Anjan Sundaram

  • Aired:  01/23/14
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Journalist Anjan Sundaram explains why he gave up a job at Goldman Sachs to report on life in the Congo. (6:51)

>> Jon: WELCOME BACK.

MY GUEST TONIGHT A JOURNALISTWHO HAS REPORTED EXTENSIVELY

FROM AFRICA AND THE MIDDLE EASTHIS NEW BOOK IS CALLED

"STRINGER: A REPORTER'S JOURNEYIN THE CONGO."

PLEASE WELCOME TO THE PROGRAMANJAN SUNDARAM.

[CHEERS AND APPLAUSE]FIRST OF ALL CONGRATULATIONS --

IT'S A BEAUTIFULLY WELL WRITTENNARRATIVE ABOUT YOUR TIME IN THE

CONGO AS A YOUNG MAN.

BUT IT -- YOU WERE 22 YEARS OLDAND YOU WERE GRADUATING FROM

COLLEGE.

>> UH-HUH.

>> Jon: WHERE WERE YOU INSCHOOL?

>> I WENT TO YALE.

>> Jon: SO A SAFETY SCHOOL ANDYOU HAD A DEGREE IN WHAT?

>> MATHEMATICS.

>> Jon: SO YOU HAD A JOB OFFERAT WHAT WAS THE NAME OF COMPANY?

>> GOLDMAN SACHS.

>> Jon: YOU WENT TO YALEYOU HAD A DEGREE

IN MATHEMATICS AND AJOB OFFER AT GOLDMAN SACHS AND

YOU CALLED YOUR MOTHER AND SAID,YOU KNOW WHAT?

I THINK I'M GOING TO MOVE TO THECONGO.

>> AND SHE CRIED.

>> Jon: SHE CRIED.

SHE WEPT WITH HAPPINESS.

>> WITH HAPPINESS.

>> Jon: DID YOU HAVE A JOBLINED UP IN THE CONGO?

>> NO, I BOUGHT A ONE-WAY TICKETAND SHOWED UP THERE.

NO ONE PAID FOR ME.

I JUST SHOWED UP.

>> Jon: LET ME ASK YOU THIS --LET ME SEE IF I CAN FRAME THIS

CORRECTLY: WHY?

>> IF YOU WANT TO KNOW, THE REALREASON I HAD READ THAT THREE

MILLION PEOPLE, NOW IT'S FIVEMILLION PEOPLE HAD DIED.

NO ONE WAS REPORTING ABOUT IT.

>> Jon: YOU WERE 22.

>> YES.

>> Jon: AND YOU HAD THEPRESENCE OF MIND, THE PERCEPTION

AND EMPATHY TO THINK THIS ISWHERE I NEED TO GO TO BRING THIS

SITUATION TO LIGHT.

IT'S REMARKABLE.

[ APPLAUSE ]>> I FELT THE INSTINCT --

[CHEERS AND APPLAUSE]>> Jon: IT'S WONDERFUL.

SO YOU GET THERE AND YOU CALL --YOU WANT TO BECOME A STRINGER I

GUESS THEY CALL THEM.

SOMEBODY FREELANCING.

>> I DIDN'TWANT TO BECOME A STRINGER.

I WANTED A JOB.

I WANTED TO BE PAID TO REPORT ONWHAT WAS HAPPENING.

I GOT A JOB AS A STRINGER WHEREI WAS PAID 15 CENTS FOR EVERY

WORD THAT THEY PUBLISHED.

NOT EVERY WORD THAT I WROTE.

NO SUPPORT, NO EXPENSES PAIDNOTHING AT ALL IN WAYS OF

INSURANCE.

>> Jon: WOULD YOU WRITE THINGSLIKE "IT IS VERY, VERY, VERY,

VERY, VERY HOT HERE."

>> I WOULD TRY TO WRITE LONGSTORIES.

>> Jon: THE CONGO IS TO ME ONEOF MOST INTERESTING AND TRAGIC

COUNTRIES IN AFRICA BECAUSE OFITS VAST MINERAL WEALTH.

IT'S AN INCREDIBLYRESOURCE-FILLED LAND THAT

SOMEHOW THE POPULATION CANNOTREAP THE BENEFITS OF THIS

MINERAL WEALTH.

>> IN THE MIDDLE OF THE BOOK IDESCRIBE THIS JOURNEY I MAKE UP

THE RIVER TO AN INDIANBUSINESSMAN'S MIND.

AND IT WAS STUNNING TO SEE TOWHAT EXTENT THE CONGOLESE

GOVERNMENT WAS NOT ABLE TOCONTROL OR DID NOT HAVE

AUTHORITY OVER THE AREA.

EVEN MORE SURPRISINGLY WHAT YOUFOUND WAS NOT PEOPLE WHO HAD

BEEN ABANDONED.

I FOUND A PIGMY TRIBE THAT HADGIVEN AWAY FOREST FOR BAGS OF

SALT TO INTERNATIONAL LOGGINGCOMPANIES.

