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Rwanda Remembers; Genocide: Never Again?; Ukraine Fears Invasion; Imagine a World

Aired April 7, 2014 - 14:00:00   ET


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN HOST: Good evening and welcome to the program. I'm Fred Pleitgen, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour tonight.

Never again: the world seems to make that promise after every genocide. After the Holocaust, we said never again. After Cambodia, we were outraged and said never again. And in Rwanda, after the killing of up to 1 million people in the span of only 100 days that began 20 years ago on this day, once again the international community said never again.

Today leaders gathered in Kigali to commemorate those events. The ceremony clearly stirred up emotions. Many were overcome by the moment and had to be led away.

Rwandans are struggling to lay the past to rest while keeping the memories of those killed alive, to forgive, but never to forget as the country's president, Paul Kagame, put it.


PAUL KAGAME, PRESIDENT OF RWANDA: We have pursued justice and reconciliation as best we could. But it does not restore what we lost.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Memories haunt both the families of the victims and the killers themselves, like this woman, who spoke to CNN's Nima Elbagir.


NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): "I'm not proud of it. The people I lived with and the people I watched with could never understand why I became an interaharmon (ph), a killer. Every time I think about it, I am crying always."


PLEITGEN: So what about the world? Will the international community finally make good on its promise, "never again," and how?

What about the Central African Republic? What about South Sudan, Burundi and of course what about Syria?

One of the world's leading voices of conscience and the question of genocide and human rights is Samantha Power, who's now the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. She joined me on the phone from Kigali right after taking part in the ceremonies there. And I started off by asking her how long it's going to take for Rwanda to forge a true national identity.


SAMANTHA POWER, UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: Well, the resilience of the Rwandan people is like nothing that I've ever encountered. There's tremendous strength of these people.

And today after the ceremony, you could see both sides of Rwanda. On the one hand, you see the tremendous progress the country has made in 20 years, Hutu and Tutsi, aside living, working, driving, walking side- by-side, viewing themselves as Rwandans, not as focused on who's a Hutu and who's a Tutsi. That's something that's very much come from the top, from President Kagame.

But on the other hand, in the stadium during the ceremony when a survivor spoke, you heard wailing from around the stadium, women being pulled out because they were screaming and literally inconsolable, being forces, you know, just through the testimony of others to relive what had happened to them and to their family members.

And it just gave you such a vivid sense of how much pain is lying so close to the surface here.

PLEITGEN: Rwanda is something that we always say should be a warning to us and needs to be a warning to us.

Nevertheless, there's other places where there's a threat of genocide, like for instance the Central African Republic; today, the U.N. secretary-general went forward and he said that the situation is absolutely dire, that the international force there is overwhelmed, that the French forces there are overwhelmed.

Does the U.S., does the international community need to do more in the Central African Republic and what, especially in light of what you saw today?

POWER: Well, first, let me just echo everything the secretary- general has said. The situation is devastating. The attacks, particularly on Muslims basically anybody who's a Muslim is vulnerable to being lynched. There are these vigilante forces that are going door- to-door, mosques are being destroyed. It's completely horrific. And the cycle of violence, of course, is just taking hold, where religious identity could fuel further crimes against Christians and so forth. Some of that has happened already.

There are French forces and African forces on the ground alongside a U.N. mission. We're working now to get more African forces into the Central African Republic. We do need more forces. The African Union has acknowledged that. The U.N., we, ourselves, are about to soon pass a Security Council resolution, creating a U.N. peacekeeping mission where the Africans will circle rehab (ph) and become blue helmets, and we can bring in forces from outside Africa.

Because of the crises elsewhere in Africa, such as in Somalia and in South Sudan, Mali, et cetera, African forces, African peacekeepers are very overstretched right now. And so it's really important that we bring in troops from elsewhere.

Moreover, we need to support the central government there, which is a transitional government, government that is really trying to preach a message of reconciliation and coexistence and they're struggling to be heard. And we need to amplify their voices.

PLEITGEN: But doesn't the U.S. have to do more? Doesn't the U.S. have to think about possibly even putting peacekeepers on the ground there?

POWER: We have been instrumental in getting peacekeepers to the Central African Republic. In fact, I was present in December when the United States flew in Burundi and moments were spending $90 million on training, equipping and lifting forces from all around.

