rfi 2024-02-12 06:05:57



Senegal

Third death as Senegal braces for more protests against election delay

A third death was reported in Senegal on Sunday, where people have been protesting against the president’s decision to push back an election that would have chosen his successor. Sporadic demonstrations continued through the weekend, ahead of a call for nationwide protests early next week.

The latest casualty was 16-year-old Landing Camara, who died following clashes in the south-western city of Ziguinchor, according to reports.

The teenager “took a projectile to the head and died of his injuries in intensive care” on Saturday evening, a hospital source told French news agency AFP.

A member of the local branch of the popular Pastef opposition party, Abdou Sane, told AFP that several people had been seriously wounded in the protests.

It comes after two other young men were fatally injured in protests on Friday, the biggest day of national mobilisation since President Macky Sall called off the planned election last weekend. 

The vote, which he was not eligible to run in, was supposed to take place on 25 February but has now been postponed until 15 December.

  • Protests over Senegal’s delayed presidential election turn deadly

Hundreds of arrests

Demonstrations pitting young protesters against the security forces are turning increasingly violent.

One man died in the capital, Dakar, and another was killed on a university campus in the northern city of Saint-Louis.

The Senegal branch of Amnesty International said it had received reports of more than 200 arrests across the country during Friday’s protests, while several journalists’ associations reported violence against reporters covering the events.

Most Senegalese cities remained calm on Saturday but spontaneous demonstrations continued in Ziguinchor, a stronghold of jailed opposition figurehead Ousmane Sonko.

  • Senegalese opposition groups join forces to denounce election delay

Sonko, the candidate for Pastef, is one of several prominent opposition candidates who had been disqualified before the election campaign.

The president, whose second term had been due to end at the beginning of April, claims he postponed the vote because of disputes over whether the exclusions were justified.

International concern

Sall’s decision has plunged Senegal into its worst crisis since independence from France in 1960, with West African bloc Ecowas, the European Union and other international bodies expressing serious concern.

 

The EU on Sunday urged Senegal’s authorities to “guarantee fundamental freedoms”.

“The EU presents its condolences to relatives of the dead and calls on the authorities to guarantee fundamental freedoms,” the bloc’s foreign affairs and security policy spokesperson Nabila Massrali posted on X.

 

The US State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs said it was “saddened” by the protest deaths.

“We urge all parties to act in a peaceful and measured manner, and we continue to call on President Sall to restore the electoral calendar, restore confidence, and bring calm to the situation,” it wrote in a social media post on Saturday.

Civil society movement Aar Sunu Election (“Let’s Protect Our Election”) has called for a new round of nationwide protests on Tuesday.

(with AFP)


Africa Cup of Nations 2023

Cote d’Ivoire neutralise Nigeria to claim third Africa Cup of Nations trophy

Cote d’Ivoire’s three-week odyssey to redemption culminated in a coolly taken 2-1 victory on a humid Sunday night in Abidjan over regional rivals Nigeria. It furnished the hosts with a third Africa Cup of Nations title as well as the love of a nation and a warm embrace from a president who had authorised the billion or so euros to sponsor the psychedelia.

The adoration was warranted.

Cote d’Ivoire went behind to William Ekong’s header just before half-time. It came against the run-of-play.

But most of what the Ivorians have proposed during the 34th Africa Cup of Nations has operated outside the realms of logic.

Two defeats in the pool stages left the side on the verge of elimination and as they waited to discover whether they would advance to the second phase as the fourth of the four best third-placed teams, football federation bosses replaced head coach Jean-Louis Gasset with one of his assistants Emerse Faé.

“I told the players to keep doing what they had been doing in the first-half,” said Faé less than a hour after his charges had been crowned continental champions.

Strategy

“The Nigerians were tiring and I said that if we could keep them chasing the ball then the spaces would open up for us to exploit.”

His clairvoyance was vindicated. Nigeria goalkeeper Stanley Nwabali pushed Odilon Kossounou’s long-range effort out for a corner just after the hour mark.

Simon Adingra whipped the resulting kick into the box and Franck Kessie rose to power a header over Nwabali for the equaliser.

Nigeria tried to respond but their opponents – nicknamed “the zombies” – had resurfaced and regrouped.

Nine minutes from time, more of Adingra’s trickery down the left gained him a yard to send in a cross and Sebastien Haller flicked the ball deftly past Nwabali to the delight of the 50,000 partisans in the Alassane Outtara Stadium.

Reaction

Nigeria could not respond. Adingra – who was deemed man-of-the-match – continued to taunt down the wing.

“We did not show our level,” conceded the Nigeria boss José Peseiro.

“Congratulations to Cote d’Ivoire, they were better. My players did a fantastic tournament until today. They lost. I lost. We need to accept the result,” added the 63-year-old Portuguese.

“I’m sad. We wanted to win. But sometimes you want to win and you don’t.”

Peseiro admitted he was surprised that the Ivorians seemed to play freely despite the pressure on them as hosts.

“They did not look nervous,” he reflected. “My team looked nervous. We kept giving away the ball.” 

The normally savvy Alex Iwobi and his fellow midfielders appeared unable to distribute intelligently or carry it incisively. Star striker Victor Osimhen scurried and scowled to no effect.

Candidate

The 25-year-old Napoli forward, who entered the tournament as a feared spearhead, left with only one goal eclipsed by Equatorial Guinea’s Emilio Nsue – who won the golden boot for his five strikes – and Haller who started the competition injured but scored the winner in the semis and the final.

“I dreamed of winning the Cup of Nations when I was a player,” said Faé, a former Cote d’Ivoire international midfielder.

“And I didn’t do it. But it has come as a coach. I have to salute my predecessor. It was his team.”

President Outtara was submerged in an embrace from the players before presenting them with the trophy.

“It’s been an extraordinary tournament,” added Faé. “There have been lots of surprises. It’s been beautiful and full of incidents for us. I’m happy for the country.

“When I think of what’s happened and all the times that we’ve been behind. We’ve gone out and sought the trophy.”

A national holiday is likely to be self-declared on Monday. 


Africa Cup of Nations 2023

2023 Africa Cup of Nations: 5 things we learned on Day 30 – Endgame

Endgame? Sounds like a James Bond film where our monotone-faced hero dispatches baddies as he seeks meaning to the nihilism that adorns his state-sponsored psychopathy. On the subject of investment, the Alassane Outtara Stadium was in fulgent extravaganza mode as a closing ceremony started the  party.

Pyrotechnics

National treasure Alpha Blondy came onto the field and the response was, quite honestly, Pavlovian. They must teach this in schools. Every one rose and started singing and being happy. We found it quite unsettling. Fireworks went off too. Really. We also got several artists performing Coup de Marteau, which has become the unofficial song of the tournament mainly because you can dance and cavort to this one rather than the official one – Akwaba – which is still a lovely tune. Still, the fear was with all the fireworks would the final be something of a damp squib?

Final session

Initially, yes. So all credit then to the Cote d’Ivoire team for displaying guts to come from behind and beat Nigeria 2-1 to claim a third continental crownI – the same number as Nigeria. Only Ghana with four, Cameroon with five and Egypt with seven are ahead in the charts. A third title seemed so unlikely a few weeks ago when the Ivorians were on the verge of elimination. And their passage through the knockout stages has been so fraught. Seeminly out in the last-16 and te quarter-final, they have not yielded. Back they have come like zombies – their nickname for this tournament. It makes what makes this victory so filmic.

Official love

Good to see the politicians and administrators finding their way into the initial celebrations of the players with the trophy. It’s not like these guys have been running around for seven matches in the heat. Still, it was good for Patrice Motsepe – the boss of the tournament organisers – that Gianni Infantino was in town for the shindig. Infantino runs world football’s governing body Fifa. And the two lads have a few things to discuss. Top of the agenda? The dates for the 2025 Cup of Nations in Morocco. It is supposed to be in June and July of that year – the exact same time as Fifa’s new 32-team Club World Cup. A 2025 Cup of Nations in January and February 2026 with the 2025 moniker for marketing purposes? Has such a thing been done before?

Good times

And why not throw in a reference to Chic? My feet keep dancing.with all the Coup de Marteau beats going round. Both coaches were rather classy and elegant after the Cup of Nations final at the Alassane Outtara Stadium. Nigeria boss José Peseiro didn’t grumble or gripe about dodgy refereeing. He admitted that Cote d’Ivoire were better. And Emerse Faé, who took over from Jean-Louis Gasset on 24 January, praised the ditched Frenchman for selecting the squad from which Faé could mould a trophy-winning team. It was also a nice touch to allow Max Gradel – the oldest player in the Cote d’Ivoire squad – the honour of being the first player to hoist the 2023 Cup of Nations trophy.

