rfi 2024-02-05 04:19:20



Art

What is tomorrow made of? Artists probe consumerist society and planetary crisis

Nobody can predict what tomorrow will look like, but one thing is certain: if humanity doesn’t rethink its relationship with the environment, there will be no future. Two dozen artists were invited to participate in a collective exhibition in Paris under the title “Tomorrow is Cancelled – Art and Views on Moderation”. They explored the concept of less is more.

From the cost of living to inflation, and from war to global warming, the word “catastrophe” seems to be on every news channel.

Therefore, the idea of organising an art exhibition around the notion of austerity in the face of a declining planet probably doesn’t sound very enchanting.

But this was precisely the challenge for the team of curators behind the exhibition “Tomorrow is Cancelled – Art and Views on Moderation” at the EDF Group Foundation in Paris, on display until 29 September.

“It’s difficult to do an exhibition on sobriety. At the beginning we said to ourselves ‘everyone is going to come out of this exhibition and commit suicide, it’s going to be horrible’,” says Nathalie Bazoche, head of cultural development at the foundation, a branch of France’s national energy company Electricité de France.

Sobriety, or sobriété in French, can mean either solemn, or sober (from not drinking alcohol) in English, but for the sake of the exhibition, it has been translated as moderation.

At first, the crossed-out title sends out a negative message, it suggests that something is wrong. The viewer is intrigued to know why tomorrow might be cancelled, and who cancelled it.

The lines behind the text come from a graphic triptych designed by French artist Rero, who borrowed the “warming stripes” invented by climatologist Edward Hawkins to demonstrate the differences in the earth’s temperature over time.

The coloured vertical lines in blues and reds represent the flucuation of temperature recorded over the decades.

Alongside Rero, 22 other contemporary artists, mostly from France, were asked to take the climate crisis into account and interpret the concept of “moderation”.

Can less be more?

What would happen if humanity chose to scale back rampant consumerism and make serious lifestyle changes?

Can we be happy with less? Can less be more? Can technical innovation serve social, political and ecological progress?

The result is an eclectic, surprising selection of works in different mediums ranging from photography, sculpture, video, architecture and painting, divided up into five spaces.

In the space dedicated to “uncertainty”, there is a huge sculpture made of plastic bottle caps, fishing nets and toothpaste tubes by Zimbabwean artist Moffat Takadiwa – a message to Western society about colonialism, represented by plastic waste.

In the section on “spirituality”, Rita Alaoui’s video performance shows the process of making ancestral remedies from medicinal plants like her Moroccan grandmother did.

“The idea was precisely not to stay on the purely material side of things,” French philosopher and writer Dominique Bourg told RFI.

He was invited to be co-curator to put together the exhibition alongside Bazoche and Patrice Chazottes.

Bourg points out that even though we tend to think of reducing consumerism in terms of physical actions (lowering temperature, turning off lights) and reducing waste (buying less clothes, recycling) there is also an important intangible part of the process.

This, he says, is about questioning one’s values and finding a form of spirituality, in harmony with the environment.

Painful rebirth

Compared to the 16th century when explorers were mapping the globe and scientific experimentation was taking off, “the world has shrunk, it is becoming more difficult to live in, we are confronted by the limits of the earth”, he says.

“The earth is giving birth to a new way of being. The birth will be a little painful,” he says.

Nathalie Bazoche remains optimistic. “Young people are super inventive, they will come up with lots of great ideas for us,” she says.

Tomorrow is Cancelled – Art and views on moderation is on at the Fondation EDF in Paris until 29 September, 2024.


West Africa

France calls for postponed Senegal vote to be held ‘as soon as possible’

Senegal should end “uncertainty” created by President Macky Sall’s announcement that an election scheduled for February 25 would be postponed indefinitely, France said Sunday, calling for a vote “as soon as possible”.

“We call on authorities to end the uncertainty about the electoral calendar so the vote can be held as soon as possible, under the rules of Senegalese democracy,” Paris’ foreign ministry said in a statement as Senegal’s political crisis deepens.



The intervention from Paris, the former colonial power in Senegal, came as opposition presidential candidates called for a Sunday afternoon demonstration in Dakar.

They said they would launch their campaigns in defiance of the official postponement.

Rare example of democratic stability

Senegal has traditionally been seen as a rare example of democratic stability in West Africa, which has been hit by a series of coups in recent years including in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso.

Washington and West African bloc Ecowas both expressed concern and called for a swift new vote following Sall’s Saturday announcement.

The president said a conflict between the Constitutional Council and parliament over approvals of presidential candidacies had led to the suspension of the vote.

Opponents suspect that the president’s camp fear the defeat of his anointed successor, Prime Minister Amadou Ba.

Senegal cannot “indulge in a fresh crisis” after deadly political violence in March 2021 and June 2023, Sall said Saturday as he announced a “national dialogue” to organise “a free, transparent and inclusive election”.



The country’s electoral code states that at least 80 days must pass between the announcement of a new presidential vote and polling day — theoretically putting the soonest possible new date in late April at the earliest.

Sall’s presidential term is supposed to end on April 2.

  • Senegal president calls off February 25 election

(With newswires)


Climate change

Parisians called to vote on SUV parking surcharge

Parisians will be asked to vote Sunday on whether to triple the cost of parking Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) in the French capital, a move denounced as manipulative by motorist groups.

Polls opened at 9:00 am and will close at 7:00 pm in 38 voting stations for 1.3 million voters to answer: “For or against creating a special tariff for parking passenger cars that are heavy, bulky and polluting.”

Under the plan, internal combustion or hybrid vehicles weighing over 1.6 tonnes and two tonnes for EVs, would be charged €18 an hour to park in the city centre, and 12 euros in the outer districts.

Parisians with resident parking permits, taxis, tradespeople, health workers and the disabled would be exempt from the charge.



Paris has already pedestrianised roads along the River Seine, banned private cars from the central Rue de Rivoli, built bike lanes across the city, and closed off several local streets.

Justifying the latest proposed measure, Paris’s socialist mayor Anne Hidalgo said in December: “The bigger they are, the more they pollute.”

Hidalgo also argued that SUVs monopolise space: city officials said the size of the average car had grown by 250 kilogrammes since 1990.

‘Pushing too hard’

Drivers’ groups have attacked the scheme. SUV is “a marketing term” that “means nothing”, said Yves Carra of Mobilite Club France.

And while compact SUVs would not be covered by the measures, they would hit family-sized coupes and estate cars, he argued.

Conservative opposition figures on the Paris council say this imprecise targeting of the referendum “shows the extent of the manipulation by the city government”.

“A new, modern SUV does not pollute more, or can even pollute less, than a small diesel vehicle built before 2011”, said drivers’ group 40 millions d’automobilistes (40 million motorists).

“All you want is to annoy motorists in their daily lives,” a senior member of the group, Pierre Chasseray, said on news channel BFM TV, denouncing Hidalgo’s plan.

“You’re pushing too hard, something’s going to give, something’s going to break,” he added.

Hidalgo has made a credo out of turning Paris into an environmentally friendly city as it prepares to host the 2024 Olympics this summer.

Her office claims the measures would affect about 10 percent of cars parked in Paris, and bring in an extra €35 million a year.

The last city referendum in Paris, on banning hop-on, hop-off rental scooters from the capital’s streets, passed in an April 2023 vote — but only drew a turnout of seven percent.

Hidalgo will be hoping for a higher turnout Sunday.

  • Paris votes to become first EU capital to ban rental e-scooters

(With newswires)


Southern Africa

Namibian President Hage Geingob dies in a hospital age 82

Hage Geingob, President of Namibia, one of Africa’s most stable democracies, died Sunday while receiving medical treatment at a local hospital, his office announced.

 

The Namibian presidency said Geingob’s medical team at Lady Pohamba Hospital did its best to help him, but he died with his wife, Monica Geingos, and children by his side, in a post on X, formerly Twitter,

Angolo Mbumba, Namibia’s acting president, called for calm, saying in the same post that the “Cabinet will convene with immediate effect in order to make the necessary state arrangements in this regard.”

Local media reported Mbumba has called for an urgent cabinet meeting.

Geingob was undergoing treatment for cancer. The 82-year-old had a colonoscopy and a gastroscopy on Jan. 8, followed by a biopsy, his office said last month.

He returned home on Jan. 31 from the United States where he had undergone a trial two-day “novel treatment for cancerous cells,” according to his office. In 2014, he said he had survived prostate cancer.



Geingob, president of the southern African nation since 2015, was set to finish his second and final term in office this year. He was the country’s third president since it gained independence in 1990, following more than a century of German and then apartheid South African rule.

After spending nearly three decades in exile in neighboring Botswana and the U.S. as an anti-apartheid activist, Geingob returned to Namibia as its first prime minister from 1990 to 2002. He also served in the same capacity from 2008 to 2012.

Soft-spoken but firm on advancing Africa’s agenda as an important stakeholder in world affairs, Geingob maintained close relations with the U.S. and other Western countries.

But, like many African leaders, he also forged a warm relationship with China, refuting claims that Beijing is aggressively asserting economic influence over countries in Africa as a form of colonialism.

Namibia, which is on the southwestern coast of Africa, enjoys political and economic stability in a region ravaged by disputes, violent elections and coups. However, the country’s opposition slammed Geingob last year for endorsing disputed elections in Zimbabwe.

“Resilience”

Condolences from various African leaders poured in on Sunday.

Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnanawa posted on X, saying Geingob’s “leadership and resilience will be remembered.”

Cyril Ramaphosa, president of neighboring South Africa and one of Namibia’s largest trading partners, described him as a “ close partner in our democratic dispensation” and “a towering veteran of Namibia’s liberation from colonialism and apartheid.”

Kenya’s Prime Minister William Ruto said Geingob was a “distinguished leader who served the people of Namibia with focus and dedication” and “strongly promoted the continent’s voice and visibility at the global arena.”

President Julius Maada Bio of Sierra Leone said that “The passing of President Geingob is not only a loss for #Namibia but also a great loss for the entire African continent. President Geingob was a visionary leader, an apostle of good governance and Pan-Africanism, who dedicated his life to the service of his country and the advancement of the African people.”



Namibia, a country of just over 2.5 million people, is rich in minerals such as diamonds, gold and uranium. Despite being classified as an upper-middle-income country, socioeconomic inequalities are still widespread, according to the World Bank.

Namibians were expected to head to the ballots in November to choose a new leader.

(With newswires)


KENYA

Using human waste to power green energy in Kenya’s Kibera slum

Sanitation woes are helping to fuel green energy in Kenya’s largest slum, where human excrement is being transformed into an asset.

Kenya’s growing urban population has made it difficult for the government to tackle sanitation, with an urgent need for innovative solutions.

In Kibera slum, seven kilometres from Nairobi, human waste is being turned into biogas thanks to initiatives supported by the community, the Health Ministry and others.

Tree Hill School is one of nine bio centres – sanitary blocks that use a biodigester system to treat waste and produce biogas – that has been opened.

It has backing from the Umande Trust civil society group and other partners including the French Development Agency.

Benazir Douglas, of the Umande Trust, said her team looked for ways the community could make money from efforts to make their surroundings healthier and safer. Using readily available items, such as fecal matter, made sense. 

“They not only collect money from the sale of biogas but also through a small fee from members of the public who use these toilets,” she said.

  • Tax hikes meant to save Kenyan economy are ‘sending businesses broke’

Teachers, locals on board 

Tree Hill teacher Rose Muthoni said enrolment had increased since the bio centre’s opening had spurred a food program and improved sanitation conditions. However parents were reluctant at first.