And that's where our emphasis is right now. We're also looking at the possibility of economic sanctions up against those who are perpetrating mass atrocities. I think one of the lessons of Rwanda is merely our choices should not be confined to a choice between doing nothing on the one hand and always sending the Marines on the other. And so right now we're looking at a whole host of tools that we can bring to bear.

PLEITGEN: So now you've spoken about those tools in the past because you are, of course, a student of preventing genocide and yet you work for a president who seems to be hell bent on getting American out of the world.

How do you talk to him about this? What are the discussions that go on in the administration? For instance, vis-a-vis not only the Central African Republic, but also places like Syria as well?

POWER: Well, I completely disagree with your -- with your premise. I mean, it's true that President Obama ended the war in Iraq and is drawing down our presence in Afghanistan after a very hard-fought blues (ph) in both countries, in Afghanistan, reflected most recently in the really expiring election that has taken place just in the last few days.

But if you look at President Obama's leadership in sub-Saharan Africa, again, when Central African Republic, when the crisis hit, stepping up, being the service to bring in African forces who would have had no other way to get into the Central African Republic quickly, but for U.S. lifts; same on Mali, supporting the French who intervened there, going after Joseph Kony and the Lord's Resistance Army. So it's try to eradicate once and for all a horrific threat on the continent.

So whether it's diplomatic engagement of the kind that Secretary Kerry has been trying on Middle East peace or some of the uses of our military that are not big wars, like those in Iraq and Afghanistan, but selective uses of military force in terms of empower others, and in order to promote international peace and security, the United States has stepped up consistently after President Obama.

PLEITGEN: Samantha Power, thank you very much for coming on the program.

POWER: Thank you so much for having me.


PLEITGEN: And like Samantha Power, former British prime minister Tony Blair is also in Rwanda for today's anniversary. And when I spoke to him earlier from Kigali, he told me the trouble is, we always say never again and then we have to repeat the phrase because of failure to act.


PLEITGEN: Mr. Blair, thank you for joining us and welcome to the program.

You know, it really is remarkable how far Rwanda has come in the past 20 years. But at the same time, there are still risks in society; there are still a lot of Hutu who feel disenfranchised and, by and large, there still really isn't something like a national identity there.

TONY BLAIR, FORMER PRIME MINISTER OF ENGLAND: Well, I think there's a lot of people in Rwanda who say there is a national identity, but obviously some of the tensions beneath the surface still remain.

But if you think of where the country was 20 years ago, where it is today, the growth rates have been very high; a million people lifted out of poverty, big reductions in deaths from the malaria, reductions in maternal mortality, child mortality, you know, huge increase in numbers of people getting electricity and this is a well-run country.

Women are treated equally, people walk the streets safe at night. So I think it's inevitable, given the history of the genocide that there should still be tensions, but, no, I would say there is an increasing sense of a country together today.

PLEITGEN: You are very close to President Kagame. You advise him from time to time as part of the Africa Governance Initiative, and you know the threat when people are in power too long, especially in Africa. You know that they can become authoritarian, that there is that danger and that that can lead to instability.

BLAIR: Yes. That's absolutely true. But he is someone I know well. I don't think he's that type of person or leader. I think it is an almost unique set of circumstances. And frankly, without strong leadership, the country couldn't have come the distance it has in the last 20 years.

So I'm not -- I don't dismiss these things. And by the way, I discuss them very openly with President Kagame and -- you know, there's not a problem having that discussion with him.

PLEITGEN: One of the things that the international community said after Rwanda and its inaction in Rwanda, is they said "never again."

And here we are, 20 years later, there's a genocide going on in Syria. There's a threat of a genocide in the Central African Republic.

Haven't we learned anything from Rwanda?

BLAIR: Well, that's a good question. I mean, I...

The trouble is we always say never again and then we have to repeat the phrase.

Look, I think Rwanda did have a huge collective impact on the West; it certainly did for me as a leader when I sent British troops into Sierra Leone. It was, in a sense, with Rwanda in mind.

I think, to be fair, what France is trying to do in Mali and I actually think what the U.N. is trying to do in the Central African Republic is also in part borne out of our experience of history.

I think Syria is a -- that's a different issue.

But the basic lesson, I think, is always the same, and it is the lesson of Rwanda, which is that if you can see a catastrophe coming and you can prevent it, it should be an obligation, the duty of the international community to do so.