Time out

There is likely to be a national holiday in Cote d’Ivoire following the Cup of Nations victory. We predict this because for the past 30 days, volunteers have been prowling the media tribune in the stadiums around the country making sure that no pictures are taken of the action on the field during the match. Some have been sniffy about photos of the crowds. As the Cote d’Ivoire team celebrated on the field after their 2-1 victory over Nigeria, not a volunteer was to be seen stopping the hordes of journalists in the tribune filming the scenes of delight. The volunteers were probably too busy doing their Coup de Marteau. And we suspect the rest of the nation will be doing likewise throughout the next few days.


Africa Cup of Nations 2023

South Africa beat DRC on penalties to take bronze at Africa Cup of Nations

South Africa claimed third place at the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations on Saturday night following a penalty shoot-out victory over the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The match at the Stade Félix Houphouët-Boigny in Abidjan ended 0-0 after 90 minutes and went straight to the spot-kick session.

DRC had a chance to win it with their fifth kick, but South Africa goalkeeper Ronwen Williams plunged to his right to parry Chancel Mbemba’s effort.

That made it four apiece. The next three shots were successfully converted but Williams saved Meshack Elia’s attempt to spark celebrations among the South Africans.

“The players have given everything,” said DRC coach Sebastien Desabre. “But we are fourth and not third because we did not convert our chances and penalties are always a lottery.”

Squandered chances

His side squandered a plethora of opportunities in the second half that would have made penalties an irrelevance.

With five minutes remaining, substitute Fiston Mayele burst into South Africa penalty from the left and fired a shot past Williams, but also the other side of his lefthand post. Soon after Yoanne Wissa missed the target when he cut in from the right.

“We need to work on things,” added Desabre. “When I look at my players I know they are doing their utmost and have the desire to do well so there are always chances to improve.

“I’m sure the Congolese people are proud of their team. We’ve done more good things than bad things.”

Eight years ago in Equatorial Guinea, DRC came third – their best performance at the Cup of Nations since 1998.

In the same competition, South Africa – who were the defending champions – lost in the final to Egypt and two years later claimed third place.

Fighting spirit

But they have failed to recreate such consistency in the subsequent two decades with quarter-final appearances in 2002, 2013 and 2019. They failed to qualify for the tournament in 2010, 2012, 2017 and 2021.

“But now with this third place, we don’t have to think that now everything is OK,” said South Africa boss Hugo Broos.

“There is still a lot of work to do. But I think the basics are there and everyone knows now when they play for national team what we expect from them as a player.”

The 71-year-old, who has been linked with some of the vacant posts in African and Asian football, conceded DRC would have been deserved winners of the game.

“We were not fresh,” said Broos. “But when you see the mentality in that group and how they fight for it till the last second of the game, I think that’s why we won today.

“DRC was better than us. DRC had more chances than us. But if you fight for it like my players did, I think they deserve it and I’m very proud of them.”

Read also:

  • Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire coaches lay down terms for Cup of Nations glory
  • 2023 Africa Cup of Nations: 5 things we learned on Day 29 – Tales of yore

French overseas territories

France to revoke birthright citizenship in overseas Mayotte to stem immigration

Children born on the French Indian Ocean territory of Mayotte will no longer automatically qualify for citizenship of France, Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin announced during a visit to the overseas department on Sunday. The change is part of efforts to stem migration to Mayotte from neighbouring islands, amid flaring tensions between locals and immigrants. 

Once the reform takes effect, only children born to French parents in Mayotte will have the right to French nationality. 

Currently, children born in any part of France to two foreign parents are eligible to become French citizens as teenagers. 

Darmanin called it a “radical decision” that would make Mayotte significantly less attractive to would-be immigrants.

The change will mean revising France’s constitution to restrict the principle of “droit du sol” – the right to citizenship of a country by virtue of being born there – in the island territory.

No other part of France will adopt the new rule, Darmanin said.

Rising tensions

According to French national statistics office Insee, of 10,600 children born on Mayotte in 2021, close to half – 46.5 percent – had two parents who weren’t French.

The department saw its population increase fourfold between 1985 and 2017, according to Insee, in a combination of a high birth rate and waves of immigration.

An archipelago with some 310,000 inhabitants, Mayotte is the poorest part of France – but incomes remain higher than in nearby Comoros, an island country that has been independent of France for some 50 years.

Thousands of Comorans fleeing the poverty of their homeland make the trip to Mayotte every year in search of higher living standards.

The influx has caused major tensions, with many Mayotte residents complaining about crime, poverty and the strain on resources as the islands grapple with a severe drought.

For the past three weeks, activists have been staging strikes and erecting roadblocks to protest. Among their demands is the dismantling of a refugee camp as well as an end to residence permits that prevent their holders from leaving the territory.

  • Mayotte, France’s poorest overseas territory, hit by crippling social crisis

Immigration reform

Such permits, which allowed bearers to stay in Mayotte but didn’t give them the right to reside in mainland France, will be scrapped, Darmanin announced on Sunday. 

A package of bills to address the unrest in Mayotte will go before parliament in the coming weeks, the interior minister promised.

Politicians on the left and centre expressed alarm over the changes to the citizenship rules, saying it set a dangerous precedent.

The government already subjected Mayotte to tougher citizenship laws than the rest of France, introducing a rule in 2018 that at least one parent had to reside there legally for more than three months before their child’s birth for the child to qualify for French nationality.

No such condition applies elsewhere in France. 

However, the government recently tightened its nationwide rules on the way children of foreign parents acquire French nationality as part of a broader reform of immigration law – ending the process of granting citizenship automatically at 18 and instead requiring children to formally request it.

Security surge

In April 2023, the government launched “Operation Wuambushu” – a months-long police surge targeting slums, criminal gangs and undocumented immigrants in Mayotte, many of whom were deported to Comoros.

The Comoran government refused to take them back in, however, ratcheting up tensions between the country and France. 

  • Money from France will not help Comoros swallow the Wuambushu pill

The interior minister’s latest visit comes as part of preparations for “Wuambushu Two”, he declared in a video posted to social media this weekend.  

Darmanin was accompanied by France’s newly appointed minister for overseas territories, Marie Guévenoux – as well some 15 officers from an elite police tactical unit sent to back up Mayotte’s forces. 

 

In Mayotte’s capital Mamoudzou, several hundred protesters greeted Darmanin and his entourage with boos and shouts of “Mayotte is angry”.

(with AFP)


2024 Paris Olympics

Paris unveils its only inner-city venue built specially for the Olympics

Paris officials have inaugurated the first – and only – purpose-built venue within the French capital for this summer’s Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The Adidas Arena at Porte de la Chapelle – among the poorest areas in Paris – is ready and “operational” about five months before the Games begin, organisers said on Sunday.

The venue will host badminton and rhythmic gymnastics events during the 2024 Olympics, as well as Paralympic badminton and weightlifting events.

The Paris council has hailed the new venue as a sign of both the city’s readiness and its commitment to use the sporting mega-event to revitalise neglected neighbourhoods.

The organisers deliberately opted against constructing as many purpose-built buildings as other Olympic host cities have.

The main construction work for 2024 includes the Olympic Village, which will house about 15,000 athletes and officials, and a new swimming pool. Both are located outside Paris city limits in the northern suburbs.

Room for 8,000

The new arena, which can host up to 8,000 spectators, cost some €138 million to build. 

It bears the Adidas name through a lucrative partnership with the German sportswear brand, which is said to be worth approximately €2.8 million per year.

Officials say it is also a symbol of the city’s desire to host a “sustainable” Olympics, having been built with recycled materials and featuring a green roof.

It will be the first arena of its kind in France to have a “sensory room” for people suffering from cognitive disorders.

After the Games, the venue is expected to host large concerts as well as sporting events. It will also become the home of the Paris Basketball club.

Two gymnasiums next to the venue will provide sport facilities for the local community, the council said.

  • Paris suburb gets France’s first inclusive sports complex thanks to Olympics

Urban transformation

Porte de la Chapelle has a reputation as one of the roughest neighbourhoods in Paris. Traditionally working class, in recent years it has become home to hundreds of migrants and asylum-seekers living in makeshift camps that are regularly cleared out by police.

Mayor Anne Hidalgo said that she was “proud” an area that was once described as “a no-go zone” is now beginning to be transformed.

“Before people mocked us,” she said. “Change is possible.”

  • Rights body to probe Paris homeless ‘clean-up’ before Olympics

But some observers have expressed concern about the knock-on effects of the council’s revitalisation project. 

