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South Sudanese to Compete in Olympic Games; Sudan and South Sudan Struggle with Their Dfferences

Aired July 30, 2012 - 15:00:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour.

The Olympic rings are so colorful for a reason. Every flag in the world contains one of these colors, and every four years, the Summer Games remind us what can unite the world: athletic prowess and team spirit, which should triumph over global politics.

My brief tonight: if only. When the Games begin, politics too often do come crashing in. One of the ugliest examples was in 1936 when Berlin hosted the Games and Adolf Hitler promoted his vision of racial purity. American track and field star Jesse Owens made a mockery of that by winning four gold medals.

South Africa's all-white teams proudly marched into every Olympic event until 1964, when they were barred because of apartheid. And when they finally rejoined in 1992, black and white athletes marched together.

In 1972, there was the terrible Munich massacre, when the Palestinian terror group Black September killed 11 Israeli athletes.

But most political conflict at the Games has been more symbolic. At the height of the Cold War in 1980, the United States boycotted the Olympics in Moscow after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. And four years later, the Soviets returned the favor when the Games were held in Los Angeles.

This year, it's Syria, where the escalating civil war hangs heavily over Olympic team. In the end, it's the athletes who suffer most, like Guar Marial, who's a marathon runner from the world's newest country.

South Sudan is so new that it has no Olympic committee, so Marial has had to fight to go to the Games in London as an independent. He developed his running skills as one of Sudan's Lost Boys during the civil war, when he was kidnapped into virtual slavery. And he's not seen his parents in 20 years. His powerful story in just a moment.

But first, a look at what's happening later in the program.



AMANPOUR (voice-over): A year ago, when South Sudan was born, a new flag was raised, and with it, hope for peace with its neighbor, Sudan. But one year later, hope is fading and battle flags are waving.

And in 1948, when London last hosted the Olympics, it was still digging its way out of World War II and the Blitz, when athletes gathered and pigeons took flight. An Olympic flame that war cannot extinguish.


AMANPOUR: We'll get to that in a bit. But first, Guor Marial. Even for a marathoner, his road to the Olympics has been long and brutal. He lost 28 family members in the bloody civil war in Sudan.

At 7 years old, he was taken from his home at gunpoint and placed in a labor camp. His wages: $1 a month. That's where he started his harrowing story when I spoke to him while he was still waiting for a visa that would allow him to travel to London in time for his big race.


AMANPOUR: You got $1 a month?

MARIAL: One dollar per month. That's the amount I was working. And the life wasn't fun. But I had to do it because I had no choice. I'd rather get $1 per month instead of getting nothing or go eat in the garbage, you know. So for me, I was getting $1 a month and at the same time there can get food. I can get food. If I don't, I just do my best to survive.

So during that I go and wash clothes and some of the soldiers, they were -- some of them, they would be kind enough to give me a little bit. And that's the thing I was living on.

AMANPOUR: You were working almost as a slave for the soldiers. And then you got kidnapped by who? By a gang?

MARIAL: It was not a gang. These are the Arab people with the cattle. They call them Misseriya. They abduct kids. They kidnap kids and take the kids to go and rod the cattle.

If you're older, like if you're 10 or 12, they make you rod the cattle. If you are younger, like I was, they make you go with the goats and sheep. You stay there all day and then you come back.

AMANPOUR: How did you escape?

MARIAL: At the end of the week, there was five of us. At the end of the week, I met with -- I ran into one of the guys. He was a little older than me, around 10, 11 or 12. I talked to him, and I said, OK. What are we going to do? These people, I'm pretty sure they are not going to let us go back.

They will take us -- they will take us to their home. And we might not be able to see our parents. They might go and kill us or do whatever they want with us. So at that, we have to meet here on the -- then in two days from now, and then we escape. We can escape. We run back to where we came.

When the sun came up, we started running. And we walk, we ran, we walk, we ran until at noontime, we went and found a lake with water. We would relax there for one hour or two, and then we walk again until we arrive to the city. And that's how we came back, that escape, back to the city.

AMANPOUR: So you basically outran your captors.

Did you think that running would be your future?

MARIAL: Not at all. I was appreciating the running because running allowed me to escape and that danger. When I left Sudan, I said I will never, never run again, because I thought running is only for me to save my life.

But then I came to United States, I felt confident and comfortable there. I am safe now. I'm not worried about anything besides I'm worried about my parents. But where at the moment, I'm just going to focus my school and get education I want. But running wasn't something that I wanted to do again.

AMANPOUR: You haven't seen your parents since you left. You haven't seen them in about 20 years. Are you able to talk to them?

MARIAL: That's correct.

AMANPOUR: Do they know you're going to run in the Olympics? Will they be able to see you on television?

MARIAL: They will be able to see me. I talked to them and I talked to my relative. And I told my relative to go to the village and bring them to see the -- where they can see the -- they can watch me in the Olympics. And so I --

AMANPOUR: So they can't see you in their village?

