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CNN Obtains Proof of Life Video of Chibok Girls; Tunisia's Success Story Risks Falling Apart; Imagine a World. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired April 14, 2016 - 14:00   ET




MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight: reaction to a CNN exclusive, a proof-of-life video for some of the Chibok schoolgirls

kidnapped two years ago by Boko Haram.

I speak to General Carter Ham, former head of U.S. Africa Command, about the possibility of a rescue operation.

Also ahead on the program: a stark warning for the uncertain future of Tunisia.


HOLMES: Good evening, welcome to the program. I'm Michael Holmes, sitting in for Christiane tonight.

Now two years ago today, hundreds of Nigerian schoolgirls were kidnapped by Boko Haram, their fate largely unknown until now. On this

program yesterday, we brought you the exclusive reporting, proof-of-life video, showing at least some of the Chibok girls were alive as recently as


Now we want to remind you what was reported, producer Stephanie Busari and photojournalist Sebastiaan Knoops.


NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Lined up against a yellow wall, 15 girls, only their faces showing. An off-camera voice asks

each girl, "What's your name?"

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking foreign language).

ELBAGIR (voice-over): Is that the name your parents recognize?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking foreign language).

ELBAGIR (voice-over): "Where were you taken from?" the voice asks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking foreign language).

ELBAGIR (voice-over): Chibok School and the date, they say, is the 25th of December 2015. This video was obtained by CNN from a person close

to the negotiations to get these girls released.

For the parents, it's finally a glimmer of hope these girls are still alive.

Two years ago, we met Mary Ashia (ph), Atascata Ayuba (ph) and Yala Galang (ph) on our visit to Chibok after the abduction of their daughters

and more than 200 other girls. We ask them if they recognize any of the girls in the video.

They lean closer. Another girl is identified, Hawa (ph). One by one, they name all 15 girls.

But one mother, Yala (ph), realizes her daughter isn't there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language).

ELBAGIR (voice-over): The off-camera voice asking the questions is familiar to CNN as that of Boko Haram spokesman Abu Zinara (ph). A source

close to the negotiations between Boko Haram and the Nigerian government said the video was provided by the terror group as an asked-for show of

good faith.

Nigeria's information minister told CNN they have received the video but are still reviewing it.


HOLMES: This grim anniversary spearheaded by the Bring Back Our Girls campaign is being marked around the world today, as the desperate families

wonder whether their daughters will ever come home.

I spoke to Nima Elbagir in Abuja, not just about the fate of the girls but that of their families.


HOLMES: It was heartbreaking, really, to look at you going through that video with family, with friends. I'm curious about how much more you

can tell us about how they're doing, as they sit there and wait for the government to follow through on its promise to get the girls back.

ELBAGIR: This has taken such a toll on the families, Michael. The lady that you see in the video, sitting to my left, Mary, we actually

interviewed her two years ago, when we made our way to Chibok after the abduction.

And she was sitting with her best friend, Elizabeth. And what was extraordinary was that Mary and Elizabeth were best friends; their

daughters were best friends and they were abducted together.

And Elizabeth and Mary had been supporting each other through the horror of the loss of their children. And when we saw Mary, I asked about

Elizabeth and she told me that she passed away, that the doctors said it was a heart attack but that Mary believes that her friend died because she

could no longer handle the grief.

She could no longer handle the not knowing. And part of Mary's outpouring of just sheer -- I mean, you saw it. It's difficult to put into

words, part of her outpouring.

She said, a lot of that was relief, that almost seeing her daughter had given her permission to finally let go of so much that she had been

holding onto. But a lot of it was also, she said, for her friend, who wasn't there to see what glimmer of hope had now emerged for them.

HOLMES: You know, you talk there, you mentioned the pain of not knowing.

And it makes me wonder, do they wonder, as we do, why it took you and your team and your reporting to show them this video and not the


ELBAGIR: There is an extraordinary amount of anger. There's a real sense of disenfranchisement and there is a sense that they are in this tiny

little town -- actually, I don't even think it's a town -- village up in the northeast of Nigeria.

And that had their daughters been from the capital, possibly had their daughters not been village girls, sitting their exams, seeking some

brighter future, that perhaps more would have been done. And --


ELBAGIR: -- that bubbles under everything that they say when they talk about the efforts that have been ongoing.

The president, President Muhammadu Buhari announced in January, that this was their top priority. We know from our source that January is when

-- mid-January was when this video was delivered to the government.

And when we raised this issue with the minister information about, well, how much credibility do you give, why haven't you spoken out about


He said, "Well, we've been burnt so often."

So the government position is we don't want to give false hope. But for the families, they just want to feel involved, they want to feel

communicated with and they want to know, even if doesn't work out, that someone is trying on their behalf.

