rfi 2024-04-08 01:08:16



WWII

France’s Macron launches season of WWII commemorative events

French President Emmanuel Macron paid tribute on Sunday to 44 Jewish children deported from an orphanage in the southeast of France by the Nazis, and to members of the French Resistance, in the first of a string of events he is leading this year to mark 80 years since D-Day and the Liberation of Paris.

“The sole basis of anti-Semitism is hatred,” Macron said on Sunday, visiting the former orphanage in Izieu where on 6 April, 1944,  44 Jewish children were rounded up by the Gestapo with their seven instructors, also Jewish.

The raid was carried out on the orders of Klaus Barbie, the notorious Nazi known as the “Butcher of Lyon”.

All the Izieu victims were deported to the death camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland or Reval in Estonia. Only one instructor survived.

The orphanage was founded by Sabine Zlatin, a Jewish resistance fighter of Polish origin. Between May 1943 and April 1944, she took in around 100 children whose parents had been deported.

“We went to school, we had a quiet life” even if the adults knew that “it was becoming more and more dangerous”, Bernard Waysenson – one of the eight former residents attending Sunday’s commemorations – told France’s AFP agency.

  • Macron decries anti-Semitism on 80th anniversary of WWII roundup of Jews

‘Hotbed of resistance’

Macron’s visit was aimed at celebrating “the commitment of those who stood up against Nazism by welcoming the victims of persecution, and of those who opposed the abomination of republican values, by bringing the executioner Klaus Barbie to justice,” the French presidency said.

Earlier on Sunday, the French president went to the mountain plateau of Glières, also in the Alps, which he described as a “hotbed of resistance” against Nazi rule.

From January to March 1944, 465 resistance fighters, known as maquisards, gathered at Glières to receive airdrops of weapons in the run-up to the Allied landings in Provence in August 1944.

Two thirds were taken prisoner by the German army and 124 killed during the fighting, or shot. Nine disappeared and 16 died in deportation.

One hundred and five of them are buried at the Morette military cemetery in nearby Thônes. 

Macron paid tribute to the diversity of the 465 maquisards: “Teachers, farmers, public figures, Jews and Catholics, communists, Socialists and Gaullists, anarchists, French and foreign officers united in the same fight against Nazism“, he said.

Quoting the resistance fighters’ motto: “Live free or die”, he alluded to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“This war must end”, he insisted.

Uniting a divided nation

This year’s WWII commemorations will reach a peak with ceremonies marking the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings on 6 June, where a host of world leaders is expected to attend.

On 10 June, the president heads to the martyred village of Oradour-sur-Glane, where Nazi soldiers massacred 643 of its inhabitants on 10 June, 1944, before setting it ablaze.

  • France remembers Oradour, a WWII massacre and the martyred village left behind

France will mark the Allied invasion of Provence on 15 August, and the liberation of Paris from Nazi occupation on 25 August.

The commemorative year closes on 23 November, when France marks the liberation of Strasbourg in the eastern province of Alsace near the German border.

Since his election in 2017, Emmanuel Macron has made much of memorialisation and his speeches often feature historical references – a way of trying to unite a divided nation.

Along with the Paris Olympics, commemorations around the Liberation and D-Day are set to be a highlight of his second five-year term.

(with AFP)


Rwandan genocide

The world ‘failed us all’ says Rwanda’s Kagame in genocide commemorations

Rwanda has paid solemn tribute to victims of the genocide, 30 years after ethnic Hutu extremists killed more than 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus. Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame said the international community had “failed” his country by not intervening to prevent the massacre. 

The carnage was unleashed on 7 April 1994 and, in keeping with tradition, the ceremonies began on Sunday with Kagame placing wreathes on mass graves and lighting a remembrance flame at the Kigali Genocide Memorial, where more than 250,000 victims are believed to be buried.

During a solemn ceremony to commemorate the 100-day massacre, Kagame said: “Rwanda was completely humbled by the magnitude of our loss. And the lessons we learned are engraved in blood.

“It was the international community which failed all of us, whether from contempt or cowardice,” he said, addressing an audience that included several African heads of state and former US president Bill Clinton, who had called the genocide the biggest failure of his administration.

Rwandans will later hold a candlelight vigil at the 10-seat arena for those killed in the slaughter.

The international community’s failure to intervene has been a cause of lasting shame.

French President Emmanuel Macron, in a prerecorded video ahead of Sunday’s ceremonies, said that France had to “look the past in the face”. 

He reiterated comments made in Kigali in 2021 where he acknowledged the “overwhelming responsibility” of France – Rwanda’s closest European ally in 1994 – for its refusal to heed warnings of looming massacres.

A statement by the Elysée presidential office on Thursday had announced that Macron would say France and its Western and African allies “could have stopped” the bloodshed but “lacked the will” to do so.

Macron made no mention of that in the video broadcast. 

Week of national mourning 

Sunday’s events mark the start of a week of national mourning, with Rwanda effectively coming to a standstill and national flags flown at half-mast.