MARIAL: The village where they live, there's no electricity, no running water, not even a road where the car could go, where they live. It's very far away. It's about 30 to 40 kilometers from -- oh, no, 30 to 40 miles from where -- from the city.

AMANPOUR: So how will they get to the city?

MARIAL: They'll walk. That's what I've been hearing at recently. Since South Sudan got independent, they did a little bit of road that goes to my village. But there's still no electricity, no running water, none whatsoever. People are still drinking in a river.

It's -- everything's still pretty much the same as I left. That's what I've been hearing. Like right now, at the moment, it's the rainy season. So there's no car going to take them from village to the city. So there will -- in order them to go to the city, they will walk to the city.

AMANPOUR: It must make you feel, despite all the hardships, so proud. And how do you think they will feel when they see you in that marathon on August the 12th?

MARIAL: I think they will be more excited than me. And they're proud of me and appreciated what I have done and what I'm going to do. And not just only -- not just them, but the -- I hope the whole South Sudan will appreciate what has gone on and be able to have a chance to see me running in the Olympics and see their own blood is representing them.

AMANPOUR: What will be in your heart when you hear that starter's gun?

MARIAL: Well, all I will hear is, I'm just going to say this is it. This is what I always say. This is it. When you start, when you -- the gun goes off, there's no stopping till the finish. So I just say, this is it. There's no way out. This is what I've been waiting for.

And this is the light I've been seeing, when I'm walking in the tunnel, in the dark tunnel. You can see the green light is on the other side of the tunnel. And all you want to do is to go to that bright light and be able to reach there as much you can. And that's what I'm going to be seeing.

AMANPOUR: And what does it make you feel, you know, your generation of lost boys, managed to get out. You've come to the United States. But you've probably been reading about another generation of lost boys, lost children, who are trying to get out as well and who are having to flee and whose parents are sending them away from South Sudan.

MARIAL: It just made me feel really sad, you know, because young generations is all of the future of the country. Myself, I just feel that, you know, it's completely just not right, the country's just going downhill. And it's just unfortunate to see that happening.

But the thing is, would -- what I would say is for someone like me or any other lost boy of Sudan is to put your heart together and put your hands together and say, you know, yes, we love the country but we have to build a country, go back and build a country.

You know, the country cannot be a country with no people in it. The country -- the people are the country. With no people in the country, there is no country.

AMANPOUR: But you're one of them. You're a person. You're a South Sudanese, and you're going to represent your new country. And we wish you a lot of luck and we hope that it inspires the rest of your country people.

Guor Marial, thank you very much for joining me.

MARIAL: Thank you for having me. Thank you for your time. Thank you.


AMANPOUR: And Guor hopes to receive his visa today in time to get to London on Friday and run the marathon as an independent on August 12th.

And when we return, we will go to the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, to understand whether there's any way of resolving the war that has so affected Guor Marial.

We'll be right back.




AMANPOUR: Despite celebrating its independence a year ago, the country of South Sudan is still locked in conflict with Sudan. The big issue is oil. South Sudan has most of the major oilfields, but the oil must be shipped out through the north.

It's like a bad divorce, and the custody of the oil revenue was not fully negotiated before South Sudan declared independence.

The United Nations Security Council has offered Sudan and the South Sudan to end their hostilities and resolve their outstanding issues, has ordered them to do so or face sanctions or other measures August 2nd. But after decades of conflict with more than 2 million deaths, they've still not reached agreement.

I spoke with Abdullahi Alazreg, a top Sudanese diplomat. He told me the government is having, quote, "constructive talks" with the south, but I asked him about the prospects for a real peace.


AMANPOUR: Ambassador Alazreg, thank you for joining me from Khartoum.


AMANPOUR: You both said -- South and Sudan said that you do not want to continue this war, that you are ready to end this war. And yet one year after South Sudan becomes an independent country, you come to the brink of war again.

Are you going to be able to resolve this? Is it because you want to control the border area as your president has suggested?

ALAZREG: No, our president did not suggested that. The fact is that South Sudan is having two military divisions inside Sudan. And it is occupying, you know, a vast area, you know, north of the border. That was agreed upon in accordance to the comprehensible agreement or -- nobody in the world would accept, you know, a foreign occupation of his territory.

And nobody would accept no foreign army staying inside his country. And at the same time nobody will accept, you know, the proxy war.

South Sudan is, you know, fighting a proxy war. It is supporting the rebel movement in South Kordofan and in Blue Nile and in Darfur. It is giving them harbor, ammunition and training and facilities so that they cause the war there until the innocent civilian people in my country.

AMANPOUR: Basically both of you are occupying each other's territory. There is land inside the south that you occupy and land in your area that they occupy.