Homelessness charities have accused local authorities of carrying out a “social cleansing” operation in the capital and surrounding region ahead of the games by clearing away the homeless, as well as migrant camps and slums.

Longer term, others warn that the redevelopment will accelerate gentrification and push up Paris’s already high rents.

(with AP)


Cameroon – biodiversity

Cameroon steps up efforts to ensure its vast natural wealth stays at home

Cameroon’s biodiversity and traditional knowledge have long been exploited by foreign firms. To help protect its natural wealth, the country is taking new steps to enforce the Nagoya Protocol – a decade-old international treaty that ensures local communities benefit from sharing their genetic resources.

Home to more than 11,000 species of plants, birds, amphibians and fish, Cameroon is a trove of biodiversity – “genetic resources” that are indispensable for the country’s social and economic wellbeing. 

International pharmaceutical companies have shown strong interest in Cameroon’s plant-based medicines, used by an estimated 80 percent of people in rural areas.

The bark of prunus africana – the African cherry tree – has long been a staple of traditional medicine to treat prostate cancer, for instance, and is now widely exported for use in herbal remedies.

“Every year, an average of 514 tonnes of prunus africana leaves the country,” says Aurélie Taylor Patience Dingom, an expert in traditional knowledge at Cameroon’s Environment Ministry.

While companies buy prunus africana in Cameroon for around 2 euros a kilogram, its value jumps to approximately 400 euros when sold in drug-form.

“The worrying issue is that none of that benefit is coming back to the communities where the prunus africana was harvested,” says Dingom, whose job includes monitoring the implementation of the Nagoya Protocol.

She cites the example of Brazil, where 1 percent of the net income generated is paid into a national fund that is shared with the communities where the plant is grown.

“Cameroon needs to be able to carry out similar negotiations so that foreign firms do not continue to rip off our natural wealth,” Dingom says.

  • Cameroon’s indigenous Baka sing to save their vanishing forest home

Uphill challenge

Using both the parliament and institutional bodies, authorities in Cameroon say they’ve spent the past three years looking to ensure the Nagoya Protocol is able to operate as it should. 

Despite a 2021 law to this effect – and efforts to set up an institutional framework – the job is still far from over.

In response, the Global Environment Facility is funding a $200,000 project to support the Nagoya Protocol in the South West and Far North regions.

It allows researchers in Cameroon to study certain species such as the irvingia wombolu, or “bush mango” – whose leaves, roots and bark have been used for thousands of years to treat scabs and skin pain.

The mangos’ fibrous pulpy fruit, meanwhile, is used in Cameroonian and Nigerian cuisine to make traditional soups, sauces, juice, wine and jams. 

  • Cameroon hunter rewarded for capturing leopard in protected forest

“We sell most of our bush mango to Nigeria, but recently we’re getting a lot of demand from Europe,” says Thomas Arrey Ayuk, the CEO of a company that exports the mangoes. 

Ayuk is hopeful that, once the Nagoya Protocol has been fully implemented, the farmers who grow the fruit will benefit from the rising demand.

He says European firms want to buy “hefty quantities” of the mangoes to make medicines to treat obesity, as well as to manufacture cosmetics.

“They need about 500 tonnes every year,” Ayuk tells RFI – adding that the mangoes’ value skyrockets once they are turned into medicines.

“Our partners in Europe say they will buy at a much higher rate and when they add value to the mango in terms of making medicine, they will come back and provide the community with some benefits … maybe by building schools or hospitals.

“That’s why I am fighting to make sure that farmers do not throw their produce to Nigeria anymore.”

  • Desperate hunt for fuel threatens a once thriving forest reserve in Cameroon

Leveraging resources 

Cameroon has so far signed five deals with French and Swiss cosmetic companies says Dingom, of the Environment Ministry – adding it was critical for the country to leverage the value of its biological resources.

“Our governments must understand that exploiting Africa’s vast biological resources in line with the Nagoya Protocol can unlock the continent’s economic potential,” she says.

One of the first deals was signed in 2012, when French perfume company V Mane Fils teamed up with the Environment and Rural Development Foundation (ERuDef), a non-profit in Central Africa, to develop echinops giganteus, which is used in food and cosmetics sectors worldwide.

ERuDef president Louis Nkembi said V Mane Fils had also committing to return a quarter of the revenues it made from the wild plant, which was now being farmed.

“The plant species was inventoried, studied and this eventually led to the company signing an agreement with the government of Cameroon in 2015 to exploit a limited quantity to test the viability of this product.”


Prehistory

Scientists find 100,000-year-old human footprints on Moroccan beach

Archaeologists in Morocco have unearthed more than 80 human footprints dating back some 100,000 years. They’re believed to be the oldest in both North Africa and the southern Mediterranean.

The footprints, probably left by five Homo sapiens including children, were discovered on the coast of Larache, a city 90 kilometres south of Tangier.

The archaeologists – from Morocco, Spain, France, and Germany – said the footprints were some of the world’s best-preserved human traces.

Their reseach was published in scientific journal Nature in January.

“We do have traces that tell us that, at the time, homo sapiens moved along the coast potentially to seek out marine resources,” Mouncef Sedrati, geomorphologist at France’s Universite Bretagne Sud, told RFI.

The researchers say they were probably fishermen or gatherers.

Rising sea levels

The discovery was made during a field mission in July 2022 as part of a research project on the origins and dynamics of boulders strewn along the coastline.

Climate change and rising sea levels are behind the appearance of these traces,” said Sedrati, who leads the research project.

“As the cliffs continue to erode, these footprints will disappear and others will be discovered. So we’re faced with a dilemma: how can we preserve this heritage site?”

Rich history

The history of human evolution in this region of north-western Morocco is very rich.

In 2017, the remains of Homo sapiens dating back 300,000 years were unearthed in a breakthrough that pushed back the estimated origin of the human species by 100,000 years.

“The species Homo sapiens, to which we are all attached, more than likely originated in Africa in various places – whether in East Africa or in Morocco,” French palaeoanthropologist Isabelle Crevecoeur told RFI.

“The idea that Homo sapiens originated in a single place in Africa is no longer really a reality. It’s more a question of the evolution of different populations across the continent, probably with genetic flows between African regions.”

Researchers say the footprints in Larache are further proof of the importance of the region in human history and will provide new evidence of the past.

Read also:

  • Archaeologists find 2nd century Roman site in the French city of Reims
  • Why is France so fascinated by exhibitions on Ancient Egypt?

France

Why do people in France say they’re having less sex?

Adults in France, like in many western countries, are having sex less frequently – with the decline particularly noticeable in young people, a new survey shows. While the reasons are complex, the data indicates that generational shifts, new technologies and greater acceptance of different desires all play a part.

Among “sexually initiated” 18-69 year olds – people who have had sex at least once in their lives – nearly a quarter said they hadn’t slept with anyone in the past 12 months: 22 percent among men and 26 percent among women.

The results are from a survey commissioned by sex toy maker Lelo and published this week by French polling institute Ifop.

That’s 15 percent more than in 2006, when a larger study found that only 11 percent of women and 7 percent of men said they hadn’t been sexually active during the previous year. 

The figure is up across all age groups, but especially among young adults between 18 and 24 – 28 percent of whom reported being sexually inactive in the latest survey, compared to just 5 percent in 2006. 

Among people in their 50s, the proportion of people not having sex rose steeply from 10 to 35 percent.

Shifting norms

Across the whole population – including people who’ve never had sex – fewer than half (43 percent) say they do it at least once a week. In 2009, another study put that figure at 58 percent.

In total, Ifop calculates that 41 percent of adults in France are not having sex at all.

“It’s clear the phenomenon of declining sexual activity that we’ve seen in the United States, the UK, Germany and other western countries is also affecting France,” says François Kraus, who directs Ifop’s work on gender, sexuality and sexual health.

He puts this down to various reasons, notably to do with changes in technology, society and culture as well as other influences from mental health to hormones and pollution.

Some of the explanations could even be considered positive, Kraus told RFI.

While 52 percent of women told Ifop they had had sex without really wanting to, in one 1981 survey, the figure was as high as 76 percent. 

  • France’s ageing population is having fewer babies and living longer than ever

“There’s a revolution underway when it comes to consent, and the idea of conjugal duty has been deconstructed to a certain extent,” says Kraus.

“All that means that women, especially, no longer force themselves as much to have sex just for their partner’s sake.”

Ideas about what’s normal or acceptable are changing in all sorts of ways, including becoming more tolerant of people who aren’t interested in sex with others at all.

Twelve percent of respondents described themselves as asexual – permanently feeling low or no sexual attraction – including 15 percent of women and 9 percent of men. 

Among women over 70, the proportion was as high as 23 percent.

