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Out of America:  A Black Man Confronts Africa
ISBN: 0156005832
Out of America: A Black Man Confronts Africa
Mr. Richburg talked about his new book, Out of America: A Black Man Confronts Africa, published by Basic Books. It focuses on his experiences during trips to Africa over the years and his futile search for African-American roots. Mr. Richburg was the Washington Post's Africa bureau chief.
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TRANSCRIPT
Out of America: A Black Man Confronts Africa
Program Air Date: April 6, 1997

BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Keith Richburg, author of "Out of America: A Black Man Confronts Africa," who is George?
Mr. KEITH RICHBURG (Author, "Out of America: A Black Man Confronts Africa"): George--my office assistant, George, in Kenya.
LAMB: What was he like?
Mr. RICHBURG: Well, he was kind of a very--oh, I'd say ingratiating fellow in the beginning. We--always very--very friendly, smiling. But in the end, he ended up taking money from one hand--taking money from me with one hand while he was shaking the other hand. You know, I really trusted George. He was the guy who--actually, my predecessor had found the work in the office there. He'd come in, clip newspapers for us, do some filing, make the phone appointments for me. And he also paid the bills.

And after a few weeks or months, I discovered he had his hand in the till. And, you know, I confronted him with this a few times and he was--he was a Christian fellow and he would ask for forgiveness and explain to me all the problems there in Kenya with many children and the price of medicine and the price of health care, etc. So I always forgave him and then he would come back and do the same thing again. And, you know, I--finally at the end of it, I really had to confront him with all this and say, `Look, George, this has got to stop,' and I was about to fire him, but, you know, I just couldn't bring myself to do it, you know?
LAMB: How many times did he marry? Or how many wives did he have?
Mr. RICHBURG: Well, I--he got up to three that I know of by the time--by the time I left. You know, he had-- two, and then I gave him a raise, I gave him a little bit more money because I thought his salary was too low, and he came in the next day and he said to me--he said, `Well, guess I took another wi--I got married.' I said, `George, you're already married.' He said, `Well, yeah, but I have more money now. I can take a new wife.' It's kind of a sign of prestige, a sign of--you know, something the big man would do, take a new wife when you've got enough money to support another family.
LAMB: Kenya is where?
Mr. RICHBURG: Kenya is--it's--it's kind of the middle of nowhere. It's--I call it the--the center of everything and the center of nothing at the same time. You know, it's funny. There really shouldn't even be a city there. There's no reason for it. In the old days of--you know, when the British ruled that part of East Africa--you know, Kampala, the capital of Uganda was the--that was the jewel in the empire Winston Churchill used to re--call it.

You know, Mombasa was the coast. That's where everything came in from, and Kenya was just a--a--Nairobi was just a halfway spot on the railroad line between the two points. And so, you know, at this little halfway point between Mombasa and Yu--and Kampala, a city kind of grew up and it sprung up from nowhere. Now it's kind of emerged as a pretty important center because journalists base there, aid workers base there, diplomats are there. It's become kind of a listening post for all of East Africa.

It's a pretty comfortable place to live. There's a United Nations major environmental office there, and I think Habitat for Humanity is there. You know, all of the news agencies are--that have Africa bureaus are based there, a lot of us in one building called Chester House. And it's an interesting place, because you get Sudanese guerrilla leaders wandering through. You get Rwandan Patriotic Front officers coming in there to give press conferences.

If you want to meet the press, Nairobi is the place you go. And it's very interesting. You got bush pilots who go off into the wild. You got Somali politicians coming in, and you really get a slice of what's happening in that part of Africa if you just sit in Nairobi.
LAMB: How long were you there?
Mr. RICHBURG: Three years and about three months. I went in the end of the fall of 1991 and stayed through the end of 1994.
LAMB: And you were what was your job there?
Mr. RICHBURG: I was The Washington Post Africa bureau chief. We had two bureaus in Africa--one in Nairobi and one down in Johannesburg. Johannesburg covered sort of the southern Africa region which would be South Africa, Angola, Mozambique to a degree, you know, Zimbabwe also. And I covered pretty much everything else in what we call sub-Saharan Africa, which is excluding the Arab countries of North Africa which are covered by the Middle East and we have a Cairo bureau.
LAMB: Who was Reuben?
Mr. RICHBURG: Reuben was my gardener. Reuben was a really gentle soul. He was one of the nicest people I met. He--I inherited this house there which is a really big--not too palatial, but really nice garden--house with a big garden, you know, couple of dogs. And Reuben was there. He came every day. He lived in a little squatter community just up the hill. He'd walk down every day, take care of the trees, take care of the bushes, take care of the dogs, because I was on the road most of the time, and he also was co--sort of a messenger for me. He would walk off and do things if I needed books or newspapers or a tape returned or something like that. He's really a--just a gentle soul, really a good outstanding guy. He was one of the few--one of the real people I remember about Kenya who makes me want to go back and see how he's doing.
LAMB: Is the name Hezikia (produced hez-i-kia)?
Mr. RICHBURG: Hezikia (pronounced he-zeek-ia).
LAMB: Hezikia.
Mr. RICHBURG: Hezikia, he also came with the house. Hezikia lived on the grounds of the house. He was the--oh, I don't know what his official job title was. He cooked, he cleaned, he kind of kept the house running when I was on the road which was 75 percent or 80 percent of the time. He was an elderly gentleman. He had many kids. He actually was very typical--his story. He--he lived outside of Nairobi. He lived in a--on a shambah, which is a little farm, which is where he kept his family. And he lived in a little house behind my house. And, you know, he had a key and he came and went into my house and would cook and clean and--yeah, real--real kind soul, real long-suffering Kenyan. You know, when I came in, I raised his salary, doubled his salary actually because I thought...
LAMB: What'd you pay him?
Mr. RICHBURG: Oh, in US dollars, probably came out to--when I arrived, he was probably making about $75, $80 per month, which in Kenya was considered OK for somebody doing that type of work because he gets free room and board and, you know, a bit of food in--thrown in there as well. I doubled it when I got there. I guess going in there feeling with--feeling a little guilty, as Americans do when they go into developing world places where you have--suddenly you have servants around you; you're not quite sure, you feel guilty they're so lowly paid. So I ended up doubling the salaries for everybody there, including Hezikia.
LAMB: When you lived there, were you a single man?
Mr. RICHBURG: Yes. Single.
LAMB: Who is Esther?
Mr. RICHBURG: Esther. Esther was my old friend that I met in Buffalo Bill's Bar, which is a pretty rough and tumble place down in--sort of in downtown Nairobi in a--and basically she was a prostitute. She was a girl who worked there for a living in this bar. She'd go out with European men--mostly Europeans, occasionally Americans I suppose. And I used to go into the bar there and I'd see Esther you know, I used to go in there occasionally and buy her a drink and we started chatting. Sometimes I'd sit in the booth and order a dinner and buy a meal for her.

