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Slaughter in South Sudan; Syria's Suffering; The World's Largest Democratic Election; Imagine a World

Aired April 23, 2014 - 14:00:00   ET


PAULA NEWTON, CNN HOST: Hello and welcome to the program. I'm Paula Newton, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour.

It is being described as the worst atrocity in the world's newest country and it's sparking fears of full-blown civil war. In South Sudan, rebels have slaughtered at least 400 people in the town of Bentu (ph). These are pictures of the aftermath, bodies littered along the road. Now the victims hid in hospitals, mosques and churches but found no sanctuary.

Vile hate speech was then broadcast on radio, urging men to rape women.

The attack happened last week, but only now has the full scale of the horror coming to light. The U.S. has described the massacre as an abomination. A conflict between rival groups in South Sudan broke out in December as the political power struggle erupted into violence. More than a million have now fled their homes and what was already one of world's poorest nations.

And now we're witnessing these scenes of utter destruction, filmed as part of the U.N. campaign video. Now forced from their homes, thousands of refugees are struggling to find safety and hopes are fading for any progress that peace talks now due to restart in neighboring Ethiopia this month.

It's a stark contrast to just three years ago, when the country was full of hope. You hear thousands there, cheering South Sudan's independence and all that changed last year. And the president of South Sudan, Salva Kiir, accused his former vice president of planning a coup.

Riek Machar is now the president's nemesis and a rebel leader.

The International Rescue Committee says South Sudan is facing a humanitarian catastrophe. The violence couldn't have come at a worse time. Devastating flooding in recent years means almost a third of the population is at risk of imminent starvation.

Former British foreign secretary David Miliband is president of the IRC. Two of his colleagues working in South Sudan were killed just last week. I spoke to him about this crisis.


NEWTON: Mr. Miliband, thanks so much for joining us today. I mean, how would you characterize the violence in the last few weeks in South Sudan?

Is it a genocide?

DAVID MILIBAND, PRESIDENT, INTERNATIONAL RESCUE COMMITTEE: Well, I think that it's large-scale; it's random and it is afflicting the whole country. The danger of genocidal killings is very real. As you know, the IRC, the International Rescue Committee, we lost two of our staff members in the war U.N. compound at the end of last week, when over 60 people were massacred; over 260 were injured.

In other parts of the country where we are delivering lifesaving health care we know that there is large-scale violence. And this is the newest country in the world and it threatens to become one of the bloodiest countries in the world.

So the stakes are very high, both for the people of that country but also the wider international community that has worked so hard in the creation of this country just two years ago.

NEWTON: And layered on top of all of this, Mr. Miliband, I am stunned by the numbers. We have more than 1 million people on the run; we could have a third of the country at risk of starvation.

I don't know how we start to approach any kind of a solution to the very real and acute problems there right now. And we've seen some pictures from your organization, very evocative and yet very telling about the type of tipping point we could be at here.

MILIBAND: Well, I think that your passion and your humanity is very well merited. The scale of this disaster, this manmade disaster, is very, very large, up to a million people displaced within the country, 300,000 now refugees in neighboring countries with over 1,000 a day going into Ethiopia or into Kenya.

And of course the manmade disaster of this fighting is compounded by the natural disaster that is looming because the rains have come; planting is not taking place. And so the very real prospect that food shortages are turned into famine at the end of this year or at the beginning of next year are very real.

I think it's also important to make the point that organizations like mine are on a drip feed of very short-term rations in the emergency call that we had with our country director yesterday, she was talking about funding running out at the end of this month. That's just nine days away. And that kind of short-termism in a conflict that is very real and shows all the potential of going on in the longer term, given the stalled nature of the so-called peace negotiations, I think should really alert us to the very, very real danger that significant numbers of people are going to lose their lives.

NEWTON: It feels so much like we've been here before and that no one is paying attention until there is much more suffering on the ground there in South Sudan.

MILIBAND: Well, obviously we are sounding the alarm both publicly and privately. The African -- neighboring African states have got a mission that is trying to bring the different sides together. But you've got a very basic power struggle that's happening not just in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, but across the country with the South Sudanese military being split between rebel factions and those supporting the government.