I SAW MASS GRAVES LEFT BYFOREIGN ARMIES.

PEOPLE ASKED ME NOT FOR FOOD ORMONEY BUT METAL DETECTORS.

THERE'S AN INCREDIBLE -- A SENSETHAT EVEN IN BACK COUNTRY CONGO

YOU HAVE GLOBAL FORCES AT PLAYAND PEOPLES' LIVES ARE CAUGHT UP

IN THIS AND YOU DON'T FEEL LIKEYOU ARE IN SOME REMOTE ABANDONED

FORGOTTEN PLACE.

>> Jon: BUT IT IS FORGOTTENBECAUSE IT'S THE TYPE OF

COLONIALISM AND EXPLOITATIONTHAT YOU FEEL LIKE THESE POWERS

SHOULD NOT BE ABLE TO GET AWAYWITH ANYMORE.

IT'S OLD SCHOOL EXPLOITATION, INA WAY.

>> INDEED.

AND THE DIFFERENCE NOW IS THATTHERE ARE AFRICAN PLAYERS

INVOLVED.

THERE ARE OTHER AFRICANCOUNTRIES WHO HAVE STEPPED IN

WHERE ONCE IT WAS THE WEST.

IT WAS THE COLONIAL POWERS THATUSED TO EXPLOIT CONGO.

NOW THAT NO LONGER IS KOSHER SONOW YOU HAVE TO -- YOU WORK

THROUGH AFRICAN COUNTRIES.

THAT IS MUCH HARDER TO BROACHAND TO CRITICIZE BECAUSE IT'S

INTERNAL POLITICS AND THEY HAVETHEIR OWN HISTORIES OF PLANS AND

INTERNAL WARS THAT GO BACKCENTURIES.

AND THEY ARE STILL SORTING ALLOF THAT OUT.

>> Jon: THE CHINESE AS WELLARE ENORMOUS PLAYERS.

>> YOU CANNOT TALK ABOUTINTERVENTION NOW WITHOUT TALKING

ABOUT INDIANS THAT WORK AT ALEVEL OF SOCIETY AND THE CHINESE

WHO WORK THROUGH GOVERNMENT ANDCOME IN WITH THESE ENORMOUS

PROJECTS, HUGE ROADS, MASSIVEBUILDINGS AND THE CONGOLESE FOR

THEM IT'S A SHOCK.

THEY ARE USED TO NO GOVERNMENT.

THEY ARE USED TO WORKING,WORKING, WORKING AND THEIR IDEAS

NEVER AMOUNT TO ANYTHING, NEVERADD UP BECAUSE THERE'S NO

INSTITUTIONS OR ORGANIZATIONS TOTAKE THEIR IDEAS TO THE NEXT

LEVEL.

>> Jon: WHY CAN'T THEIRGOVERNMENT GAIN A MORE

CENTRALIZED CONTROL OVER THEINFRASTRUCTURE THERE.

THERE ARE VERY SMART PEOPLE WHOARE THERE IN GOVERNMENT.

THEY ARE VERY WELL EDUCATED.

THEY KNOW VERY WELL THE PROBLEMSOF THE AREA.

WHY CAN'T THEY TURN THAT AROUND?

>> IT'S A PROBLEM OF LEADERSHIP.

IT WILL TAKE SOME.

CONGO'S INDEPENDENCE HERO ISPATRICE LUMUMBA, A FREEDOM

FIGHTER IN THE 1960'S.

HE IS ASSASSINATED WITH WESTERNASSISTANCE.

>> Jon: WHAT?

THAT IS CRAZY, WESTERNASSISTANCE.

[LAUGHTER]>> SINCE THEN THEY STRUGGLED TO

FIND A NEW LEADER.

AND VISION MEANS A LEADER WHOWILL BUILD INSTITUTIONS INSTEAD

OF DESTROYING THEM, A LEADER WHOREALIZES THAT BUILDING

INSTITUTIONS WILL BE BETTER NOTONLY FOR THEMSELVES BUT FOR

THEIR CHILDREN.

INSTEAD YOU HAVE PEOPLE WHOSUCCUMBED BECAUSE CONGO IS SO

INCREDIBLY WEALTHY THEYSUCCUMBED TO THE TEMPTATION OF

CUTTING DEALS WITH THE MYRIADFORCES.

>> Jon: IT'S INCREDIBLEREPORTING.

WHAT IS YOUR NEXT BOOK GOING TOBE?

>> ABOUT RWANDA, ABOUTJOURNALISTS I TAUGHT IN RWANDA.

>> Jon: IN BETWEEN THOSE TWODID YOU SPEND A FEW DAYS AT

DISNEY LAND OR ANYTHING?

YOU COULD USE A LITTLEDECOMPRESSION.

IT'S A REMARKABLE LOOK AT THEDAILY LIVES OF PEOPLE IN CONGO.STRINGER IT'S ON THE BOOKSHELVESNOW.

ANJAN SUNDARAM.

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