The school previously had only two toilets. 

“Maintaining hygiene was a challenge. Parents were scared to take their children to this school; it was not clean enough. Now they can get food cooked from their waste and access very clean toilets,’’ Muthoni said.

A neighbouring grocer, James Kariithi, said he often visited the bio centre.

“With only five shillings I can use a clean toilet. I can also get a cup of hot tea. Isn’t that strange and amazing?” Kariithi told RFI.

Community opposition 

The centre serves around 100 community meals per day on top of 150 meals prepared for pupils. 

Junior Masinde, an attendant at the bio centre, was once against using it for cooking, thinking it would make the food smell. 

“I am still surprised they use this [biogas] for preparing meals. It took me time to start eating anything cooked here,’’ they told RFI.

Umande Trust often carries out awareness campaigns to educate the community on biogas.

  • In Kenya’s biggest slum, HIV patients skip meds because of hunger

Results of poor sanitation

Kenya has been grappling with untreated human waste released into the environment through so-called “flying toilets” – faeces put into discarded plastic bags – and open defecation.

The UN estimates that poor sanitation costs an annual global GDP loss of $235 billion euros. Environment experts argue for a collective approach to sanitation challenges to acheive the Sustainable Development Goal of clean water and sanitation for all by 2030. 

Yet, access to clean water to run bio centres remains a challenge. Some centres are forced to buy water for cleaning the facilities from vendors, an overhead that effects their profits.

Nairobi public health officer Joe Okello told RFI there is more that to be done to acheive clean water and sanitation.

“Innovative approaches and community involvement is the best approach Kenya can employ,” he said. 


Africa Cup of Nations 2023

Partisans party as 10-man Cote d’Ivoire defy Mali to reach Cup of Nations semis

Spaces for all tastes were operating at the Hotel Tiama on Saturday afternoon for the quarter-final between Cote d’Ivoire and Mali.

Inside, the Piano Bar L’Equateur offered a big screen, comfy chairs and, in the restrictive humidity of an Abidjan afternoon, air-conditioning.

Hardier souls could brave the elements in the poolside Aqua Bar and a smaller screen while those in search of a party vibe lounged in the Bamboo Terrace – which appropriately offered the Stade Félix Hophouet-Boigny as an appropriate backdrop as well as a giant screen.

All were gathered in the Plateau business district of the city in hope of progress for the national football team to the last four of the delayed 2023 Africa Cup of Nations.

The quest to reach the semi-finals for the first time since Cote d’Ivoire’s run to the title in 2015 started badly for the partisans.

Odilon Kossounou was booked after 16 minutes for felling Lassine Sinayoko in the penalty area. 

Adama Traoré placed the ball on the penalty spot as eyes squinted in dread. They widened in jubilation after the Ivorian goalkeeper Yahia Fofana dived to his left to save the shot.

But Kossounou failed to rein in his indiscipline and his afternoon ended just before half-time when he was given a second yellow card for another hack on Sinayoko and dismissed.

Belief

Down to 10 men, the hosts were down a goal 20 minutes from time when Nene Dorgeles sent a sumptuous shot past Fofana.

The mood inside and outside was anxious as time trickled away.

Cote d’Ivoire coach Emerse Faé – drafted into the job following the departure of Jean-Louis Gasset on 24 January – brought on Simon Adingra for Jean Michael Seri in the 86th minute.

“That’s not a good move,” said the sage ominously as he stood watching intently from behind an electric fan. “Seri Is a worker and other two midfielders [Seko Fofana and Frank Kessie] are just big.”

The corrected Cassandra smiled wryly a few minutes later after Adringra prodded home the equalizer to spark dancing in the Bamboo Terrace.

Salvation

Oumar Diakhite’s winner in second-half stoppage-time of extra-time  unleashed unallolyed joy in all the hotel bars and throughout the land. Malian players at the Stade de la Paix in Bouaké lay distraught on the turf, the coach Eric Chelle stood hollow faced.

“We’re going to win the cup,” said a jubilant Aidhera Komon. “I didn’t think we started playing until we went down to 10 men. When we equalized that’s when I thought we would win.”

Cote d’Ivoire will face Democratic Republic of Congo on 7 February at the Stade Alassane Outtara in Abidjan for a place in the final four days later.

“It’s incredible,” said Serge Koffi as he savoured the victory while the lithe and lissom gyrated in front of weapons-grade speakers.

“I’m proud of the team,” added the 40-year-old who works for an educational trust in Abdijan.

“We scored in the last minutes against Senegal in the last-16 and we scored again late in the quarter-final. We must win the cup we are blessed.”

The DRC and then either Nigeria or South Africa will have a say in that prophecy. But Koffi was in the full fervour of the faithful.

“Even when we went down to 10 men, I still believed,” he beamed. “I trust my people. We are fighters. We are winners.”


Africa Cup of Nations 2023

2023 Africa Cup of Nations: 5 things we learned on Day 22 – charmed life

Cote d’Ivoire soldiered into the semis just before the onset of penalties along with South Africa who had to go through the ordeal.

Mali malaise

Pity poor Mali. Adama Traoré misses a first-half penalty and leading 1-0, they let 10-man Cote d’Ivoire score in second-half stoppage to equalise and then contrive to let the 10 men score a winner in second-half stoppage-time of extra-time. That is going to hurt. 

Mad celebrations 

Second-half substitue Oumar Diakité will look back on how he helped and hindered Cote d’Ivoire. After scoring the winner against Mali in the dying seconds of the quarter-final, the 20-year-old ripped off his shirt as he celebrated with a grateful nation. Problem is that bearing one’s rippling musculature is a bookable offence – probably envy driven – and as he had already been sanctioned, he was dismissed. He will miss the semi-final against Democratic Republic of Congo. Might have been cool to score in the semis as well.

Cape scuff

South Africa’s long wait for a place in the semis is over. Bafana Bafana – as they are nicknamed – haven’t been in the last four since 2000. They needed a penalty shoot-out to see off Cape Verde in Yamoussoukro. Goalkeeper Ronwen Williams was the super hero. He saved the first three Cape Verde kicks as his teammates Zakhele Lepasa and Aubrey Modiba tried their level best to undo his efforts by botching their shots. Cape Verde levelled at 1-1 with their fourth kick before Mothobi Mvala thrashed home to give South Africa a 2-1 advantage. Williams, clearly intent on stopping the nonsense, saved the fifth penalty from Patrick Andrade to spark the celebrations and save his teammates’ nerves.

Nice one

Cape Verde coach Bubista was munificent in defeat. “In my opinion, we had several chances to win this match,” said the 54-year-old former Cape Verde international. “We have a good team and we also faced a good competitor. We had a good journey and our people will be happy with what we presented in the competition.” Too right. Quarter-finalists for the second time in four Cup of Nations appearances is not bad going. He is right to be proud of his players. “They showed their character,” Bubista added.

Belief

What a shame to hear from South Africa boss Hugo Broos that there are sceptics aplenty back home. “Not many people in South Africa believed in this team,” said the 71-year-old Belgian after steering the side to the last four. “But we believed in it, and the players believed in themselves as well.” Very few people will believe it if South Africa get past Nigeria and into the final. But no one seriously thought they would turn over Morocco – Africa’s top ranked side.


West Africa

Senegal president calls off February 25 election

Senegalese President Macky Sall on Saturday announced the indefinite postponement of the presidential election scheduled for February 25, just hours before official campaigning was due to start.

In an address to the nation, Sall said he signed a decree abolishing a previous measure that set the date as lawmakers investigate two Constitutional Council judges whose integrity in the election process has been questioned.



“I will begin an open national dialogue to bring together the conditions for a free, transparent and inclusive election,” Sall added without giving a new date.

It is the first time a Senegalese presidential election has been postponed.

A November 2023 decree signed by Sall fixed the election for February 25, with 20 candidates in the running but without two major opposition figures.

Sall had repeatedly said he would hand over power in early April to the winner of the vote.

After announcing he would not run for a third term as president, Sall designated Prime Minister Amadou Ba from his party as his would-be successor.

The Constitutional Council has excluded dozens of candidates from the vote, including firebrand anti-system figurehead Ousmane Sonko and Karim Wade, son of former president Abdoulaye Wade.

(With newswires)

International report

Sweden deal unlikely to resolve bitter dispute between NATO and Turkey

Issued on:

Ankara’s ratification of Sweden’s NATO membership after a 10-month delay has spurred hopes of a reset in relations between Turkey and the alliance, but tensions still run deep.

French President Emmanuel Macron’s recent state visit to Sweden focused heavily on defence amid Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine.

While its NATO membership was seen as critical amid persisting concerns over border security, Turkey refused to ratify Sweden’s entry until a long list of demands from its partners were met.

Sweden’s accession saw a lifting of restrictions by NATO countries on military hardware sales to Turkey, says Aydin Selcen, a former senior Turkish diplomat who is now a regional analyst for Mediyacope, a Turkish news portal.

“F-16s are being bought [from the US]. This will keep the Turkish air force up in the air for some time… Deals like this one will keep the relationship afloat,” he told RFI.

F-16 deal

For years, US President Joe Biden blocked the sale of American F-16 fighter jets amid concerns over rising tensions between Turkey and its neighbours over territorial disputes.

With Ankara ratifying NATO’s expansion, the White House has authorised the sale, and Congress is expected to ratify the deal. However it may not be the diplomatic victory Ankara claims.

“The last I heard was the State Department was drawing up a letter demanding the transfer of F-16s as a kind of a certification program,” says Turkey specialist Sinan Ciddi, of the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

“They could halt transfers if the Turks , for example, continue to antagonise Greek airspace or overflights.”

Erdogan’s advantage?

Erdogan may retain an advantage, though. Hungary has yet to ratify Sweden’s membership and Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Oban is a close ally of the Turkish leader.

Last week, acting US Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland held two days of talks in Ankara. The talks were focused on enabling better cooperation between the US and Turkey.

Analyst Selcen says Turkey’s is still as strategically important to NATO as it was when it joined in 1952 at the height of the Cold War.

“The same geopolitical reasons to keep Turkey as a strong military ally remain valid,” said Selcen. “On the one hand against the north, Russia, and on the other Iran and other terrorist threats.”

The war against the Islamic State jihadists remains a point of tension because of Washington’s support for Syrian Kurdish fighters.

These include the YPG, which is affiliated with the PKK, and which has been fighting Turkey for decades and is designated by both the European Union and the US as a terrorist group.

“The US relationship with YPG poisons almost all the potential collaborations,” political scientist Bilgehan Alagoz of Istanbul’s Marmara University says.

So first [the] United States should check its policy towards the YPG, and then Turkey and the United States can start talking about other issues.”

Erdogan, Alagoz adds, is holding NATO hostage to extract concessions over Sweden’s membership.

Along with his close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin and his refusal to impose sanctions against Moscow, this is raising questions over Ankara’s loyalties.

With the threat posed by Russia expected to grow, and the danger of contagion from the Israel-Hamas conflict, resolving the trust deficit between Turkey and its NATO partners has never been more important.

  • French president urges Turkey to support Sweden’s bid to join NATO

Paris

Paris police says man who attacked three people with knife may suffer mental health issues

A man armed with a knife and a hammer injured three people Saturday in an early-morning attack at the major Gare de Lyon train station in Paris, another nerve-rattling security incident in the Olympic host city before the Summer Games open in six months.

 

The Paris prosecutor’s office said a security guard tackled the attacker who was taken into police custody following the attack at 7:35 a.m.

One of the injured was in a serious condition and the other two were more lightly hurt, police said.