And, you know, she absolutely fascinated me because she was kind of a little window into this underworld, this seedy side of life in Kenya for me. And I would, you know, sit there and chit-chat with her and hear her stories and --every once in awhile I'd ask--you know, I was going out somewhere to another bar, I'd ask her if she wanted a lift and she'd ride in my car with me or even once when she got too drunk and couldn't tell me where she lived so I could drop her off, I took her back to my place and let her sleep in the guest room for a while.

And I really got to know Kenya a little bit through her eyes because she was a real-- sad story. She had come in, obviously, as a lot of these women do from the countryside, coming in to work, try to make money, can't find a job, ending up doing sort of prostitution. But, you know, I think she was a good kid. She was a good woman.
LAMB: Who is Daniel Moi?
Mr. RICHBURG: That...
LAMB: Or Daniel--is it...
Mr. RICHBURG: Daniel...
LAMB: ...arap...
Mr. RICHBURG: ...arap Moi.
LAMB: ...Moi?
Mr. RICHBURG: `Arap' meaning `son of'--they used often in Kenya. He was a school teacher, got into politics--into KANU politics, became an administrator, became vice president under Jomo Kenyatta. He was from the--one of the smallest tribes in Kenya which is the Kalenjin tribe. And he was actually picked as vice president by Kenyatta because he was from such a small tribe. He was seen as not a threat. He was seen as somebody who could balance off all the various tribal factions. What people didn't anticipate is that the great leader, Jomo Kenyatta, died and left Daniel arap Moi, the vice president, suddenly, at the end of the 1970s, in charge of Kenya.

And nobody thought arap Moi would last. They thought he didn't have it. He didn't have the sophistication. He didn't have the intelligence. He didn't have the kind of ideology to replace this great towering African figure like Jomo Kenyatta. And the knives came out, of course, from all the various factions--the Kikuyu tribe, the largest in Kenya, the Luo thinking it's finally their turn to take power. And, you know, Moi has outlasted everybody. He's- pro--he's proven a survivor and he's done that by keeping this position--being from one of the smaller tribes, he's been able to balance off all the other ones.

He's been able to convince the Luo that if he's gone, the Kikuyu, which Jomo Kenyatta was, will come back. He's been able to convince the other smaller tribes to support him because he stands for their interest and that means people like the Masai. And he's proven a very cunning leader when it comes to manipulating the West. You know, Kenya, as many--as most African countries, relies on foreign aid; and when the West starts talking about maybe this aid should be tied to democratic reform, arap Moi knows just how to release enough reform or allow enough reform to get the aid money flowing again. And then, you know, having been there and seen this little dance played out a couple of times now--I've seen him masterfully play the foreign donors.
LAMB: Who's Smith Hempstone?
Mr. RICHBURG: Smith Hempstone probably did more than anyone else to--to change the situation there and open it up for democracy. As an outsider, he's a scrappy newspaper man, worked for one of the Chicago papers now gone. And he became editor at the Washington Star and then later The Washington Times briefly, conservative, and he was named ambassador to Kenya...
LAMB: By George Bush?
Mr. RICHBURG: That--yeah, by George Bush. He went there and he immediately went with kind of a journalist--a newsman's sense of fairness, democracy, justice. And he started talking about things that ha--and he started talking openly about things. And I remember the first time I went to see Smith Hempstone at the US ambassador's office. You know, he--he'd been in the middle of a little bit of a feud there, because he had been making some comments about the government there and about Moi being a dictator.

And the foreign minister had called a press conference to denounce Smith Hempstone, and Hempstone is a terrific character. He's a-- he even looks like Ernest Hemingway. He's got the white beard and he likes to go hunting and he's got a crackly voice and sort of a ruddy complexion. And the foreign minister, who's Wilson Doloiya, called a press conference to denounce Hempstone as a racist. And he says--he has--`Hempstone,' he said, `has the mentality of a slave owner,' that he's one of these white people who likes to come to Africa to not see the Africans but to--but to look at the animals. And he's--a `slave-owner mentality,' I remember, was the phrase that stood out.

And when I went to see Hempstone for my first meeting, I'm wondering what this guy is going to be like, and his secretary opens the door and ushers me inside, and Hempstone is seated on a couch in this palatial office and he jumps up and sticks out his hand and he says, `Hey, welcome to Tara,' in reference to the old "Gone With the Wind" estate.

But he's a real character. He--and Hempstone, by his agitating for democracy, very openly and publicly in speeches, by being willing to--to denounce the excesses of the regime and by doing things like inviting opposition politicians openly to the Embassy, openly over to the ambassador's residence, doing things like driving by opposition rallies in his car with the American flag waving, he really put the US on the side of democratic change in Kenya.

And being a former newspaper man, he was also very good with the press. We could call him at home, we could call him any time. He was great with a quote. He knew how to give us a great sound bite. For example, one of my favorite ones was--one of the Kenyan ministers accused Hempstone of, you know, meddling in Kenya's affairs and overstepping the lines of an ambassador, etc., etc., and Hempstone was called by a reporter at night and asked for a reaction to this. And Hempstone says, `Well, you tell the minister that if he doesn't stop telling lies about me, I'm going to start telling the truth about him.'
LAMB: Where do you live now?
Mr. RICHBURG: I live in Hong Kong. I've been there since January, 1995; getting ready for the transition there coming up in--July 1st.
LAMB: Doing what there? Still with The Washington Post?
Mr. RICHBURG: Still with The Washington Post. I'm now the--well, it's Hong Kong bureau chief, but I do have responsibilities that takes me--around Southeast Asia and also Taiwan a lot, southern China sometimes.
LAMB: The title of this book, "Out of America," came from you?
Mr. RICHBURG: Actually, the title was a long and arduous process. After writing the title, you know, the publisher and I were going back and forth and thinking of various things to call it. I thought of `Continental Divide.' I was trying to think of something that implied looking at Africa through American eyes or what it was like being an American going to Africa. You know, I thought of all kinds of things, `Distant Cousins,' or `Blood Ties,' or something like that.