And the U.N. Security Council has addressed this. But the truth is that neither side has been listening to the major powers based here in New York at the U.N. And it's going to need a concerted effort inside Africa, in the south of Africa, in the east of Africa, to really get to grips with this problem.

We as a humanitarian organization can stanch the dying. And that is what we are trying to do. But we need political engagement to stop the killing. And that's certainly what I'm calling for in all the engagement that I'm doing. And it's what I think we need to rally global opinion around.

NEWTON: Well, what is it going to take? I mean, what's missing in our response here? You take all of your clout and all of your attention, and still we seem so far away from that reconciliation process that has to take place.

MILIBAND: Well, I think you're right in one aspect, that we seem a long way away from the kind of reconciliation or even peace that is necessary.

One thing I would want to pick you up on, though, is that there's a danger that for your viewers, this just sounds like yet another conflict to which there is no end and one should progress is impossible. South Sudan has shown actually that you can make progress. And the danger is that it is all lost. And I think it's very important that aid organizations like my own humanitarian organizations like my own show that there is practical difference that can be made, even in the midst of grinding poverty and with the looming danger of very large-scale conflict.

And the truth is that it takes international pressure and international engagement, but it also takes local effort. And that's what needs to be aligned if we're to make any progress in this country.

NEWTON: Yes, and point taken, that this being this new country, as you say, started with so much hope, you know, a lot of that hope involved the oil. Oil was supposed to be salvation for South Sudan.

Do you think it has become more of a curse? Is that the politics of that oil really fueling a lot of this?

MILIBAND: Well, I think that it's very relevant that you raise that point. But in this case, I don't think one can trace the current travails, the current appalling violence and the threat of famine to the oil problem.

In significant part, the failure to deliver oil revenues to the people and to use it for national reconstruction has been the historic problem in South Sudan. The oil pipeline is -- just for the benefit of your viewers - - located south -- in the south -- in South Sudan. But the oil is transmitted through pipelines that go through the north. And the historic struggle between north and south in what was previously just Sudan has blighted the people of the south.

The situation now, though, is not that they are fighting over oil but they're fighting over power. Now in the end, the power is the route to the revenues from the oil. But I think we've got something more going on here than simply the curse of resources. What we've got is a state that was created but a nation that hasn't been developed. And that's what needs to be attended to.

I was in Juba nearly two years ago. And I saw then at a very early stage the difficulties, the very fragile nature of the nation that was being built. And the truth is that the building has not taken place in a way that has allowed sufficient unity, unity carry forward from a liberation struggle to now a nation-building struggle. And that's what we're seeing the consequences of today.

NEWTON: You know, one of the reasons that the international community is not perhaps turning its attention to South Sudan the way it should are a lot of different issues around the world, one of them being Syria.

I can't let you go as a former foreign secretary to really discuss with us, you know, the horrors in Syria of the last few years. But to speak to you of the development of the last few days, and that is that General Assad is saying he will run for reelection in June. Certainly the hostilities continue. We have massive refugee problem with the Syrians.

I mean, in the beginning of this -- and you were in government, in the very beginning of this -- where did we go wrong?

What was missing there? What signals did we miss? What warning signs did we not pay attention?

MILIBAND: Your question of how we got here, of course, has many complicated routes. But what seems to me evident is that for three years there's been absolutely no clarity about what a post-Assad Syria could look like. In the absence of that kind of consensus, both within the country and beyond, has plagued the efforts to frame an international coalition that could support any kind of peaceful transition in that country.

I can report to you and to your viewers from the work that we're doing in the country that far from the situation improving with the passage of the United Nations Security Council resolution on the humanitarian situation two months ago, the situation's actually getting worse. There's a million more people, now 3.5 million in total, in besieged areas, which means that they're effectively cut off from aid, including in great cities like Aleppo.

And the scale of the breaches of international humanitarian law is now legion and massive. And so it is a challenging moment for us as an aid organization to say don't forget South Sudan, but for goodness sake, make some progress on Syria, too. And you're right to point to the difficulty of that. But in respect to the fundamental problem, I think that they go at heart to what kind of security and constitutional and political system Syria is to have in a way that guarantees rights to minorities in that country.

NEWTON: OK, Mr. Miliband, all these issues I'm sure that continue to keep you up at night, we appreciate your time here.