The Paris police chief, Laurent Nunez, said the suspect attacked passersby with a hammer and a knife. The seriously injured person was undergoing surgery, he said.

Not ‘terror-related’

He said the attack did not appear to be terror-related and that the suspect seemed to suffer from mental health issues. The suspect was carrying residency papers delivered in Italy, he said.



 

Investigators are analyzing the knife and hammer, the prosecutor’s office said. The police investigation was looking at a potential preliminary charge of attempted murder.

Posting on social media, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin described the attack as an “unbearable act” and thanked those who detained the assailant.

Security in Paris is being ramped up as it prepares to welcome 10,500 Olympians and millions of visitors for the first Olympic Games in a century in the French capital.

The Games are to open with a massive open-air ceremony along the River Seine on July 26, a major security challenge in the city that has been repeatedly hit by terror attacks, most notably in 2015.

Most recently, a man targeted passersby near the Eiffel Tower in December, killing a German tourist with a knife and injuring two others.

The Gare de Lyon is one of the busiest train stations in Paris. It is a hub both for high-speed trains that link the capital to other cities and for commuter trains that serve the suburbs and towns in the Paris region.

  • Paris knife attack suspect charged with terror offences

(WIth newswires)


Africa Cup of Nations 2023

Nigeria and DRC dispatch Angola and Guinea to reach semis at Cup of Nations

Nigeria and Democratic Republic of Congo moved into the semi-finals of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations on Friday night after victories over Angola and Guinea respectively.

Angola had been trying to advance to the semi-finals for the first time in the 66-year history of the Cup of Nations.

But their attempt was stifled by a Nigeria side that defended resolutely and ultimately ground them down.

“I would like to congratulate the Nigeria team,” said Angola coach Pedro Gonçalves magnanimously after his side’s defeat.

“They are very strong. The coach has put in place a solid system. They deserved their victory.”

Nigeria boss José Peseiro came under fire from pundits and commentators in Nigeria for his side’s performance in the opening game against Equatorial Guinea on 14 January which was drawn 1-1.

Plan

Though 1-0 wins over Cote d’Ivoire and Guinea Bissau followed to secure a place in the last-16, the complaints continued over the lack of goals.

But Peseiro vowed to maintain the defensive rigour that had brought the narrow victories.

They saw off Cameroon in the last-16 with a brace from Ademola Lookman and the 26-year-old was on the scoresheet at the Stade Félix Houphouët-Boigny just before half-time.

Moses Simon chased a clearance, skipped over the challenge of Kialonda Gaspar and raced down the left wing.

The Nantes striker veered into the Angola penalty area and set up Lookman who swept confidently past the Angola goalkeeper Signori Antonio for his third goal of the tournament.

Nigeria also enjoyed some luck when second half-subsitute Zini broke clear and sent a shot that beat the goalkeeper Stanley Nwabali but hit the post and rolled away.

Nigeria thought they had a second when Victor Osimhen headed home but the Napoli forward was ruled offside.

“The formation helps us,” said Nigeria skipper William Ekong. “The whole team is pulling its weight defensively. We’re working very hard to try and keep them away from our goal. And if you’re playing in a tournament, that has to be the basis of winning.”

Nigeria last graced the last four in 2019 when they fell to Djamel Belmadi’s imperious Algeria side. They will play the winner of Saturday’s quarter-final between South Africa and Cape Verde.

Progress

Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) came from behind to overwhelm Guinea 3-1 at the Alassane Ouattara Stadium in Abidjan.

DRC captain Chancel Mbemba upended Mohamed Bayo in the penalty area in the 17th minute and the striker – who scored the winner in the last-16 against Equatorial Guinea – picked himself up to lash the spot kick past the DRC goalkeeper Lionel Mpasi.

But Mbemba atoned for his misdemeanour less than 10 minutes later when he showed a striker’s aplomb to fire the ball past the Guinea goalkeeper Ibrahim Kone from a tight angle.

Yoane Wissa doubled the advantage mid way through the second-half and Arthur Masuakut’s spectacular free-kick added the gloss in the 82nd minute to take the DRC into the semi finals for the first time since 2015.

DRC will play Cote d’Ivoire after their 2-1 victory over Mali.


Kenya

Kenyan president slams ‘incompetence’, ‘corruption’ after deadly blast

Kenyan President William Ruto on Saturday blamed incompetent and corrupt government officials for a deadly gas blast in Nairobi that killed three people and injured 280.

“Government officials issued licences for gas installations in residential areas when it was very clear that it was the wrong thing to do, but because of incompetence and corruption they issued licenses,” he said.

Ruto said they should be sacked and “prosecuted for the crimes they have committed.”

The National Environment Authority (NEMA) echoed Ruto.

“Preliminary investigations have revealed that four NEMA officers unprocedurally processed the licence and are therefore, culpable,” NEMA Board Chairman Emilio Mugo said in a statement Saturday.



“The board therefore, directs that the implicated officers step aside immediately pending further investigation by the relevant government agencies,” he said.

A truck laden with gas canisters exploded just before midnight Thursday in Embakasi, a densely populated Nairobi district, unleashing a trail of destruction and sending people running for their lives.

(With newswires)


INDIA – FRANCE

France’s Airbus aims to help helicopter travel take off in India

India’s Tata business group and France’s Airbus have signed a deal to make civilian helicopters, hoping to boost an overlooked sector of the vast Indian air travel market. It’s the latest in a line-up of promising aviation collaborations between the two countries. 

The two groups inked the deal during French President Emmanuel Macron’s recent trip to Delhi, with promises for a fully fledged assembly line in India by 2026. 

The project comes as part of Delhi’s long-running Make In India campaign. The drive is one of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s flagship programmes to reduce dependence on imports by boosting domestic manufacturing, in turn creating 100 million jobs.

In a statement, Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury said: “A ‘Made-in-India’ civil helicopter will not only be a symbol of the confident new India but will also unlock the true potential of the helicopter market in the country.” 

Dated aircraft

The French company – which has already delivered its H125 helicopter to more than 2,500 operators across 133 countries – says the project will “catalyse” the Indian market, currently served by dated machines.

With only about 300 civilian helicopters in use, India last year reduced airfares by 25 percent in a bid to make rotorcraft travel more affordable.

While the country is emerging as one of the world’s largest aviation markets​​, helicopter operations are still strictly policed. There are only 46 state-approved routes despite promises to liberalise flight policies. 

Experts say that the campaign to boost passenger flight has also struggled in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, Russia-Ukraine conflict and spreading hostilities between Hamas and Israel. 

As well as transporting travellers and goods, Airbus says its six-passenger helicopters will also be used in India for “emergency medical services, disaster management, law enforcement, tourism and aerial work missions”.

Widening ties

The move is the latest big-ticket project for Tata since June, when it took control of Air India and placed orders for 250 Airbus aircraft and 220 new Boeing planes worth 65 billion euros.

It marks the second time the French aviation giant has been hired to set up an India-based assembly line, following an earlier €2.46 billion deal with Tata to build Airbus C295 military transport aircraft for the Indian Air Force. 

French engine maker Safran has also said it is willing to transfer technology to build fighter jet engines in the country. 

  • India and France agree on joint defence production
  • France, India promise to boost military ties in post-G20 Macron, Modi meeting

France and India want to seek out opportunities for industrial partnerships that prioritise “co-designing, co-development and co-production of military hardware”, according to Indian Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra.

The resulting defence supply chains could also contribute to security collaborations with other countries, he added.

Space, satellite launches, clean energy research, healthcare and public administration are among the other areas of cooperation agreed with France, Kwatra said.

India and France have also decided to cooperate in the Indian Ocean, building on joint surveillance missions launched from the French island territory of Réunion in 2020 and 2022.

The Sound Kitchen

Belgium’s full plate

Issued on:

This week on The Sound Kitchen you’ll hear the answer to the question about Belgium and the EU presidency. There’s “On This Day”, “The Listener’s Corner”, Ollia Horton’s “Happy Moment”, and Erwan Rome’s “Music from Erwan”. All that and the new quiz question too, so click on the “Play” button above and enjoy! 

Hello everyone! Welcome to The Sound Kitchen weekly podcast, published every Saturday – here on our website, or wherever you get your podcasts. You’ll hear the winner’s names announced and the week’s quiz question, along with all the other ingredients you’ve grown accustomed to: your letters and essays, “On This Day”, quirky facts and news, interviews, and great music… so be sure and listen every week.

World Radio Day is just around the corner (13 February), and we’ll cook up a mighty fine banquet to celebrate. What’s the main course? Your greetings, of course! So get under your blanket with your phone – believe me, the blanket will make your recording broadcast quality – and record your World Radio Day greetings for us. Please, not too long, though. You must get it to us by 5 February. Send your recorded WRD greetings to thesoundkitchen@rfi.fr

Erwan and I are busy cooking up special shows with your music requests, so get them in! Send your music requests to thesoundkitchen@rfi.fr  Tell us why you like the piece of music, too – it makes it more interesting for us all!

Would you like to learn French? RFI is here to help you!

Our website “Le Français facile avec RFI”  has news broadcasts in slow, simple French, as well as bi-lingual radio dramas (with real actors!) and exercises to practice what you have heard.

Go to our website and get started! At the top of the page, click on “Test level”. According to your score, you’ll be counseled to the best-suited activities for your level.

Do not give up! As Lidwien van Dixhoorn, the head of “Le Français facile” service told me: “Bathe your ears in the sound of the language, and eventually, you’ll get it”. She should know – Lidwien is Dutch and came to France hardly able to say “bonjour” and now she heads this key RFI department – so stick with it!

Be sure you check out our wonderful podcasts!

In addition to the breaking news articles on our site, with in-depth analysis of current affairs in France and across the globe, we have several podcasts that will leave you hungry for more.

There’s Paris Perspective, Spotlight on France, and of course, The Sound Kitchen. We have an award-winning bilingual series – an old-time radio show, with actors (!) to help you learn French, called Les voisins du 12 bis. And there is the excellent International Report, too.

As you see, sound is still quite present in the RFI English service. Keep checking our website for updates on the latest from our team of journalists. You never know what we’ll surprise you with!

To listen to our podcasts from your PC, go to our website; you’ll see “Podcasts” at the top of the page. You can either listen directly or subscribe and receive them directly on your mobile phone.

To listen to our podcasts from your mobile phone, slide through the tabs just under the lead article (the first tab is “Headline News”) until you see “Podcasts”, and choose your show. 

Teachers, take note! I save postcards and stamps from all over the world to send to you for your students. If you would like stamps and postcards for your students, just write and let me know. The address is english.service@rfi.fr  If you would like to donate stamps and postcards, feel free! Our address is listed below. 

Another idea for your students: Br. Gerald Muller, my beloved music teacher from St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas, has been writing books for young adults in his retirement – and they are free! There is a volume of biographies of painters and musicians called Gentle Giants, and an excellent biography of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., too. They are also a good way to help you improve your English – that’s how I worked on my French, reading books which were meant for young readers – and I guarantee you, it’s a good method for improving your language skills. To get Br. Gerald’s free books, click here. 

Independent RFI English Clubs: Be sure to always include Audrey Iattoni (audrey.iattoni@rfi.fr) from our Listener Relations department in all your RFI Club correspondence. Remember to copy me (thesoundkitchen@rfi.fr) when you write to her so that I know what is going on, too. NB: You do not need to send her your quiz answers! Email overload!