And "Out of America" just kind of emerged. I actually sent out an e-mail solicitation to various friends and things came back. And I'm not sure who actually came up with it, but when it finally came, I sort of said, `Yeah, that kind of describes it, "Out of America."' It kind of describes where I was coming from when I went to Africa and sort of the state I was in when I left till I realized that although my ancestors came from Africa, that my culture and values after all these years in America were really very American.
LAMB: When you were nine years old, you saw the riot in Detroit.
Mr. RICHBURG: Right.
LAMB: What impact did it have on you? And for those who don't know what I'm talking about, what happened in July of 1967?
Mr. RICHBURG: July, 1967--yeah, the riots broke out in Detroit. I didn't know what a riot was at the time. I--for me, it was just a lot of chaos and burning buildings and finally National Guard troops moving into my neighborhood, the black neighborhoods in Detroit. It was an economic riot primarily. I think at the time, it was called the worst urban riot in American history, had something like 40 people or so were--were killed.

A lot of the inner city sections were burned down and that riot precipitated what later become known as `white flight.' A lot of white families who had been living in my neighborhood moved out to the suburbs. The integrated school that I had gone to, a Catholic school in Detroit, became a bl--basically a black school after awhile. There were no white people left in the neighborhood. They all left after the riots.

And I remember my father taking me, in the middle of this riot, up to a major intersection--an intersection called Grand River in West Grand Boulevard. And there was a store I used to go shopping with--with my mother there quite frequently, and I was watching it suddenly--a little nine-year-old kid, watching this store burning to the ground. And I remember--I couldn't understand what was going on, what's a riot, and I remember my father saying to me, you know, ` I wanted you to see this so you'll always remember what your people ha--are doing to their own neighborhood.'

And, you know, little snippets of--snapshots that stay in your mind from childhood, that's one of them that's goin--always back there somewhere in the recesses of the mind.
LAMB: Parents still alive?
Mr. RICHBURG: My mother died in 1986. The book is dedicated to her actually. I wish she were alive to have seen me complete it. My father is still alive. He's about 73, 74. He's still going strong.
LAMB: What's his profession?
Mr. RICHBURG: He came--he--autoworker--union official with the United Autoworkers. He came up to Detroit from South Carolina--up from Charleston in--sometime during World War II. He was part of this great black migration of labor going up north to work in the auto plants to help turn out jeeps and tanks and whatever else Ford Motor Company was making. He got a job at Ford. He was working on the assembly line for awhile. And as he told me after about a day or two of this, he thought it--looked around and said, `Well, I'm smarter than this,' and he quickly got himself into the UAW and got elected to district committeeman and then rose up to the ranks. And by the time he retired a few years ago, he was the first and, as far as I know, only black president of Local 600 of the United Autoworkers, which is, I think, the largest Ford Local in Detroit or Detroit area. It's in Dearborn, Michigan, actually.
LAMB: You say that Woodward Avenue in Detroit is like a line between Alabama and South Carolina.
Mr. RICHBURG: Basically, yeah. It ca--either that or the green line in Beirut or something like that. It was really interesting because it--Detroit was divided east side vs. west side. I was on the west side of Woodward Avenue; the other side was the east side. And my father, as most of the blacks from South Carolina, settled on the west side. On the other side were blacks who came up from Alabama. You know, and we all know now that, you know, there's no difference between what state people are from, etc., but back in those days, boy, that was a real barrier. And, you know--I think, every time you mentioned going across Woodward Avenue, you'd see people saying, `Oh, it's really dangerous over there. You know, they're--they're from--they're from Alabama; we're from South Carolina.'

You know, it's very interesting because I've been talking to other Detroiters who remember that same division. They--you know, I was talking to another fellow actually from Ann Arbor, Michigan, who was telling me that, you know, his relatives are--he came from upstate New York area. And he said, `You know, we had that same division, but in upstate New York,' he said, `it was Virginia blacks vs. Georgia blacks,' you know?

So I guess it so--goes to show that, you know, everybody has these little divisions or some need to put themselves in different social strata or to tribalize ourselves or to segregate ourselves.
LAMB: You went where to college?
Mr. RICHBURG: I went to the University of Michigan. I went in 1976 and was there for four years.
LAMB: Studying what?
Mr. RICHBURG: Studied political science. I graduated in 1980 with a degree in political science, although I discovered, as I was graduating, that I actually had enough course credits to get a s--a degree in his--in journalism at the same time. So it actu--I think it ended up being a double degree. Took a lot of history courses while I was there, too.
LAMB: What high school had you come from?
Mr. RICHBURG: I came to a very small school called University Liggett School which is in a suburb of Detroit, Grosse Pointe Woods. I'd gone to Catholic schools all--basically all of my--all of my--elementary school up to eighth grade. And then as part of this white flight, the school couldn't stay open. They just didn't have the--the pupil base of support paying tuition. And it was kind of sad. I always assumed I'd go straight through St. Leo Grade School and High School, but as--just as I was about to enter eighth grade, the high school closed. My parents had to look around and think of a new place to put me pretty quickly and we settled on this place.
LAMB: When did you come to Washington?
Mr. RICHBURG: First time in--well, other than as a kid with my mother, which I think I took a tour of the White House and that's about all I remember, but I came back in 1978. Came first during spring break from college on a driving trip with a friend and ended up getting hired at The Washington Post through a combination of flukes and luck, I guess. So I came back that summer in 1978. I liked them; they liked me. They invited me back the next summer. I did come back for another summer. I was a summer intern again, this time on the national staff. And...
LAMB: And then what were your first couple of jobs there before you went to Africa?
Mr. RICHBURG: I started full-time in 1980 at The Post after graduating. The first job I had was covering city hall. I was covering the mayor. It's funny. It was Mayor Marion Barry then, still is Mayor Marion Barry now. So some things haven't changed, I guess. I think he was pretty fresh by then, 19--1980, '81, '82. Covered a lot of city council stories at the time. I still know a lot of the council people there, a lot of the politicians here. I knew them be--some before they were even elected actually. Real--it gave me a real good sense of the city.

You know, I did a lot of stuff in neighborhoods. Went around covering these council races. Went around covering, you know, neighborhood advisory committees. Going around doing town hall sorts of things. You know, I covered crime when I was an intern, so I knew the city a little bit so I understood that. And after a year and a half or so of city reporting, I moved into the suburbs and did some suburban reporting; Montgomery County, which is the suburb of Maryland and the General Assembly in Annapolis. That was when I--after that is when I took off to go to graduate school and get another degree, and then I came back to The Post again, this time on the national staff and did various jobs there, mostly education reporting but also some general assignment. Did a little stuff on Capitol Hill.
LAMB: Where did you get your graduate degree?
Mr. RICHBURG: London School of Economics.
LAMB: You tell a--a story in here what happens when you get in a DC cab and you say, `Take me to The Washington Post.'
Mr. RICHBURG: I always get the same thing from cab drivers. They-- if they've got The Post on their front seat that morning or if they've read it, they always start this whole question about, `Why is The Post so negative about the city?' You know, `Why is The Post so racist?' And then...
LAMB: Is that from both black and white cab drivers?
Mr. RICHBURG: Mostly from black cab drivers. If it's something--you know, in DC, you have a lot of African cab drivers as well. Sometimes with the Africans, I would get stories about, `Why is The Post negative about Africa,' for example. When--with black cab drivers, I would always get this question of, `Why is The Post downplaying positive news? Why do you only put bad news about the city?'

