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Week of February 11, 2003

Program 0306


Euro Impact | Transcript | MP3

Rise of EU | Transcript | MP3

Burundi Peace Process | Transcript | MP3

Carnival | Transcript | MP3

Chechen Discrimination | Transcript | MP3

Chechnya’s Refugees | Transcript | MP3

Kenya’s Moi Reflects | Transcript | MP3

This text has been professionally transcribed. However, for timely distribution, it has not been edited or proofread against the tape.

NEIL JONES: There is certain evidence of major central banks around the world increasing their portfolios of the euro for example, and actually physically selling US dollars.

KEITH PORTER: This week on Common Ground, the euro, celebrates its first birthday on a high note.

KRISTIN MCHUGH: Plus, the rise of the European Union.

CHARLES KUPCHAN: The gap will close, partly because Europe is about to enlarge. If you couple that expansion with growth rates that will be competitive with America’s, you will, by 2010, have a world that has roughly two equal economic power centers.

MCHUGH: And Brazil’s Samba schools prepare for Carnival.

CID CARVALHO: [via a translator] The hands that make crime and war can also produce peace. That’s our Carnival theme for 2003.

PORTER: These stories—coming up next.

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Euro Impact

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MCHUGH: Common Ground is radio’s weekly program on world affairs. I’m Kristin McHugh.

PORTER: And I’m Keith Porter. The single European currency, known as the euro, has celebrated its first birthday. In January 2002 it became the legal tender in twelve European countries and has managed to overcome doubters’ theories that it would not succeed by becoming a real contender to the US dollar on the global economic stage. Suzanne Chislett reports.

[The sound of a public relations video touting the euro, followed by the sound of mint machinery printing bank notes, then the sound of falling coins.]

SUZANNE CHISLETT: Euro notes and coins were distributed across Euroland for its launch on January 1, 2002. The currency had already been used by banks and stock markets, but it was the first chance many had to actually get their hands on the new coins. Just three days later the Spanish finance chief Rodrigo Rato said people across Euroland were responding well and vowed the single currency would improve the close ties between the member states.

RODRIGO RATO: Europeans with their actions from the first of January have shown they really want more Europe, and they really want changes in economic policy in Europe like the one that represents the euro.

CHISLETT: But it hasn’t all been easy sailing for the euro. The European Central Bank has faced criticism for not acting more quickly to cut interest rates to boost the currency. It opted to hold at 3.25% for 12 consecutive months—leading many analysts to conclude it was partly to blame for the slow turn around to the German economy. The nation is Europe’s number one financial powerhouse but has struggled with sluggish growth and high unemployment, which led to uncertainty around the euro on the foreign exchange markets. The ECB’s decision to cut interest rates in December gave renewed hope that economies would build on the currency’s success.

[The sound of someone counting out money.]

CHISLETT: As 300 million people adapted to change and traditional currencies were phased out, Britain, Sweden, and Denmark—the three European Union member states that rejected the single currency—were left to mull over the decisions. The British government insists it is, in principle, in favor of signing up, but not without proof the benefits will outweigh the costs.

GORDON BROWN: It is perhaps the biggest peacetime economic decision we as a nation have to make.

CHISLETT: That’s Gordon Brown—the man with his hand on Britain’s purse strings. The finance minister, known in the UK as Chancellor of the Exchequer, argues membership of the euro will bring benefits in terms of trade, transparency, cost, and could improve inward investment opportunities.

BROWN: Britain’s future for a pro-European like myself is at the center of Europe, not isolated on the fringes. Our decision on the euro is of immense historic importance to the long-term future of our economy and to our country as a whole.

CHISLETT: Just a few weeks after the UK finance minister extolled the virtues of the euro, the currency showed the world what it could do. With unfavorable economic data dragging down the US dollar, Europe’s newest currency reached parity—one euro was worth one dollar. It meant a boost in trade between the Eurozone and the United States, but also saw countries around the world switch from the American currency. From the former eastern bloc to the Gulf states, nations began considering better linkage to the euro. In Russia, where a ready supply of foreign money is kept after people were caught off guard by the weakened ruble once too often, dollar sales fell dramatically.

[The sound of Russians buying and selling foreign currency.]

CHISLETT: For the month of July, Russia imported $700 million worth of euros, compared with just 573 million of dollars. Neil Jones is Director of Foreign Exchange trading for Nomura in London.

NEIL JONES: There is certain evidence of major central banks around the world increasing their portfolio of the euro, for example, and actually physically selling US dollars. So the importance of the euro is here. It is a major currency. It is pretty much on a par with the US dollar in terms of its significance.

CHISLETT: The value of the euro did decline in the third quarter, but not by much. And when sluggish growth hit the dollar in early November it overtook the older currency again. Neil Jones from Nomura says economies around the world again put their faith in the euro.