It’s hard to judge whether the numbers have increased over time, since previous surveys didn’t ask the question – telling in itself.

Frustrations, distractions

Not everyone is having less sex by choice.

The biggest single reason Ifop’s respondents gave for not having sex was not having found the right partner, which was the case for 67 of men and 61 percent of women. 

More than 60 percent of men also said they hadn’t met someone who wanted to have sex with them and/or that they felt no one was attracted to them.

Men who described themselves as not feminist were least satisfied with the amount of sex they were having: 59 percent of such men said they didn’t think they did it enough, compared to 34 percent of men who identified as “very feminist”. 

  • Growing ‘masculinist’ culture in France slows down fight against sexism

According to Kraus, technological distractions such as smartphones may also be playing a role.

“They pose a problem because they eat up what precious time we have to spend with another person, as a couple for instance, which instead goes on watching Netflix or scrolling on social media,” he said.

“And all that changes, of course, our opportunities to have sex.”

Nearly a third of people surveyed said they had turned down a chance to have sex in order to watch something, go on social media, play video games or read.

Among 18-34 year olds living with a partner, that rose to as many as 43 percent of women and 57 percent of men.

Generational gap

The problem with this and other surveys, of course, is that we have no way of knowing how honest participants are being about their sex lives. 

This latest poll, which was carried out on online at the beginning of the year on a sample of around 1,900 people, may not be evidence that people in France are having less sex today than in the past; it could just be that previous survey-takers were exaggerating. 

Either way, Kraus believes the data indicates that French society’s values are shifting. 

He sees the drop in the amount of sex people claim to have as a reaction against the “hypersexualisation” of the 1980s and 90s, when sex was omnipresent in popular culture and it was assumed a healthy sex life meant the most active one possible. 

“Like every new generation, this one is distancing itself from the previous one” by rejecting those assumptions, Kraus says.

“Now they have alternatives like porn and sex toys to satisfy their needs, and other ways of gratifying their ego on social media and through social interaction more broadly, we’re seeing that sex itself is prized a lot less highly.”


Senegal

Protests over Senegal’s delayed presidential election turn deadly

At least two people are now reported to have died during protests in Senegal, the first casualties of unrest that broke out after a presidential election planned for this month was pushed back to the end of the year.

Geography student Alpha Yero Tounkara died amid protests at a university in the northern city of Saint-Louis on Friday, the interior ministry confirmed on Saturday.

It said in a statement that his death would be investigated, but denied its forces were involved.

The second victim has been named by media as Modou Gueye, a street vendor in the capital, Dakar. 

While authorities have not publicly confirmed his death, RFI spoke to a relative who said that Gueye had been shot on Friday in south-western neighbourhood of Dakar. 

“He wasn’t taking part in the protests, he was just out shopping,” his brother-in-law told RFI’s Charlotte Idrac

Both Gueye and Tounkara are said to have been in their early 20s.

Videos posted to social media suggest there were others injured as well.

The Red Cross told RFI that it was compiling a tally of casualties across Senegal from violent protests on Friday, the first day of widespread unrest since President Macky Sall called off the election scheduled for 25 February.

More protests planned

In Dakar, police fired tear gas to stop demonstrators gathering in a central square. Hundreds of demonstrators threw stones at police and set fire to tyres.

Clashes spread to other areas of the capital, closing main roads, train lines and markets.

Demonstrations also took place in other towns, while the civil society movement Aar Sunu Election (“Let’s Protect Our Election”) urged teachers to strike.

The group has called for more protests on Tuesday.

In the meantime, students in Saint-Louis said that they would mobilise at the campus where Tounkara died to demand justice. 

Demonstrations were also held in several cities in France on Saturday, including Paris, Bordeaux and Nice. 

‘Ready to pass the baton’

The opposition has condemned Sall’s move as a “constitutional coup“.

But in his first interview since announcing the delay last weekend, the president denied trying to cling on to power.

“I am absolutely seeking for nothing except to leave a country in peace and stability,” Sall told the Associated Press.

“I am completely ready to pass the baton. I have always been programmed for that.”

Sall claimed he intervened to prevent a crisis amid disputes over who was allowed to run. The Constitutional Council, Senegal’s highest election authority, had excluded dozens of candidates from the vote – including two of the leading opposition challengers, Ousmane Sonko and Karim Wade.

“I am saying now that I am going to work for appeasement, for conditions that will allow the country to be peaceful,” Sall insisted. “Let’s all hold inclusive discussions before we go to elections.”

  • Senegalese lawmakers postpone presidential election to 15 December

After Sall ordered the poll postponed, Senegal’s parliament voted to push it back to mid-December in a chaotic session that saw security forces remove several opposition lawmakers from the chamber. 

The Constitutional Council is expected to rule within around a week on whether it agrees with parliament’s decision. But when pressed by AP, Sall wouldn’t say whether he would accept the court’s ruling if it rejected the delay.

“It is too early for me to consider this prospect,” he told the news agency.

No regional sanctions – yet

More than a dozen opposition candidates have appealed to Senegal’s supreme court to overturn the delay, which would likely keep Sall in office until 2025. 

Sall is not running in the election, having reached his constitutional limit of two terms. 

The crisis has called into question Senegal’s reputation for stability in a region that has seen several military coups in recent years.

  • Mali to quit regional Ecowas bloc without respecting notice period

The European Union and the United States have criticised the vote’s delay, while West African bloc Ecowas called it a “worrying development”.

Ecowas has not yet decided whether to impose sanctions on the Senegalese government, commission president Omar Alieu Touray told French news agency AFP after the bloc’s latest meeting on Friday.

“We have to determine the constitutionality or unconstitutionality of an action before any decision to take or impose sanctions,” he said.

“That has to be done, and we have not discussed that.”

(with newswires)

International report

As Turkey bombards Kurdish forces in Syria, is the US preparing to pull out?

Issued on:

Turkish military forces are carrying out an air assault on US-backed Kurdish forces in Syria, and Ankara has warned that a land operation may follow. The crackdown comes amid reports that Washington may pull its forces out of Syria and Iraq.

Turkey’s government accuses Kurdish forces in north-eastern Syria of being linked to attacks on its army. 

Turkish drone strikes are bombarding oil refineries and electricity production in the Syrian border region controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a coalition of ethnic militias and rebel groups.

“The targets are energy infrastructure and that sort of stuff. Obviously, the goal is to make that area not sustainable, as a sustainable haven for the SDF,” says Aydin Selcen, a former senior Turkish diplomat and now regional analyst for the Medyascope news portal.

The SDF’s ranks include the Kurdish People’s Defence Units (YPG) and Women’s Protection Units (YPJ), which Ankara accuses of being affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK. The armed movement is considered a terrorist organisation by both Ankara and Washington.

“The end game as defined by the Turkish authorities is to prevent a terrorist statelet [being created] beyond Turkish borders,” explains Selcen.

“This means allowing the PKK or its Syrian affiliates, the YPG and YPJ, to establish a local administration in that area. War on terror is perhaps the number one priority for this government.” 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last month threatened a new land invasion into Syria.

Turkish forces already control a large swathe of Syrian territory from previous operations against Syrian Kurdish forces.

Possible US withdrawal

The SDF is backed by a US military force of around 900 soldiers in the war against the so-called Islamic State group, raising the possibility of a conflict between NATO and its allies.

Ankara’s ongoing assault comes amid reports that Washington is considering pulling its forces out of Syria and Iraq.

“Washington may be preparing to hand off SDF as a partner to the Syrian regime and saying: ‘you guys sort yourselves out, we are actually going to leave’,” said Turkey analyst Sinan Ciddi of the US-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

“The administration is apparently toying with the idea that it’s no longer worth keeping US troops there because they are in harm’s way,” he said.

At least some in the US administration want to explore, if they pulled their troops from northern Syria, “the extent to which Turkey could sort out its problems with the Kurds via engaging with the Syrian regime”, Ciddi added.

US-Turkey reset

A US withdrawal from Syria would relieve years of tension between NATO allies Turkey and the United States.

“Unfortunately, this relationship with the United States and YPG creates a barrier between Turkey and the United States,” said Bilgehan Alagoz, a professor of international relations at Istanbul’s Marmara University. 

“A NATO ally should not act against other allies’ national concerns,” she said. “That’s the main reason why Turkey perceives US policy in Syria as a national security concern.”

  • Sweden deal unlikely to resolve bitter dispute between NATO and Turkey

With Ankara last month lifting its veto on Sweden’s NATO membership and the White House reciprocating by green-lighting the sale of military jets to Turkey, the NATO allies appear to be seeking to reset ties

Analyst Selcen warns time may be running out for the SDF.