And then it would always evolve into this whole question of `the Plan,' with a capital P. `There's a master Plan,' they'd say, `which is a conspiracy of the white establishment,' meaning the business community, maybe the Congress and The Washington Post, as the establishment media institution here, `to keep black people down in Washington, to try to strip away home rule from the city.' That was the story at the time.

I'm under--I understand now from my perch in Hong Kong that the Control Commission, which now basically runs DC affairs, has done a pretty good job of taking away city power, but yet--and, you know, as I would take these cab rides, I would just constantly get this questioning about the Plan or--sometimes they would use the word `the Plan,' sometimes they would just refer to a big conspiracy among the white establishment to keep blacks down in Washington.

And after awhile, I got so tired of hearing it, I would actually start joking with them about the Plan. I would start saying things like, `Sure, yeah, we've got a Plan. Yeah, I've got my copy right here in my pocket. Do you want to see it?' And I'd really watch them get a little bit nervous thi--see whether or not this guy is kidding in the backseat.
LAMB: Is there any evidence that you've found that there is such a thing as the Plan?
Mr. RICHBURG: I don't think there's any Plan. I mean, I can understand why a lot of people might think so. You know, I can understand why people might think there's some conspiracy if their life is not doing too well and then they pick up the paper and then they see, you know, a negative story coming out about the city here or there and then hear another story about another business moving out of Washington or another story about Congress chipping away some more of the mayor's power. And I can understand this sort of, you know, maybe conspiratorial or paranoid thinking that everyone is out to get us, everyone is trying to keep our community down. But, you know, I'm--there's no concerted effort.
LAMB: What similar kind of an attitude did you find in Africa?
Mr. RICHBURG: Very, very similar in many ways, because every time I traveled around and talked to African leaders, their spokesmen, I would get the same sense, the same kind of conspiratorial paranoia, that `our problems are all because of outsiders, the white community--the global white community is conspiring to keep us down. There is a Plan,' capital P. `There's a plan to dump arms into our country. There's a plan to even--even inflict AIDS on our country.'

There's a real sense in many of these African countries, even among intellectuals, that AIDS is a disease that's been imposed on Africa from the West, from the outside, similarly to some stories I've been hearing lately about people here believing that crack-cocaine was introduced in American ghettos by--from the outside. There's a real--it--I really got that same sense in both Washington and in Africa, that there is this great sense of victimization, this great sense that the world, the white world, is out to oppress the black majo--the black minority in the world.
LAMB: Any evidence that it is?
Mr. RICHBURG: You know, again--I mean, I don't kno--I don't see any evidence whatsoever that there's any concerted plan. In fact, I see a lot of goodwill in--towards Africa these days. Obviously, in the old days, there was Colonialism, there was exploitation of Africa's resources. We played out the Cold War to a large extent in Africa. You know, we had our dictators. The Soviet Union had their dictators. We dumped a lot of arms in Africa. The--whether that was all part of some conspiracy to keep black countries down, I don't think so. You know, I think the world has dumped a lot of aid money into Africa, often with no strings attached whatsoever; Scandinavian countries particularly, the Western countries.

This day, I think there's a--there's a great deal of goodwill in the world towards Africa. If you look at a--the amounts of aid going into refugee agencies--and Africa has a huge chunk, if not the majority, of the world's refugees--look at the amount of money the Red Cross spends on operations in Africa, Somalia, Rwanda, Burundi, Zaire, for example; there's a lot of goodwill out there towards Africa, but there's still this sense among many Africans that there is a conspiracy of the world, that black countries aren't allowed to prosper, that they're--that black countries are being deliberating kept down.
LAMB: How many people live in Africa?
Mr. RICHBURG: Well, the figures vary. I used the figure about 500 million. There had been, when I was there, 1991 to the end of 1994, 450 million was the figure being used. I'd put it up to about 500 million now. I don't think the figure's been revised enough lately.
LAMB: You have statistics in your book that say 88 million Africans have malaria; 171 million have some form of tuberculosis; and that 13.3 million out of the two--21.8 million HIV-positive people in the world come from Africa.
Mr. RICHBURG: Yeah. Those are pretty startling statistics. They really are.
LAMB: Start with the TB.
Mr. RICHBURG: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: A hundred and seventy-one million--one-third of the country has TB?
Mr. RICHBURG: One-third of the continent. It's a--it's a--absolutely.
LAMB: Of the continent, yeah.
Mr. RICHBURG: Yeah, it's widespread. I mean, it's obviously in various stages. Some people die from it; obviously, some don't. Some people die from other things before they--before they develop the symptoms. It's a very common disease. Diseases are so rampant in many of these places that often you get diseases on top of diseases on top of diseases. Almost everyone I've ever met there, for example, had malaria, which is the most common disease. Everyone, including George, had malaria multiple times; Reuben had malaria multiple times. My friend Hezikia, who was the cook at my house, had malaria multiple times.

And all of these things are spread through conditions that we in the West might not consider, you know, appropriate. There's, you know, often problems with water in poor neighborhoods, poor areas. There's often problems of sanitation; there's problems of, you know, living conditions that should be improved in some areas.
LAMB: I want to go to Page 195 and read what you wrote. `Nothing works here now. Not the schools, where the teachers are unpaid; not the public hospitals, where patients must pay cash up front to get doctors to treat them. Government bureaucrats don't bother showing up at empty, cavernous offices. If you need an official permit or a stamp, you find the officer in charge at his home and pay him cash for the required signature or rubber stamp. Not even the police and soldiers are paid, and most of them now moonlight as security guards or, more often, just escort passers-by or stage bloody street riots. It's privatization run amok.'
Mr. RICHBURG: That's Zaire, Africa's heart. Joseph Conrad, years ago in a book called "Heart of Darkness"--it's a--you know, it's a--Zaire is a sad country because it could be s--it's a rich country in terms of natural resources. People should be better off, you know. But years of kleptocracy, of rampant theft by the Mobutu regime, has left Zaire bankrupt. It's left few things able to function there. As I wrote there, the hospitals are in disarray. If you're sick, you basically--and you have no money, you don't get treated. People have to pay for medical treatment.