JONES: We’ve seen a massive exit of money from the dollar into the euro. The euro being a safe haven currency, very much a kind of yield play, a carrier. The interest rate is definitely in favor of the euro as opposed to the dollar.

CHISLETT: The euro’s performance has been closely followed by the three EU states which rejected the currency. Sweden has already announced it will hold a vote on dropping the krona in favor of the euro. In Britain, when the government set out its aims for the parliamentary year in the Queen’s speech, it confirmed the public could soon be balloted on euro entry.

QUEEN ELIZABETH: [speaking to Parliament] My government will make a decision on whether to recommend entry into the single currency, on the basis of the assessment of the five economic tests to be completed by next June.

CHISLETT: This news has been welcomed by the British manufacturing industry, which has been hit hard by selling in pounds sterling. The Trades Union Congress acts for unions, which represent around 7 million British workers. Head of Economic Policy at the TCU, David Coates, says euro entry must happen as soon as is practical.

DAVID COATES: There’s no doubt that French and German manufacturing have been doing better than the UK because of their better exchange rate position. And we would look forward to a process of sustainable convergence between sterling and the euro. We look also forward to the treasury’s assessment of whether the five tests have been met in June 2003, and if they are met we would expect a referendum quite soon after that.

CHISLETT: And pressure is mounting from companies with heavy investments in Britain. Car maker Nissan has long called for Britain to join the euro—threatening to move its UK operations elsewhere if pounds sterling remained. And in October Ford’s European President warned the Confederation of British Industry’s annual conference that every minute of delay in adopting the euro was having a detrimental effect on its employees. So, one year on the peseta, franc, and deutsche mark have been consigned to history. Whether the British pound, Swedish krona, and Danish krone will follow suit only time will tell. For Common Ground, I’m Suzanne Chislett in London.

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Rise of EU

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MCHUGH: One expert says the European Union is becoming a primary competitor to US global dominance. Professor Charles Kupchan of Georgetown University, says the EU’s annual economic output has reached $8 trillion, compared with America’s $10 trillion. Professor Kupchan recently told Common Ground‘s Cliff Brockman, the United States is mostly oblivious to what he calls the “challenges posed by a rising Europe.”

PROFESSOR CHARLES KUPCHAN: Well, the gap will close, partly because Europe is about to enlarge in 2004—will take in as many as 10 new members. So, if you couple that expansion with growth rates that will be competitive with America’s, you will by 2010 have a world that has roughly two equal economic power centers. And I think if you look back at history and say “What happens when you have the world dominated by two centers of power rather than one?”, you get competition. So I think we’re headed into a period where the US, the EU, will be more competitive on trade, will dig in their heels on an increasing number of political issues—and that the divide will not just be economic in nature. But that it will begin to take on geopolitical overtones.

CLIFF BROCKMAN: How does Washington view this rising power?

KUPCHAN: I think that Washington tends to be very dismissive of the European Union, for a number of reasons. One is that I think most Americans, including the political class, don’t know that much about how Europe works. And in that sense believe it is still little more than a trade group. But it has, to a significant degree, pooled its sovereignty on many, many issues. It has a collective character that makes it an actor on the world stage—not a federation, not a unity state like the United States, but something in between. For historical comparison I would say Europe today is not that different from the United States before the Civil War. Some level of collective identity but the State is still quite strong in terms of allegiance, in terms of political weight. No real strong central army, but the separate states, the separate nation-states, have their separate armies—or militias in the American case. So I think that Europe is in the middle of a long-term historic process of integration that many Americans simply don’t, don’t see. They don’t see it happening, partly because it does take a long time.

The other factor here is that Europe does remain militarily weak. And I think especially in this post-9/11 environment, especially with an administration in power that tends to be concerned about the balance of power, it doesn’t take Europe seriously, or at least as seriously as it should. But there are other aspects to international affairs than military power. Europe has political weight. Europe has an alternative view of international order. And we are just beginning to see the US and the EU differ over critical issues. Iraq, the International Criminal Court, the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change, and rather than Europe caving in as it has done for the past 50 years, it is basically saying, “You don’t like it? That’s fine. We’re going on ahead without you.” And that’s a dramatically new world and one that Washington will increasingly have to pay attention to.

BROCKMAN: Professor Kupchan says the United States and Europe have different social and economic models. And he says the two have different political cultures. For example, he says the United States has a strong military while Europe tends to favor the rule of law. Professor Kupchan says those differences play into this new relationship.

KUPCHAN: Well, I think right now that you do see a pretty wide divergence on a number of matters of diplomacy that are having consequences for the relationship. The Europeans tend to want to play by the rules of international law; the US likes to shirk off the constraints of international law. The Europeans believe in the ability of integration and economic assistance to overcome the balance of power; the United States thinks that at the end of the day the balance of power still is what carries the day. And so you see a big difference on, “Should we attack Iraq?” In general, how do we approach the question of rogue states like Iran. The US tends to tow a tough line; the Europeans say, “Well, let’s integrate. Let’s bring them in. Let’s make them like us.”

