New News Out of Africa: Uncovering Africa's Renaissance

Jun 21, 2006

Journalist (and South Africa resident) Hunter-Gault gives a surprisingly optimistic assessment of modern Africa, revealing that there is more to the continent than the bad news of disease, disaster, and despair.


JOANNE MYERS: Good morning. I'm Joanne Myers, Director of Public Affairs Programs. On behalf of the Carnegie Council, I'd like to thank you all for joining us this morning.

When Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities was first published in a 19th-century British journal, it may have been the best of times or the worst of times, but he was doing what journalists did at that time: He was writing for a journal. Since then, actually, the word "journalist" has been used interchangeably with the word "reporter" and has come to mean a person who gathers information and creates a written report or tells a story from his own experiences for newspapers, magazines, or broadcast news.

This morning's program involves two very special journalists, who, it just so happened, met early in their career, during what some may argue was the best of times at The New York Times. Warren Hoge, who will introduce our guest today, is himself an internationally respected journalist. For more than forty years, his penetrating insights and unusual enterprise have contributed to our understanding of the most important happenings of the day. His reporting on politics and world events has brought readers a clarity of thinking that has helped them to understand international affairs.

Since joining The New York Times in 1976, he has served as Rio de Janeiro's bureau chief, spent seven years as the London bureau chief, the foreign editor, the editor of The New York Times Magazine, and the assistant managing editor of the Times in charge of cultural coverage, Sunday sections, and recruitment of writers for the paper. His present post is as the newspapers foreign affairs correspondent at the United Nations.

Please join me in welcoming two very distinguished journalists, who are both known for stating the truth more bluntly than most and have been fearless of the consequences.

WARREN HOGE: Charlayne Hunter-Gault is one of those people on television who calm those of us who are news-hungry, but wary of lots that we see and hear as being too glib and simplistic. She does it by instilling confidence in the viewer that what you are going to get is informed by her intelligence, her professionalism, her good judgment, and her extraordinary presence.

There are people of whom it is said that you always know when they are in the room and you always feel better for it. That's the way I have always felt when I saw Charlayne come on the screen or heard her come on the radio. That feeling all began for me in the 1970s, when I walked into the New York Times newsroom for the very first time and saw Charlayne in it. Of course, she was already famous at that point because of her courageous passage as she became the first black woman to enroll at the University of Georgia in January 1961.

I'm happy to say that in the years since, I have seen her in other rooms, including one in a house as generous and welcoming as Charlayne is, that she and her husband Ron have on Martha's Vineyard.

Some quick but very impressive facts:

  • She was a part of PBS's The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer for twenty years.

  • She is the winner of two Emmys and two Peabody awards for her coverage of Africa.

  • In 1985, she won a Peabody for her five-part series Apartheid's People, and she won another one in 1998 for her overall coverage of Africa for National Public Radio. She also won awards for Rights and Wrongs, a television news magazine report on human rights, which she anchored.

  • She's lived in Africa since 1997, first as the chief Africa correspondent for National Public Radio, based in Johannesburg, and later as Johannesburg bureau chief for CNN. That is a position she held until 2005, when she left for a special projects assignment, including reporting on the continent for NPR as a special correspondent.

  • She is also the author of In My Place, a personal memoir of the Civil Rights Movement and her own role in it.

At the United Nations, where I hang out now, more than 70 percent of the institution's time is spent on Africa. That's an indication of the amount of conflict that resides there and how great the need for humanitarian assistance is across the continent. But among its many problems is being the victim of an endless cascade of journalistic clichés, which Charlayne has spent a good deal of her time combating. All those crises can blot out larger truths about Africa, and that's what Charlayne has explored in her journalism and now in her book, appropriately entitled New News Out of Africa.

I opened the book the other night and landed on some pages that sure spoke to me. She wrote, "I believe international journalists can play a constructive role on the African continent, provided they come in right."

I hope she'll tell you how that phrase "come in right" came to her attention because it's a good story. It involves her reporting for The New York Times on the Black Panthers in 1972, and it's a good way of appreciating what Charlayne has been up to over these recent years and a good way to measure her extraordinary success.

Please welcome Charlayne Hunter-Gault.


CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Thank you so much, Warren.

I must say, I am so thrilled to see all of you out so early this morning to hear about Africa. It gives me renewed hope that maybe I'll have some book sales.


But the interest that you have shown by coming here this morning is indeed a hopeful sign.