“If the Americans leave, it will be very difficult for the SDF to survive unless they cut a deal with Damascus,” Selcen said. “But the timing is of the essence, of course – they cannot get the same terms that they will get once the Americans leave.”

Damascus compromise

But Selcen suggests if the SDF moves quickly, it could secure a deal with Damascus that ensures its survival – at least in the short term, given the weakness of the Syrian security forces.

“At the end of the day, they will have to come up with some kind of modus vivendi with [Syrian President Bashar Al] Assad. It does not mean that Assad will come to control this region again as he did. But they will have to come up with some sort of a solution with Damascus.”

There could equally be advantages for the Turkish government, he believes.

  • Turkey lays the ground for a smoothing of relations with Syria

“It will also be, in the end, a kind of a safe face-saving formula for Ankara, which can now take Damascus as the main interlocutor to deal with this [Kurdish problem],” Selcen said.

“All these sides will be very happy to see the American presence leave the region – with the exception of, of course, the Iraqi Kurds and the Syrian Kurds.”

Opposition to the US military presence in Syria is rare common ground between Ankara and Damascus.

If Damascus was to retake control of the predominantly Kurdish region, analysts say, it could be enough for Erdogan to claim victory over the SDF, end Turkey’s assault, and remove the main point of tension between Ankara and Washington.


Culture

Artist’s quest to honour hidden heroes of fight against French slavery

Slavery has been a prominent theme in contemporary US and British art for many years, but French institutions have been slower to foreground the issue. Now the Panthéon monument in Paris has given carte blanche to artist Raphaël Barontini to bring lesser-known figures of emancipation into the light.

Freedom fighters have been at the core of Raphaël Barontini’s work for many years. But to have his pieces displayed in the Panthéon, a hallowed space reserved for France’s national heroes, is deeply meaningful.

Barontini is acutely aware that his exhibition “We Could be Heroes” is not only an opportunity to pay tribute to lesser-known figures involved in the fight against slavery, but also a historic step forward in terms of publicly addressing these themes.

The Panthéon, whose dome looms over the capital’s fifth district, is where France’s great intellectuals and statespeople are buried – notably Victor Hugo, Voltaire, Marie Curie and Jean Moulin.

Suspended under its monumental ceilings, Barontini’s giant silkscreen-printed banners flutter gently, inviting visitors to look up.

The pastel colours and graphic motifs evoke scenes from France’s history of slavery – the trans-Atlantic crossing, sugar plantations, battles for freedom.

Nearby, contrasting with the heavy stone statues and massive columns, colourful shield-shaped flags stand in a line.

Upon them are the faces of men and women who marked the long fight for freedom with their bravery and acts of resistance: Anchaing and Héva from Réunion Island, Louis Delgrès from Martinique and Guadeloupe, and Sanité Bélair from Haiti, among others.

  • Heroes who fought to abolish slavery honoured in Paris Pantheon expo

When he began exploring slavery and its eventual abolition as an arts student nearly 15 years ago, Barontini admits he was in uncharted waters. At the time, few other contemporary artists in France had dared to take on such an explosive subject.

“A certain part of the art world wasn’t ready to accept it” and nor was the general public, he told RFI.

After graduating, Barontini accepted residencies abroad and his work gained traction, especially in the United States where “these subjects are studied and talked about”, he says.

Rebalancing national history

Barontini grew up in the socially and racially mixed working-class suburb of Saint-Denis, just north of Paris – a stone’s throw away from the famous Saint-Denis Basilica where French kings are buried.

His curiosity about his own heritage, linked to Italy through his father and Guadeloupe through his mother, began at a young age.

As he travelled back and forth as a child to visit relatives in Guadeloupe, he became intrigued about how these tiny Caribbean islands fitted into the great saga of French history.

  • Paris to unveil first public statue to a black woman who challenged slavery

The discovery of his country’s violent participation in hundreds of years of slavery signalled an artistic awakening.

It brought him an opportunity to unearth stories of courage and determination, and focus on the accounts not published in school history books or represented in museums. Out of ugliness, he created beauty, rehabilitating lost memories.

“Many people have thanked me for my work,” Barontini told RFI.

“I see that as support for what I do, but I think it also shows there’s a need to talk about history in all its complexity and all its forms. I’m trying to rebalance our national history by using art.”

A powerful drumbeat

To accompany his visuals at the Panthéon, Barontini chose to incorporate an original sound piece composed by American artist and music producer Mike Ladd. The mysterious electronic sounds are a contrast to the hush that usually reigns in the monument.

Barontini also organised for 40 musicians from the Caribbean carnival group Choukaj to perform in both the opening and closing weeks of the exhibition, which ran from 19 October 2023 to 11 February 2024.

A large crowd turned out for the finale in early February. Young and old alike, they kept time with the feverish beat of drums, hypnotic horns and chants that filled the cavernous space, bringing history to life.

Barontini says he’s proud and humbled that his works have found their way into one of France’s most symbolic monuments, even temporarily.

“I am happy to have had this carte blanche today. It proves that despite everything we’re making progress. It was important for me to see these figures included in the Panthéon, even for a temporary exhibition.”

He says he’s preparing more shows for elsewhere in France and abroad, hopefully one day in the Caribbean.

  • Why descendants of France’s slaves are still fighting for their memory

Barontini refers to the Panthéon performance as a “funeral march”, a commemoration of one of the darkest, deadliest chapters of French history. 

But by centring those who fought for the humanity of themselves and others, it becomes one marked with joy and pride – creating echoes that will continue to vibrate in the austere space and beyond.

Celebrating black history in France

While Black History Month is celebrated across the United States in February and in October in the UK, France does not have an official equivalent.

However, groups like Memoires et Partages (“Memory and Sharing”) are trying to rectify that by holding their own unofficial celebrations. The organisation is hosting a series of events in February to highlight the role the French cities of Bordeaux, Nantes and La Rochelle played in the slave trade until it was finally abolished for good in 1848.


GUNS

Police in Marseille bust network trafficking in 3D-printed weapons

Police in the French southern city of Marseille have dismantled an extensive arms trafficking network – spanning from the Mediterranean to Belgium – accused of selling 3D-printed guns. Prosecutors say the trade in such weapons, which can be virtually impossible to trace, is cause for alarm.

Exhibiting weapons made using 3D printers before being sold online, Marseille’s public prosecutor Nicolas Bessone told a press conference on Monday that the arms’ seizure was “a first in France”.

Led by the national gendarmerie’s cyber division, a year of investigation – including the infiltration of Telegram groups – culminated in raids at the end of January across southern and eastern France, as well as Belgium. 

Some 300 police officers were mobilised to arrest 14 people and recover eight 3D printers, seven complete 3D weapons and 24 conventional weapons. Many were undeclared and seized mainly from collectors.

The alleged head of the network was a 26-year-old man from the Var department in the south of France, who had already been convicted of a drugs offence.

After he moved to Belgium, an international arrest warrant was issued for him to be handed over to the French authorities.

Hervé Pétry, the newly appointed head of the French gendarmerie’s national cyber unit, told reporters the suspect “shared a libertarian mentality” and was part of a pro-gun movement whose aim was to “distribute weapons to as many people as possible to protect themselves from the state, which they consider to be totalitarian and oppressive”.

New criminal techniques

In all, six people have been remanded in custody, while five others are under judicial supervision. All are aged between 18 and 30.

Some of them are accused of helping to manufacture the weapons, while others allegedly acted as intermediaries and resellers.

Buyers – who included collectors and people linked to drug trafficking – were also arrested.

To avoid checks, the 3D-printed gun parts were sent one by one to the buyers.

“This is still prohibited by law, with penalties of up to six years’ imprisonment,” Bessone said, adding that “crime is adapting to new techniques”.

  • France sends elite police unit to Marseille in bid to quell drug violence
  • French neo-Nazis arrested after large cache of weapons found in Alsace

Self-assembled

Among the weapons seized were FGC-9s, whose name stands for “Fuck Gun Control 9mm”. With characteristics similar to machine guns, they can be manufactured using a 3D printer and following guides easily found on the dark web.

Harder to trace than conventional guns, they can then be resold for between €1,000 and €1,500.

According to Pétry, the weapons seized were reportedly of “good to very good” quality, “95 percent close to the original model”.

An FGC-9-type weapon was used last June in an attempted murder in the centre of Marseille, when two people on a stolen motorbike shot at people gathered outside a shop. The weapon was subsequently recovered and two suspects arrested.

In 2019, a shooter in Halle, Germany, used a self-designed 3D weapon in an attack on a synagogue and a Turkish restaurant, which left two people dead.