And don’t forget, there is a Facebook page just for you, the independent RFI English Clubs. Only members of RFI English Clubs can belong to this group page, so when you apply to join, be sure you include the name of your RFI Club and your membership number. Everyone can look at it, but only members of the group can post on it. If you haven’t yet asked to join the group, and you are a member of an independent, officially recognised RFI English club, go to the Facebook link above, and fill out the questionnaire!!!!! If you do not answer the questions, I click “Decline”.

There’s a Facebook page for members of the general RFI Listeners Club, too. Just click on the link and fill out the questionnaire, and you can connect with your fellow Club members around the world. Be sure you include your RFI Listeners Club membership number (most of them begin with an A, followed by a number) in the questionnaire, or I will have to click “Decline”, which I don’t like to do!

We have new RFI Listeners Club members to welcome: Sami Malik from Northern Pakistan; Habib Ur Rehman Sehal, the president of the International Radio Fan and Youth Club in Khanewal, Pakistan; Pradip Chandra Kundu and Ratan Kumar Paul, both from West Bengal, India, and Mahfuzur Rahman from Cumilla, Bangladesh.  

Welcome one and all! So glad you have joined us!

This week’s quiz: On 6 January I asked you a question about Belgium, whose turn it is to hold the presidency of the European Union – each member state of the European Union holds the presidency for six months. You were to re-read our article “Belgium faces election juggling act as it takes over rotating EU presidency” because Belgium is tasked with organizing not only the European elections on 9 June but also their internal national elections, and no luck there, those elections are also on 9 June. All that and something else, quite important, falls during the time of Belgium’s presidency, and that was your question: what else is the Belgian presidency tasked with accomplishing during its six-month term? What is one of the biggest issues it also has to deal with?  

The answer is, to quote our article: “One of the big issues it will still have to deal with is the revision of what is known as the ‘multiannual financial framework’, i.e., the European budget for the coming years, and also ensuring that aid to Ukraine does not wane.”

In addition to the quiz question, there was the bonus question: “If you could resign from anything, what would it be?”

Do you have a bonus question idea? Send it to us! 

The winners are: RFI Listeners Club member Richard Wasajja from Masaka, Uganda. Richard is also the winner of this week’s bonus question. Congratulations, Richard – and welcome back to The Sound Kitchen !

Also on the list of lucky winners this week is Mrs. Anjona Parvin, the secretary of the Shetu RFI Listeners Club in Naogaon, Bangladesh, and two RFI English Listeners Club members from India: Radhakrishna Pillai from Kerala State, and Samir Mukhopadhyay from Kolkata. Last but certainly not least, there’s RFI English listener Khondaker Shihab Uddin Khan from Bogura, Bangladesh.

Congratulations winners!

Here’s the music you heard on this week’s programme: The “Scherzo” from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, op. 61 by Félix Mendelssohn, performed by the Boston Symphony Orchestra conducted by Seiji Ozawa; “Quand on est bien amoureux”, a traditional folk song from Belgium performed by Wör; “The Flight of the Bumblebee” by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov; “The Cakewalk” from Children’s Corner by Claude Debussy, performed by the composer; “Happy” by Pharrell Williams, and “Minha Terra” sung by Ruy Mingas.

This week’s question … you must listen to the show to participate. After you’ve listened to the show, re-read our article “France seeks change to EU nature laws in bid to appease farmers” to help you with your answer.

You have until 26 February to enter this week’s quiz; the winners will be announced on the 3 March podcast. When you enter, be sure you send your postal address with your answer, and if you have one, your RFI Listeners Club membership number.

Send your answers to:

english.service@rfi.fr

or

Susan Owensby

RFI – The Sound Kitchen

80, rue Camille Desmoulins

92130 Issy-les-Moulineaux

France

or

By text … You can also send your quiz answers to The Sound Kitchen mobile phone. Dial your country’s international access code, or “ + ”, then  33 6 31 12 96 82. Don’t forget to include your mailing address in your text – and if you have one, your RFI Listeners Club membership number.

To find out how you can win a special Sound Kitchen prize, click here.

To find out how you can become a member of the RFI Listeners Club, or form your own official RFI Club, click here


FRANCE – PROTESTS

Protesting farmers in France start lifting roadblocks as standoff eases

Paris (AFP) – France’s agriculture minister said Friday that the worst of a crisis that saw farmers block roads nationwide for days was over, as protesters began lifting roadblocks following government promises of cash and eased regulation.

In some of the angriest protests that have spread across Europe, French farmers have been out in force for more than a week, using tractors to block key roads into Paris and other major highways nationwide.

The litany of farmers’ complaints is long, ranging from burdensome environmental rules to cheap imports of produce from outside the EU such as Ukraine, but focus on the difficulty of making ends meet in the modern world.

On Thursday, two main farming unions announced the suspension of the action, urging the protesters to take their tractors off the streets, after Prime Minister Gabriel Attal promised cash, eased regulations and protection against unfair competition.

Agriculture Minister Marc Fesneau said Friday that the worst of the crisis was “pretty much behind us”.

“But the issues that we have to deal with and that have emerged in this crisis are still ahead of us,” he told CNews television.

Authorities said Thursday evening that many roadblocks across the country were being lifted or eased and farmers continued to move tractors off the streets on Friday, even though some blockades remained in place.

Tractors blocking the A1 motorway near Paris Charles de Gaulle airport were heading back, farmers said.

  • NGOs denounce France’s ‘pause’ on pesticide ban to placate farmers

‘Strong mobilisation’

“It was a historic, tough, strong mobilisation,” said Laurent Saint-Affre of the FDSEA union in the southern Aveyron department. But he added that a number of sticking points remained, warning authorities that farmers could take their tractors out on the streets again “in a few days”.

Speaking to RTL, Arnaud Gaillot, head of the Young Farmers (JA) union, pointed to a sense of “fatigue” after days of protests and a “desire to put things on hold”.

In Yvelines, west of Paris, the number of vehicles involved in a blockade had fallen from around twenty to seven tractors on Friday morning, police said.

The roadblocks on the A4 and A5 motorways in Seine-et-Marne east of the French capital have been lifted.

Around Lyon, all roadblocks were expected to be lifted by 2:00pm on Friday.

A police source told AFP however that some protesters wanted to stay put until Saturday, while several “isolated groups” sought to remain in place until France’s huge Salon de l’Agriculture trade fair that opens on February 24.

A roadblock was set up on Friday morning at a tollgate near the city of Saint-Quentin in northern France, according to one activist, Bruno Cardot, who called the action the farmers’ “last stand”.

  • French farmers unions call off protest after PM unveils raft of concessions

‘Fundamental question’

The FNSEA, France’s biggest rural union, wants to see the first government measures implemented by the start of the trade fair and a law passed by June, its head Arnaud Rousseau said on BFMTV.

Another major union, the Farmers’ confederation (la Confederation Paysanne), said it would remain mobilised because “the fundamental question of income” was “still not being tackled head-on by the government”.

The French protests have spread across the continent and thousands of farmers from Europe gathered in Brussels on Thursday, clogging the streets with 1,300 tractors.

Protests continued Thursday in Italy, with farmers driving a convoy of tractors through the Sicilian town of Ragusa and farmers also blocking the port in Cagliari, on the neighbouring island of Sardinia.

Dutch and Belgian farmers took part in a road blockade near the Arendonk road border crossing between Belgium and the Netherlands.

French President Emmanuel Macron said after talks in Brussels Thursday with European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen that France had managed to persuade the EU to “impose stricter rules” for cereal and poultry imports, including from war-torn Ukraine.

In a key announcement designed to break the deadlock, the government announced Thursday that France would pause its Ecophyto programme aimed at massively reducing the use of pesticides in farming.

Environmental groups slammed the move but government spokeswoman Prisca Thevenot sought to defend the decision on Friday, saying environmental policies should be based “on concrete realities”.


ENVIRONMENT – POLITICS

NGOs denounce France’s ‘pause’ on pesticide ban to placate farmers

Green groups in France have slammed the government’s move to suspend its Ecophyto programme cutting down on pesticides used in agriculture as a “major step backwards”. The measure was among several concessions made to farmers on Thursday as the government sought to calm more than a week of protests.

Farmers unions called for an end to blockades after they obtained significant concessions –  including an annual 150 million euros for livestock farmers and a ban on food imports treated with neonicotinoid, a pesticide already banned in France. 

The government agreed to suspend “Ecophyto 2030” – part of France’s plan to shift agricultural production towards the principles of agro-ecology. The plan aimed to halve the use of pesticides by 2030.

“We are going to put it on pause in order to rework a certain number of aspects and to simplify it,” Agriculture Minister Marc Fesneau said.

Ecophyto needed to be put on hold in order to find a new method of measuring the molecules in pesticides used by farmers, Prime Minister Gabriel Attal said.

Agricultural organisations – including France’s largest farming union, FNSEA – are strongly opposed to Ecophyto, which measures both the quantities and strength of pesticides used. 

Threat to ecological transition

However environmental groups warned the governments concessions were at odds with France’s strategy on decarbonisation, food and agricultural planning.

The suspension of Ecophyto is “a huge step backwards”, said Nadine Lauverjat, of the Générations Futures non-profit.

“We’ve made a lot of progress over the last 15 years. Of course the Ecophyto plan had not borne the fruit we hoped concerning the initial targets of halving pesticide use, but there was nonetheless a certain dynamic and desire to reduce our dependence on pesticides,” she said.

Générations Futures said the suspension of Ecophyto would not help to put more money in the pockets of farmers.

“It will enable agriculture from the last century to continue, keeping even more dangerous products on the market, and slowing down their withdrawal,” spokesperson François Veillerette said.

  • Study sounds alarm on toxic ‘forever chemicals’ used in EU pesticides

The Echophyto plan included a €41 million farmers fund distributed by the French office for biodiversity (OFB). 

“Calling this mechanism into question means no longer helping farmers in their ecological transition,” said Sandrine Bélier, head of the NGO Humanity and Biodiversity.

What’s at stake is both protecting biodiversity and the health of farmers’ health, she added, since farmers are “the main victims of the phytosanitary products they use”.

Against punitive ecology

Faced with criticism, government spokesperson Prisca Thevenot defended the decision, saying that different programmes to reduce farmers’ use of pesticides since 2009 had been “inefficient” given they offered farmers no other solution.

The pause, she said, was to make sure Ecophyto 2030 was understood to be in the interests of helping farmers and not punishing them.

“We have to move away from punitive ecology towards solutions-based ecology,” Thevenot said.

  • French PM placates farmers with plan for pesticide alternatives

France was investing massively in finding those solutions, she said, adding that despite big ambitions the country’s commitment to ecology had to be anchored in reality.

In June last year, five French groups filed a law suit against the state for negligence in regulating the use of pesticides.

A final ruling will be handed down by the Paris administrative court on 15 June.


FOOD SECURITY

Why reviving old crops is key to saving Africa’s degraded soils

Fertile soils are key to meeting the world’s exploding demand for food. With Africa set to become the most populous continent by the end of the century, repairing its eroded soils is ever urgent, says US Special Envoy for Food Security Cary Fowler.

RFI: A year ago, the US launched the Vision for Suitable Crops and Soils (Vacs) programme, which promotes a return to traditional crops. What is it about?

Cary Fowler: It aims to do work in the two most fundamental aspects of food security: crops and soils. If you want to have food security and you want to have it be sustainable, you have to ensure you’ve got good, fertile soils and you have crops that are adapted to climate change.

That’s not what we have today in Africa, which is the continent that’s most in need. It will also be the most highly populated continent by the end of the century. African soils are among the poorest in the world, highly degraded and eroded.

RFI: Why is that?

