This Sunday, Christiane Amanpour embarks on an incredible journey back in time to explore the history, and the mysteries, of some of the oldest stories every told.
Be sure to tune in at 9pm ET on CNN for “Back to the Beginning.”
By Mick Krever, CNN
Nearly a year ago, 20 children and six teachers were massacred at an elementary school in the United States.
In the aftermath, Senate Democrat Chris Murphy, who represents the state, Connecticut, where the murders happened, said Congress needed to act to restrict access to guns.
“I do shudder to think what I’m going to tell some of these families if we can’t even get background checks passed in the United States Senate,” he told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in March.
The Senate did fail to pass such a bill, despite 90% support from the American public.
Since the tragedy, the New York Times says at the state level there have been 39 new laws to restrict access to guns but a whopping 70 to make buying, owning, and carrying guns even easier.
“Something is fundamentally broken with the Senate and with democracy in general if, when 90 per cent of the American public thinks that you should just pass a basic criminal background check before buying a gun … the Senate can’t pass it,” he told CNN’s Hala Gorani, in for Christiane Amanpour, on Thursday.
By Mick Krever and Claire Calzonetti, CNN
Russia said Thursday that the European Union is trying to bully Ukraine into signing a free trade deal against the wishes of the majority of Ukrainians.
Russia itself has been accused of strong-arming President Viktor Yanukovych into rejecting such an agreement. For weeks, thousands of Ukrainians have braved the bitter cold to protest that decision.
“The EU offers a token package, which is not of any interest to the Ukrainian government,” Alexei Pushkov, head of the Foreign Affairs Committee in Russia’s Parliament, told CNN’s Hala Gorani, who was sitting in for Christiane Amanpour.
“That’s why Mister Yanukovych has initially rejected it,” he said. “Then all these demonstrations started with the participation of the European ministers…who were speaking on the Maidan [Kiev’s Independence Square], joining the protesters, and so on.”
This is taking Ukraine by the neck and trying to…bring it forcefully into the paradise.”
On Thursday, there was a hint that Yanukovych may be bowing to the opposition’s pressure and reversing course.
By Hala Gorani and Ana Bickford, CNN
A top Syrian rebel commander denies that he abandoned his post and says he is working to resolve fighting among opposition groups in the country's north, he told CNN on Thursday.
In the meantime, a decision by the United States and Britain to halt nonlethal aid makes sense, said Salim Idriss, chief of staff of the Free Syrian Army.
Several U.S. administration officials had said that the fate of Idriss, a top rebel commander supported by the West, was uncertain as conflicts persisted between the Free Syrian Army and Islamist groups.
Idriss denied reports that he fled to a Gulf state after the Islamic Front allegedly seized a warehouse held by the Free Syrian Army.
By Lucky Gold, CNN
South Africans will be able to visit Nelson Mandela’s coffin at the seat of government in Pretoria for a final farewell until the end of this week.
Now imagine a world where three of the greatest leaders of the 20th century first came to light in South Africa.
By now, we know the saga of Nelson Mandela – from activist to prisoner to president to national treasure.
And yet 120 years ago, a young Indian lawyer named Mohandas Gandhi was riding on a train to Pretoria when he first felt the sting of racial injustice – forced to leave the first class compartment he'd paid for and thrown off the train.
It was a life-changing moment.
By Mick Krever, CNN
CNN’s Nima Elbagir gave a dramatic account Wednesday from the capital of the Central African Republic, Bangui, of the violence and chaos engulfing that country.
“We travelled down that road from Bossangoa to Bangui and we saw some pretty brazen militia roadblocks along the way,” Elbagir told Christiane Amanpour.
“We were in an U.N. convoy guarded by African peacekeepers and we had to stop like everyone else for the militiamen to open those roadblocks and let us through.”
The country descended into civil war in March when a Muslim rebellion known as “Seleka” overthrew the president, with the C.A.R’s Christian majority saying they became the targets of banditry. Now vigilante Christian groups have joined the fight, targeting Muslims.
France, the former colonial power, has deployed 1,600 personnel to the country to support African Union troops, after a vote last week in the U.N. Security Council authorizing military intervention.
By Mick Krever, CNN
Nelson Mandela’s death has forced South Africa to reflect once again on its ugly past, and what it took to move beyond it.
A key part of that process, after the fall of apartheid, was the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which held hearings for more than two years on the horrors of the policy.
It was “a pressure valve, a safety valve, at a moment in our country where you couldn't turn away,” Paul van Zyl, a human rights lawyer who was executive secretary of the Commission, told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday.
“You couldn't sweep the past under a carpet; you had to give people a chance to tell their stories.”
But those hearings, he said, were not – and could not have been – like the Nuremberg trials after World War II that convicted individual Nazis of the most heinous crimes.
“We didn't have the vanquishments of the Germans after World War II,” he said. “We had a negotiated settlement.”
In Johannesburg’s massive soccer stadium, outside Mandela’s home, and across South Africa, people are coming together to mourn and celebrate the life of Nelson Mandela.
Khehla Shebane, former CEO of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, joins Christiane Amanpour to talk about the mood, and Mandela’s legacy.
Click above to see their conversation.
By Mick Krever, CNN
When Idris Elba was cast as Nelson Mandela, he decided he was not going to try to do an impersonation of the revered South African president.
“It’s a big ask for the audience to watch myself play Mandela,” Elba told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday. “I don’t look anything like Mandela; I’m considerably younger than the older Mandela.”
“So it was important that I didn’t do an impersonation of any actor, or Mandela himself, but sort of an interpretation.”
He purposefully did not watch previous portrayals of Mandela, like Morgan Freeman’s performance in 2009’s “Invictus,” lest he be influenced by them.
Elba, most famous for his roles in the TV series “The Wire” and “Luther,” stars in “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom,” a biopic based on the autobiography.
It has set box office records in South Africa; it had its premiere in London last week on the very night Mandela died.
Indeed, Elba and a producer on the film, Anant Singh, were forced to announce Mandela’s passing to the audience just after the credits had rolled.
By Mick Krever, CNN
When former South African rugby captain Francois Pienaar was getting ready to attend Nelson Mandela’s memorial on Tuesday, his sons – godchildren to Mandela – told him there was only one thing he could wear: His team jacket.
“They said, ‘Dad, you’ve got to wear this,’” Pienaar told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour and Anderson Cooper. “Because if it wasn’t for Mister Mandela this emblem” – he pointed to the crest over his breast – “would not have survived.”
In 1995, Pienaar was the white captain of the Springboks, the national rugby team whose base of support had always been white South Africans.
Mandela publicly put his weight behind the team in their World Cup run. They would win that year, and when they did, Mandela – the black president – strode into the stadium full of white supporters wearing Pienaar’s #6 jersey.
The story was the subject of the 2009 movie “Invictus,” starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon.
“In the years of apartheid rugby was a hated sport,” Pienaar said. “Mr. Mandela, when he came out of prison, against the wishes of the ANC, actually said to them, ‘These are our boys. You know, they are playing for us. We have to embrace them.’”