Warren mentioned my new book. I thought I would just initially explain a little bit about the title. It is called New News Out of Africa. One of the early things that came to mind as I was trying to decide what to call this was when I was at the University of Georgia. In the early days I was there because I was interested in journalism, and the University of Georgia had the best journalism school in the state. I had a professor who used to come in the first day of class and say to his new freshmen, "What are the news?" We'd all sort of look and wonder what that was about. Then he'd say, "Not a single new." Then he'd take out a stack of yellowed papers that were falling apart and proceed to give the lecture he had given for the last twenty-five years.

I never quite figured out what the point of that exercise was, but it certainly came to mind as I was thinking about how I wanted to present these ideas that I have formed on the continent over the past eight years that I have been living there, and I have certainly been going there since 1985.

When, indeed, you look at the news that comes out of Africa these days—not just these days, but over many, many years—there hasn't been (or with rare exceptions) a single "new" in terms of the way in which the continent is portrayed. I think that the overarching theme of most international media coverage of Africa is what I call in the book "the four D's of the African apocalypse: death, disease, disaster, and despair." Of course, there is a lot of that to go around. The New York Times informs us of that—and quite well, I might say. By the way, I think that the correspondents, that the Times has on the ground have attempted to give a broader picture of the continent.

But all too often, when I would come home on my various home leaves over the years, I have found that the overall perception of the continent is one that is negative. This time last summer, I picked up The New York Times and there was this beautiful picture on the front page of a woman in a red, wearing what I guess we would call a bubah, a flowing gown. I was drawn to the picture, but the closer I got to it, the more I could see that it was a snapshot of a horror story. It was a woman who had just emerged from a tent where her child had just died. This was in Niger, which was undergoing horrible famine at the time. The headline was about the famine, but the subhead was about how the international community was not responding to the crisis, that there was so much that was needed and so little that was being given.

I sat down and I just poured out all my thoughts about it. I think that there is a direct correlation between the way in which the continent is covered and the way people respond to humanitarian crises these days. What they begin to feel is, "What is the point of responding to these crises when it just seems to be crises without end?"? That, essentially, you are kind of pouring money, if you'll pardon the expression, down a rat hole. I knew immediately what the situation was.

Since then, there have been other crises—for example, right now in the Horn of Africa, a serious humanitarian crisis involving food. A lot of it is natural. Some of it is manmade. But, nevertheless, the same story is being told about this crisis. The aid agencies are saying that people simply are not responding to their appeals for assistance.

Having said all that, what I have done in New News Out of Africa is to try to bring some balance to the picture of the continent. Of course, you can't get around the death, disease, disaster, and despair, especially as poverty and AIDS conspire against all the hopes and dreams of people who are trying to make a difference on the continent. Nevertheless, I think that to try to bring some balance to the reporting of the continent and some of the new things that are going on is very important, because I think that it's still critical that the international community remain engaged in the continent, especially at this moment in time.

Going back to the 1960s, when Prime Minister Harold Macmillan was speaking to the apartheid, as it were, parliament in Cape Town, he talked about a new wind blowing across the African continent and encouraged those who were present in that assembly to pay attention to it. Of course, that new wind was the end of colonialism and the beginning of independent nations around the continent.

I think there is now a second wind blowing across the continent. It has been brought about by the Africans themselves. You will hear from Africans who come here, perhaps, the leaders who come for the UN General Assembly in September, the phraseand perhaps many of you have heard it already: "African solutions to African problems." It is an attempt by, initially, a group of leaders, five or six of them—Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria, Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal, and one more—who was that other one? Maybe it will come to me.

Anyway, you will hear them talk about African solutions to African problems as a way of leading to an African renaissance. That, essentially, finds its marching orders in something with the unartful name of NEPAD. I wish I had had an opportunity to talk with them before they named this thing. The vision is grander than the name itself, because a lot of people called it "kneepad." It is the New Partnership for Africa's Development. Some of you, perhaps, know about this.

The idea is that Africans are now attempting to take new control of their destinies, to make up for some of the egregious things that happened in the post-colonial world, which, by the way, often were aided and abetted by the West, in their efforts to establish bulwarks against communism. As many of you would know, during the Cold War, it didn't really matter much what you did inside your country to your people, as long as you stood against communism. So you had dictators and despots like Mobutu Sese Seko in the Congo, who did just outrageous things, including robbing the national coffers. The Congo is still struggling to catch up. You have many other examples like that.