CF: It’s the result of a number of things such as poor soil structure and farming methods that don’t tend to keep the soil in place. If you have that kind of rate of soil erosion and degradation, you’re not building a sustainable, productive agricultural system for the long run.

Africa has many traditional and indigenous crops that are highly nutritious. That could be used to really improve the nutrition and the health of Africans.

  • Is urgent reform of world’s food system still a side dish at climate talks?

Today 40 percent of the world’s population cannot afford a healthy diet. In Africa that’s 80 percent. Yet you have marvellous indigenous crops that are very rich in qualities like iron. Fonio, a millet that’s grown in West Africa, has 10 times more iron than maize does, for example.

If we could increase the productivity of these crops, and integrate them more fully into the African diet, we could deal with issues like childhood stunting.

RFI: Fifty years ago, the World Bank and the IMF pushed African countries to cultivate monocrops for export. What changed?

CF: We’ve all realised, and certainly the African countries themselves have realised, that we need to promote more production of agricultural products – but in a way that’s more resilient. And resilience really doesn’t come from focusing on one crop to the exclusion of all the others.

We’re not saying that farmers should not be growing some of the staple crops that they’re growing today; we are saying that we should add to that food basket – particularly with legumes and essential vegetables and fruits – if we’re going to to combat the really horrific rates of childhood stunting.

They’ll be physically and mentally stunted for the rest of their lives and you can’t develop a society with that kind of handicap.

RFI: How will the Vacs programme work?

CF: A number of African scientists have been trained and work for national agricultural research programmes on these particular crops. We want to give them the kind of support to do the plant breeding necessary to increase production, decrease pest and disease problems.

RFI: You are talking about crossover. Do you mean genetically modified plants?

CF: Probably not, because most of the countries in Africa don’t allow that. It’s an expensive way of going about it. I think the approach that will mostly be used will be traditional plant breeding, as it has been over the centuries.

RFI: Does this mean that farmers will have to buy the seeds?

CF: There are going to be a number of different avenues for farmers to access these types of seeds. I think non-government organisations are going to be involved. In some of those cases, the seeds will be provided for free.

  • Cop27 climate summit charts small path for global food justice

Maybe the farmers will be asked to save a certain portion of their seeds, not just for replanting the next year, but for sharing back to the programme so they can be distributed to other farmers.

There might be some small and medium-sized seed enterprises that will sell the seeds.

One thing we want to do is improve the value chain work for this so that there’s a better market that allows these types of nutritious crops to go into school lunch feeding programmes, for example, and in the processing industries. If we build up that kind of market and market demand, that will encourage the farmers to grow them.

RFI: How will you convince these farmers to grow traditional plants, after decades of monoculture? 

CF: The interesting thing is the farmers never abandoned these crops in the first place, so they’ve been grown for 10,000 years there.

They must have been doing something right. Interestingly, most of these crops are tended by women, so they don’t show up a lot in the statistics because they’re home garden crops.

We just want to make them more productive so they can compete in the marketplace and get their rightful share in the diet.

  • Global climate change driving drought in Horn of Africa

RFI: It’s been a year since the program was launched. What sort of reactions have you had?

CF: The response is really good. The International Fund for Agricultural Development has set up a funding platform for this.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation has said they want to mainstream this approach. We’ve gotten funding through Japan, the Netherlands, UK, Norway.

So we’re here to talk to the French officials about that. And we need both political, financial and technical support. France has research institutions that are really world class and that could help in this regard.

You need political support. What do the African countries you have approached say?

The African Union itself has said that there’s been massive underinvestment in these crops. So there’s already a lot of overall political support.

I think many of the African countries realise that given their severe problems, particularly with childhood stunting and nutrition in general, something needs to change.

They have the foundation for that change right there in their countries, in these traditional crops. So there’s a lot of support for this type of initiative.


This interview has been lightly edited for clarity


FRANCE – NIGER

Airlines say they’re no longer taking French nationals to Niger

Paris (AFP) – French nationals will no longer be allowed to fly into Niger, airline sources said on Thursday, as the rift between Paris and Niamey deepens following last year’s military coup.

 

“According to the Nigerien authorities, any passenger of French nationality is no longer authorised to enter Nigerien territory,” said an internal Air Burkina note seen by AFP.

“As a consequence they will not be accepted aboard our flights” to the capital Niamey.

Royal Air Maroc has also decided to follow the new rule, except for “special authorisations”, said a source close to the Moroccan carrier.

Numerous other airlines who fly to Niamey including Ethiopian Airlines, Air Tunisie and Turkish Airlines did not respond immediately when contacted by AFP.

Nigerien authorities would not confirm to AFP that the French had been declared persona non grata in the impoverished Sahel nation.

Several French nationals have already been refused entry upon arrival at Niamey airport recently.

  • Ecowas’s future in jeopardy after Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso leave group

Failing relations

Relations between Paris and Niamey have gone from bad to worse since a military coup last July 26 ousted Niger’s elected president Mohamed Bazoum.

France shut its embassy in Niamey in December after ambassador Sylvain Itte was ordered to leave. The last French soldiers of 1,500 once deployed in Niger to fight jihadists withdrew on December 22.

On Monday, the European Union criticised Niger for refusing to allow entry to the head of its departing civilian crisis management mission in the country and demanded an explanation.

The Niamey authorities decided in December to order out the EU’s two security and defence missions in the country, including EUCAP Sahel Mali, which had been operating there since 2012.

After herding out French forces, the military regime has been casting about for new allies and have moved closer to Russia, which has stepped in militarily and politically.

  • Diplomatic dip for France as African nations seek out stronger partners

Insecurity woes

Niamey is battling two jihadist insurgencies – a spillover in its southeast from a long-running conflict in neighbouring Nigeria, and an offensive in the west by militants crossing from Mali and Burkina Faso.

The nation’s military leaders, wrestling with high food prices and a scarcity of medicines under regional sanctions, have said they want up to three years before a return to civilian rule.

Niger has joined the military regimes in Burkina Faso and Mali in announcing their withdrawal from the West African bloc Ecowas.

In mid-December, coup leader General Abdourahamane Tiani said the security situation was “progressively normalising” after the army’s “multiple successes” in quelling unrest.


Africa Cup of Nations 2023

Cote d’Ivoire face test of verve in Cup of Nations last eight clash with Mali

If hosts Cote d’Ivoire do lift the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations title on 11 February, a feature length movie will surely follow documenting the vicissitudes of a campaign swinging from elation to desolation and back along the glistening road to glory.

Before such an apotheosis, the no small matter of three matches starting with a quarter-final against Mali on Saturday afternoon in Bouaké.

Cote d’Ivoire will enter the clash at the Stade de la Paix as favourites – a tag contrasting with their status for their last-16 game against defending champions Senegal.

For that match on 29 January they were in a shambles. A week earlier the Ivorians suffered their worst home defeat when Equatorial Guinea thrashed them 4-0 in the final game of their pool.

The hosts and their hordes of fans were forced to wait 48 hours as the other groups played out to discover whether they could advance to the knockout stages of their own billion dollar party as one of the four best third-placed teams.

Morocco’s 1-0 win over Zambia in San Pedro on 24 January offered them the ticket and launched huge celebrations across the land even though Senegal awaited them as victors of Group C with steely-eyed wins in all of their pool games.

Fortune

But the charges of newly installed coach Emerse Faé’s profited from an unadventurous Senegal side to score a late penalty and then claim a penalty shoot-out after the match ended 1-1.

Faé has spent the time between the two ties calming expectations that a third Cup of Nations trphy – to add to the 1992 and 2015 titles – is a mere formality.

“We beat Senegal and eliminated them. Morale is good,” said the former Cote d’Ivoire midfielder who had worked as an assistant to head coach Jean Louis-Gasset before the 70-year-old Frenchman’s departure following the drubbing against Equatorial Guinea.

“But we must not stop here,” Faé added. “We must continue working, maintain this morale and keep playing match by match.”

Mali’s course to the quarter-final has been as prosaic as Cote d’Ivoire’s has been histrionic. 

A win and two draws gave them Group E. And they were solid against Burkina Faso in Korhogo to take them past the last-16 for the first time since the Cup of Nations was expanded from 16 to 24 teams in 2019.

“I am very happy for the players,” said Mali boss Eric Chelle who was born in Abidjan.

“They deserve what they have achieved because they are a group of hard workers,” added the 46-year-old.

Mali will be looking to reach the last four for the first time since 2013.

“We know that it will be difficult against Cote d’Ivoire,” added Chelle. “But we will bring our quality and give it our best against them.”


Africa Cup of Nations 2023

Cape Verde’s history men face South Africa for place in semis at Cup of Nations

History beckons for Cape Verde on Saturday night in Yamoussoukro when a team from the archipelago of islands in the Atlantic Ocean attempts to reach the semi-finals at the Africa Cup of Nations for the first time.

Success would eclipse the pioneers who advanced to the last eight during an inaugural appearance at the tournament in 2013.

Back then they were undone 2-0 by a more savvy Ghana side. Two years later they went out at the group stages after drawing all three of their games.

Absent from the 2017 and 2019 competitions, they returned in 2021 in Cameroon where they fell to eventual champions Senegal in the last-16.

Eleven years on from that initial Cup of Nations adventure, they snatched a late win over an imploding Ghana side, pummelled Mozambique 3-0 and maintained their unbeaten streak with a late strike to draw 2-2 with Egypt.

They rode their luck in the last-16 against an energetic Mauritania side but prevailed 1-0. Ryan Mendes – who featured during the run to the last eight in 2013 – converted a penalty to send them through.

“I think from what we’ve done people like the football that we are playing,” said Cape Verde boss Bubista.

“And they also like the team spirit that we are showing as we’ve tried to give game time to everyone.”

Work

Team ethic defined Cameroon’s surge to the 2017 title under Hugo Broos who says he sees the same esprit de corps among his South Africa side who pulled off the biggest shock of the tournament in the last-16 when they beat the heavily fancied Moroccans 2-0 in San Pedro.

A win against Cape Verde will take South Africa into the semis for the first time since 2000.

“I’m very happy to be here,” said Teboho Mokoena who scored a sumptuous free-kick to seal the victory over Morocco at the Stade Laurent Pokou.

“I’m proud of the team because no one gave us a chance especially after the first game where we lost to Mali.

“But we’ve come back stronger. We regrouped and we’ve worked very hard to be where we are now.”

With the delayed 2023 tournament quickly becoming fabled for its surprises, none of the remaining teams have rushed to don the mantle of favourites.

The Nigeria boss José Peseiro – whose team plays Angola on Friday afternoon – said: “It’s 50-50. You start at 0-0. There is only that.”

Even still, South Africa, due to the sheer size of the population, footballing culture and Cup of Nations pedigree, will go into the game as the likelier candidates.

“I have to congratulate all my teammates and all the staff because we’ve done  a great job,” said the veteran Cape Verdean goalkeeper Vozinha,

“It’s amazing,” added the 37-year-old who has played in all but one of his country’s 13 previous matches at Cup of Nations tournaments..

“We know we are a small country, but if we are united, we can achieve many great things.”


Caucasus crisis

Armenia joining ICC signals a growing schism with Russia

Armenia formally joined the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Thursday – signalling that it wants to move against Azerbaijan, which it accuses of “ethnic cleansing” in the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave. ICC membership also means a growing gap with Yerevan’s traditional ally, Moscow.

The ICC’s Rome Statute officially entered into force for Armenia on 1 February.

“Joining the ICC gives Armenia serious tools to prevent war crimes and crimes against humanity on its territory,” according to Yeghishe Kirakosyan, Armenia’s Foreign Minister.