And then at the deeper level I think you also see divergence over some important social values such as the death penalty, with the European Union saying, “Nobody can become a member of the EU if they practice the death penalty.” And the United States being a country that still has the death penalty on its books. So we could not, Americans could not become a member of the EU, and that’s one indicator of the social divergence. I also think that Europe tends to be much more communitarian than the United States—focused on community; the US much more individualistic, much more populist. Therefore, I think it bothers the Europeans that Americans are driving around in their SUVs, consuming large amounts of gas when we have 4 percent of the population but already consume 25 percent of the world’s energy.

BROCKMAN: Do you see any way to avoid this split between the United States and Europe?

KUPCHAN: I think the best way to avoid it is to realize that it’s happening. Part of the problem is that both sides are still stuck in the old mindset, thinking about the trans-Atlantic partnership as these inseparable kissing cousins. I think those days are over and the best thing that both sides could do is to say, “We’re in a brave new world; the Soviet Union is gone; we now have different strategic interests; the trans-Atlantic relationship as we know it, which was the ‘the US takes care of security and the Europeans deal with political, economic integration,’ that bargain is over.” So I think that the best we can hope for is a mature relationship, a relationship in which the United States and the EU become competitors but not adversaries. Countries that work together when they can, but agree to disagree when they can’t.

BROCKMAN: Professor Charles Kupchan teaches at Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service, and is also a Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. He has just published a new book, called The End of the American Era: US Foreign Policy and the Geopolitics of the Twenty-first Century. For Common Ground, I’m Cliff Brockman.

PORTER: Possible peace in Burundi, next on Common Ground.

[Musical interlude]

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Burundi Peace Process

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PORTER: Africans are celebrating a landmark peace agreement that could be poised to end one of the continent’s most intractable conflicts. The nation of Burundi has been torn apart by civil strife that has pitted the country’s majority Hutu tribesmen against its minority Tutsi population. But now, after months of wrangling, a decade-long civil war could be coming to an end. And as Simon Marks reports, it’s one African problem that appears to have been solved by Africans themselves.

[The sounds of a crowded refugee camp in Burundi.]

SIMON MARKS: The sounds of a refugee camp in Burundi. For more than 400,000 of this country’s citizens—nearly 10 percent of the population—life has been reduced to an uncertain daily existence in refugee camps both inside the country and in neighboring Tanzania. It’s been a grim daily routine dominated by the distribution of international aid, and the search for shelter—a routine prompted by one of Africa’s most brutal civil wars. For the past nine years Burundi has been racked by violence that has left more than a quarter of a million people dead. The government of President Pierre Buyoya, who seized power in a coup in 1996, has been battling for power with four separate rebel groups. But now there is finally a chance that Burundi will come to know peace.

SOUTH AFRICA DEPUTY PRESIDENT JACOB ZUMA: Again it is possible that initiatives by Africans, with the commitment of their showing, we can move and indeed address the conflicts in the continent.

MARKS: Deputy President Jacob Zuma of South Africa is the UN-appointed Facilitator for the peace process in Burundi. And after months of nail-biting negotiations, he has finally secured the agreement of most of the parties in the country to a cease fire, and a political transition toward coalition rule. It is not a commonplace peace agreement. One of the four rebel groups has refused to endorse it. The others will be disarmed, but there’s so little trust between them, that they’ll all be given keys to the armories where their weapons are to be stored. Deputy President Zuma acknowledges the agreement is “imperfect,” but says it’s the best chance the country has got.

ZUMA: We have come a long way with the Burundi peace process, and know that we cannot achieve the results we seek if we work alone. We need the wholehearted support of the United Nations and the international community. We are convinced that peace will be sustained, for we have experience in that regard.

MARKS: The United Nations is being asked now to unfreeze more than $400 million in aid that has been pledged to Burundi by international donors, but which can only be made available to the country once a peace treaty has been signed. The African leaders who oversaw the process—Jacob Zuma of South Africa and President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda—are giving their pledge that the peace arrangements will hold. And the fact that African leaders have themselves negotiated this deal is being lauded by other international observers. Richard Ryan is Ireland’s Ambassador to the United Nations.

AMBASSADOR RICHARD RYAN: This reflects well for the African Union, finding African solutions to the problems of the region. It is also important to date to express strong support and appreciation for the efforts of the regional initiative.

MARKS: In other words, at a time when Africa is seeking geopolitical partnership with the developed world, Burundi could prove that the continent is serious about meeting the demand from western capitals that Africa take the lead in resolving its own problems. It is still early days for peace process in Burundi, but the agreement may bring more than just peace to a troubled land. It may help usher in a new era of partnership between Africa and the rest of the world. For Common Ground, I’m Simon Marks at the United Nations.