MILIBAND: Thank you very much.

NEWTON: Now after a break, we'll turn from South Sudan, the world's newest nation, with all its attendant problems to India, the world's largest democracy on the brink of an historic election and perhaps the end of a legendary political brand.

Ever since a slight man in a white loincloth wove his way into the fabric of India by leading it to independence from Britain, the name Gandhi has been political magic -- until now, perhaps. Today, a new face of reform and economic development could win the biggest election in history. What it might mean for India and the rest of the world when we come back.




NEWTON: Welcome back to the program. I'm Paula Newton, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour.

The man who may be India's next prime minister, Narinder Modi, is insisting he wants to be a leader for all Indians, not just the Hindu majority. The latest reassurances come on the concern over his ties to Hindu nationalists and anti-Muslim comments made by some in the group over the past few days.

But despite these concerns, the election momentum is still in favor of Modi. His track record on the economy as chief minister of Gujarat state is appealing to many in India who may be tiring of the ruling Congress Party, slow growth and high inflation.

Now India's big business looks to be backing Modi, too, over Congress Party candidate Raul Gandhi. Voting in the world's largest democratic election is now in its third week, and an incredible 814 million people are eligible to vote. That's more than the population of the U.S. and Western Europe combined.

Jayati Ghosh is an Indian economist who is deeply troubled by the role of the media and money in this election. She joined me earlier from New Delhi.


Ms. Ghosh, thanks so much for joining us. For many people, this has been one of the most dynamic campaigns they've ever seen in India.

Explain why it's different this time.

JAYATI GHOSH, INDIAN ECONOMIST: I think it's different for two or three reasons. First I think we're really getting a battle over the idea of India. We're getting a battle over how people see the Indian economies, society, polity, because we have on one side what I believe is a kind of majoritarian (ph) and fundamentally communolithic (ph). But it's also one that is very, very based on the support of large capital.

And I think that's the second part, which is that we've never had big business so actively involved in promoting a particular candidate. And that has explained the media blitz we've seen. It's almost like a carpet bombing media coverage of a particular candidate. And in particular we've seen that there is this kind of shall we say wave being created.

So it's almost a test case. Can you actually create, manufacture consent through the media in such a complex and diverse society as India?

NEWTON: It is really set up between a battle of two very different candidates. You have Narinder Modi, a mild mannered man of modest beginnings, at least that's the way certainly his supporters want to portray him.

And then you have Raul Gandhi, the heir apparent to the political dynasty there.

Is that the way Indians are interpreting this campaign as that ultimate fight? A bit Bollywood if you were between these two characters.

GHOSH: Well, you know, part of the problem is really that the media is trying to project this like a presidential election. It isn't. In India, it's the first festival (ph) system in which you have to get the majority in the parliament and in fact, none of these parties is likely to get a majority in the parliament, either on their own or in alliance.

So this projection of these two as they are alternative leaders is actually completely misleading picture. We are going to have a possible calculus that is going to involve many, many regional players, including three very important regional women leaders. And I think the way that the projection is occurring, that there is a way -- there is a man on a white charger who's going to come and solve all of India's problems compared to a weak princeling of a dying dynasty, I think that, in a sense, is misleading, because what we're really getting is our usually complex picture, which is not so easily transformable into a kind of, you know, two-person competition.

NEWTON: And yet this whole portrayal is playing into the election right now. Who do you think it's serving? Which interests do you believe want to see the campaign play out this way?

GHOSH: I think one of the really interesting stories about this election is the complete image makeover of Narinder Modi, who went from being a person who was off, largely reviled and certainly mistrusted in the Indian polity. And generally unknown outside his home state of Gujarat. To someone who has been projected as this huge national figure with a 56- inch chest. In fact, this transformation of Mr. Modi from being one of many regional leaders even with his -- within his own party, to the triumphant and foremost national figure is really the result of a very, very systemic advertising campaign. And it has been driven by this heavy corporate involvement because the corporates have now decided that he is their man. And they're backing him to the hilt. They really come out all guns blazing in support of this candidate through the media coverage of course, through massive spending on the PGP (ph). So we've seen, you know, huge spending by this party on this particular campaign. And through the party itself, where it is always being presented as the victory of this man. So it is not the slogan of the party has become this time, a Modi government. Uptibar, Modi sakar (ph), rather than this time, even, a PGP (ph) government.