He said that Armenia’s integration into the court “first of all concerns Azerbaijan”, referring to two wars with the neighbouring country over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region – where Russia deploys peacekeepers.

Neither Azerbaijan nor Russia recognise the ICC, along with other countries including the United States, China and Israel.

How does the ICC relate to the Rome Statute?

The International Criminal Court was established by the Rome Statute, a treaty adopted at a diplomatic conference in the Italian capital on 17 July 1998 and that came into force on 1 July 2002. It outlines the court’s functions, jurisdiction and structure.

The statute identifies four core international crimes: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression. No statute of limitations applies to these offences. According to the Rome Statute, the ICC is authorised to investigate and prosecute these crimes only in situations where states are unable or unwilling to do so themselves.

The court’s jurisdiction is complementary to that of domestic courts and extends to crimes committed within the territory of a state party or by a national of a state party. An exception is made for cases where the ICC’s jurisdiction is authorised by the United Nations Security Council.

As of November 2023, 124 states were parties to the statute.

Armenia becoming a full-fledged member of the court risks further complicating Yerevan’s relationship with Moscow.

‘Unfriendly step’

Last March, the ICC issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin over the war in Ukraine and the alleged illegal deportation of children to Russia.

Yerevan is now obligated to arrest the Russian leader if he sets foot on Armenian territory.

But Armenia is also home to a permanent Russian military base and part of a Moscow-led military alliance, the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, which also counts other ex-Soviet republics Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan as members.

Moscow called Armenia’s accession to the ICC an “absolutely unfriendly step”.

Russia’s state-owned Tass News Agency quotes Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Galuzin as saying that the ICC “has nothing to do with justice; rather, it is a highly politicised pro-Western structure that executes orders to prosecute figures who are undesirable to the West”.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has tried to reassure Russia that his country is only addressing what it says are war crimes committed by Azerbaijan in their long-running conflict, and is not aiming at Moscow.

But Western countries hailed the ratification, which marks the expansion of the court’s jurisdiction into what was long seen as Russia’s backyard.

“The world is getting smaller for the autocrat in the Kremlin,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said after Armenia ratified the ICC statute in October, referring to Putin.

Deterrent effect

France also strongly backed Armenia’s membership of the ICC.

In November, when Armenia officially applied to join the court, France’s Foreign Ministry said it welcomed the move as an “important step towards fighting impunity”.

Observers say Armenia could use its membership as a form of deterrent against possible Azerbaijani aggression.

The threat of the court investigating crimes committed as part of any attack on Armenia would “serve as a sword of Damocles of sorts, making Azerbaijan more reluctant to perpetrate acts of aggression against Armenia”, legal researcher Mischa Gureghian Hall of the US-based Centre for Truth and Justice told JusticeInfo.net.

To give itself the option of pursuing Azerbaijani soldiers for war crimes allegedly committed during fighting along the border between the two countries in September 2022, the portal noted, Armenia backdated the ICC’s jurisdiction to May 2021.

Read also:

  • Armenians warn ethnic cleansing risks being forgotten – again
  • Spectre of 1915 Armenian genocide looms over Nagorno-Karabakh

International report

Sweden deal unlikely to resolve bitter dispute between NATO and Turkey

Issued on:

Ankara’s ratification of Sweden’s NATO membership after a 10-month delay has spurred hopes of a reset in relations between Turkey and the alliance, but tensions still run deep.

French President Emmanuel Macron’s recent state visit to Sweden focused heavily on defence amid Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine.

While its NATO membership was seen as critical amid persisting concerns over border security, Turkey refused to ratify Sweden’s entry until a long list of demands from its partners were met.

Sweden’s accession saw a lifting of restrictions by NATO countries on military hardware sales to Turkey, says Aydin Selcen, a former senior Turkish diplomat who is now a regional analyst for Mediyacope, a Turkish news portal.

“F-16s are being bought [from the US]. This will keep the Turkish air force up in the air for some time… Deals like this one will keep the relationship afloat,” he told RFI.

F-16 deal

For years, US President Joe Biden blocked the sale of American F-16 fighter jets amid concerns over rising tensions between Turkey and its neighbours over territorial disputes.

With Ankara ratifying NATO’s expansion, the White House has authorised the sale, and Congress is expected to ratify the deal. However it may not be the diplomatic victory Ankara claims.

“The last I heard was the State Department was drawing up a letter demanding the transfer of F-16s as a kind of a certification program,” says Turkey specialist Sinan Ciddi, of the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

“They could halt transfers if the Turks , for example, continue to antagonise Greek airspace or overflights.”

Erdogan’s advantage?

Erdogan may retain an advantage, though. Hungary has yet to ratify Sweden’s membership and Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Oban is a close ally of the Turkish leader.

Last week, acting US Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland held two days of talks in Ankara. The talks were focused on enabling better cooperation between the US and Turkey.

Analyst Selcen says Turkey’s is still as strategically important to NATO as it was when it joined in 1952 at the height of the Cold War.

“The same geopolitical reasons to keep Turkey as a strong military ally remain valid,” said Selcen. “On the one hand against the north, Russia, and on the other Iran and other terrorist threats.”

The war against the Islamic State jihadists remains a point of tension because of Washington’s support for Syrian Kurdish fighters.

These include the YPG, which is affiliated with the PKK, and which has been fighting Turkey for decades and is designated by both the European Union and the US as a terrorist group.

“The US relationship with YPG poisons almost all the potential collaborations,” political scientist Bilgehan Alagoz of Istanbul’s Marmara University says.

So first [the] United States should check its policy towards the YPG, and then Turkey and the United States can start talking about other issues.”

Erdogan, Alagoz adds, is holding NATO hostage to extract concessions over Sweden’s membership.

Along with his close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin and his refusal to impose sanctions against Moscow, this is raising questions over Ankara’s loyalties.

With the threat posed by Russia expected to grow, and the danger of contagion from the Israel-Hamas conflict, resolving the trust deficit between Turkey and its NATO partners has never been more important.

  • French president urges Turkey to support Sweden’s bid to join NATO

The Sound Kitchen

Belgium’s full plate

Issued on:

This week on The Sound Kitchen you’ll hear the answer to the question about Belgium and the EU presidency. There’s “On This Day”, “The Listener’s Corner”, Ollia Horton’s “Happy Moment”, and Erwan Rome’s “Music from Erwan”. All that and the new quiz question too, so click on the “Play” button above and enjoy! 

Hello everyone! Welcome to The Sound Kitchen weekly podcast, published every Saturday – here on our website, or wherever you get your podcasts. You’ll hear the winner’s names announced and the week’s quiz question, along with all the other ingredients you’ve grown accustomed to: your letters and essays, “On This Day”, quirky facts and news, interviews, and great music… so be sure and listen every week.

World Radio Day is just around the corner (13 February), and we’ll cook up a mighty fine banquet to celebrate. What’s the main course? Your greetings, of course! So get under your blanket with your phone – believe me, the blanket will make your recording broadcast quality – and record your World Radio Day greetings for us. Please, not too long, though. You must get it to us by 5 February. Send your recorded WRD greetings to thesoundkitchen@rfi.fr

Erwan and I are busy cooking up special shows with your music requests, so get them in! Send your music requests to thesoundkitchen@rfi.fr  Tell us why you like the piece of music, too – it makes it more interesting for us all!

Would you like to learn French? RFI is here to help you!

Our website “Le Français facile avec RFI”  has news broadcasts in slow, simple French, as well as bi-lingual radio dramas (with real actors!) and exercises to practice what you have heard.

Go to our website and get started! At the top of the page, click on “Test level”. According to your score, you’ll be counseled to the best-suited activities for your level.

Do not give up! As Lidwien van Dixhoorn, the head of “Le Français facile” service told me: “Bathe your ears in the sound of the language, and eventually, you’ll get it”. She should know – Lidwien is Dutch and came to France hardly able to say “bonjour” and now she heads this key RFI department – so stick with it!

Be sure you check out our wonderful podcasts!

In addition to the breaking news articles on our site, with in-depth analysis of current affairs in France and across the globe, we have several podcasts that will leave you hungry for more.

There’s Paris Perspective, Spotlight on France, and of course, The Sound Kitchen. We have an award-winning bilingual series – an old-time radio show, with actors (!) to help you learn French, called Les voisins du 12 bis. And there is the excellent International Report, too.

As you see, sound is still quite present in the RFI English service. Keep checking our website for updates on the latest from our team of journalists. You never know what we’ll surprise you with!

To listen to our podcasts from your PC, go to our website; you’ll see “Podcasts” at the top of the page. You can either listen directly or subscribe and receive them directly on your mobile phone.

To listen to our podcasts from your mobile phone, slide through the tabs just under the lead article (the first tab is “Headline News”) until you see “Podcasts”, and choose your show. 

Teachers, take note! I save postcards and stamps from all over the world to send to you for your students. If you would like stamps and postcards for your students, just write and let me know. The address is english.service@rfi.fr  If you would like to donate stamps and postcards, feel free! Our address is listed below. 

Another idea for your students: Br. Gerald Muller, my beloved music teacher from St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas, has been writing books for young adults in his retirement – and they are free! There is a volume of biographies of painters and musicians called Gentle Giants, and an excellent biography of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., too. They are also a good way to help you improve your English – that’s how I worked on my French, reading books which were meant for young readers – and I guarantee you, it’s a good method for improving your language skills. To get Br. Gerald’s free books, click here. 

Independent RFI English Clubs: Be sure to always include Audrey Iattoni (audrey.iattoni@rfi.fr) from our Listener Relations department in all your RFI Club correspondence. Remember to copy me (thesoundkitchen@rfi.fr) when you write to her so that I know what is going on, too. NB: You do not need to send her your quiz answers! Email overload!

And don’t forget, there is a Facebook page just for you, the independent RFI English Clubs. Only members of RFI English Clubs can belong to this group page, so when you apply to join, be sure you include the name of your RFI Club and your membership number. Everyone can look at it, but only members of the group can post on it. If you haven’t yet asked to join the group, and you are a member of an independent, officially recognised RFI English club, go to the Facebook link above, and fill out the questionnaire!!!!! If you do not answer the questions, I click “Decline”.

There’s a Facebook page for members of the general RFI Listeners Club, too. Just click on the link and fill out the questionnaire, and you can connect with your fellow Club members around the world. Be sure you include your RFI Listeners Club membership number (most of them begin with an A, followed by a number) in the questionnaire, or I will have to click “Decline”, which I don’t like to do!

We have new RFI Listeners Club members to welcome: Sami Malik from Northern Pakistan; Habib Ur Rehman Sehal, the president of the International Radio Fan and Youth Club in Khanewal, Pakistan; Pradip Chandra Kundu and Ratan Kumar Paul, both from West Bengal, India, and Mahfuzur Rahman from Cumilla, Bangladesh.  

Welcome one and all! So glad you have joined us!

This week’s quiz: On 6 January I asked you a question about Belgium, whose turn it is to hold the presidency of the European Union – each member state of the European Union holds the presidency for six months. You were to re-read our article “Belgium faces election juggling act as it takes over rotating EU presidency” because Belgium is tasked with organizing not only the European elections on 9 June but also their internal national elections, and no luck there, those elections are also on 9 June. All that and something else, quite important, falls during the time of Belgium’s presidency, and that was your question: what else is the Belgian presidency tasked with accomplishing during its six-month term? What is one of the biggest issues it also has to deal with?  

The answer is, to quote our article: “One of the big issues it will still have to deal with is the revision of what is known as the ‘multiannual financial framework’, i.e., the European budget for the coming years, and also ensuring that aid to Ukraine does not wane.”