Let me play you this little bit of an interview from Ahmed Haroun, who's the governor of South Kordofan. And this was obtained and recorded by Al Jazeera in April.


SOUTH KORDOFAN GOVERNOR AHMED HAROUN (through translator): You must hand over the place clean - swept, rubbed, crushed. Don't bring them back alive. We have no space for them.


AMANPOUR: Did you hear what he said?

ALAZREG: Yes, I did. This is one of the slogans of the training of our army. You have the slogans of the Marines over there and, you know, when there is war, OK, every leader will encourage his army to fight. It doesn't mean it literally, of course, you know.

And we are -- I have so many doubts about this recording, you know. And I have so many doubts that he means literally what, you know, what's said, that his -- it was said.

AMANPOUR: This governor has been indicted by the International Criminal Court.

So my question is are you going to hand over this governor?

ALAZREG: Number one, the International Criminal Court is a political arm of the big boys, of the big countries. It is a political, you know, you know, a political entity. And its leader said once in the U.N. that it is working in a political atmosphere. So it is politicized, you know.

It is based -- the allegations against this man and against our president, based on, you know, you know, (inaudible) allegations, actually.

AMANPOUR: Mr. Ambassador, I know that's your position --


AMANPOUR: -- but it does fly in the face of reality and of everything that people have seen there. And the majority of the international community says that crimes against humanity have taken place.

Will Sudan hand over your president, Omar al-Bashir, who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court? Yes or no? Four years ago.

ALAZREG: OK. Presumably, if he -- if the International Criminal Court is right -- and it is not right at all -- we are willing to hand over whomever, provided that America hands over Bush and the United Kingdom hand over Blair.

AMANPOUR: But they haven't been indicted.

ALAZREG: And also hand so many -- so many criminals in Israel who are killing the innocent people in Palestine and the innocent people of Gaza.

AMANPOUR: Yes, yes, Mr. Ambassador --

ALAZREG: (Inaudible) people has been killed.

AMANPOUR: Mr. Ambassador --

ALAZREG: In 10 years' time, 100 -- 1,500 been killed, has been killed in Gaza at all, yes?

AMANPOUR: Mr. Ambassador, they have not been indicted. My question is very simple.

ALAZREG: Go ahead, ma'am.

AMANPOUR: Your president has been indicted. And it is incumbent upon the government or the forces in Sudan to hand him over to the International Criminal Court. Is that going to happen?

ALAZREG: No, no. But I don't know. Our president has been indicted by an entity that we are not recognizing. We are not submitting to it. We are not submitting to it. And we believe that it is something politicized. It is not based on any, you know, on any justice.

And it is selective and it is not meant to reach, you know, any justice in what it has done.

AMANPOUR: Ambassador Alazreg, thank you very much indeed for joining me.

ALAZREG: Thank you. Thank you very much.


AMANPOUR: And to discuss more about this, we turn to the founder of the Enough Project, John Prendergast, who's been fighting to end the brutality in Sudan since the early 1990s.

As a member of the Clinton administration and as a human rights activists, often working with celebrities like George Clooney, he has brought a huge spotlight and has been a major advocate for the independence of South Sudan.

Thank you for being here, John.


AMANPOUR: Nice to talk to you.

Well, you heard my discussion with the ambassador. First and foremost, on the very critical issue of what's happening between the two countries today, do you think there's any hope that these negotiations in Ethiopia are going to resolve the issue?

PRENDERGAST: What I think the diplomats involved in mediating the dispute hope is that there's enough progress that they can recommend to the United Nations Security Council let's extend the deadline a little bit. Let's keep hope alive, if you will.

AMANPOUR: Do you think there is?

PRENDERGAST: It's tough. They're pretty far apart on all the significant issues. You know, on the oil question, you know, all -- most of the oil comes from South Sudan, but it goes through these -- the pipelines and refineries in North Sudan. So they've got to figure out a way to share that. They're very far apart on how to share the costs and the revenue of this oil right now.

AMANPOUR: So that's a big issue and, as we said, it's one of the outstanding issues when South Sudan was created, when it was made independent. How come that wasn't resolved and do you think it can be resolved?

PRENDERGAST: Sure. I do think it can be resolved. At the end of the day, desperation drives a lot of calculations. And right now, South Sudan's economy is imploding, Sudan's economy is imploding.

AMANPOUR: Because South Sudan stopped even pumping oil.

PRENDERGAST: They simply stopped all production. So both countries, their primary source of foreign exchange has been eliminated overnight and so I do think that there in a much more constructive spirit than they have been for the last couple of years, because they've been trying to find a way to deal with this revenue issue for a couple of years now.

So I think they're getting closer. But to still -- the distance is pretty far. And both of them believe -- and this is the destructive part - - both of them believe the other one will collapse. The other government will collapse first.