[Musical interlude]

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MCHUGH: Soon it will be Carnival time in Brazil, and the samba schools of Rio de Janeiro are preparing their music and dance extravaganzas. The samba schools are made up mostly of poor and black Brazilians, but their tradition of grass-roots artistry is coming into increasing conflict with commercial interests that profit from Carnival. Reese Erlich first looked at this issue in 1994. He recently returned to Rio and filed this report.

[The Brazilian song Mangueira Esctaciao Preimeira, from the CD entitled “Samba.”]

REESE ERLICH: Rio’s samba schools are grass-roots organizations located in the city’s poor favelas. They’re not really schools, but more like community organizations that produce the undulating parades and music spectaculars every year. In 1994 historian Rachel Valencia told me the samba schools are very democratic and welcome anyone who wants to join. Percussionists taught her to play the afuche, a hollow gourd with beads strung on the outside that gives samba that unique “chica-chica” beat.

[The rattling, rasping sound of the afuche.]

ERLICH: But in the raucous streets of Carnival, with 5,000 people from a single school playing at once, it’s impossible to hear the afuche. They get the same rhythm by shaking the xocallio. It looks like a very big abacus, but instead of beads for counting, it has small metal cymbals.

[The clattering sound of the xocallio.]

RACHEL VALENCIA: You must hear the samba and then inside your mind you must do the sound of the xocallio. As you hear a samba you make “chica-chica-chica” inside of your mind. And then you try to imitate this out of your body.

[The clattering sound of the xocallio.]

ERLICH: When the xocallio gets added to other percussion instruments, it sounds like this.

[The pulsing sound of thousand of musicians playing samba music in the street during Carnival.]

ERLICH: In 1994 I visited the Caprichosos de Pilares samba school. Singers dressed in immaculate white suits strut about the enormous stage, snapping microphone cords like whips to subdue an increasingly frenzied crowd. Down in the audience, one man stands out. His imported trench coat hangs loosely over his shoulders. His suavely trimmed beard is speckled with gray. His .38 caliber Smith and Wesson revolver pokes out from his waistband. He’s a numbers racketeer, or bichero, accepted by everyone as a local hero for providing money to the samba school.

[Music from the song Esperancas Perdidads, on the CD entitled “Samba.”]

ERLICH: These days the bicheros remain a force in some samba schools, but the economy is down and they don’t have as much discretionary income.

[Music from the song Esperancas Perdidads, on the CD entitled “Samba.”]

ERLICH: Samba schools have become big business. They can easily spend over a million dollars to build floats, make costumes, and maintain, year-round staffs. So in recent years the samba schools have sought financing from state governments, rich individuals, and corporations. In the 2002 Carnival, two famous samba schools chose aviation as their theme in order to attract support of airlines. And the airlines used the samba schools for advertising, according to samba historian Rosa Maria Araujo.

ROSA MARIA ARAUJO: We had airplanes as theme at Beija-Flor and Salguero. Before Carnival they tried to argue that they are going to present differently. But one of them was completely supported by TAM, by the airway enterprise, and we had the plane of, with its colors on the avenue. It was red and white. And the other one was sponsored by Varig. You also had the color of Varig. You had a lot of the uniforms. And it was very clear that they had support.

ERLICH: Critics say corporate sponsorship has contributed to a decline in the quality of Carnival music. Carnival song writers are afraid to try anything innovative for fear of upsetting their patrons, says Carlos Pingarilho, a well-known Rio composer.

CARLOS PINGARILHO: [via a translator] If you see a TV show showing a parade of three or four or five or even 10 years ago and then you play a samba from the current year, people would not notice the difference, you know. Because there’s, the samba, especially during the parade of the Carnival, they’ve become very formulaic, very repetitive. A Brazilian that sees all, every year the same thing, it’s already very boring.

[The song Quantas Lagreimas, from the CD entitled “Samba.”]

ERLICH: But officials here at the samba school sponsored by Varig defend their actions. Cid Carvalho, Beija-Flor’s carnival director, shows me around an enormous warehouse filled with dismantled floats, debris of iron and plaster figures five times larger than life. This is all that remains of his 2002 Carnival floats.

CID CARVALHO: [via a translator] This is not fantasy anymore. This is the reality of the last Carnival. It used to be flowers. Now it’s a bunch of trash. On that float over there sat Leonardo da Vinci. You can see the bust of his head. Now he’s just a tired old man. He’s very sad.

ERLICH: Carvalho says it costs a lot of money to maintain a huge warehouse like this, not to mention paying the salaries of engineers and architects who design the floats. He argues that corporate patrons are a necessary evil.

CARVALHO: [via a translator] Look at what Carnival was like before the corporate patrons and what it’s like now. Carnival was very small before. Now it’s very big. It’s a national and international phenomenon. Everyone knows about Rio’s Carnival.