In addition to the quiz question, there was the bonus question: “If you could resign from anything, what would it be?”

Do you have a bonus question idea? Send it to us! 

The winners are: RFI Listeners Club member Richard Wasajja from Masaka, Uganda. Richard is also the winner of this week’s bonus question. Congratulations, Richard – and welcome back to The Sound Kitchen !

Also on the list of lucky winners this week is Mrs. Anjona Parvin, the secretary of the Shetu RFI Listeners Club in Naogaon, Bangladesh, and two RFI English Listeners Club members from India: Radhakrishna Pillai from Kerala State, and Samir Mukhopadhyay from Kolkata. Last but certainly not least, there’s RFI English listener Khondaker Shihab Uddin Khan from Bogura, Bangladesh.

Congratulations winners!

Here’s the music you heard on this week’s programme: The “Scherzo” from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, op. 61 by Félix Mendelssohn, performed by the Boston Symphony Orchestra conducted by Seiji Ozawa; “Quand on est bien amoureux”, a traditional folk song from Belgium performed by Wör; “The Flight of the Bumblebee” by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov; “The Cakewalk” from Children’s Corner by Claude Debussy, performed by the composer; “Happy” by Pharrell Williams, and “Minha Terra” sung by Ruy Mingas.

This week’s question … you must listen to the show to participate. After you’ve listened to the show, re-read our article “France seeks change to EU nature laws in bid to appease farmers” to help you with your answer.

You have until 26 February to enter this week’s quiz; the winners will be announced on the 3 March podcast. When you enter, be sure you send your postal address with your answer, and if you have one, your RFI Listeners Club membership number.

Send your answers to:

english.service@rfi.fr

or

Susan Owensby

RFI – The Sound Kitchen

80, rue Camille Desmoulins

92130 Issy-les-Moulineaux

France

or

By text … You can also send your quiz answers to The Sound Kitchen mobile phone. Dial your country’s international access code, or “ + ”, then  33 6 31 12 96 82. Don’t forget to include your mailing address in your text – and if you have one, your RFI Listeners Club membership number.

To find out how you can win a special Sound Kitchen prize, click here.

To find out how you can become a member of the RFI Listeners Club, or form your own official RFI Club, click here

Spotlight on France

Podcast: French farmers protest, battling the mathematics gender gap

Issued on:

No quick fix for French farmers who have been protesting by laying siege to Paris. And it’s just the latest in a long string of farmers’ demonstrations over the last 100 years. Plus, why French girls are faring worse at maths than boys, and what to do about it.

Farmers from across France have been rolling their tractors towards Paris to protest against their high costs, low revenues and cheap food imports that undercut their business. The protest movement touches on several fundamental issues such as inflation and high costs, climate change policies, food sovereignty, and how France relates to the rest of the world. A farmer in Normandy talks about his soaring costs and why paperwork linked to environmental regulations is keeping him from doing his job. And economists weigh in on the underlying problem facing French farmers – how to keep their small, mostly individual farms afloat while satisfying consumer demand for cheaper food. (Listen @0′)

These are by no means the first farmer protests in France. The country has seen many memorable demonstrations over the past century – including a winegrowers’ revolt that mobilised 800,000 people, and the hijacking of British lorries carrying imported meat that caused a diplomatic incident with the UK. (Listen @9’50”)

France produces some of the world’s top mathematicians, but its elite is 80 percent male – hardly surprising given half of schoolgirls give up maths aged 17, compared to just one quarter of boys. As a recent study shows girls falling back in maths from the first year of primary, we look at what’s going wrong and what needs to change. Sociologist Clémence Perronnet, author of a new book on girls and maths, talks about the gender bias and how to help girls overcome it. We also hear from mathematician Colette Guillopé of the femmes et mathématiques association about the nonsensical idea that “maths is only for boys”.  (Listen @16’10”)

Episode mixed by Cecile Pompeani. 

Spotlight on France is a podcast from Radio France International. Find us on rfienglish.com, Apple podcasts (link here), Spotify (link here) or your favourite podcast app (pod.link/1573769878).

International report

Even with Turkish approval, Sweden’s wait to join NATO may not be over yet

Issued on:

Sweden’s bid to join NATO got a major boost when the Turkish parliament finally ratified its membership application this week. Yet with the Turkish president’s signature still needed, Sweden’s wait to join the military alliance may not be over.

After ten long months, the Turkish parliament on Tuesday evening overwhelmingly voted to approve Sweden’s Nato membership.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been holding up the ratification with a long list of demands from his allies, and the vote came after intensive diplomatic lobbying led by Washington. 

At the heart of the delay was Ankara’s demand that the US Congress approve the sale of American F-16 fighter jets to replace Turkey’s ageing airforce.

“Neither the United States nor Turkey trust each other on any level,” said Asli Aydintasbas, an analyst with Washington-based think tank the Brookings Institution.

“There is also no trust here in Washington vis-a-vis the actions of the Turkish government,” she continued. “They don’t want to find themselves in a situation where they deliver on their end and the other side doesn’t.”

Mutual mistrust

That distrust was exacerbated by the apparent lack of personal chemistry between Erdogan and US President Joe Biden, who in the past has described the Turkish leader as a bully.

But the impasse was broken by a rare phone call between the two leaders last month. Biden reportedly convinced Erdogan that he could only persuade Congress to allow the jet sale to Turkey if the Turkish parliament ratified Sweden’s NATO membership – a deal that goes back to last year, according to Sinan Ulgen of Edam, an Istanbul-based think tank.

“There is an agreement that was essentially struck during the last NATO summit in Vilnius whereby the US side would essentially start the formal notification of the F-16 package once the Turkish parliament ratifies the accession of Sweden to NATO,” Ulgen said.

But behind Turkey’s lengthy delay lies scepticism in Ankara whether Biden can deliver Congress.

Lame duck?

Hostility towards Erdogan over his authoritarianism and threats to neighbours, including Greece, is a rare issue that bridges the deep divide between US Democrats and Republicans.

Erdogan’s strong backing of Hamas, which he calls a “liberation movement”, has only added to that hostility.

Meanwhile, Biden is increasingly seen as a lame-duck president as 2024 elections approach.

“Now [Donald] Trump is marching on the way to triumph once more, maybe, probably. Biden cannot be exerting pressure over the Senate and House of Representatives for the sake of Turkey,” predicts Sezin Oney, a commentator with Turkish news portal Duvar.

Oney points out Biden’s failure to get Congress to sign off on funding for Ukraine can only add to Ankara’s unease.

“I mean, he couldn’t do it in the case of Ukraine; he’s struggling with that. So how can he do it on behalf of Turkey, which doesn’t deliver anything and, on top of it, supports Hamas?” she questioned.

  • Turkey under fire after declaring Hamas a ‘liberation’ group
  • Erdogan weighs benefits of friendlier ties with Turkey’s Western allies

From Turkey to Hungary

Such concerns could yet further delay Sweden’s membership.

While the Turkish parliament ratified NATO’s expansion, Erdogan has to sign off on the legislation and send the document to the US State Department as per the military alliance’s rules.

But political momentum is behind the deal.

“Congressional approvals really rely on key party spokespeople on the committees,” said analyst Aydintasbas. “There is still overwhelming approval for the deal – enough numbers to make it past foreign relations committees in both houses, because it is so important for transatlantic unity, not because the US Congress approves of Turkey’s foreign policy direction.”

But even if the hurdle of Turkey is finally overcome, Hungary is yet to ratify – and Prime Minister Viktor Orban, after 20 months, is now demanding unspecified concessions from Sweden.

With Erdogan a close ally of Orban, NATO may yet need Turkey’s assistance in finally bringing Sweden into the fold.

Paris Perspective

Paris Perspective #42: Young voters and the battle for Europe’s middle ground – Christine Verger

Issued on:

Paris Perspective looks at the battlefield of the upcoming European elections, where the centrist majority must navigate the rocky terrain of a younger electorate that’s being courted by the far right. 

While the polls have been described as a time of reckoning for Europe given the rise of the far right, it’s unlikely the centrist conservative majority will be knocked off pole position.

The main battle for EU seats will, nevertheless, be fought between centrists and populists.

Turnout for European elections has waned since the first vote took place in 1979. The 2019 polls bucked this trend by breaking the 50 percent turnout threshold for the first time and 20 years.

In a post-Covid, economically rattled EU with two wars on its doorstep, indicators point to a significant rise in interest among Europeans in the upcoming June ballot.

The latest survey carried out by the European Parliament indicates that a record turnout of 68 percent could be expected.

Christine Verger, vice president of the Jacques Delors Institute in Paris, acknowledges the heightened interest, attributing the 2019 surge to younger people’s engagement on environmental issues.

“The protection of the environment and the fight against climate change resonated strongly with the youth, who viewed the European level as the appropriate platform for addressing such global challenges,” she told RFI.

The EU’s environmental concerns – once seen as a strong point – are also now viewed with scepticism. Agricultural protesters, in particular, accuse the bloc of creating problems rather than solutions.

Security in Europe

Verger says wider global security issues may instil a sense of fear among EU citizens, potentially impacting voter turnout and sentiment.

So how will young people react to these new challenges in June?

“This is very difficult to say, now that there are other issues which may justify the rise of participation and some positive views [regarding] the European Union. It’s linked to the state of the world and the wars in Ukraine in the Middle East,” she explains.

“This situation, and those new challenges, may lead many people in the EU towards a feeling of protection.”

  • Shaping the future: What’s at stake in the 2024 EU elections?

National priorities

Verger believes new challenges such as immigration and identity issues may reshape young people’s priorities as the battle between centrists and populists intensifies.

There has a drive to encourage young voters using the Paris metro to take an interest in the workings of the European Union as a force for good.

But could this backfire, with Eurosceptic and populist parties actually mobilising the youth vote in their favour?

“The main problem with the European election is that it’s [actually] 27 national elections,” Verger says.

Past efforts to enhance European unity, such as transnational lists and political families appointing pan-European candidates, hasn’t worked so well, says Verger.

“This is because national governments and national parliaments are not inclined to accept European solutions for their campaigns,” she says.

“They are still very attached to their national environment … So in each country each situation is different.”

Verger cites France as an example: “You have the Rassemblement National, but in 2019 they got a very good score – they have 23 members in the European Parliament, they may get a few more – but this will not have an influence on the result of the European elections.”

Populists or radicals?

Concerns about the rise of far-right and populist parties has opened discussion on the political groups within the European Parliament.

Given the complexities of alliances and compromises between the parties, even if the far-right groups gain more seats, their differing views and lack of unity mean it’s unlikely they will form a credible alternative.

Then there is confusion, Verger says, between what are called “populist” parties and “radical” parties.

“They are very different – and that’s why they have difficulties. They don’t share the same opinions on many issues, for instance, in relation to Russia and the position on the war in Ukraine,” she says.

“You have the ID Group – Identity and Democracy – which is composed of two main parties, the French Rassemblement National and the German AfD [Alternative für Deutschland]

“In Germany, an AfD representative declared last weekend that there could be a referendum in Germany on leaving the European Union – what they call the Dexit – and the Rassemblement National in France is not at all in favour of leaving the European Union.”

  • Is the EU facing a ‘New Right’ surge in Europe’s 2024 elections?

Another right-wing political group, the ECR Group – European Conservatives and Reformists – was led by the British Conservatives before Brexit.

Now the UK has left the EU, the main group driving the ECR is Poland’s PiS – the Law and Justice party – which recently lost elections in Poland.

“We don’t know how they are going to evolve,” Verger says.

