subway's tunnel near the Colosseum late last year, workers uncovered what appeared to be the charred remains of a
luxurious home, complete with central heating, dating back 1,800 years.
It's an extra ordinary situation, Rome's Archaeological Superintendent Francesco Prospetti tells me.
FRANCESCO PROSPETTI, ARCHEOLOGICAL SUPERINTENDENT (through translator): Collapsed, the ceiling sealed everything inside. It was carbonized without
being burned. It's unique in Rome.
WEDEMAN (voice-over): The ceiling's wooden beams, which would have decayed to dust, have been preserved. There are no human remains, but
archaeologists did find the bones of a dog who wouldn't or couldn't flee the flames.
This poor dog was already in the room during the fire, says Archaeologist Simone Moretta.
SIMONE MORETTA, ARCHEOLOGIST (through translator): We found ashes under its paws. Probably part of the burning ceiling fell on it and there it was
stuck and died.
WEDEMAN: Construction on Linea C didn't begin until 2007. And since then, work has been delayed by one archaeological discovery after another.
This is the challenge of trying to make life modern in an ancient city like Rome. No matter where you dig, you're almost certain to find something.
Rome wasn't built in a day and its newest subway line won't be completed in a decade, maybe not even two. The future will have to wait as the past is
Ben Wedeman, CNN, Rome.
ANDERSON: I'm Becky Anderson. That was Connect the World. Thank you for watching. CNN of course continues after the break.