PLEITGEN: But isn't one of the reasons for intervention or non- intervention also the appetite for intervention?

If you look at the Western world, you look at the U.S., you look at Britain, you look at Europe, there's no appetite for any sort of intervention right now. And one of the reasons is because things went so badly in Iraq and are going so badly in Afghanistan.

BLAIR: What would have happened if we hadn't?

So supposing in Afghanistan we hadn't got rid of the Taliban. Supposing they'd been left having helped provide the breeding ground for the attacks on 9/11; we actually hadn't acted; we'd left them there.

Would we really be in a better position in Afghanistan today?

Likewise in Iraq. We really left Sudan there, would we be in a better position? Would we have seen what's happening in Syria?

I think it's certainly arguable the Arab Spring would have come to Iraq as well and we would be having, in my view, an absolutely catastrophic situation in the Middle East today, if you had what's going on in Syria going on there and also going on next door in Iraq.

PLEITGEN: Isn't it the fact that, at this point in time, Western societies are tired of intervention because they've gotten bogged down because of the decisions that their leaders have made and paid for in blood and treasure?

BLAIR: No, right, but I would distinguish between two quite separate things. It is absolutely correct that those battles were very long and very hard. What isn't correct is that we didn't put massive resources into them.

But where you've got people who are prepared by acts of terrorism, supported by strong outside forces to kill without mercy and die themselves without regret, you're going to have a big problem.

Unless people are prepared to stand up to them, then they destabilize societies. They create chaos. They create misery and in the end you know, at some point at a later time, we have to go in and try and clean the situation up.

Inaction is as big a decision as action.

PLEITGEN: Mr. Blair, thank you very much for being on the program.

BLAIR: Thank you.


PLEITGEN: And if, as Mr. Blair says, these thorny issues, like when and when not to intervene give world leaders insomnia, then the lights must be burning late in many Western capitals over the crisis in Ukraine.

Is Russia tearing a sovereign nation apart? And what can the international community do about it? We'll seek answers when we come back.




PLEITGEN: Welcome back to the program; I'm Fred Pleitgen, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour.

We want to take you now to Kiev, where Ukraine's acting president has accused Russia of trying to tear his country apart. In a televised address to the nation, Oleksandr Turchynov said Russia is intentionally destabilizing the situation on the ground.

And this, he says, is the proof. Pro-Russian protesters taking over state buildings in Eastern Ukraine not far from the Russian border. Mr. Turchynov accused Russian Special Services of being behind the unrest.

But Moscow told Kiev to stop pointing the finger of blame its way.

The situation was particularly tense in the city of Donetsk, where pro-Russian rebels declared a people's republic and announced plans to hold a referendum to join Russia.

Does that sound familiar? Could Donetsk be the next Crimea? Andrii Deshchytsia is Ukraine's acting minister for foreign affairs and he joins me now from Kiev.

Minister, welcome to the program. How concerned are you about the situation in Donetsk? And are you still in control of the situation there?

ANDRII DESHCHYTSIA, UKRAINE'S ACTING MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS: Good evening. We are very much concerned with the development of the situation in eastern regions of Ukraine. And we are very much concerned with the number of Russians who are in Ukraine and overall consideration in these regions.

As well as we are very much concerned with a number of Russian troops deployed on the eastern borders of Ukraine.

PLEITGEN: So what are you going to do about it? What --


PLEITGEN: -- what means do you have to do anything about it?

DESHCHYTSIA: So for today, the deputy prime minister, minister of interior, is the head of the security service and the head of the national security council, went to these regions to talk with the -- to meet with the local authorities and talk to people there. And the main task is to normalize situation and put everything into order.

Moreover, I asked for a telephone call with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov and I just talked to him on the phone.

PLEITGEN: What did he say to you? Did he --

DESHCHYTSIA: -- warned him not to use any military...

Yes, what he -- I expressed our concern about the situation, about the number of Russians there. And I also warned him not to use any military force to protect Russians in the Eastern Ukraine, since we have enough power to protect Russian-speaking and Russian citizens and Russians living in Eastern Ukraine.

We both agreed that we have to deploy all necessary means to deescalate situation.

PLEITGEN: But at the same time, the U.S. says that the Russians have put more troops back on the border region after allegedly pulling back some of those troops last week and that the situation continues to be one of great concern.