But now African leaders are saying—not all of them, but a growing number of them—"We have to get our houses in order. We have to get our governments' houses in order. We have to get our fiscal houses in order. We have to begin to respect the human rights of our people, especially including the women," and this in exchange for a renewed commitment on the part of the West to help Africa get out of the debt that it has incurred over the generations and to begin moving forward to join the global family of nations.

Within NEPAD—and this is, again, within the ambit of the African Union—there is something called peer review, which I think is a revolutionary concept for Africa. During the Cold War and during the organization that preceded the African Union, the Organization of African Unity, which was formed to help end colonialism, borders were sacrosanct. No matter what you did inside your own country, no other African leader was going to go in and say, "You shouldn't be doing that," or, "Maybe you need to reconsider that." Borders were sacrosanct.

Now, with the peer-review process, distinguished Africans, including Graca Machel and others, are going into African countries (these are all Africans) and assessing their performance according to those criteria I mentioned - their governments, their fiscal practices, their commitment to human rights, et cetera. This, of course, is all voluntary, and we don't know yet, because the process has just started, where it's going to end. But it is new news. It is revolutionary on the continent.

It's a vision that has been articulated. It is being put into practice. I forget now exactly how many countries have signed up, but a growing number of African countries have signed up. I think only three or four have actually been through the process. South Africa has just undergone it, and I think maybe Mozambique. Anyway, it's not, actually, material as to which ones. I just remember that America's new friend, Muammar Gaddafi of Libya, used to say that this was not the kind of thing that Africa needed, and he was very much against it. But I think that even he now has signed onto the process. I could be wrong about that, so don't quote me. But I know that a growing number of countries have opened themselves up to the peer-review process.

This holds out a lot of promise for Africa changing its ways of doing business.

By the way, if I didn't already say this, by "new news" I don't mean good news, necessarily, unless you use it in the way that we used to use it at MacNeil/Lehrer: "Good news" is news that can be used. It's not news that gilds the lily about Africa, but it's news that nobody else seems to know. It's fresh news. It's seen through a different prism. So it's not good news per se. But I think this is good news, these processes that have been set in motion by the Africans themselves.

Similarly, as the African leaders are talking about African solutions to African problems and taking control of their destiny, African journalists have signed onto this, along with civil society. Everyone is involved. The NEPAD process has been criticized by some civil society groups as being a top-down thing, but in the meantime, civil society has organized itself and has signed on at least to the concept, and so have African journalists, many of whom are operating at tremendous deficits.

I remember going to Nigeria a few years ago and just being astounded when I walked into the so-called newsroom of one of the most successful independent papers there, in Lagos. The journalists would come in. There would be a huge table like this, with a great big roll of paper. They would come in and unroll as much as they thought the story needed, rip it off, and go sit down and write their stories. They are still in deficits like that. There are very few computers on the continent, although there are many Internet cafes.

But these journalists are taking bold new steps away from what used to be. The majority coverage on the continent was state-controlled. All the TVs and radios, for the most part, were state-controlled. Now even the journalists within the state-controlled media are attempting to exert more of their own independence and less regurgitation of the party line.

So those are positive things. In Ghana, for example, the elections were certified by journalists, who went into the field and actually watched as the ballots were being counted, to ensure that there was transparency. They were phoning in results to their stations. So even if some local poll counters might have been tempted to throw a vote here or there for the party that they were involved with, the journalists were on the scene to ensure that there was transparency in the process.

Similarly, in Zimbabwe, which is the sorrow child of Africa right now—and with sad but good reason—the young journalists are simply amazing. They are so brave. They have what is the equivalent of, during the apartheid era, the "guerilla typewriters." When the apartheid regime was censoring the media, there were brave journalists who wrote the stories of what was actually happening on their typewriters surreptitiously, somehow managing to get the stories out, in spite of the government repression. The same thing is happening now with the "guerilla computers." All of the independent media in Zimbabwe have been closed down, and yet there are journalists who are still managing to get out some truths about what is actually happening there.

They can't get credentials. The first one I met was when I went to cover the decision of the judge about Morgan Tsvangirai, who was the leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, and who had been charged by the government with treason. There are few opportunities for journalists to be allowed into Zimbabwe. We sort of figured what the verdict was going to be, because they let us all come in. Even in the most despotic regimes, like the apartheid regime, there is still, for some peculiar, bizarre, twisted reason, an attempt to make it seem as if whatever they are doing is legal and by the books. So they wanted us to see the judicial process and how it had played out.