Schools have been closed; people don't--schools were closed because the teachers weren't getting paid, so parents would just pay teachers directly to have some--basically private tutorials. You know, I've seen government offices with trees growing through them because they've been sitting unused for so long. Right now and since I've written that, Zaire is now gripped by its own civil war. Rebels are advancing through the East, threatening to carve the country up. Aid workers are withdrawing from major cities in the East, like Kisangani. It's in a really desperate state right now, and the president is racked with cancer. He's in France at last report, still getting treatment for cancer. A few doubt whether he'll return or, if he does return, how vigorous a role he can ever take. And the Zairean army, which is in complete disarray--they haven't been paid for a long time, you know, ill-equipped, now being supported by mercenaries. And people doubt whether they'll ever be able to kind of beat back this rebel advance.
LAMB: Earlier in the book, you write that `The world, and Washington policy makers specifically, may not have cared about Somalia in early 1992. But I'--meaning yourself--`I could force them to care by rubbing their faces in it every day, by shoving the pictures of starving kids in front of people's noses as often as I could in the newspaper seen daily by the White House and members of Congress.' And then later on, you write about--let's see if I can find it--`In the first days of the intervention in Somalia, I was rather proud of myself for having been one of those who had pounded the drumbeat for an American military involvement.' Is that the role of a journalist?
Mr. RICHBURG: You know, when I got into this business, I--I thought being a journalist was a way you could do some good in the world, you can make some change. And, you know, ev--we all think that, you know. But I came--I came of age, if you want to say, in the 1970s. I watched "All the President's Men" and, you know, admired the way these two guys, Woodward and Bernstein, through their digging, had actually, you know, exposed a scandal and brought down--you know, brought down this government that had overstepped the constitutional lines. You know, to me, that was what journalism was all about. It was exposing wrongdoing, doing good. And for me, the Somalia case was a classic example of how you could do your reporting, you could do balanced reporting, but by exposing something that's wrong, just by simply putting it out in the newspaper, you can make a difference.

And, you know, it wasn't really advocating intervention; I never wrote anything saying specifically, `The world must act.' But by pointing out the fact that, `Hey, here's a problem here. Here's a famine going on. Here's the face of a starving child. Here are their voices,' and by pointing out the fact--just by pointing out the discrepancy between the world interest in places like the former Yugoslavia and the lack of interest in a place like Africa, just pointing it out, it raised, I think, the consciousness level in the United States. And myself and all the other journalists who were there at the time--and I have to give them credit, especially the TV journalists who were putting these famine pictures in front of us every day. I think, if nothing else, we managed to, you know, galvanize a little bit of public sympathy. I think the aid groups relied on the news coverage of the Somali famine to get contributions that allowed them to continue their activities in what was an expensive place to work as well as a dangerous place to work.

And to me, that's journalism at its best, I mean, exposing problems in the world and being part of the solution. You know, we often get accused of going around and reporting bad things and not coming up with any solutions. But here we are, I think, playing a role that is actually beneficial for humankind.
LAMB: But you say it was $3 billion later, and it didn't work.
Mr. RICHBURG: Well, I was wrong. I think, you know, this is a pretty depressing book in a lot of ways, and it's a book of disillusionment. And if it is so, I think Somalia became a metaphor for my own disillusionment. And that's why--you know, I spend a couple of chapters in this book talking--it's not a very long book, and I spend a couple of chapters talking about Somalia, because I thought it was important to lay out why it was I was so hopeful in the beginning and then why it was I became so disillusioned.

And, you know, it's hard to remember now looking back, because it ended so disastrously, how--you know, when those American Marines--I think 20,000 of them were in that initial intervention force--when they first landed on the beaches at Mogadishu and I was out there, and, you know, you had the glare of the television lights and the sort of live coverage of a Marine landing on this beach in a faraway African country, there was a lot of hope, and there was a lot of hope among Somalis who lined the streets to greet them and tossing them flowers or whatever they had. There was a lot of hope among we in the press corps who covered Africa that maybe s--maybe we were on the way to solving some of these problems. The catchphrase of the day was `humanitarian intervention.'

And a lot of the aid workers and people who had been dealing with some of these crises saw this as the first example of how in the post-Cold War era, you know, we could actually use this mighty military force we had for good in the world. And this was really in an intervention that had no ulterior motives. I mean, people say, `Well, it was because Somali--Somalia was strategically important or because they had oil interest.' No. This was a mission sent to go in and feed starving people. And--and it was really to me just a real sign that maybe the world really was on the way to a new world order.

And then the thing turned dangerously wrong for a variety of reasons, and there's enough blame to go around. I mean, the--the UN mission was ill-equipped. They finally took over from the United States the UN mission that came in in basically May of 1993 was very ill-equipped. They didn't have enough manpower. The Americans on the ground started slowly disengaging from Somalia to turn this mission over to the United Nations. The Americans didn't want to get into the dirty job of disarming the warlord factions that had taken over the city and towns. `That--that was a UN job,' they said. And so that was a problem.

The other problem was the Somali faction leaders themselves: General Mohammed Farrah Aidid, Ali Mahdi Mohammed, the self-acclaimed president of Mogadishu, Hersi Morgan and Omar Jess, the list goes on and on. You know, these guys were--they had some power. They controlled their little neighborhood, their faction, their clan. And there was no real effort, no real sense of national reconciliation. I mean, sure, they signed all kinds of agreements. They signed every agreement ever put in front of them, and then they violated it the next day. General Aidid particularly felt his--his own power base being threatened because the UN--the American force and the UN force was sitting in his neighborhood.

If any warlord was being hemmed in, it was Aidid, and he struck out first. He attacked the Pakistani UN contingent that was there in a bloody horrific massacre. The UN responded by stepping into a guerrilla war in an attempt to arrest Aidid. The US took the--was at the forefront of that attempt. The US put in Army Rangers to try to climb down ropes into bad neighborhoods in Mogadishu, looking for this one Somali warlord. And that ended in a nasty firefight that left 18 Army rangers dead in a single day and General Aidid basically still in charge in Mogadishu and American servicemen's bodies being dragged through the streets.