“The far right and the populist radical parties have no chance to build a majority by themselves because in the European Parliament, everything is based on alliances and compromises.”

While acknowledging the powerful emotional tactics employed by populists, Verger says that mainstream parties can effectively counter them through strategic communication.

EU repercussions for France 2027

Meanwhile, here in France, the 2024 European elections are seen by many as a precursor to the 2027 presidential elections, where a battle between President Emmanuel Macron’s successor and the National Rally’s Marine Le Pen looks almost certain.

Past EU elections have impacted French politics, such as in 1994 when the poor EU election performance of the Socialists led by Michel Rocard ruled him out as a contender for the French presidency.

The evolution of French national politics over the next three years – particularly the shift to the right in Macron’s party and the rise of the National Rally – adds another layer to the complex dynamics that lie ahead.

Macron’s has recently appointed 34-year-old Gabriel Attal as prime minister, while the National Rally have 28 year-old Jordan Bardella at the helm to reach out to the younger generation.

It’s the interplay between European and national dynamics that will shape the narrative of the elections in June, says Verger.

“European issues will certainly play a role in the elections … but Bardella will try to make [the June polls] a 100 percent national election,” she says.

“The other parties – Renaissance and the Socialist Party – will try to make it as European as possible, in order to deconstruct it from the national context and try to show the positive aspects of the European Union for ordinary citizens.”

Full Interview: Young Voters And The Battle For Europe’s Middle Ground – Christine Verger

RFI · Paris Perspective #42 – Young Guns And The Battle For Europe’s Middle Ground – Christine Verger


The Sound Kitchen

Words words words…

Issued on:

This week on The Sound Kitchen you’ll hear the answer to the question about COP 28. We’ll travel to a 250-year-old festival in Japan, hear your answers to the bonus question on “The Listener’s Corner”, and enjoy a twist on music by Chopin on “Music from Erwan”. All that and the new quiz question too, so click on the “Play” button above and enjoy! 

Hello everyone! Welcome to The Sound Kitchen weekly podcast, published every Saturday – here on our website, or wherever you get your podcasts. You’ll hear the winner’s names announced and the week’s quiz question, along with all the other ingredients you’ve grown accustomed to: your letters and essays, “On This Day”, quirky facts and news, interviews, and great music… so be sure and listen every week.

World Radio Day is just around the corner (13 February), and we’ll cook up a mighty fine banquet to celebrate. What’s the main course? Your greetings, of course! So get under your blanket with your phone – believe me, the blanket will make your recording broadcast quality – and record your World Radio Day greetings for us. Please, not too long, though. You must get it to us by 5 February. Send your recorded WRD greetings to thesoundkitchen@rfi.fr

Erwan and I are busy cooking up special shows with your music requests, so get them in! Send your music requests to thesoundkitchen@rfi.fr  Tell us why you like the piece of music, too – it makes it more interesting for us all!

Be sure you check out our wonderful podcasts!

In addition to the breaking news articles on our site, with in-depth analysis of current affairs in France and across the globe, we have several podcasts that will leave you hungry for more.

There’s Paris Perspective, Spotlight on France, and of course, The Sound Kitchen. We have an award-winning bilingual series – an old-time radio show, with actors (!) to help you learn French, called Les voisins du 12 bis. And there is the excellent International Report, too.

As you see, sound is still quite present in the RFI English service. Keep checking our website for updates on the latest from our team of journalists. You never know what we’ll surprise you with!

To listen to our podcasts from your PC, go to our website; you’ll see “Podcasts” at the top of the page. You can either listen directly or subscribe and receive them directly on your mobile phone.

To listen to our podcasts from your mobile phone, slide through the tabs just under the lead article (the first tab is “Headline News”) until you see “Podcasts”, and choose your show. 

Teachers, take note! I save postcards and stamps from all over the world to send to you for your students. If you would like stamps and postcards for your students, just write and let me know. The address is english.service@rfi.fr  If you would like to donate stamps and postcards, feel free! Our address is listed below. 

Another idea for your students: Br. Gerald Muller, my beloved music teacher from St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas, has been writing books for young adults in his retirement – and they are free! There is a volume of biographies of painters and musicians called Gentle Giants, and an excellent biography of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., too. They are also a good way to help you improve your English – that’s how I worked on my French, reading books which were meant for young readers – and I guarantee you, it’s a good method for improving your language skills. To get Br. Gerald’s free books, click here. 

Independent RFI English Clubs: Be sure to always include Audrey Iattoni (audrey.iattoni@rfi.fr) from our Listener Relations department in all your RFI Club correspondence. Remember to copy me (thesoundkitchen@rfi.fr) when you write to her so that I know what is going on, too. NB: You do not need to send her your quiz answers! Email overload!

And don’t forget, there is a Facebook page just for you, the independent RFI English Clubs. Only members of RFI English Clubs can belong to this group page, so when you apply to join, be sure you include the name of your RFI Club and your membership number. Everyone can look at it, but only members of the group can post on it. If you haven’t yet asked to join the group, and you are a member of an independent, officially recognised RFI English club, go to the Facebook link above, and fill out the questionnaire!!!!! If you do not answer the questions, I click “Decline”.

There’s a Facebook page for members of the general RFI Listeners Club, too. Just click on the link and fill out the questionnaire, and you can connect with your fellow Club members around the world. Be sure you include your RFI Listeners Club membership number (most of them begin with an A, followed by a number) in the questionnaire, or I will have to click “Decline”, which I don’t like to do!

We have new RFI Listeners Club members to welcome: Sami Malik from Northern Pakistan; Habib Ur Rehman Sehal, the president of the International Radio Fan and Youth Club in Khanewal, Pakistan; Pradip Chandra Kundu and Ratan Kumar Paul, both from West Bengal, India, and Mahfuzur Rahman from Cumilla, Bangladesh.  

Welcome one and all! So glad you have joined us!

This week’s quiz: On 16 December I asked you a question about COP 28.  RFI English journalist Amanda Morrow was there, and in her article “Nations agree historic deal to ‘transition away’ from fossil fuels”, she explained why the agreement had to use the words “transition away” instead of “phase-out” regarding fossil fuels.  Which country objected to the term “phase-out”?

The answer is, to quote Amanda’s article: “The summit overran by a day, and the draft text put forward overnight Tuesday by the Emirati presidency was a last-minute bid to end a deadlock between crude oil producers, notably Saudi Arabia, and nations seeking a phase-out of oil, coal and gas.”

In addition to the quiz question, there was the bonus question: “What incident changed your life?”

Do you have a bonus question idea? Send it to us! 

The winners are: RFI Listeners Club member Rafiq Khondaker from Naogaon, Bangladesh. Rafiq is also the winner of this week’s bonus question. Congratulations, Rafiq!

Also on the list of lucky winners this week are RFI Listeners Club members Father Steven Wara, who lives in the Cistercian Abbey at Bamenda, Cameroon, and Hans Verner Lollike, from Hedehusene, Denmark.

We have a new listener to congratulate: Miroslav Síleš from Košice, Slovakia – welcome Miroslav! Last but certainly not least, Arundhati Mukherjee, who lives in West Bengal, India.

Congratulations winners!

Here’s the music you heard on this week’s programme: “Seoto” by Michio Miyagi; “Winter” from The Four Seasons by Antonio Vivaldi, performed by the Italian Baroque Ensemble conducted by Jacques Bernard; “The Flight of the Bumblebee” by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov; “The Cakewalk” from Children’s Corner by Claude Debussy, performed by the composer; “Fantasia Impromptu” by Frédéric Chopin, arranged by Hilario Duran and performed by Hilario Duran and his Latin Jazz Big Band.

This week’s question … you must listen to the show to participate. After you’ve listened to the show, listen to Jessica Phelan’s story on Alison Hird and Sarah Elzas’ podcast Spotlight on France, or read her article “Françoise Giroud, a woman to be reckoned with in French media and politics” on our website to help you with the answer.

You have until 19 February to enter this week’s quiz; the winners will be announced on the 24 February podcast. When you enter, be sure you send your postal address with your answer, and if you have one, your RFI Listeners Club membership number.

Send your answers to:

english.service@rfi.fr

or

Susan Owensby

RFI – The Sound Kitchen

80, rue Camille Desmoulins

92130 Issy-les-Moulineaux

France

or

By text … You can also send your quiz answers to The Sound Kitchen mobile phone. Dial your country’s international access code, or “ + ”, then  33 6 31 12 96 82. Don’t forget to include your mailing address in your text – and if you have one, your RFI Listeners Club membership number.

To find out how you can win a special Sound Kitchen prize, click here.

To find out how you can become a member of the RFI Listeners Club, or form your own official RFI Club, click here


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Madhya Pradesh: the Heart of beautiful India

From 20 to 22 September 2022, the IFTM trade show in Paris, connected thousands of tourism professionals across the world. Sheo Shekhar Shukla, director of Madhya Pradesh’s tourism board, talked about the significance of sustainable tourism.

Madhya Pradesh is often referred to as the Heart of India. Located right in the middle of the country, the Indian region shows everything India has to offer through its abundant diversity. The IFTM trade show, which took place in Paris at the end of September, presented the perfect opportunity for travel enthusiasts to discover the region.

Sheo Shekhar Shukla, Managing Director of Madhya Pradesh’s tourism board, sat down to explain his approach to sustainable tourism.

“Post-covid the whole world has known a shift in their approach when it comes to tourism. And all those discerning travelers want to have different kinds of experiences: something offbeat, something new, something which has not been explored before.”

Through its UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Shukla wants to showcase the deep history Madhya Pradesh has to offer.

“UNESCO is very actively supporting us and three of our sites are already World Heritage Sites. Sanchi is a very famous buddhist spiritual destination, Bhimbetka is a place where prehistoric rock shelters are still preserved, and Khajuraho is home to thousand year old temples with magnificent architecture.”

All in all, Shukla believes that there’s only one way forward for the industry: “Travelers must take sustainable tourism as a paradigm in order to take tourism to the next level.”

In partnership with Madhya Pradesh’s tourism board.


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Exploring Malaysia’s natural and cultural diversity

The IFTM trade show took place from 20 to 22 September 2022, in Paris, and gathered thousands of travel professionals from all over the world. In an interview, Libra Hanif, director of Tourism Malaysia discussed the importance of sustainable tourism in our fast-changing world.

Also known as the Land of the Beautiful Islands, Malaysia’s landscape and cultural diversity is almost unmatched on the planet. Those qualities were all put on display at the Malaysian stand during the IFTM trade show.

Libra Hanif, director of Tourism Malaysia, explained the appeal of the country as well as the importance of promoting sustainable tourism today: “Sustainable travel is a major trend now, with the changes that are happening post-covid. People want to get close to nature, to get close to people. So Malaysia being a multicultural and diverse [country] with a lot of natural environments, we felt that it’s a good thing for us to promote Malaysia.”

Malaysia has also gained fame in recent years, through its numerous UNESCO World Heritage Sites, which include Kinabalu Park and the Archaeological Heritage of the Lenggong Valley.

Green mobility has also become an integral part of tourism in Malaysia, with an increasing number of people using bikes to discover the country: “If you are a little more adventurous, we have the mountain back trails where you can cut across gazetted trails to see the natural attractions and the wildlife that we have in Malaysia,” says Hanif. “If you are not that adventurous, you’ll be looking for relaxing cycling. We also have countryside spots, where you can see all the scenery in a relaxing session.”

With more than 25,000 visitors at this IFTM trade show this year, Malaysia’s tourism board got to showcase the best the country and its people have to offer.

In partnership with Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board. For more information about Malaysia, click here.