HOLMES: And again, I want to pick up on a term you just used there, that the government says this is a top priority. They have always said


But what pressure is being applied to the government?

They say they're doing all they can; they say it's a top priority. But it's been two years, two years these families have been waiting, with

virtually no information and knowing that their kids are still going through this hell.

ELBAGIR: There is an absolutely a laundry list of priorities for the government up in that region. They are dealing with one of the largest

internal displacement catastrophes in the world; 2.5 million people seeking refuge in Maiduguri, in Borno state's capital.

They are dealing with trying to push out remnants of Boko Haram from the remaining woods that they're in. The worry is that it's being lost

within all of that.

The reality is, as what we've seen over the last 24 hours, the reality is that the Chibok girls have become emblematic of the Nigerian

government's fight, its successes or lack thereof, against Boko Haram. And whatever they do up in the northeast will always be overshadowed by the

fact that 219 girls are still missing, that, you know, that hundreds of families are still in pain.

And it takes away from the credibility of the effort in their fight against Boko Haram. And when you speak to people here on the streets, some

people actually say we almost can't believe this, this can't possibly be true, that the Nigerian government is unable to extract these girls, given

what they've achieved on the ground.

HOLMES: Well, extraordinary reporting by the whole team there. And thanks for bringing us more on this. And I know there is more to come as

well in the days ahead. Nima, thanks so much.

ELBAGIR: Thank you.


HOLMES: Let's bring in retired General Carter Ham now, he was head of U.S. Africa Command from 2011 to 2013. He joins me now from Washington,



HOLMES: And thanks for doing so, General. You know, you spoke with Christiane on this program more than a year ago and you talked of the

Nigerian army's inability to counter Boko Haram on its own, the need for a regional response. And here we are again.

What has changed since that conversation?

GEN. CARTER HAM, FMR. CMDR., AFRICOM: Well, Michael, I think a number of things have changed. There is, of course, the change in government, in

the presidency in Nigeria, which has been encouraging.

There seems to me that there is an improvement in the Nigerian military and perhaps, most importantly, is that this is indeed a broader

regional effort. And while Nigeria bears primary responsibility, they are operating in close coordination with their partners from Cameroon, Niger,

Chad and Benin and the multiple joint task force.

And there is a wide array of support from other international partners, the United Kingdom and the United States, amongst them.

So I think, while it is heartbreaking to watch those -- what those parents are going through, there are at least some indicators of things

moving in a more positive, more cohesive direction.

HOLMES: You know, the administration itself has said that it has technically defeated Boko Haram. Yet here we are still talking about these

girls. Let's face it, hundreds and hundreds of others as well.

And is it unfair to, you know, to suggest that surely there should have been more progress in terms of getting those girls back, if it was

indeed a main priority, as the government said?

Should there not have been more progress?

HAM: No one should be satisfied until all of the Chibok girls and all the many hundreds, thousands of others who have been abducted are returned

to their families and Boko Haram is soundly defeated.

Again, there has been progress. Boko Haram no longer controls wide swaths of territory in the northern portion of Nigeria, which they have

before. There have been some successes by the Nigerian military and by the military and security forces of other nations.

But this is an exceedingly --


HAM: -- complex operation. I think there's general consensus that, from the very start, the girls have probably been widely dispersed; that

makes finding them increasingly difficult.

HOLMES: I want to talk a bit more about that, actually, the tactical challenges, since you mentioned it. The army itself, and you're quite

right, has proved itself capable of conducting offensive. In some cities and towns, there has been some success, to be fair.

But the Sambisa Forest, where the girls are thought to be, that's another challenge entirely. It is dense, it is remote, it is vast.

Will you speak to that from a military standpoint about the tactical challenges that forest presents?

HAM: Certainly.

I think it is as you describe, it is tactically a very difficult problem to solve and one of the challenges is that if a small group or

pocket of the girls or others who have been captured has been identified, were the government to move against that group and rescue them, would doing

that present an increased risk to the girls and others who are held in other places?

So, again, these are exceedingly difficult decisions that the tactical commanders and ultimately the government of Nigeria must wrestle with.


HAM: So it starts --

HOLMES: So what would a rescue operation look like?

HAM: -- well, it starts, Michael, with -- the first thing that has to happen is you have to find them. That takes increased levels of

surveillance; network intelligence, both technical, meaning surveillance capabilities; signals interception and, most importantly, human

intelligence, which has to come from Nigeria and the regions of the nation.

HOLMES: You also spoke, last time you were on the program, about the Nigerian military's capabilities. And those capabilities have been -- it's

long been claimed they've not invested enough in things like training, modernizing, even uniforms in some cases and also leadership.