ERLICH: Carvalho says samba schools don’t cheapen their art because of corporate sponsorship.

CARVALHO: [via a translator] As artists, we feel free. We have to create spontaneously. We’re professionals for the Carnival, yes. But we can’t be controlled by any outside force. We’re not machines or an industry to be controlled by some corporation.

ERLICH: He admits that big money sponsorship can be a problem, but there are countervailing trends. Samba schools historically react to popular changes in politics and the economy. Given Brazil’s recent economic problems and tumultuous elections, Beija-Flor consciously chose a progressive political theme for 2003. It deals with popular uprisings, from the Bastille in France to slave revolts in Brazil.

CARVALHO: [via a translator] You can imagine a man who loses his job. His wife and children are hungry. What is he going to do? A hand that used to work for goodness, for the development of the country, now goes to work for the bad guys. He turns to crime and terrorism. But such people can also regain their dignity. The hands that make crime and war can also produce peace. That’s our Carnival theme for 2003.

ERLICH: Such a radical theme should win a lot of cheers along the Carnival parade route and may even help Beija-Flor win. Carvalho does have one problem, however. He hasn’t yet found a corporate sponsor.

[The sound of samba music.]

ERLICH: For Common Ground, I’m Reese Erlich in Rio de Janeiro.

PORTER: This is Common Ground, radio’s weekly program on world affairs.

[Musical interlude]

KRISTIN MCHUGH: I’m Kristin McHugh.

KEITH PORTER: And I’m Keith Porter. Coming up this half hour on Common Ground, despite doubts Chechnya prepares to vote on a new constitution.

ALSANBEK ASLAKHANOV: [via a translator] To be a Chechen in Russia offers no prospects. Chechens themselves now say we have no future here or in our homeland.

PORTER: Plus, Kristin visits a Chechen refugee camp. And Kenya’s new government.

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Chechen Discrimination

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MCHUGH: Next month, Russia will hold a constitutional referendum in the breakaway republic of Chechnya. A draft of the new Chechen Constitution, prepared by the Kremlin, declares Chechnya “a presidential republic inside the Russian federation.” The new law is designed to bring stability to the war-torn region, but Chechens say it amounts to more pressure from Moscow. Denis Levkovich reports from Moscow.

[The sounds of combat in the war in Chechnya.]

DENIS LEVKOVICH: It’s been eight years since the first post-Soviet Russian President Boris Yeltsin ordered an assault on Russia’s southern breakaway province of Chechnya.

[More sounds of combat.]

LEVKOVICH: The first Chechen campaign ended in 1996—but a second round has been ongoing since 1999. In 2002 alone Russian federal troops lost 10 helicopters in the war-torn region. Dozens of patrol vehicles and transport vans were attacked and hundreds of Russian soldiers and officers were killed in Chechnya. But Russian authorities say the partisan or guerrilla war ended months ago. Now, they prefer to call their losses in Chechnya “isolated incidents involving terrorist and criminal gangs.” While the extent of the conflict remains debatable, it is clear the Kremlin is waging a propaganda war. Just turn on Russian television.

[The sound of dramatic music, gunfire, and explosions from a Russian TV series, Spesnaz.]

LEVKOVICH: A new TV series called Spesnaz or Special Forces is winning the hearts and minds of the Russian people.

[More audio from Spesnaz.]

LEVKOVICH: The program is set in what could be today’s Chechnya.

[More audio from Spesnaz.]

LEVKOVICH: The series is a saga about brave Russian soldiers going deep into the mountain villages of Chechnya, where according to the script, nearly every local resident has a Kalashnikov and is connected to this or that warlord.

[More audio from Spesnaz.]

LEVKOVICH: The heroes cut the throats of Chechen patrols and assassinate warlords in a most spectacular way. The ratings of the series are sky high. And it’s not the only one of its kind. Nearly every Russian TV drama, movie, or a soap opera includes an evil and traitorous Chechen character.

ALI KHODJIYEV: [via a translator] Our family, my kids, other relatives, we’re all trying to spend most of our time at home. We venture outside only if we have to, for shopping.

[The sounds of Mr. Khodjiyev’s family at their home.]

LEVKOVICH: Ali Khodjiyev left Chechnya 10 years ago. His two daughters and one son were born and raised in Moscow. Now he says his children are facing racial hostility.

[The sounds of police checkpoint.]

LEVKOVICH: The latest wave of bias emerged after Chechen terrorists seized 700 spectators and actors inside a Moscow theater last October. Now, Chechens or anyone who looks like a Chechen are subjected to so-called random police checks.

[The sounds of police checkpoint.]

LEVKOVICH: Police are stopping southern-looking people on the streets and checking their Moscow registration papers, which are notoriously difficult to get.

[The sound of Russian President Putin speaking.]