So into this--this great hopeful intervention that I remember covering from the beaches at Mogadishu ended into this nightmarish scene, like I said, of bodies being dragged through the streets, Somalis celebrating over downed American helicopters, and President Clinton going on to give a national address on television announcing that the op--that the operation would be suspended and all the US troops would be brought back by March of the following year.
LAMB: You have a lot of descriptions in here of massacres. And I mean, look, things like one group had the Achilles' heel of--of several people sliced so they couldn't walk. Where was that?
Mr. RICHBURG: This was Rwanda. This was Kigali when the--the massacre erupted. This came--this--this event--this--this massacre started in Rwanda just after the end of the Somali operation, the Americans pulled out of Somalia in March of 1994. By April, Rwanda had exploded into chaos. At the time of--it exploded, the Belgians had some troops there, part of a UN peacekeeping force there trying to enforce a peace agreement.
LAMB: Let me just--before we go any farther--just--we've got a--you've got a map in the book here.
Mr. RICHBURG: Yeah.
LAMB: And I want to show the map, and on there, you can show where Rwanda is; it's right there where the square is.
Mr. RICHBURG: Yeah.
LAMB: No, up there. Good. Go ahead and put it on the screen. I'll--and move the camera around--right there. It's right there in the middle, right near Kenya? Am I at the right place?
Mr. RICHBURG: Yeah, I think--Kenya, and you go over to the--go over to the west, and you'll hit into--and then go down by the lake there, by Lake Victoria.
LAMB: How big is this, Rwanda?
Mr. RICHBURG: Rwanda is a tiny country, actually. It's a--I can't tell you exactly in square miles or kilometers, but it's one of the smallest African countries, and it's also one of the most overpopulated. I think it's got, in the world, one of the largest--largest percentage of, you know, density of population per land. You know, the--the land pressure is one of the main problems there. You've got basically two groups, Hutu and Tutsi, although there's a tiny, tiny minority of Twa, or pygmy people. But there--mainly min--majority Hutu population, minority Tutsi population, all living together on this tiny bit of land. There's no room.

And this place exploded, and it had--it had exploded before in the past. These kinds of tribal animosities are age-old, exacerbated by the Belgians who colonized Rwanda and used the Tutsi minority as the administrators who basically lorded over the Hutu majority. But it was in April 1990--94 that Rwanda finally exploded yet again and the genocide began, the genocide meaning the Hutu taking out their machetes and axes and machine guns and garden hose and hacking away at Tutsi. And the Belgians were caught in the middle of this we were talking about.
LAMB: How many Belgians were there?
Mr. RICHBURG: The Belgian contingent was on--is only a few dozen, I mean, not very many. It was a--it was a UN contingent; the Belgians were there as a small contingent, and a smaller contingent of them, about four or so, were caught in a--in a position where they went in to try to protect the prime minister who was under attack--she was a Tutsi. She was put there as part of a--part of an agreement to basically bring in the Tutsi rebels who were trying to advance in from another country and sort of form some kind of a coalition government. The Hutu hard-liners at the time didn't want this.
LAMB: How many--in the country, what's the mix of Hutus and Tutsis?
Mr. RICHBURG: Oh, the country is at least 80 percent, 85 percent Hutu, about 15 percent maximum of Tutsi. There's a small Twa minority, but people estimate them at less than 1 percent.
LAMB: But you say even in the middle of Africa, you have a situation where there's a hatred about the way people look. Even if all their skin's black, the features and all make a difference. What's the difference in the fea--and you had a--your own problem of being viewed as one tribe or the other.
Mr. RICHBURG: One--being identified as one or the other--well, that's right. And, you know, I know a lot of people that would look at Africa and say, `Well, they're all black. They're all the same.' I mean, not true any more than all black Americans are the same. This--there're vast differences you can see between the Hutu and the Tutsi, and a lot of those differences have been obscured by time, by intermarriage, but there are differences, still. For example, Tutsi tend to taller. Their origins are Nilotic. They come more from the North. The Hutu are Bantu people. They tend to be shorter. The Hutu, on average, tended to be slightly darker-complexioned. The Hutu tended to be slightly larger--lighter-complexioned, maybe narrower, more angular features.

The Tutsi in general--these are generalizations, of course; you can't say it's always the case everywhere. The Tutsi generally, because they had lived in the cities and had been chosen by the Belgians to be the administrators, had more access to education. So often, if you saw someone in a rural area, even who was better dressed or wearing eyeglasses and who had the more--who had the physical descriptions of a Tutsi, you know, they generally would be a Tutsi. You know, the old saying I'd heard there, and it probably still holds true, is, you know, if you put 10 Rwandans against the wall, I could probably tell you three are Hutu, be right; I could probably tell you three are Tutsi, be right. I'd probably be wrong on two, and then one would probably be mixed because there was a lot of intermarriage.
LAMB: From April 1994, roughly three years ago, how many people have been killed? How many have--who killed what side?
Mr. RICHBURG: Well, the Hutu, --after the plane carrying the president of Rwanda and the president of Burundi on the same plane--after that plane was shot down mysteriously over Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, this genocide erupted. And according to most estimates, up to--and no one knows for sure, but up to one million Tutsi were killed. It's an astronomical figure to think about: one million people...
LAMB: How?
Mr. RICHBURG: ...killed.
LAMB: How were they killed?
Mr. RICHBURG: Very violently. They were killed close up, personal. They were killed mainly with machetes. These are these garden tools basically you use for chopping trees, for chopping firewood. They were killed with knives. They were killed with axes. They were killed with garden hose, rakes, anything else people could get their hands on. Some were shot. There were some grenades tossed into churches. You know, the Tutsi tried to take refuge, and some--some went into churches; some went into hotels. In the city, the Hotel Mille Coline, Hotel of a Thousand Hills, that became one of the points of refuge.

You know, people--the--these--the Hutu militia men would go in--into these places of refuge, maybe first machine-gun everybody and then go through with their machetes and finish the job, throw grenades in. Some of the scenes were horrific.
LAMB: When did you go there first?
Mr. RICHBURG: I first went in actually over the border in through Rwanda early in May of 1994. I did not go in April du--when the genocide first erupted, quite frankly, because it was too dangerous for a black American to go in.
LAMB: Who did you go in with?
Mr. RICHBURG: That first time, when I went in in May, I drove by myself with--not by myself; I drove with another correspondent, Eric Rensdell from US News & World Report magazine--terrific correspondent. The two of us went into Kampala in Uganda and rented a car.
LAMB: Is he white or black?
Mr. RICHBURG: He's white. We decided to go that way, a white and a black together. We called it a salt and pepper team. One of us could get the other one out of trouble. We went to Kampala, rented one of these old Range Rover cars, loaded it up with bottles of water and food. We had the hotel we stayed in Kampala make up box lunches and stick it in there because we knew there'd be trouble finding food. And we drove. We drove until we went over the border into Rwanda.