According to a report by the London-based International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation, the driving force behind designs for 3D-printed firearms that have proliferated online is “a broad movement of gun enthusiasts, hobbyists, and ideologues who believe bearing arms is a human right”.


European Union

EU agrees plan to overhaul spending rules for more flexibility

Brussels (AFP) – The European Parliament and member states reached an agreement early Saturday on reforms to EU budgetary rules aimed at boosting investment while keeping spending under control.

The text modernises the current rules, known as the Stability and Growth Pact, created in the late 1990s, which limit countries’ debt to 60 percent of gross domestic product and public deficits to three percent.

“Deal!,” the Belgian Presidency of the Council of the EU said on social media platform X after 16 hours of talks.

The European Union spent two years making an intensive effort to develop reforms supported by the more frugal member states like Germany and other countries, such as France and Italy, which seek more flexibility.

After much wrangling between Berlin and Paris, the 27 member states struck a deal in December, then began talks with negotiators from the European Parliament.

The text was criticised for its great complexity and derided by left-wing officials as a tool for imposing austerity on Europe.

The negotiators finally reached an agreement early Saturday, in time for the text to be voted on in Strasbourg this spring before the parliamentary break ahead of European elections.

The reforms will be formally adopted after agreement between lawmakers and states.

The agreement will allow member states to apply the new rules to their 2025 budgets.

“The new rules will help achieve balanced & sustainable public finances, structural reforms, foster investments, growth & jobs creation in the EU,” the Belgian presidency said.

Wiggle room

The former budgetary framework was considered too drastic and was never really respected.

The rules had, however, been suspended since the coronavirus pandemic to give member states wiggle room to spend more during a period of great economic upheaval.

During the initial debates between countries, the battle was fierce over how much those old limits should be relaxed to give more room for investment.

With war raging in Europe and the EU making a green transition push, states led by France argued for allowing more space to finance these key areas, including, for example, supplying critical arms to Ukraine.

While confirming the previous limits on debt and budget deficits, the new agreement allows more flexibility in the event of excessive deficits.

The text provides looser fiscal rules more adapted to the particular situation of each state, allowing big spenders a slower route back to frugality.

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  • EU leaders seal €50bn Ukraine aid deal after Hungary lifts veto

The tailor-made approach means each country presents their own adjustment trajectory to ensure their debt’s sustainability, giving them more time if they undertake reforms and investments and allowing a less painful return to fiscal health.

Monitoring would focus on expenditure trends, an economic indicator considered more relevant than deficits, which can fluctuate depending on the level of growth.

But Germany and its “frugal” allies managed to tighten this budgetary framework by imposing a quantifiable minimum effort to reduce debt and deficits for all EU countries, despite the reluctance of France and Italy.

These modifications have greatly complicated the text.

“We have a deal! A new economic governance framework was much needed,” Dutch MEP Esther de Lange said on X.

“We have ensured that the new fiscal rules are sound and credible, while also allowing room for necessary investments,” said de Lange, of the centre-right European People’s Party Group.



The reforms are also supported by the EU’s Renew liberals and a large majority of the Socialist and Democrat groupings.

The Greens and some S&D elected officials, however, reject it, as do the radical left.

These elected officials have denounced a return to austerity after three years of suspended budgetary rules due to the pandemic and war in Ukraine.

“We need investments in industry, in defence, in the ecological transition, that’s the urgency today, it is not to bring economically absurd rules up to date,” economist and S&D MEP Aurore Lalucq of France told AFP.

She denounced it as a “political error which will be used by populists to attack Europe”.

(AFP)


Obituary

Robert Badinter, French minister who ended the guillotine, dies at 95

Robert Badinter, the former justice minister who played a key role in abolishing the death penalty in France in 1981, has died at the age of 95.  

Badinter saved many lives by dedicating his own to the fight against capital punishment.

The soft-spoken human rights lawyer, who said he could not abide by a “killer justice system”, was widely vilified for pushing through legislation banning the death penalty at a time when a majority of French people still supported it.

“We entered the court by the front door, and once the verdict had been read and the accused’s head was safe, we often had to leave by a hidden stairway,” he recalled.

Badinter said later he had “never felt so lonely” in fighting capital punishment, which in France was carried out by beheading with the guillotine – a practice dating back to the French Revolution of 1789.

In years to come, however, he would be hailed for his integrity and statesmanship.

“Robert Badinter never stopped pleading for enlightenment,” President Emmanuel Macron wrote on social media platform X. 

“He was a person of the century, a man with a republican conscience and a spirit that was French.”

‘Cut in two’   

The son of a Jewish fur trader who died in a Nazi death camp during World War II, Badinter built a reputation as a lawyer for defending – often successfully – notorious cases that his peers didn’t dare touch.

His career took a decisive turn in 1972 after one of his clients, Roger Bontems, was beheaded for his secondary role in the murder of a nurse and a guard during a prison escape.

Badinter was haunted by his failure to win a stay on Bontem’s execution. In 2005 he told RFI that the case changed his stance on the death penalty – from an “intellectual belief” as a lawyer on the left into a militant.

“It’s one thing to have an intellectual belief and another thing is injustice – to have the jury decide that [Bontems] hadn’t killed anybody … but that both of them should be sent to the guillotine?” he said.

“I saw a man, in the name of justice, cut in pieces. I couldn’t accept this idea of justice. It’s the contrary of justice. And from then on I became a militant.”

“I saw a man cut into pieces… with no blood on his hands. I couldn’t accept this idea of justice. Justice cannot kill.”

02:41

Robert Badinter talks to RFI’s Imogen Lamb in 2005

Imogen Lamb

Five years later he helped convince a jury not to execute Patrick Henry for the murder of a seven-year-old boy, becoming a hate figure for many French people.

Badinter turned the case into a trial of the death penalty, calling in experts to describe in grisly detail the workings of the guillotine.

“Guillotining is nothing less than taking a living man and cutting him in two,” he argued.

He saved six men from execution during his career, eliciting death threats in the process.

No deterrent effect

Badinter was appointed justice minister in president François Mitterrand‘s Socialist government in June 1981. He made ending the death penalty an immediate priority.

France’s last execution had been in 1977 with the death of Hamida Djandoubi – a Tunisian immigrant convicted of torturing and murdering a young woman.

Just four months after taking office, Badinter ushered an abolition through parliament with a landmark speech denouncing the “stealthy executions at dawn” that were France’s “collective shame”.

Demolishing myths about the supposed deterrent effect of the death penalty, he argued: “If fear of death stopped men in their tracks, we would have no great soldiers or sporting figures.”



Badinter continued to make history in 1983 when he succeeded in getting Bolivia to extradite Klaus Barbie, a former chief of the Nazis’ secret police, the Gestapo, to France.

Notorious during the German occupation of France as the “butcher of Lyon”, Barbie was put on trial for crimes against humanity and sentenced to life imprisonment in a landmark case that saw Holocaust victims take the stand for the first time in France.

During his five years as minister, Badinter also scrapped a law discriminating against gay people on the age of sexual consent and worked to improve conditions in French prisons.

He served as president of the Constitutional Council and as a member of the French Senate from 1995 to 2011.

He worked tirelessly on trying to get a global ban on the death penalty, campaigning against executions in China and the United States.

Speaking to RFI in 2005, he expressed satisfaction that some 116 countries worldwide had abolished the death penalty.

“The trend is towards world abolition and it will come I am sure of that,” he said. “I’m afraid I will not see it, but it will come.”

According to Amnesty International, 144 countries are abolitionist in law or practice.

(with newswires)


Culture

Why is France so fascinated by exhibitions on Ancient Egypt?

An immersive exhibition about Egyptian pharaohs opened on Friday at the Ateliers des Lumières in Paris. It’s the fourth expo on Ancient Egypt to be shown in the French capital since 2019, when artefacts from the tomb of Tutankhamun attracted a record number of visitors.

Projections of art pieces from the Louvre and the Egyptian museum in Cairo (EMC) adorn the walls of the 2,000 square metre Atelier des Lumières. They’re accompanied by classical and contemporary music, some from the soundtrack of films.

“The selection is based on art pieces that have been remarkably conserved despite the millennia that separates us from this civilisation,” the exhibition’s artistic director, Virginie Martin, told RFI.

She also uses new technology based on the 3D reconstitution of temples. Some of the projections come from the original Assassin’s Creed video game, which was set in Egypt.

“There really is a love, a passion for the Orient and especially for Egypt,” French Egyptologist Jean-Guillaume Olette-Pelletier, the exhibition’s scientific advisor, told RFI. 

“Because Egypt is a land of mysteries, it’s still very much part of our collective imagination, especially in France.”