So we're standing outside the courtroom and I see this young man dressed up like Warren Hoge here. Somehow he just caught my attention. He was moving ever so confidently. He seemed to know where he was going and what he was doing. I eventually struck up a conversation with him, and it turned out that he worked for one of the independent dailies that had been closed down. But this was an important story, and there he was.

When we all started to go into the courtroom, he was held back, I later learned, because he could be outside the premises, but he couldn't actually go in because he had no credentials. I struck up a relationship with him.

As always in the case of Zimbabwe, when you are allowed to go in, it is for one specific thing. Once I went in, after I had been denied for months. The World Cricket Cup was being played there, and so I was credentialed to go and cover cricket. I didn't know a cricket from a wicket from a thicket, and I thought, "Oh, suppose they give me twenty questions at the airport about cricket. What would I say?" So I started reading up on cricket.Sure enough, there were politics even at the cricket field—this was the time when two young members of the Zimbabwe cricket team wore black armbands to protest what was going on in the country. So right there I had part of the political story I was really interested in.

But then after I met this young man, we covered the Tsvangirai trial. The government had given us something like seventy-two hours to be in the country. So as soon as I reported the story of the Tsvangirai trial, I found this young man, and we went out to see what was happening with this land redistribution that has been the subject of such international coverage. There are those who have justified Mugabe's violent land reform on the grounds that whites own the majority of the land, and therefore it was time for land redistribution, et cetera, et cetera.

But he took me to places where those black Zimbabweans who were used as the shock troops to go in and frighten away the white farmers. They had been put on the farms, but as soon as the attention was away from them, Mugabe's people then moved them out, burned their possessions, and gave those farms to their own cronies, the generals and others that he needed to help keep him in power.

I was really impressed with the way in which journalists like that were willing to help us get the story out, because it's difficult for them to get the story out. But when they do get the story out, they use their guerilla computers, they go into the Internet cafes in the middle of the night, when the state security people are not around, and download it to the Internet.

The last time I was in Zimbabwe was the most recent election, the March before last. I was detained by the security forces. The day I arrived there was an article in the paper saying I was an enemy of the state, but they let me in anyway. And that was what they were saying: "We're even allowing in journalists like Charlayne Hunter-Gault, who is an enemy of the state. Look at how good we are." As I went to cover the voting at one of the precincts, I was detained, for spurious reasons, and taken to first one jail, then another, then another. They kept me moving around to jails the entire day, so that I got to cover none of the election.

But the amazing part was that—I'm claustrophobic, so when they asked me to get into the police van, I said, "No, I can't possibly do that, because I'm a claustrophobe." They said, "Okay, you can ride in your own car." The only thing that worried me was—I knew that I was eventually going to get out, but I wasn't sure whether or not they were going to put me in a cell, at which point I probably would have lost it. But at any rate, they simply kept me in a small room with the other criminals.

I had sent an SMS (text message) over my mobile phone. I wasn't working for CNN at the time, but I had sent a message to them saying, "I'm being detained. This is where I'm going," and this and that.

At about the third or fourth, maybe fifth, station they had taken me to, these young Zimbabwean journalists showed up. I said, "What are you doing here?"

They said, "We've come to make sure that you're all right."

I said, "I'm fine; leave," because then they could get into trouble even for associating with me. There was actually a law that said that these journalists could not work for outside news organizations.

They said, "No, we're not leaving."

I said, "But they could arrest you."

They said, "That's okay. We've been arrested before."

They refused to leave until I was released, thanks to the U.S. embassy and a few other people who pitched up at the prison. But they didn't have this kind of protection, which made my little act of defiance nothing compared to what they were up against.

You find that all over the continent. I think therein lies, along with these other things that have been put in place, much of the hope for Africa that there will be a renaissance. The journalists, the civil society, and some of the more progressive leaders are saying that things have to change, that we have to do things a different way, that we do, in fact, have to respect the human rights of people. That is why I think it's so important to get a balance of news out of the continent. Even in these new democracies, including South Africa, which has the strongest democracy on the continent, it's still fragile.

You may have read about the goings and comings, and to-ing and fro-ing of South Africa's former deputy president [Jacob Zuma], who was relieved of his position some months ago because he was charged with having a generally corrupt relationship with a man who was convicted of criminal charges, bribery, and so on. So he was relieved of his position as the deputy president of the country, and he was temporarily relieved of his position as deputy president of the party. In the interim, he was accused of rape. He has subsequently been acquitted on the rape charge. The corruption charge is still pending.