You know, I knew that the massacres were still going on, the genocide was still going on; it was still go--a nasty scene--it was still dangerous. My office had told me specifically not to go into those areas where the genocide was going on. I decided we'd probably try to stay behind rebel lines. And at this point, the--the Tutsi rebel movement, which is called the RPF, the Rwandan Patriotic Front, was advancing towards Kigali to try to stop these massacres, take over the country, and we decided we would try to stay as much as we could-- make a point of trying to stay behind the rebel lines. We weren't actually in the area of--of the massacres. We did that, but we were going into some horrific scenes. We were going into towns that the Rwandan Patriotic Front had liberated, going into places that had seen massacres, or going into places where the victims of massacres had been brought back.
LAMB: What did you see personally in the way of a massacre? Did you wa--witness any?
Mr. RICHBURG: I didn't actually witness a massacre, no. I've seen film footage of some of them. I--what I witnessed were the--were the results of massacres. I went into some of these field hospitals in areas that had just been taken over by the Rwandan Patriotic Front. I talked to people in these hospitals. I talked to, you know, little kids. A little boy, I remember, had his arm chopped off just about at the forearm. Found three little girls, the cutest little girls you'll ever see. I can't remember their ages now--five, six, seven. They had been left for dead, stuck in a mass grave, buried up to their necks. You know, they were--they were traumatized. They had dirt from being buried alive, basically, into their lungs and nostrils. They were constantly spitting up dirt.

You know, I talked to a young man who had a machete wound through his head. You know, I talked to another young child who had basically been left to die atop the dead bodies of his family members, you know? It was really absolutely horrific stories I heard--people with their faces hacked. I saw people with noses missing, people who had their ears chopped off with machetes. Absolutely horrific scenes. I walked through an orphanage, just, you know, got the stories of these children, where they're--how they were rescued, how their families had been massacred. Again and again, it was story after story after story. And, of course, my stories were only coinciding with the stories coming out of all other areas of Rwanda at the time, you know. We knew that this massacre was not happening in one area; it was widespread.
LAMB: What is the source of the hate?
Mr. RICHBURG: You know, li--as I said, the animosity goes back for--for generations.
LAMB: No, what--do you mean, it was the--the plane crash and the s...
Mr. RICHBURG: The immediate--what triggered this immediate massacre.
LAMB: But how can you literally hack people to death like that? I mean, do you have any--did you ever talk to anybody and ask them that had done it?
Mr. RICHBURG: Oh, sure, yeah. You know, I tried to get to the root of this hatred. And, you know, first there was a mass denial going on at the time in Rwanda, so it was actually quite difficult to get to the root of this. I remember I go--went into one area once that ha--after the--the French troops came in and kind of calmed the situation about three months after it erupted. I was able to go into other parts of Rwanda. You know, there was one area where there was a church service going on. And the congregation members, all Hutu because the Tutsi had all been killed in that town--you know, were still going to the same church. You know, they hadn't been evacuated. This was in the southwest zone. And the bodies had been buried in mass graves right beside or underneath the church. And the stench would come up through the church, and you could smell death. And then you would ask people in the town, `What--what happened to all the Tutsi? This town used to be about half Tutsi, half Hutu. What are the--where are the Tutsi?' And, you know, holding a handkerchief to their nose to keep away the stench of death, they would just say, `Oh, there--there were never any Tutsi in this town.'

So on the--on the one hand, there was this mass denial that took place. On the other hand, you know, I would--I got all kinds of explanations from Hutu, and mind you, a million Hutu walked out of the country, moved into refugee camps in Tanzania and Rwanda, so that gave us a great opportunity to try to find some of these killers and talk to them and try and figure out what went on. And, you know, I got a lot of defensiveness. I got a lot--I was quite nervous because a lot of them were very jittery, you know. They still had their machetes, even in the refugee camps. A lot of them still had the blood of their victims on their shirts. And they would say, well, it wasn't their fault. The Tutsi attacked first. They were defending themselves. Some of them said they were defending their president. The president was a Hutu, very popular, especially among these young militias. He formed these militias, these--these two--basically two militias that carried out these attacks with the backing of the Rwandan army. And they were--some of these kids had the picture of the president emblazoned on their T-shirts, and they would say, `What we did was defending our president who was assassinated by the Tutsi.'
LAMB: Move over, because there's not enough time to get through all this, to Liberia.
Mr. RICHBURG: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: And you saw some strange things over there, too.
Mr. RICHBURG: That was--I call it one of the world's wackiest civil wars, and it would be comical if it were not so--so bloody. There were--there were kids there who would dress up in odd clothing, women's clothes, Donald Duck masks, flowing wigs--very odd. And what I--you know, I really tried to get to the root of why--why it was that this place was so odd and so wacky and so weird. I--what was it about these young warriors? And they were young. They were all teen-aged kids, younger. You know, what made them go into a residential neighborhood or go into a commercial neighborhood and, you know, go into stores or bedrooms and rip out women's clothing and put them on over their camouflage fatigues before going into battle. And what w--what was it about the psyche that caused this? You know, I never got an adequate explanation. I was told that on part it was maybe some psychological sense that if you dress up as someone else, it's not you committing the atrocity. You're removing yourself from the body.
LAMB: How did Liberia get there in the first place?
Mr. RICHBURG: Liberia was actually founded or settled by freed American slaves. They were brought back under a congressionally funded group that would bring black American slaves and resettle them somewhere on the coast.
LAMB: What year?
Mr. RICHBURG: This was in the 1800s. James Monroe was president at the time and it was--that's why the capital now is Monrovia. Yet it was actually interesting because what they ended up doing was dropping this group of displaced Africans who had lost their own homeland and lost their own tribe or lost their own connection to Africa, dumping them in the middle of this country on the coast, which put them into immediate conflict with the neighboring or indigenous tribes in this area carved out--carved out and called Liberia. These Americans, freed blacks and their later descendants ended up being the ruling class. And they--they're called American Liberians.
LAMB: You say at the end of all this, you hate Africa.
Mr. RICHBURG: Well, actually, no, I say I--I don't hate Africa and I don't hate the Africans. What I end up saying is that I hate the corruption. I hate the brutality. I hate the inhumanity. You know, I hate the kids who point guns in my face. I hate the big men who spirit away billions in the Swiss bank accounts. I hate the maddening propensity of Africans to kind of roll over and wallow and endure this suffering without taking to the streets and--and doing more to demand their own rights. I hate the people who toss firebombs in the offices of opposition newspapers. You know, I hate--you know, I hate--I hate just the--the--the way people can walk by suffering.

My own driver in Somalia would drive by in our car as we were driving to a feeding center, and he'd see a starving woman on the roadside. And I would say, `Hey, stop. We've got to pick her up, give her a bottle of water,' and he just kind of smiled and shake her head and say, `Well, she's going to die anyway. What's the point?' That's what I hate.
LAMB: You also say you're terrified of Africa and, `I don't want to be from this place.'
Mr. RICHBURG: That's right. I walked around a lot with this great fear or this great terror or this--this whole idea that human life just was so meaningless in many of these conflicts I was in or in many cases that I really bec--became a r--quite thankful that I was from a country that did to some--far more degree than I saw in Africa, you know, value human life, where I could feel that people have more opportunities. I felt quite grateful for what I had here in America.
LAMB: You wrote about Doug Wilder and Louis Sullivan and Jesse Jackson and Ben Chavis. Why?
Mr. RICHBURG: I was writing about black American leaders, prominent people, people I admire and respect who, basically, rose to prominence in this country because they were the champions of civil rights. They were the champions of democracy. They were the champion of expanding America--Americans' rights and liberties to the downtrodden and standing up against repression. And I was writing because I was so disillusioned and depressed and angry to see these same prominent figures when they go to Africa not standing up on the side of the people being repressed, standing up on the side of expanding democracy, standing up on the side of liberty, but instead, dining with dictators. And--and that's not their place. That's not where I wanted to see them.