Are those criticisms still valid or have you seen advances in those areas?

HAM: There certainly have been improvements. It was not too long ago when Nigerian soldiers actually mutinied against their leaders because of

concerns about not being paid, not being trained, not being equipped, not having ammunition.

So that seems to have largely been addressed and addressed in a most effective way. So there are clearly improvements in the capabilities of

the Nigerian military.

But, again, we shouldn't think that these challenges can be remedied in one year. This will take a long time to rebuild the capabilities of the

Nigerian military that are required for operations such as this.

HOLMES: And you've outlined some of the difficulties and some of the advances of the Nigerian military has made. But you know, I can't help but

come back to this and that is, if 276 school girls were kidnapped in pretty much any other country, do you think we'd be talking about it two years


HAM: Well, I think it's a fair point and it does appear to me that, in hindsight, from the early stages of the girls' capture, that perhaps not

enough attention, not enough effort, was focused on finding them, identifying where they may be.

And as anyone who deals with these matters know that typically early stages of a capture like this offer often the best opportunities for

rescuing the girls. So with each day that passes, this problem becomes in -- more and more complex.

HOLMES: And a good point.

Retired General Carter Ham, thank you so much for being with us; once again, former head of the U.S. Africa Command.

HAM: Thank you, Michael.

HOLMES: Incredible problem, isn't it.

Now coming up on the program we're going to stay in Africa but we're going to look a little bit further north, to Tunisia. The success story of

the Arab Spring facing a crisis of faith. That's coming up next.





HOLMES: Welcome back to the program, everyone.

Ever since Tunisia threw off the shackles of dictatorship back in 2011, the tiny nation has been a beacon of hope for the region. But now a

dire warning: birthplace of the Arab Spring could soon slide into chaos if nothing is done to stop it.

The plea to save Tunisia coming from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The study was headed by Jordan's former foreign

minister, Marwan Muasher. And he joins me now from Washington.


HOLMES: And thanks for doing so, sir. You know, Tunisia, as you know, was seen as the success story of the Arab Spring. And yet Tunisians

are still waiting for the social and economic grievances that provoked the revolution itself to be dealt with.

Where is the biggest failure?

MARWAN MUASHER, FORMER FOREIGN MINISTER OF JORDAN: Well, Tunisia remains the only Arab country, I think, in terms of its ability to present

a model of political inclusion.

They've been extremely successful in transitioning to peaceful democracy, in agreeing on a constitution that preserved the rights for all.

However, they are facing an economic situation and a security situation, largely perpetrated by terrorists coming from Libya that is

really threatening this whole experience. That is why I think no one in the Arab world can afford for Tunisia to fail.

If Tunisia fails, then it sends the exact wrong message to the rest of the Arab world, that when people stand up and talk about their rights, if

they cannot show results for it, that sends a very bad message for governments, for democracy in the rest of the Arab world.

This support attempts to basically help the Tunisians in suggesting ways of implementing what Tunisians themselves have agreed need to be done.

We are not trying to reinvent the wheel.

What we are trying to do is suggest ways in terms of capacity building, in terms of processes to help the Tunisians themselves implement

what they want.

HOLMES: Five years since the revolution is not a long time but it is five years.

What is Tunisia doing about these problems?

For example, we've heard of a launch of a campaign in Tunisia to fight against extremism, to counter religious extremism among the youth.

But will that be enough?

What is required and how urgent is it?

A lot of it is economic.

MUASHER: It is. In fact, the security situation, in fact, is being addressed. There is a mechanism now with the G7+3, that is fairly working

well on the security side. But it is the economy. Tunisia suffers from a bureaucracy; it suffers from the lack of capacity building, a lack of

coordination among agencies --


HOLMES: Corruption, too.

MUASHER: -- absolutely. And it is in these areas that we are suggesting to help.

Tunisia itself has come up with a five-year plan in order to address all their economic needs, new customs laws, new -- all the laws that are

necessary to transition to prosperous economic situation.

What they lack is capacity building. What they lack is mechanisms in order to implement what -- like I said, almost all sectors of society agree

on what needs to be done in Tunisia and this is where we are trying to help.

HOLMES: You mentioned Libya, its neighbor -- and its troubled neighbor. We've seen Libya slide into chaos. We know all about Syria and


How vulnerable is Tunisia to slipping into instability?

And what would such a slide mean regionally?

MUASHER: Well, it is vulnerable. It is surrounded by two big states, Libya and Algeria. Libya right now is in a very unstable condition,

although the recent developments in Libya suggest that maybe they are on their way at least to agreeing finally on a government and a parliament.