Certainly during my time there, this has produced some of the most vociferous debate and discussion and demonstrations in the country. I think it is a real test of South Africa's democracy. So far it has passed the test, because the debate has been, while uncivil at times, mostly peaceful, which is a huge difference from what was happening in the run-up to the 1994 elections. Then you had the same group of folks, such as the Zulus—not all of them, of course, were involved in this—but the violence between the Zulus and the others was quite extreme and resulted in the deaths of hundreds, if not thousands, of people. That's not happening now.

But there is still the succession issue in South Africa. They used to say, when Mandela was president, "WAM," "What after Mandela?" Now they are saying, "WAM," "What after Mbeki?" Even though he has made some serious missteps, principally on the AIDS issue, he is a powerful leader in the country and on the continent, and has solidified the growth in the country in a way that hasn't happened in decades.

So you have a country that is on the move, that is making every effort to redress the historical imbalances against the black majority and is moving to energize the rest of the continent in a democratic way. But, still, the strongest democracy on the continent is only eleven years old. It needs support. It's fragile.

I was just in Nigeria. Just as I touched down, these journalists that I mentioned earlier met me at the airport. I had emailed them and said, "I want you to come, because I've paid tribute to you in my book, and I want you to have the book." When they met me they said, "You've come on the best day." I said, "Why is that?" They said, "Because there's big news here." The senate in Abuja had just voted against a bill that would have given Obasanjo a third term."

Of course, the new way of doing things in this NEPAD framework is to have these guys leave when their time is up. Mbeki said he's going after two terms. Others have stepped down after two terms. Here was Obasanjo going for a third term, because, many say, he felt he was the only person who could continue the reforms that he had put in place. In a country of 100 million people, there's only one who can continue the reforms? Obviously, that was the question the senate asked itself, and, obviously, the answer that they came to was, "There must be somebody else."

So you have this new news coming out of Africa. It's hopeful. There's a fragility there. There's a vulnerability there, and all kinds of problems that have to be addressed. But I think there's enough new news coming out of the continent that people like you in the international community would do well to be informed about the new news and to see ways in which you can help contribute to the second wind of change blowing across the continent.

Thank you.

Questions and Answers

JOANNE MYERS: If the role of the press is to educate us, I'm glad you are our teacher.

I'd like to open the floor to questions.

QUESTION: Thank you so much, first, Charlayne, for all your coverage of Africa and for your focus here on what you're calling new news. I want to ask you whether you think that the role of the African Union is part of the new news. The chairperson of the African Union, President Konare, speaks about moving from noninterference to non-indifference. That's his theme. He has spoken about the African Union's role in Burundi, in Darfur. It seems to me there's very little awareness in the United States of the African Union playing a different role than the Organization of African Unity did.

I wonder if you think that's right, and if so, what could be done to give the African Union more profile and coverage?

CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: The things that I described, NEPAD and peer review, come out of this new organization. You mentioned Burundi, another example of new news—and, actually, good news—the involvement of South Africa. It started with Mandela as a mediator, and when he became overburdened with too many things and his failing health, he pulled out and South Africa continued the mediation effort. Just the other day, they brought Burundi and most of the principals in that war to a peace deal. I think just this week, the final rebel group has signed onto the peace.

In 1998, there were something like fourteen wars going on on the continent. Now there are fewer than three. So that's new news; that's good news.

However, having said that, one of the African Union's major problems, which I deal with a little bit in the book, is that it has no money. Those forces in Darfur have no money. The organization itself is in a perilous financial state, and so are its troops. So when you see that there isn't an effective force on the ground in Darfur, part of the reason is that they don't have the resources.

Moreover, in Khartoum—where I spent a frustrating ten days trying to get into Darfur and finally just left, because I realized they were just stalling—the African Union people in Khartoum were telling me that the Khartoum government, even though it has allowed them into the country, is obstructing them. For example, when the tanks, or whatever it is they drive around Darfur in, come into the ports in Sudan, there are some incredible layers of bureaucracy that prevent them from getting to the troops, for months at a time.

Again, it's this "let's give the impression that we're cooperating," while at the same time making sure that the things that they don't want to happen don't happen.

There is a real pride at stake in terms of the troops that they have deployed from the African Union, because they say, "We're Africans. We can take care of our own problems." There has been an antipathy towards having the UN forces to come in.

But that has to get resolved, because, meanwhile, the carnage and the genocide continues in Darfur, and the African Union forces are being murdered. The United Nations was there not long ago, and they had to get out of there in a hurry, because the people within the camps turned on them. I think one was left behind and was brutally murdered.