You know, I remember these were the people who--who largely pushed American policy in favor of the black majority in South Africa. These were people whose--whose demonstrations in front of the South African Embassy largely mobilized American opinion against that horrible apartheid regime in South Africa. Yet, when the repression was on the other side, when it was black governments repressing black people, I didn't see the outrage from these great moral leaders. I didn't see-- the indignity. I didn't see them out standing up against this kind of repression. And that angered me because I wanted to see them on the correct side, and they were on the wrong side. And I wanted to point it out. And I quoted them. I asked them when they came out to Africa, `What--you know, where is the outrage? Why aren't you out here pushing for more democracy?' And I wasn't satisfied with the answers I got, and I quoted them in the book.
LAMB: Why do you think they--they do it the way they do it, then?
Mr. RICHBURG: A variety of reasons. I think there's not--you know, in some cases, I think there's not a lot of knowledge about the internal workings of a lot of these African countries. You know, I was on the ground there. I could go in. I could spend some time and figure out that they--`Hey, there are opposition movements here; this president is actually controlling the media, repressing free speech.' On the other hand, I also think that there's a feeling that you don't want to talk about these things publicly; you want to keep it in the family. Black people, obviously, would like to see black government succeed. It's a source of pride. I mean, that's why there's so much pride in the black community here in Nelson Mandela, because he's such a towering moral figure and black people like to associate with him.

You know, with some of these other black dictatorships, it's embarrassing to kind of talk about this stuff, to air this dirty laundry out. So I think there is a feeling that blacks have an obligation to support black governments and not condemn black governments. But I think that's wrong and I think black American leaders would find that there is a constituency in the United States and a constituency among the black community if they stand up for what's right, if they stand up against repression, if they stand up for fairness, if they stand up for free press in Africa, independent judiciaries, and if they get on the right side, if they get on the side of these people power movements that should be springing up now.
LAMB: What's been the reaction from all different segments of the society of your book?
Mr. RICHBURG: Overall, the--I've been surprised at how positive and strong the reaction has been. I've gotten letters from all over the place, e-mails from people telling me they like the book. They think the points I make are right on. They agree with what I say. And I've gotten this from black America and white America alike. I was particularly surprised at the strong support for the book in black America, you know, newspapers like the--black newspapers like the Chicago Defender writing glowing pieces saying that the book was a great book. Trevor Coleman, the editorial writer for the Detroit Free Press, gave me a terrific review; you know, said everybody should read the book in the Detroit Free Press. I've gotten terrific response from some Africans, too.

You know, just yesterday I was talking to an Ethiopian here in Washington, DC, who called me aside and, yet, very quietly, said, `I want to tell you, you know, I loved your book. He said, `You only witnessed the horror; I lived it.' He said, `When I read your book, you were speaking for me.' And so there's tr--the s--response has been absolutely terrific. There's been some criticism. Most of the criticism has fallen into three or four categories. Some people say, `Well, you didn't talk enough about the good things in Africa. You didn't give enough of a sweep of the countries where there are no war or suffering or where things are stable.' You know, I plead guilty. Look, this is my personal memoir. It was a story of the things that affected me most deeply. I've been to about 25 African countries. I didn't really count. I was trying to add them up. I got to 25 and stopped counting. I've been to a lot of African countries. I thought the importance of this book was, it was my personal journey, my personal memoir.

I get some criticism because people want the book to be more than it is. They want more history. They want more--you know, an analysis of what colonialism did to Africa. They want more economic analysis of the dislocations of Europeans coming in and meddling in Africa's resources. It's not a history book and it's not a--it's not a political science book. There are plenty of other books on the shelves people can read if they want that. Mine was a first-person account of my three years in Africa. I'd get in a little bit of history, get in a little bit of this analysis, but not much, because I wanted it to be my first-person account.
LAMB: Born in Detroit. How old are you now?
Mr. RICHBURG: Born in 1958, so I guess that means I'm--oh, no--about to be 39.
LAMB: Do you have a family? Are you married?
Mr. RICHBURG: I'm single.
LAMB: How much longer are you going to be in Hong Kong with The Washington Post?
Mr. RICHBURG: I hope to be there two more years, cover the transition, then see it through for another year after that.
LAMB: This your first book?
Mr. RICHBURG: It is my first book.
LAMB: What was the experience like, of writing a book?
Mr. RICHBURG: You know, this book was so personal to me, and--and that's why I say again--I mean, it's not a political science book, not a history book. It's my personal--it's a diary. It's my personal diary of traveling around Africa. That's why my picture is right on the front cover there. And it's so personal to me and I saw so much and I had friends die there. I had four journalist friends killed in a single day in Somalia, beaten to death by a mob. You know, I had friends shot in their cars, left to bleed to death. And a couple days before I was leaving Nairobi, another friend was killed in a plane crash.

You know, I had so many friends die. I saw so much bloodshed, so much horror. It was almost--the book was cathartic for me. It was almost like get--I had to get it out. I had to say it. I had--and that's why, you know, some of the reviews or some of the commentary on the book have called it `brutally honest.' And I--when I decided to sit down and write it, I said it had to be that way or else I wouldn't be honoring the memory of my dead friends. I wouldn't be honoring the memories of the victims of all the things I've seen there. So, yeah, it's an honest book. It's an angry book. It's an emotional book. But for me, it was really cathartic to kind of lay it all out there. You know, people want to criticize it, that's fine, because I think I've opened the debate.
LAMB: By the way, where was this picture taken?
Mr. RICHBURG: The picture was taken here in Washington, actually. It was a--kind of an accident at--that that ended up on the front cover. It was a picture that was originally taken to be my press pass here in Washington, DC. I'd come in from Africa just for a--or, actually, I think I came in from Hong Kong, actually, just for a couple days, and I was sitting in the newsroom and the guy was snapping away a few photos. And the publisher called and said they needed a quick picture of me to put on the back cover. This was sent up from Washington. They took a look at it and decided they'd put it on the front cover.
LAMB: Keith Richburg, author of "Out Of America," we're out of time and we thank you.
Mr. RICHBURG: Thanks very much. I enjoyed it.


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