Still, Libya suffers not just from terrorism inside the country but this is being exported.

It is estimated that there are more than 1 million Libyans now residing in Tunisia; some of them are engaged in terrorist activities.

That has brought --


MUASHER: -- down growth in Tunisia to 0.5 percent last year, which is really disastrous. And Tunisia cannot sustain that low growth.

This is where, once again, the security situation and the economic situation is threatening a very successful political inclusion process.

And if that process fails in Tunisia, then it has really negative repercussions throughout the Arab world.

HOLMES: You know, it's often been said that the West, after getting involved in Libya, then failed that country by essentially, literally

really, walking away.

Does the West have responsibilities in Tunisia?

Has the west failed that nation, too?

France, the former colonial ruler, for example, then others?

MUASHER: You know, they had the Deauville conference in 2011, which promised $40 billion in assistance to Tunisia. Very little of that has

ended up in the country.

So I think the West does have a responsibility to help the Tunisians, not just for the Tunisians to succeed economically.

But as I said, because Tunisia has been a successful model for pluralist societies, for inclusive societies in the Middle East, and by

Tunisia succeeding on that front, it sets a very good example for the rest of the Arab world.

The West so far has not really focused much on Tunisia because of the problems in Libya, Syria and otherwise. But a success story in Tunisia can

go a long way in offering examples for the rest of the region.

HOLMES: I want to get through a couple of other things quickly.

Why is radicalization more of a problem in some countries than others?

You've got these large number of fighters, as you point out, from Tunisia; I think 3,000 have gone to fight with ISIS from Tunisia but also

Morocco, Libya but not other countries in the region.

Why is that?

MUASHER: Well, there's a combination. You know, unemployment among the youth in most of the Arab world is around 30 percent. That is just not

acceptable. People are not finding opportunity.

And many times are, you know, reverting to terrorism, not for ideological reasons but for economic reasons in many cases.

Lack of governments, I think, is a theme that we have to go back to; unless we have new government systems in the Arab world that can really

address the youth political as well as economic needs, you are going to see radicalism growing.

HOLMES: It's interesting; fewer dictators, more democracy and more disenchantment. Every generation, you mentioned economic issues and

they're huge obviously. But every generation has had economic issues.

Why is it that so many in this generation are turning to terror because of economic issues, disenfranchisement?

MUASHER: Again, when you have unemployment of 30 percent, that's quite high. Unemployment in the Arab world is double the world's average.

And unemployment among the youth is also double the world's average.

And I think that is a big part, not the only part, of course, but a big part of the problem. Political, lack of political governments and lack

of economic opportunity, it's a very deadly combination.

HOLMES: It is. And it's a very important part of the world.

Jordan's former foreign minister, Marwan Muasher, thank you so much for being with us. Appreciate it.

MUASHER: Thank you.


HOLMES: Cannot be said enough, a very vital part of the world.

We're going to take a break. When we come back, we imagine a world where everybody can speak to anyone as the Russian president takes to the


We try out a new take on tourism and pay a call on a Swedish native. He wasn't expecting the call. That's coming up.





HOLMES: And finally tonight, imagine seeing a world through the phone. Today, Russian president Vladimir Putin taking to the airwaves,

answering the questions of everyday Russians in his annual marathon call- in.

But he's not the only one hooked to the phones. Sweden has drawn international attention for opening up its phones to the world.

Celebrating 250 years of abolishing censorship, the tourism board opened up a line with volunteers, so anyone, anywhere can literally dial a Swede.

So I did.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A lot of people are calling Sweden right now. Soon, a random Swede will be ready to attack your call.



HOLMES: Hello.

Is this Sweden, is it?

MATT: Yes, it is.

HOLMES: Hello. My name is Michael Holmes, I'm calling from Atlanta in the United States.

How are you?

MATT: In Georgia?

HOLMES: Yes, Atlanta, Georgia.

What's your name?

MATT: Matt. Matthew. I work in the shops and am a musician.

HOLMES: As a musician?

MATT: Yes.

HOLMES: What did you play?

MATT: I played organ and piano and I had choirs.

HOLMES: What would you say is the best thing about Sweden?

MATT: The light in the summer, it's terrific, and if you go where north it's in the top of the world.

HOLMES: What do you hope this program does, this dial-a-Swede, what do you hope it achieves?

MATT: Lets people know Sweden is a good play to stay, to live in, too. It's a good country.


HOLMES: We had a good chat, Matthew and I. Nice fellow. And that's not my office. I don't have one.

That's it for our program tonight. Remember you can listen to our podcast, see us online at, follow me on Twitter @HolmesCNN.

Thanks for watching, everyone. Goodbye from Atlanta.