These people who are trying their best to do it simply don't have the resources. Here again, one needs the involvement of the international community, to see how you can work out an arrangement in which you have a more robust force. As I read what's happening—and I haven't been there, so I have to rely on the media—the situation is deteriorating. It's no longer just a matter of the Janjaweed attacking the black Africans, but within the camps, there have begun to be these schisms and fissures. So it's really important to try to get on top of that.

Nick Kristof has been one of the great reporters on this story, and he has just been foaming at the mouth about it. But I want to tell Nick Kristof—he keeps saying the journalists need to go there. Well, the journalists are trying to go there. They can't get in. Some of them, I think, are there now. Lydia—

VOICE: I wanted to say, please mention Lydia Polgreen, who has done very dramatic reporting from there, at great risk.

CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Yes, at great risk. It's not a nice place.

VOICE: From what organization?

CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Lydia is with The New York Times. I don't know how she got in, but she's been doing some great reporting.

Even the aid agencies are at risk. Everybody's at risk.

It's one of these situations where we have said over and over, "Never again," and here it is happening again. I just simply cannot believe that with the force that we have as an international community, there isn't some way that we can intervene to stop this. The victims are children and babies and mothers, just hapless people who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

QUESTION: This may seem, in light of what you've been saying, a strange question. New York University has just opened a campus in Ghana. To what extent have other American universities established programs in Africa? Have you any comment on (a) the possibility of their doing so, and (b) whether they can make a significant contribution?

CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: I'm happy to hear that. I'm happy to hear that you're in Ghana, because South Africa is the hot new kid on the block and everybody wants to come to South Africa and everybody wants to be involved in AIDS. I think both of the above are important, but there are other issues on the continent and other places than South Africa.

I sometimes get a little bit cynical when people come to South Africa. I was doing a show the other day and this young makeup artist was doing my makeup. This was in Atlanta, on the fortieth floor of the Marriott Marquis. She said, "Where do you live?" I said, "I live in Johannesburg." She said, "Oh, what is Johannesburg like?" Again, we were on the fortieth floor of the Marriott Marquis looking out over the skyline of Atlanta. I said, "Look out the window. There's Johannesburg."

People come to South Africa because, even though it has its townships which are still woefully poor and under-serviced and inadequate and all that, you can stay in the most magnificent hotels and you can make your forays into the townships and come back and have a five-star meal.

We do need in South Africa this kind of support, but there's a lot of it coming in all over the country—not that it should stop, but I think that some of these institutions also should be going to Malawi and Botswana and Tanzania and other places. There is so much of a need. I was just in Malawi, and one of the huge problems there, as in the rest of the continent, is maternal mortality and infant mortality. Here in the developed world, we have three or four, maybe as many as eight, out of 100,000 infant deaths. In Uganda, it's 1,000 per 100,000. In Malawi, it's something like 700 per 100,000.

They have teaching institutions. They have research institutions. Also there's a crying need, even in South Africa, for teacher training.

First of all, in some countries they have made some progress in terms of having more women. One of the Millennium Development Goals is increasing the number of girls in primary school. It's going to be critical to have female teachers. Some of the stories that the men tell me about what happens when there are only men trying to teach girls—I won't go into them now, but they're pretty horrendous. Girls actually drop out of school because of things that happen to girls at a certain age and because there's only a man teacher there, or because the toilets are these pit latrines and girls have a slightly more complicated way of having to go to the loo. They just drop out of school, because it's just too daunting to overcome.

But the point is that even those teachers are so inadequately prepared. I was in Sudan recently. In southern Sudan now, which is like being in the Stone Age because of all those years of war and inattention, the teachers are mostly men, and they have only been through primary school. In Malawi, in the early 2000s, they instituted free primary education. They had massive numbers of young people coming into the system, but they didn't have enough teachers. So they went out and hurriedly recruited teachers, none of whom are prepared, really, to teach. So you have this problem.

These kinds of things are among the things that I think U.S. institutions can be extremely helpful with, and not just in South Africa, but hopefully in the rest of the continent.

QUESTION: I would like to thank you, too, for bringing us the new news, some of which is indeed good news, too. We tend to forget about that. In the media, maybe it gets less attention, but also we in the United Nations, I think, are focusing more on the problems than on the good examples. So it's very welcome to have that.

At the same time, there might be also a problem here. Indeed, it is the wish of the African countries to take control of their destinies. I think the whole international community would like them to do that. But there is, I suppose, a long term and a short term there. In the long term, I think it will happen, because the signs that you are giving—and there are many others, I think—do point in that direction. But in the short term, I think it is difficult to take their fate and their future in their own hands.