There’s been a longstanding relationship between Egypt and France ever since Napoloen Bonaparte led his Egyptian Expedition from 1798 to 1801.

  • How French linguist Champollion unlocked the hieroglyphs of ancient Egypt

“It’s also thanks to [French egyptologist] Champollion, who discovered the key to hieroglyphic texts and ensured these hieroglyphs were no longer just images,” says Olette-Pelletier.

Several museums commemorated the anniversary of Champollion’s 1822 breakthrough with exhibitions highlighting the scientific and cultural relationship between France and Egypt.

Egyptologist Jean-Guillaume Olette-Pelletier

Record visitors

In 1967, an exhibition dedicated to Tutankhamun at the Petit Palais in Paris was the first to attract more than one million visitors.

The Tutankhamun treasures went on display again in 2019, this time at the Grande Halle de la Villette, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the discovery of the famous pharaoh’s tomb.

A new record was set with 1.4 million visitors.

  • King Tut’s treasures come to Paris, record visitors expected

These exhibitions top the list of the most visited shows in French museum history –  trumping those devoted to Leonardo da Vinci in 2020, Monet in 2010, Dali in 1979 and Renoir in 1985. 

Ancient Egypt exhibitions in Paris since 1967

1967: The first exhibition on Ancient Egypt called Tutankhamun and his time was shown at the Petit Palais.
1976: Ramses II’s sarcophagus displayed at the Grand Palais.
2019: Tutankhamun: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh at the Grande Halle de La Villette.
With 1,423,170 visitors, it is the most visited exhibition in France so far.
2023: Ramses the Great and the Gold of the Pharaohs at the Grande Halle de La Villette.
3 February 2024: Tutankhamun the pharaonic immersive experience at the Galeries Montparnasse.
9 February 2024: The Egypt of Pharaohs. From Kheops to Ramses II at the Ateliers des Lumières.
 

Scientific, cultural cooperation

A significant number of French archaeologists and Egyptologists work in Egypt, says Olette-Pelletier.

“There are three French centres in Egypt – in Alexandria, Cairo and Karnak – and they work all year round in collaboration with the Egyptians to bring certain works to the fore and to uncover temples or tombs,” he says.

Olette-Pelletier himself was trained at the French-Egyptian Centre for the Study of the Temples of Karnak (Cfeetk).

“Egypt loaning us some of Tutankhamun’s ancient artefacts is also a great way for Egypt to promote its own tourism,” he says.


Egyptian Pharaohs. From Cheops to Ramses II is at the Atelier des Lumières in Paris from 9 February 2024 to 5 January 2025.


French politics

Embattled French education minister replaced in reshuffle

Prime Minister Gabriel Attal has finally completed his government nearly a month after being nominated – with a total of 35 ministers and secretaries of state. Most notably, a new education minister will take over from Amélie Oudea-Castera after a series of controversies.

President Emmanuel Macron reshuffled his government in January with a tilt to the right, naming a small team of just 14 ministers under Attal, its youngest ever prime minister.

Attal late Thursday announced a second batch of ministerial nominations to complete a team aimed at injecting momentum for the final phase of the Macron presidency.

While Oudéa-Castera has lost the education portfolio, the former high-flying tennis plays stays on as Sports and Olympic Games Minister.

Nicole Belloubet – justice minister between 2017 and 2020 and former member of the Socialist Party – was the safe bet chosen to handle one of the most delicate posts in French politics.

The 68-year-old has held several high-level posts in education.

Oudéa-Castera came under fire since her nomination to a mammoth ministry combining education, sports and the Olympics for the way she handled a controversy over her children being privately schooled.

She irritated teachers early on by claiming absenteeism had prompted her decision to school her children in the private system.

Media headlines depicting her as out of touch and part of a privileged and aloof elite overshadowed the first days of Attal’s government.

Speaking on television on Thursday, Attal acknowledged Oudéa-Castera has provoked a sense of “discomfort”, but defended her record. 

  • French education minister says she is staying in post despite criticism

Four posts for centrist MoDem

There had been speculation that Francois Bayrou, head of the centrist MoDem that is allied to Macron’s party, could return to the government.

Bayrou was acquitted on Wednesday in a seven-year case over the fraudulent employment of parliamentary assistants by his party after the judge ruled he was owed the “benefit of the doubt”.

  • French centrist leader Francois Bayrou cleared of misusing public funds

But on Wednesday Bayrou said he would not enter the government, blaming a lack of “profound agreement on policy to follow”.

Bayrou has publicly criticised the appointment of Attal as PM, suggesting he lacked experience. But Attal has denied there are tensions. 

“Francois Bayrou is a pillar of French political life,” Attal told France 2. “We agreed together that [he] was not necessarily the best solution for the ministry of national education.”

MoDem has, however, kept four posts in the new line-up, including Jean-Noel Barrot who takes the post of Europe minister at the foreign ministry.


Agriculture

French farmers have ended their blockades, but the protest isn’t over

French farmers may have called off their protests in response to last week’s government concessions, but some remain mobilised – arguing the fundamental reasons behind their action have still not been addressed.

“It’s always good if you have less of an administrative burden,” says farmer Genevieve Savigny about the government’s promises of better pay and less red tape.

The government also said it would delay France’s plan to phase out pesticides – a move the European Union took as well.

“It makes you believe you’ll be on a level playing field with other countries that use these chemicals,” Savigny adds.

“But it does not address the root of the problem, which is to ensure a decent income for all farmers and to give a long-term vision to farming.”

More on the farmers’ protest in the Spotlight on France podcast

Small-scale farming

Savigny has a small free-range chicken farm in the southern Alps, and her son grows lavender and wheat.

A self-described “peasant farmer”, she’s a member of the Confederation Paysanne – a union representing small-scale farmers that supports sustainable farming practices, including the phasing out of pesticides.

While Savigny did not join the farmers heading to Paris, she did participate in local actions to highlight the problems with imported honey and its impact on local production.

The Confederation Paysanne disagreed with the main FNSEA union when it called off the blockades after the government delayed the pesticide plan and offered €400 million in aid to farmers.

“The leaders of the FNSEA obtained from the government responses linked to thir personal interest as speculative agri-managers,” the union wrote in a statement.

“This also allowed the government to absolve itself from addressing the central question of this uprising: income.”

  • Why are French farmers angry and who will reap the rewards?

Low income, low prices

Because of variations between types of farmers – winegrowers versus livestock versus larger grain farms – it is difficult to calculate exact incomes.

Figures from the Insee national statistics agency show the average household income for farmers in 2021 was 1,910 euros a month.

However many farmers earned much less than that, with 15 percent declaring no income and 18 percent declaring incomes below the poverty line.

Income comes from selling products, and there has been a long-standing tension between farmers looking to cover their production costs and supermarket chains negotiating lower prices.

“The supermarkets always try to push prices down,” says Savigny, who has always sold directly to consumers at markets, but recognises this is not a model for everyone.

Retailers need to be pushed to pay farmers correctly. The EGalim law – intended to ensure fair practices during annual negotiations between producers and distributors – is a first step, but the law can go farther and is also not fully implemented.

“We are asking for laws that would make it impossible for retailers or processors to pay below production costs,” Savigny says, pointing to the example of Spain, which she says has adapted a European law in a stricter way than other countries to move in this direction.

  • French farmers say EU/Mercosur trade deal will put them out of business

Free trade

Another issue is international trade agreements that affect small farmers all over the world.

Last week France said it would pull out of the Mercosur trade agreement that has been negotiated for nearly two decades between the European Union and Latin American countries.

The agreement would allow Europe to export things like cars and biotechnology and, in return, it would allow in agricultural products such as dairy and beef.

“The Mercosur agreement risks weakening some sectors, notably sheep and cattle farmers,” economist Antoine Bouët, who has written about globalisation, told RFI.

Free trade agreements by necessity must balance the needs of different sectors.

“You cannot separate out farming from other sectors,” he says. “It’s difficult to impose a treaty on South Americans that would open their borders to industry, and we would concede nothing on agriculture.”

What kind of farming?

Ultimately, the crisis for French – and European – farmers, is made up of many parts, that have to do with trade, environmental regulations and food sovereignty.

“We’ve respond to the crisis with emergency measures,” Herve Guyomard, economist with the French national institute for agricultural research, INRA, told RFI.

But the emergency measures “do not resolve the structural problem, which is the transition of our farming and food systems, particularly their decarbonisation, like in all sectors, which needs resources”.

Underlying all of these issues is a fundamental question of what form farming should take in France and in Europe.

Most French farms are small; nearly 60 percent are individually owned with an average surface of 69 hectares.

But the world is moving towards a more industrial, consolidated system.