Don't you think this is something that the Russians are stage managing here and doesn't it look awfully a lot like the blueprint that they used in Crimea?

DESHCHYTSIA: It looks very much the same scenario and what I was told by Minister Lavrov that they withdrew one unit out of the border, but the information we are getting at the same time withdrawing with troops, they are deploying another more dynamic and more modern troops in the eastern borders of Ukraine.

So again, I asked Minister Lavrov to work together and we are ready for such a dialogue, to make sure that we will not escalate situation but will do everything to deescalate situation there.

PLEITGEN: What do you expect from the international community? What do you expect from the U.S.; so far Secretary of State Kerry has only voiced concern.

What do you expect from Europe? What do you expect from NATO? What can the international community do aside from the sanctions that don't seem to be having any sort of effect on the Russian leadership at this point?

DESHCHYTSIA: I think that we have to continue to put pressure on Russia and we have to work together to create channel for communication. And I know that Secretary Kerry was proposing the Russian foreign minister to hold the talks with me and we are ready for such meetings.

PLEITGEN: From the Russian perspective --

DESHCHYTSIA: I think that the best way is to -- is to...

The best way is to keep dialogue and to -- if Russians will not hear our arguments, then the next steps of sanctions, the next steps of other means of pressure on Russia needs to be deployed.

But as well we need -- we need to talk.

PLEITGEN: You say we need to keep talking. But the Russians are saying that the current Ukrainian government, which it doesn't recognize, is acting irresponsibly, that the Russians in the eastern part of Ukraine are the people of Russian heritage there, feel under threat and are calling for their help.

Is there is any merit to what the Russians are saying?

Are there mistakes that your government has made that has led to the situation now?


PLEITGEN: Or is there anything you can do to accommodate the Russian concerns?

DESHCHYTSIA: -- do not agree. No, we do not -- we absolutely do not agree with this argument. So we are working with the people living in Eastern Ukraine and southern regions of Ukraine. We -- they do participate in the work of the committee -- the working groups that are preparing the reforms and the constitutional reform. And I think that we need to -- I actually told this to Minister Lavrov, that we do not need to speculate. We need to say truce and we need to provide the argument, the real arguments. We will not go for such provocations.

PLEITGEN: Minister Deshchytsia, thank you very much for joining the program.



PLEITGEN: It's one of the great ironies of history that 20 years ago, as Rwanda descended into genocidal madness, the eyes of the world were riveted on South Africa, where at the same time, Nelson Mandela became the first black president. Now the Rainbow Nation is once again under the microscope as a high-profile murder has not only put Oscar Pistorius on trial, but in the minds of many, South Africa's legal system as well.

The defense got its turn today and we'll hear in Oscar Pistorius' own words how a Valentine's Day became a bloody nightmare, when we come back.




PLEITGEN: And finally tonight, Oscar Pistorius took the witness stand today in a Pretoria courtroom, charged with the murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. A Valentine's Day shooting he continues to claim was a tragic accident.

While cameras are allowed in the courtroom, Pistorius exercised his rights to be -- to not be shown on camera. And so the millions of fascinated viewers were left with courtroom sketches of his testimony. And in an emotional and trembling voice, he spoke publicly for the first time about the shooting and offered this apology to the victim's families.


OSCAR PISTORIUS, MURDER SUSPECT: I'd like to apologize and say there's not a moment and there hasn't been a moment since this tragedy happened that I haven't thought about your family. I wake up every morning and you're the first people I think of, the first people I pray for. I can't imagine the pain and the sorrow and the emptiness that I've caused you and your family. I was simply trying to protect Reeva. I can promise that when she went to bed that she felt loved.


PLEITGEN: And the man known as the Blade Runner, a tough and fearless competitor, also spoke of the bad dreams that keep him up at night.


PISTORIUS: I have terrible nightmares about things that happened that night, where I wake up and I smell -- I can smell blood and I wake up to being terrified. If I hear a noise, I wake up just in a complete state of terror, to a point that I'd rather not sleep than fall asleep and wake up like that.


PLEITGEN: The court adjourned early today after the presiding judge said Pistorius was too exhausted to continue. He's expected to take the stand again tomorrow.

And that's it for our program tonight. Remember, you can always contact us at our website, or follow me on Twitter @FPleitgenCNN. Thanks for watching and good night from London.