If you look at Darfur—and you are pleading, I think, for more assistance and more focus on that from the international community—it is exactly what we are trying to do. The peace agreement was brokered, indeed, by Africa, with a tremendous role of President Obasanjo and also President Mbeki. Now we are at a point where there is some sort of fragile peace agreement, but there is a lot of assistance needed.

The wrong side of taking control themselves is that they have great difficulty involving, basically, the international community, apart from giving money. Indeed, there might be a question of money, but I believe that there is sufficient money to support. But how to deliver that to the people who need it? For the delivery to the people who need it, still, quite considerable assistance—including in terms of security—is necessary. That is what the Sudanese government is refusing. It's even refusing a role tothe United Nations at this point. We're negotiating on that. The Security Council went up there. The undersecretary responsible for peacekeeping went up there to negotiate an involvement of the United Nations. With money only, we cannot do it. The United Nations must be involved as a partner in that exercise. That has to be allowed.

CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: I think you're absolutely right. That goes back to the thing that Warren said in introducing me, about coming in right. I think it's a very delicate moment on the continent, especially in situations that are similar to what you're describing. I think that what Africans are saying now is that they want to be treated as partners and not as junior partners or as supplicants.

I'm the last one to speak on diplomacy. I'm just a journalist. But my sense, as I listen to all of them, is that they understand that and they appreciate that.

One of the things I learned from Kofi Annan years ago, when we were both stuck in Baghdad when what's-his-name was still in power—the first international foray—was that negotiations go on above water and under water. I think that with the kind of leadership we have from people like Obasanjo, Mbeki, Bouteflika, and Wade. As you say, it's a short-term and it's a long-term thing. Trying to turn around a government like that one in Khartoum, against the backdrop of the way in which it has operated up to this point, is probably a long-term deal.

However—and now I'm really getting into deep water here—the Chinese are now moving into Africa in a huge way. I was just in Addis Ababa and went into a nightclub where, when I was there before, there were all Ethiopians, and they have these magnificent dances, and extremely beautiful women doing them. There over in the corner was a little table of Chinese. Everybody else in there was just going to town, following the example of the Ethiopian dancers, and at the little Chinese table they're sitting there. They're smiling and they're enjoying it. They're not into it, but they're there. It makes you do a double take.

I was in Khartoum years ago, and it was a rather flat and not very interesting place. Now there are skyscrapers going up and businesses opening up, and Chinese in the hotels paying bills. They're there. Because of what? The oil. They're in Nigeria and they're in South Africa, annoying a lot of the locals because they're bringing in textiles that sell for less than what the locals are able to sell for.

Nevertheless, this is a reality. China is on the move in Africa.

Do you sit next to the Chinese ambassador? They have to be brought into the equation. I don't know how you do it, but you have to have these coalitions that matter. China right now matters in Africa. I don't know how you do that. That's not my job.

This was a private conversation with a leader, but I was told that there was heavy pressure put on Obasanjo about this third term thing. People said, "You simply cannot do this." There were steps taken and moves made, and ultimately the outcome was at least desirable in terms of the way in which the African Union seems to want things to go.

So I don't know what the answer is, but I certainly think that Africans have to be, in some ways, empowered and feel themselves empowered, even as you work with them to help empower them. I don't know if that makes any sense to you.

QUESTION: Charlayne, thank you very much.

I'd like to go back to your second wind. I was very warmed by the stories you told about the journalists in Africa. Could you give us an update on the field of journalism, the study of journalism, the best newspapers out of Africa? Are any online? Where would you advise New Yorkers to get news about Africa? It's very, very tough.

CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: The question was about the state of journalism on the continent. It's uneven. Everything is vibrant in Nigeria. It's this huge, robust, raucous country that I finally learned how to negotiate, myself. The journalism there is dynamic and vibrant. I'm sure if you go online, you can find some of the newspapers, like Tell and others.

Ghana is another place where the journalism is vibrant, and South Africa as well. Independent Online you can get. You can get into several of the South African newspapers. The weekly Mail & Guardian still is a muck-raking, truth-telling newspaper with a long history. I think the community is still trying to find its sea legs after so many years of being supplicants or else being oppressed by the state. I keep saying to my journalistic colleagues there, "Look, there's nowhere in the world that there's a love relationship between the government and the media." It's just not happening, and won't ever happen.