LEVKOVICH: Russian President Putin knows that what Chechen people need the most is a stability and he sees no other way to achieve it but to bring constitutional order to the republic.

[The sound of Russian President Putin speaking.]

RUSSIAN PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN: [via a translator] There are people who we call separatists because they want to split Chechnya off from the Russian Federation. We’ve talked to them before. In fact, in 1996 we gave Chechnya full independence by signing the Khasavyurt Treaty. We all know what that led to—that attack on Daghastan and a widening of the aggression. This shall not be repeated. People in Chechnya must take power in their own hands. They need to have a legislative base, a working constitution, so they can elect legitimate leaders who they’ll fully trust.

LEVKOVICH: But Duma Parliamentarian Alsanbek Aslahanov, an ethnic Chechen, says the damage done by Russia is too severe.

ALSANBEK ASLAKHANOV: [via a translator] To be a Chechen in Russia offers no prospects. Chechens themselves now say we have no future here or in our homeland. Russia portrays us to the world as a nation of bandits. That’s simply not true.

LEVKOVICH: Ali Khodyev and his family agree.

KHODJIYEV: [via a translator] Instead of blaming Chechens, Russia should better crack down on real terrorists. Rather than causing us trouble, they should be preventing new terrorist attacks like the Nord Ost hostage taking.

[The sound of Chechen music.]

LEVKOVICH: Chechens are proud of their traditions and protective of their way of life. The referendum, expected to be held later this year will show whether Chechens will give Russia one more chance to end the war. For Common Ground, I’m Denis Levkovich in Moscow.

MCHUGH: The constitutional vote is scheduled to take place on March 23rd.

[The sound of Chechen music.]

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Chechnya’s Refugees

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PORTER: At the start of the second Chechen conflict in September of 1999, more than 200,000 Chechens fled their homes. A majority settled with the help of family, friends, and humanitarian aid in neighboring Ingushetia. Now, as the Chechen conflict enters its fourth year, human rights groups say Russia is pressing the refugees to return. While life in Ingushetia is difficult, many refugees say it’s not safe to return to Chechnya. Kristin traveled to Ingushetia in October of 2001. She begins this report, first filed in December of 2001, along the Chechen border.

[The sound of someone opening a package, followed by women talking]

TIEMPIEVA HASAN: [via a translator] Two spaghetti’s; one-and-a-half sugar; and two kilos rice; three candles; then the matches and salt.

MCHUGH: Tiempieva Hasan is taking inventory of her latest food parcel.

HASSAN: [via a translator’s explanation] The lady said for one months, one months. This one is for four persons. The quality is terrible.

MCHUGH: Tamara is one of the estimated quarter of a million Chechens displaced by two wars in the past seven years. She now lives with her eight children, son-in-law, and two grandchildren in a tattered tent in Sputnik, one of several camps set up with help from the United Nations High Commissioner For Refugees, or UNHCR, in neighboring Ingushetia.

[The sound of footsteps and a group of women chatting with each other]

HASAN: [via a translator] If you come into the tent to have a look around you can see for yourself. From one perspective the tent conditions are good in comparison to the war. But from the other perspective—come inside and have a look.

[sound of people walking]

UNKNOWN WOMAN: Please have a seat here.

MCHUGH: A quick examination reveals Tamara’s dusty tent measures less than 20 square feet. Bunk beds are stacked wall to wall, leaving little room to maneuver. Clothing is stacked neatly on shelves. A small gas stove in the middle of the tent churns out heat even though it is well above 70 degrees outside. The sun shines brightly outside, but it’s dark enough inside the tent that I nearly tripped over Tamara’s youngest granddaughter. She crawled out from under one of the beds wearing nothing more than a thin T-shirt.

JON HOISAETER: There are some seven tented camps. The biggest ones are in the eastern part of Ingushetia, relatively near the Chechen border.

MCHUGH: Jon Hoisaeter is a protection officer with UNHCR in the Ingush capital, Nazran.

HOISAETER: In that area there is some, some 15,000 people living in tents. The first of these camps was set up by the Russian authorities. Later UNHCR has helped the Russian authorities to set up two more camps. This process is still actually ongoing. We still have people in need of shelter and we’ll probably, by the end of this year, have extended the capacity of some of these camps.

MCHUGH: The growing demand for tents is cause for concern for UNHCR and other aid agencies. Tent camps are designed to provide temporary shelter for people displaced by conflict. But many of the Chechens seeking refuge in Ingushetia are now preparing for their third winter away from home. Hundreds of tents need to be repaired or replaced and Hoisaeter admits UNHCR and other aid agencies are scrambling to maintain the camps.

HOISAETER: It’s a very pleasant area in the summer, but as you know it can get very cold here in winter. So it’s some of the very obvious things like preparing, first of all making sure that the shelters and the tents are sufficiently heated. Meaning that they are winterized and that they have a heating source—a stove.