And so they're sort of holding out with very strong positions and hoping that the other side will collapse. And then they can have a much more amenable partner on the other side of the (inaudible).


AMANPOUR: Which after 20 years of war between them seems to be a crazy thought from either of them.

But let me ask you this. You've obviously got a vested interest and the United States does as well.

You have worked for a long time for this moment for independence for South Sudan. Don't you have a responsibility to make sure that South Sudan can actually function as an independent country? I mean, the corruption that we read about, the fact that the president himself has admitted that $4 billion in aid has been stolen, looted?

They have a responsibility, too, South Sudan, and so do you.

PRENDERGAST: No question. And the first year of this state was not a good one. The allegations of corruption go even beyond the $4 billion in fact. You know, here we are, a state with no institutions, no working institutions, suddenly becomes independent.

And billions of dollars are flowing through the treasuries without any real safeguards on where that money is spent and how it -- where it goes. Many people just grabbed it and ran. And so they're trying to track all that money now.

They realize that, in fact, donor governments like the United States, the United Kingdom and many countries around the world are not going to accept that this money just goes missing and there is no sanction for it.

AMANPOUR: Is there a plan in place?

PRENDERGAST: They've started. They've already begun attempting to track down all the assets --


AMANPOUR: -- monitored by the U.S. or the U.N. or the IMF or whoever it is --

PRENDERGAST: The World Bank is working very closely with them on how to institute these kind of transparent processes that every government is fighting to do, especially in their early years.

So on the one hand, it's pretty tragic that billions of dollars have gone missing. On the other hand, it's a brand-new embryonic state and there are people there that are working to try to make it -- try to make it more transparent than it has been.

AMANPOUR: It's tragic, but it's also very, very dangerous. They could come to the brink of war again. Well, they are at the brink. They could go into full-scale civil war. There's terrible humanitarian crisis that's brewing.

We've got these, you know, Guor Marial, who we just talked to, is trying to run in the Olympics. His family is still stuck in South Sudan. There's a whole 'nother generation of lost boys. What is the humanitarian situation right now?

PRENDERGAST: It's very desperate in certain locations. So in the southern part of Sudan, not South Sudan, but right on the border between South Sudan and Sudan, inside (inaudible) known as the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile. These two states are sort of the new Darfurs. These are the areas where the civil war is greatest right now within Sudan.

And people, hundreds of thousands of refugees have crossed the border into South Sudan. And the people that remain inside Sudan, in the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile have no humanitarian assistance because the government has decided, well, we're just going to starve out those populations as a way to defeat the rebel group.

So they're using starvation as a weapon of war. The stories we're hearing from inside those areas, the people that are trapped there are scary in terms of the malnutrition rates. So I'm very, very worried that we're going to start to see mass starvation and death by disease. Because you know, usually in these famines around the world, it's the diseases that really take the most number of lives.

And right now the rainy season, water-borne diseases get spread very quickly. That's the -- those are the stakes that the Sudanese people are facing now.

AMANPOUR: Very briefly and finally, what would advise the South Sudanese president right now as a way to live with his northern neighbor?

PRENDERGAST: Well, I think there is a deal to be had with Sudan. They can finally get the terms of this revenue sharing between the north and the south done. Both sides are going to have to compromise. They've got to find a way to demarcate the border, at least find an acceptable interim step of where they can draw the line so they can move the forces back.

All these things are doable. And so the Sudanese government and the South Sudanese government are going to have to compromise at the negotiating table.

AMANPOUR: John Prendergast, thank you very much indeed for joining me.

PRENDERGAST: Thank you, Christiane.

AMANPOUR: And as we were discussing, the major humanitarian crisis in South Sudan does continue. On our website, we have a story about an organization that's working to try to alleviate that crisis, at least a little, by teaching South Sudanese children to use cameras and then sell those photos online for money that then goes to local charities. That's at

And when we come back, the last time London staged the Olympic Games, the scars from World War II were still raw, and Europe was in ruins. Lighting the Olympic flame in the ashes when we return.




AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, the last time London held the Olympic Games, the ceremony and the setting were vastly different.

Imagine a world of ration books and bread lines hosting the Olympics. They called them the Austerity Games, and with good reason. It was 1948, just three years after the end of World War II. And London was still digging out of the rubble of the Blitz. And Londoners were queueing up for everything, from gasoline to candy bars.

Even as pigeons took flight as a symbol of peace, the scars of war remained. The opening ceremony back in 1948 didn't have Paul McCartney or James Bond, but it did have plenty of heart and hope and courage.


GEORGE VI, FORMER KING OF ENGLAND: But it is our firm belief that you are kindling a torch, the light from which will travel to the uttermost corners of the Earth, a torch of that ageless and heartfelt prayer of mankind throughout the world for peace and goodwill amongst men.


AMANPOUR: And that's always our hope. And that's it for tonight's program. Thank you and goodbye from New York.