At the same time, the government isn't always wrong and the media aren't always right. They're still trying to strike that balance. So you get a lot of "Ruff, ruff, ruff!" from both sides. But it's vibrant. No journalist in South Africa has been arrested for anything that they've said against the government or whatever.

Kenya is another country where there's a vibrant media community.

The problem here again—and the journalists on the continent will tell you this—is that many of them got into the profession out of just a love for it, but they don't have the training, even in South Africa.

At The New York Times, we learned that the third paragraph has to be the universal paragraph. You have to summarize; even if you've been writing the story for two weeks, the third paragraph has to go over the origins of this thing. You don't get a lot of investigative reporting in the newspapers in South Africa, with the exception of the Mail & Guardian and one of the feistier local TV stations.

But they are growing. They need resources. They need computers and some advanced training. Here again, journalists are coming from the United States and doing symposiums and things like that to help with that process.

Having said that, the bad news of the new news is—I'm on the Committee to Protect Journalists. We just had a meeting yesterday. There is still a lot of repression going on on the continent against journalists. That was why I went to Ethiopia to talk with the prime minister. They have a bunch of journalists in jail charged with treason. Some of it is just irresponsibility. Some of it may also have been that some of the journalists may have been in the pockets of the politicians. We don't know. But we said to the prime minister, "That's not a death sentence. There are other ways to deal with that."

So I think the move is there, the momentum is there. But here again, there needs to be a lot of support on a lot of different levels.

QUESTION: Ms. Hunter-Gault, you mentioned Somalia. I wonder if you could give us some idea of what you think is going to happen in Somalia, with the triumph of the Islamicists.

CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: That's such a sad story. I have no idea. I'm in the same boat as you are, reading about it in the newspaper. It doesn't look good. It's a very worrisome thing.

I had a colleague, a young woman, who was killed there last year. She worked for the BBC, and she had gone to scope out some stories and just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and was shot. She could have survived if the country had been a little more equipped. There was no blood, and so she died.

I think the Times had somebody in there, Marc Lacey, which is amazing, because it's a little bit like Darfur. It's not a safe place to be. I think it's very difficult, probably, to get permission to go in.

But the trend certainly isn't encouraging. I don't know a whole lot else about it. I haven't been there in many years.

I just went to the thirtieth anniversary of the MacNeil/Lehrer News Hour the other night, and they had a little gag reel that they ran. I had forgotten about this, but when I went there in 1992, when the other Bush administration went into Somalia; this was before the "Black Hawk Down" incident. You had to hire what they called "technicals," guys with guns, because everybody had guns, and the only way to protect yourself was to have your guns. One day, for some reason, they took our guns. I can't remember what the reason was, but we were stopped at a checkpoint and they confiscated our guns.

I had said to the young man who was our technical team leader, "What happens if we get to a checkpoint and they've got guns and we've got guns, and they stop us and they want what we've got?" He said, "Well, I guess it would be a shootout." I said, "How about we go in another direction? If we get to the checkpoint and they've got guns and we've got guns and there's something they want in this vehicle, why don't you just give them everything except me, and let's not have a shootout?"

Somebody said to me later, "And the guy agreed?" I said, "Yes." "And you believed him?" I said, "Yes." And the guy just laughed.

So they had taken our guns. The clip that they showed on the News Hour was—I had gone and proved that these were our guns and that we had them legitimately, so to speak, in the context of what was legitimate there. So they showed me—a lot thinner, a lot younger—walking over to our car with just an armload of guns, AK-47s, and saying, "Well, we got our guns back."


It's unbelievable what's happening there. I just don't know the answer to the question.

JOANNE MYERS: Charlayne, thank you.

You may also like

JUL 9, 2024 Article

The Rise of Preemptive Bans on Human Microchip Implants

As the impact and influence of chip implants increases in the U.S., it's time to raise ethical and legal questions about this technology.

JUL 2, 2024 Podcast

Cybernetics, Digital Surveillance, & the Role of Unions in Tech Governance, with Elisabet Haugsbø

Senior Fellow Anja Kaspersen speaks with Elisabet Haugsbø, president of tech union Tekna, about her engineering journey, resiliency in the AI era, and much more.

JUN 27, 2024 Podcast

AI, Military Ethics, & Being Alchemists of Meaning, with Heather M. Roff

Senior Fellow Anja Kaspersen and Heather Roff, senior research scientist at the The Center for Naval Analyses, discuss AI systems, military affairs, and much more.

Not translated

This content has not yet been translated into your language. You can request a translation by clicking the button below.

Request Translation