MCHUGH: The Chechens who live in the tent camps account for only 12 percent of the refugees now living in Ingushetia. Nearly 70 percent of the internally displaced persons, or IDPs, are staying with extended relatives and host families. Sashka Azive and his brother Salamhan are hosting five other families in a few ground rooms and two garages in their Nazran home. Sashka says his reason for hosting is simple.

SASHKA AZIVE: [via a translator] These are our people. We had to accept them. Certainly it’s difficult, but we are handling it.

MCHUGH: It’s not surprising that so many of the Chechen refugees are living with host families. In Soviet times Ingushetia and Chechnya were one republic. Ingushetia severed its ties with Chechnya in 1992, although the border between the two has never been officially drawn.

TZARA SHAZDIEVAH: [via a translator] Certainly to say everything is good would not be just.

MCHUGH: This is Tzara Shazdievah. She is among the more than 20 refugees now living with Sashka’s family. Tzara says the Russian military may have destroyed their homes, but they can’t destroy family ties. She and others living in the Azive compound often gather as one big family to sing Russian pop songs, translated of course, into Chechen.

[The sound of the extended family singing.]

MCHUGH: Although the living conditions here are visibly better than in the tent camps, making ends meet is still difficult. All of the refugees living with host families are eligible for food aid. But nonfood assistance such as clothing and medicine is harder to come by. And the host families themselves do not receive humanitarian assistance. Since many of the refugees are unemployed and poor, host families are digging into their own pockets to provide basic necessities such as electricity and natural gas. But the generosity is starting to wane. Ingush Deputy Prime Minister Ashap Godydov says some refugees have worn out their welcome.

ASHAP GODYDOV: [via a translator] The main burden was taken by the population because they hosted the refugees. At the beginning of the conflict the population was very generous. They not only accommodated the people but they gave them food and so on. Today our infrastructure is hardly coping. Some Ingush families are getting tired of having so many guests for such a long time. And therefore some refugees are being evicted.

[The sound of someone opening and walking through a creaking gate]

MCHUGH: Some Chechens evicted from their host family arrangements end up here, in spontaneous settlements.

[The sound of pouring water.]

HOISAETER: There are some 200 spontaneous settlements in Ingushetia.

MCHUGH: This again is UNHCR’s Jon Hoisaeter.

HOISAETER: These range from large factories or farms that can have up to several thousand people, down to maybe small workshops and so on, where only a few families have found shelter. Very often we find the worst living conditions in some of these. Where even sometimes people are sharing shelter with their animals.

[The sound of birds cheeping.]

MCHUGH: Today, 75 people from 12 families call this run-down, abandoned barn home.

AIMON SALDAHANOVA: [via a translator] We had no place to go. But there was no place to sleep here and there were 40 people jammed in one unit. Today it’s cold inside. The electricity was cut off.

MCHUGH: Aimon Saldahanova has lived in this barn with her husband and three young children for the past two years.

SALDAHANOVA: [via a translator] It was the place where cows were kept. We had asbestos sheeting on the roof and brick, and that’s it. You can see the conditions for yourself.

MCHUGH: This room is probably nine by nine. They do have a window, so there is some light. But they’re sleeping on boards. There’s clothes obviously drying above a really old stove. There’s one gas line in the middle of the barn. And they were telling us that they have rats and so their, all their food, you can see their corn is hanging from the rafters to try to keep the rats away.

SALDAHANOVA: [via a translator] We would go home if we had a home. But we have no place to go home to.

[The sound of birds cheeping.]

MCHUGH: The events of September 11 have not gone unnoticed in Ingushetia. Refugees are quick to extend their sympathies and condolences to all Americans. But they are also quick to voice concerns about their own future. Many fear they will be forgotten. UNHCR’s Jon Hoisaeter says the fears are unfounded.

HOISAETER: We have been able to avoid a humanitarian disaster for this large group that came into Ingushetia. That doesn’t mean of course that, that every need is fulfilled and that there are no problems. We are continually always trying to fill the gaps that are arising.

MCHUGH: But with no concrete settlement in sight Tamara Hasan knows she will be spending another long, cold winter in the Sputnik tent camp.

[The sound of children in the tent camp.]

HASAN: [via a translator] We want to lead a normal life but recently there was a commission here from Moscow and they said it was useless to return this year.

[The sound of Chechen refugees singing.]

MCHUGH: For Common Ground, I’m Kristin McHugh, Nazran, Ingushetia, Russia.

[The sound of Chechen refugees singing.]

PORTER: The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates there are still more than 100,000 displaced Chechens in Ingushetia today. The Nazran field office tells Common Ground nearly all of the Chechen refugees Kristin interviewed for this story in 2001 are still living in the same locations in Ingushetia.