“Europe and France are pushing for the industrial model, or at least a model that is linked to the industrialisation of the food system,” says Savigny.

Those who are fighting against this move are facing an uphill battle.

“We are not trying to be competitive for an international market,” she says.

“What we want is to be able to feed local people at decent prices in the long term and to do this using sustainable methods.”


For more on the farmers’ protest, listen to the Spotlight on France podcast, episode 106


Migration

EU pledges €200m to help Mauritania clamp down on illegal migration

The European Union has unveiled €210 million in aid to help Mauritania crack down on people smugglers and deter migrant boats. The move comes amid a spike in the number of people attempting the dangerous Atlantic crossing from West Africa to Europe.

On a visit to the Mauritanian capital Nouakchott, EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen and Spain’s Pedro Sanchez met President Mohamed Ould Ghazouani for talks focused on border controls and economic development.

“To help Mauritania face challenges in the areas of migration management, forced displacement, as well as security and development, the EU intends to strengthen its financial support,” they said in a statement, adding the EU’s Frontex border agency would play a role.

Sanchez also announced €200 million of financial support from Spain over the next five years to facilitate the development of green hydrogen projects in collaboration with Spanish companies.

European elections

Migration is set to dominate debate in June’s European Parliament elections amid growing anti-immigration rhetoric from right-wing parties.

Mauritania‘s strategic importance is growing due to the increased migration pressures and instability in the Sahel region.

The number of migrants entering Spain irregularly by sea jumped nearly 300% in January, with the vast majority arriving in the Canary Islands.

  • Migrant arrivals to Spain nearly doubled in 2023
  • Italy targets energy, migration with ‘non-predatory’ plan for Africa

About 83 percent of the dinghy boats making it to the archipelago departed from Mauritania, say Spanish officials.

That followed a record number last year who attempted to reach Europe via the Spanish archipelago, which is located off the African coast.

Spain has deployed police officers in Mauritania since 2006, when a large inflow prompted an overhaul of migration policy to put the focus on giving financial and security aid to the boats’ countries of departure.

Mauritania, home to fewer than five million people, suffers from widespread poverty and since 2012 has been dealing with the influx of tens of thousands people from neighbouring Mali.

(with Reuters) 

International report

As Turkey bombards Kurdish forces in Syria, is the US preparing to pull out?

Issued on:

Turkish military forces are carrying out an air assault on US-backed Kurdish forces in Syria, and Ankara has warned that a land operation may follow. The crackdown comes amid reports that Washington may pull its forces out of Syria and Iraq.

Turkey’s government accuses Kurdish forces in north-eastern Syria of being linked to attacks on its army. 

Turkish drone strikes are bombarding oil refineries and electricity production in the Syrian border region controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a coalition of ethnic militias and rebel groups.

“The targets are energy infrastructure and that sort of stuff. Obviously, the goal is to make that area not sustainable, as a sustainable haven for the SDF,” says Aydin Selcen, a former senior Turkish diplomat and now regional analyst for the Medyascope news portal.

The SDF’s ranks include the Kurdish People’s Defence Units (YPG) and Women’s Protection Units (YPJ), which Ankara accuses of being affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK. The armed movement is considered a terrorist organisation by both Ankara and Washington.

“The end game as defined by the Turkish authorities is to prevent a terrorist statelet [being created] beyond Turkish borders,” explains Selcen.

“This means allowing the PKK or its Syrian affiliates, the YPG and YPJ, to establish a local administration in that area. War on terror is perhaps the number one priority for this government.” 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last month threatened a new land invasion into Syria.

Turkish forces already control a large swathe of Syrian territory from previous operations against Syrian Kurdish forces.

Possible US withdrawal

The SDF is backed by a US military force of around 900 soldiers in the war against the so-called Islamic State group, raising the possibility of a conflict between NATO and its allies.

Ankara’s ongoing assault comes amid reports that Washington is considering pulling its forces out of Syria and Iraq.

“Washington may be preparing to hand off SDF as a partner to the Syrian regime and saying: ‘you guys sort yourselves out, we are actually going to leave’,” said Turkey analyst Sinan Ciddi of the US-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

“The administration is apparently toying with the idea that it’s no longer worth keeping US troops there because they are in harm’s way,” he said.

At least some in the US administration want to explore, if they pulled their troops from northern Syria, “the extent to which Turkey could sort out its problems with the Kurds via engaging with the Syrian regime”, Ciddi added.

US-Turkey reset

A US withdrawal from Syria would relieve years of tension between NATO allies Turkey and the United States.

“Unfortunately, this relationship with the United States and YPG creates a barrier between Turkey and the United States,” said Bilgehan Alagoz, a professor of international relations at Istanbul’s Marmara University. 

“A NATO ally should not act against other allies’ national concerns,” she said. “That’s the main reason why Turkey perceives US policy in Syria as a national security concern.”

  • Sweden deal unlikely to resolve bitter dispute between NATO and Turkey

With Ankara last month lifting its veto on Sweden’s NATO membership and the White House reciprocating by green-lighting the sale of military jets to Turkey, the NATO allies appear to be seeking to reset ties

Analyst Selcen warns time may be running out for the SDF.

“If the Americans leave, it will be very difficult for the SDF to survive unless they cut a deal with Damascus,” Selcen said. “But the timing is of the essence, of course – they cannot get the same terms that they will get once the Americans leave.”

Damascus compromise

But Selcen suggests if the SDF moves quickly, it could secure a deal with Damascus that ensures its survival – at least in the short term, given the weakness of the Syrian security forces.

“At the end of the day, they will have to come up with some kind of modus vivendi with [Syrian President Bashar Al] Assad. It does not mean that Assad will come to control this region again as he did. But they will have to come up with some sort of a solution with Damascus.”

There could equally be advantages for the Turkish government, he believes.

  • Turkey lays the ground for a smoothing of relations with Syria

“It will also be, in the end, a kind of a safe face-saving formula for Ankara, which can now take Damascus as the main interlocutor to deal with this [Kurdish problem],” Selcen said.

“All these sides will be very happy to see the American presence leave the region – with the exception of, of course, the Iraqi Kurds and the Syrian Kurds.”

Opposition to the US military presence in Syria is rare common ground between Ankara and Damascus.

If Damascus was to retake control of the predominantly Kurdish region, analysts say, it could be enough for Erdogan to claim victory over the SDF, end Turkey’s assault, and remove the main point of tension between Ankara and Washington.

The Sound Kitchen

France and the Academy Awards

Issued on:

Happy World Radio Day! Today we’ll celebrate WRD with your greetings and thoughts. There’s the answer to the question about France’s film submission to the Academy Awards, “The Listener’s Corner”, 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.

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 13 February, I asked you a question about our article “French film ‘Anatomy of a Fall’ wins best screenplay, foreign film at Golden Globes”. You were to read the article carefully and answer this question: what is the name of the film that will represent France in this year’s Academy Awards?

The answer is, to quote our article: “The Golden Globes traditionally serve as a preview of the Academy Awards, but Anatomy of a Fall, which won the top Palme d’Or award at Cannes, will not represent France for the best international film, with La Passion de Dodin Bouffant, a historical romance between two gastronomists, submitted instead.”

La Passion de Dodin Bouffant is translated into English as The Taste of Things. 

In addition to the quiz question, there was the bonus question: “What do you remember about your first experience traveling?”, which was suggested by Khuki Jahanara Yesmin from Bogura, Bangladesh.

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

The winners are: Ras Franz Manko Ngogo, the president of the Kemogemba RFI Club in Tarime, Tanzania. Ras is also the winner of this week’s bonus question. Congratulations, Ras!

Also on the list of lucky winners this week are Hari Madugula, the president of the Young Stars Radio Club in Hyderabad, India, and Muhammad Shamim, the president of the Golden Eagles RFI Club in Keralam State, India. Rounding out the list are RFI Listeners Club members Kashif Khalil from Faisalabad, Pakistan, and Zenon Teles, who is also the president of the Christian – Marxist – Leninist – Maoist Association of Listening DX-ers in Goa, India.

Congratulations winners!

Here’s the music you heard on this week’s programme: The traditional French accordion song “La Reine de Musette”, performed by Lucy Riddett; “The Flight of the Bumblebee” by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov; Claude Debussy’s “The Cakewalk” from Children’s Corner, written and performed by the composer, and “Roi Fayssal”, written and performed by Ali Toure Farka.  

This week’s question … you must listen to the show to participate. After you’ve listened to the show, re-read Melissa Chemam’s article “Senegalese lawmakers postpone presidential election to 15 December” to help you with the answer.

You have until 4 March to enter this week’s quiz; the winners will be announced on the 9 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

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

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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.


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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.