So it is really because Modi in Gujarat had already projected himself as a supporter of large capital. The Gujarat economic model or the so- called governance model, is really one that is based on incentivizing large capital in all kinds of ways, through subsidies, direct and indirect, through suppressing the workers' wage, through suppressing any kind of workers' movement, through a repression of all kinds of social organizations and activism.

And that, of course, puts large capital to the hilt.

NEWTON: OK, but if we look at what it's tapping into, there is a lot of anxiety on the part of many Indians, the majority of Indians, that the economy has underperformed; inflation is bringing a lot of that anxiety to the fore every day.

Is it not tapping into something that people believe is needed in India, and that is a jumpstart to the economy?

GHOSH: In a sense, the reason why this campaign has been so successful for Modi and the PGP (ph) is because there is so much disaffection with the ruling government and with the Congress Party in particular. It's seen not just as weak and indecisive but deeply corrupt. And it's really seen as not delivering in terms of its own promises.

So while the first term year of this government was actually quite successful, at least in partially delivering its own promises, in the second term year they did nothing or whatever they did was very cynically done.

So it wasn't just that there was a deceleration of growth. It was much more that they really didn't believe in their own manifesto promises and they didn't really try and implement them. So people feel betrayed. People feel let down. And they're looking for an alternative.

Unfortunately, the way that the Modi alternative is being presented, the actual specifics of what he's going to deliver are very vague. The only things that are very clear are that he's going to provide major subsidies and incentives to large capital.

Nothing else actually is very clearly specified in terms of how he will deliver or how the new government will deliver in terms of meeting the basic needs of the people.

NEWTON: I want to ask you as well about Mr. Modi's background and the Nationalist Party, the Hindu Nationalist Party there, and many people fearing that perhaps the sectarian violence will definitely be exacerbated if he comes to power.

Do you think that is a real fear?

GHOSH: I do believe that that's a real fear. But you know what, I'm even more worried about that absolute violence and riots and so on is other kinds of violence which are less overt and which nonetheless manage to discriminate against or segregate minorities.

In Gujarat, it's not just the violence of 2002, which we have to remember and worry about. It is the continuing violence whereby Muslims cannot, for example, buy homes or rent properties in majority Hindu areas, where Muslim young men cannot be seen talking to young women of another religion or community in university campuses, a kind of segregation which is, if you like, the peace of the graveyard.

So there is also that concern as well. You can achieve a peace which need not necessarily mean violence, but at a huge cost in terms of democracy, social justice, freedom of expression and liberty and all of those things.

NEWTON: Ms. Ghosh, thank you so much for this interview. We'll continue to watch the Indian elections with interest.

GHOSH: OK. Thank you.


GHOSH: Bye-bye.


NEWTON: Now perhaps nothing reflects the changing face of India, politically and economically, more than the households of its rapidly rising middle class. According to the International Labor Organization, from 2001to 2010, the number of domestic servants rose nearly 70 percent, creating an estimated workforce of 10 million maids and nannies. That's quite an army there, largely unprotected by rights and regulations. And it's not just in India. A Bangladeshi photographer has captured the so- called invisible workforce in her own country. A revealing portrait of maids and mistresses when we come back.




NEWTON: And a final thought from us tonight, in South Asian countries like India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, the gap between the haves and those who cook and clean for them often seems unbridgeable.

Now imagine a world where maids and mistresses sit down together, side by side, "Close distance," a photo essay by Bangladeshi photographer Jana Tumawa (ph), highlights the distance between domestic servants and their employers.

In fact, many of the maids really had to be coaxed more than once to agree to sit next to their mistresses. And as you can see, a stiff formality is often the result.

There were also surprising glimpses of what appears to be a mutual respect and shared humanity. Now despite the inequality built into that system, where the disparity between classes and ages can be stark, as you see there, they seem to be warming up. There are moments of spontaneity and humor and the possibility that beneath the boundaries there are also bonds.

What an ingenious idea for a photo essay.

That's it for our program tonight. Thanks for watching. I'm Paula Newton. Remember, you can always contact us at our website,

Goodbye from New York.