PORTER: Coming up next on Common Ground, big changes for Kenya. You’re listening to Common Ground, radio’s weekly program on world affairs.

[Musical interlude]

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Kenya’s Moi Reflects

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PORTER: The people of Kenya are getting used to life without the man who lead the country for nearly a quarter of a century. Constitutionally barred from running for another term, Daniel arap Moi had to watch, as his handpicked successor was rejected at the polls last December, by a population hungry for change. To make the rejection complete, the long-time ruling party was forced into parliamentary opposition for the first time since Kenya gained independence in 1963.

MCHUGH: It all represents an enormous shift in a country where President Moi’s influence was all-pervasive. His image could be seen everywhere—even on bank notes. Ordinary Kenyans have high expectations of the new government and, as Malcolm Brown reports, western observers say the peaceful transition is a hopeful sign for Africa.

[The sounds of a huge cheering crowd.]

MALCOLM BROWN: Tens of thousands of Kenyans turned out to watch their new president Mwai Kibaki take the oath of office.

[The sounds of a huge cheering crowd.]

BROWN: They roared their approval and—in a further sign of the historic shift in Kenyan politics—some in the crowd booed and heckled 78-year-old Daniel arap Moi. Internationally, the outgoing president has earned praise for his handling of the transition.

JENNIFER COOKE: Many of us predicted that there would be more violence, more intransigence by the former government.

BROWN: Jennifer Cooke is the Deputy Director of the Africa program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC.

COOKE: Moi was very gracious in handing over power and the election was by and large without violence and without major rigging, so altogether it was a positive surprise.

BROWN: While he won points for the manner of his departure, the general verdict on the rest of Daniel arap Moi’s 24 years in power has been far harsher. The electoral defeat of his party—the Kenya African National Union, or KANU—was widely seen as a popular rejection of the graft and poverty that marked his time in office. Transparency International, a corruption watchdog group, places Kenya among the 10 most corrupt nations out of more than 100 surveyed. It means there’s a huge amount of pressure on President Kibaki, a former finance minister and vice president, who is generally seen as untainted by corruption.

AMBASSADOR WILLIAM HARROP: [giving a tour of his home] Well, let me show you, we do have a, this is, this elephant is from Kenya. It’s kind of a…

BROWN: William Harrop’s home in the northwest of Washington, DC, is full of memories of his time as the US ambassador to Kenya between 1980 and 1983. He too, was pleasantly surprised by the smooth transfer of power, but far less impressed with the overall Moi legacy.

AMBASSADOR HARROP: He allowed a remarkably stable government and well trained, well-founded civil service system, a solid judiciary system, good transportation infrastructure, I think an excellent banking and financial structure, that had been left to their credit by the British colonizers—I think that he allowed that to dwindle away and to be eroded.

BROWN: Mr. Moi himself defends his record.

[The sound of applause.]

BROWN: Addressing an audience in Washington in the dying days of his presidency, he stressed what he regards as his achievements—notably the relative peace during his rule.

PRESIDENT DANIEL ARAP MOI: I’m happy and I’m leaving them in peace, handing over the reins of government peacefully, having enjoyed peace for 39 years.

BROWN: On the other side are the detractors who highlight the corruption, tribal division, and steep economic decline of the Moi era. The former president, though, says he’s been misunderstood abroad.

PRESIDENT MOI: My disappointment is that the West didn’t understand Africa, particularly myself.

BROWN: Mr. Moi’s message to his successor is that the new government will be judged on how well it tackles poverty over the next five years. Among the key pledges made by the incoming president were promises to tackle corruption, improve healthcare, and restore free primary schooling. President Kibaki is also working to restore the flow of loans, investment, and donor funds by addressing international concerns about corruption and the handling of the economy. Jennifer Cooke at the Center for Strategic and International Studies says the new president needs to show results quickly.

COOKE: Kenyans are looking for jobs. They’re looking for external investment. They’re looking for corruption to be eliminated. They’re looking for free education. They’re really pressed against the wall on a lot of these issues and if the new government can’t deliver, they’ll be back at square one. They’re looking for deliverables.

BROWN: Whatever happens in the coming months, Kenya has already achieved something remarkable, according to former US ambassador William Harrop. He sees the peaceful departure of Mr. Moi—one of the continent’s so-called “big men”—as a landmark event for post-colonial Africa.

AMBASSADOR HARROP: This long, long phase—a post-independence phase in Africa—is drawing to an end now. We’re going to see more of these democratic transitions. This, after all, was a democratic transition. The transition was peaceful. I think it’s a very good sign.

[The Kenyan national anthem]

BROWN: A good sign for Kenya and possibly for Africa as a whole. For Common Ground, I’m Malcolm Brown.

Our theme music was created by B.J. Leiderman. Common Ground was produced and funded by the Stanley Foundation.

Copyright © Stanley Center for Peace and Security

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