Music will not be allowed in public places or on the radio, while sports events and movies are banned from TV broadcasts, unless connected to what has been dubbed “Kwibuka (Remembrance) 30“.

The United Nations and the African Union will also hold remembrance ceremonies.

  • Young Rwandans entrusted with the memory of the genocide

The assassination of Hutu President Juvenal Habyarimana on the night of 6 April, when his plane was shot down over Kigali, triggered the rampage by Hutu extremists and the “Interahamwe” militia.

According to Rwanda, hundreds of genocide suspects remain at large, including in neighbouring nations such as the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda.

Only 28 have been extradited to Rwanda from around the world.

France, one of the top destinations for Rwandans fleeing justice at home, has tried and convicted half a dozen people over their involvement in the killings.

  • French court jails former Rwandan doctor over 1994 genocide

The French government had been a long-standing backer of Habyarimana‘s regime, leading to decades of tensions between the two countries.

(with AFP)


French arts scene

Exhibition celebrates Marseille as ‘gateway to the Global South’

Visitors to Marseille’s art venue, La Friche la Belle de Mai, can expect visual arts, performances, films and more in a gigantic space at the heart of the mediterranean city. Until June, they can also discover the work of the overseas French artists shaping the latest programme: “A Field of Islands”. 

French Caribbean and Reunion Island artists will be featured over the spring as part of two exhibitions, as well as a lineup of performances and events.

The venue’s director, Alban Corbier-Labasse, said the exhibitions focus on the idea that Marseille is the gateway to the Global South.

The exhibitions span sculpture, painting, documentary photography, installations and films.

Aster Aterla” (“Here and Now” in the Creole of Reunion Island), curated by Julie Crenn, consists of mainly paintings and installations from Reunion, while “Grains of Dust on the Sea“, curated by Arden Sherman, is made up of contemporary sculptures and photographs from the French Caribbean and Haiti.

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

Marseille’s ‘third space’

La Friche is a 45,000 square metre urban cultural space created in 1992 in a former tobacco factory near a Marseille neighbourhood known as La Belle de Mai.

It is seen as a “third place”, a location for social interaction away from work and home. 

Open year round, La Friche provides workspaces for 70 resident organisations made up of 400 artists, producers and employees, and hosts up to 600 creative events each year. 

With a year round presence of creative activity, artistic residents, called frichistes, form a thriving artistic hub that has been an essential part of La Friche since its conception.

Almost half a million people visit the venue each year for its performance spaces, training centre, community garden, playground and athletic space, restaurant, bookstore and daycare, as well as 2,400 square metres of exhibition space and an 8,000 square metre rooftop. 


French history

French archaeologists dig out medieval castle from under Brittany manor

France’s National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research (Inrap) says it has unearthed the remains of a medieval castle in Vannes, on the coast of Brittany. Unexpected discoveries have allowed archaeologists to sketch out the 600-year-old structure and its internal life for the first time. 

Inrap says it carried out the dig – commissioned by the Vannes city council – early last year to check for remains before the 18th-century building on site underwent construction to become a fine arts museum. 

Digging in the manor’s courtyard and cellars, archaeologists found an outer wall and moat, Inrap announced last week. They also excavated evidence of a bridge over the moat and a mill within the castle’s residential area. 

The bridge allowed access to the city, Inrap said, while adding that the mill was built “in a very original way”.

Four metres down, Inrap said it “unexpectedly uncovered the ground floor” measuring 42 metres long and 17 metres wide, surrounded by walls six metres thick.

Judging by “remarkably preserved” staircase remains, archaeologists estimated the castle had three or four levels.

Among the other discoveries were drainage pipes and latrines, filled with items including jewellery, clothing, utensils and coins dating back to the 15th century.

Impressively preserved

A 2021 Inrap study noted the existence of a medieval building at this location, but they were surprised by the complex and extensive structures found last year. 

They believe the impressive preservation of the castle owes, in part, to the muddy conditions of the terrain.

The layout, similar to Suscinio Castle 25 kilometres south of Vannes, was a popular 14th-century model for Briton dukes. 

Brittany was a medieval feudal state between the 10th and 16th centuries, ruled by a line of dukes. 

According to researchers, the site – known as the Castle of Hermine – was built around 1380 by Jean IV, Duke of Brittany and Count of Montfort, as a symbol of his power. 

Sumptous stronghold

The large castle – one of Jean IV’s favourite residences – became a stronghold within his expanding territory and urbanised the township of Vannes.

In its press release, Inrap said that the castle’s construction, completed in a single phase, demonstrated the duke’s wealth. 

“[He] knew how to surround himself with the best engineers and craftsmen of the time,” it said, adding that markings on the wall show workers following an advanced plan.  



Jean IV’s grandson abandoned the castle in favour of another residence. Evidence of the dwelling, only inhabited for its first century, is almost absent from historical archives. 

The vast building on top of the ruins, known variously as Château de l’Hermine and Hôtel Lagorce, has served as a hotel, restaurant, training schools and government offices since it was built in the 1780s. It has been owned by the city since 1976. 

Officials have yet to announce whether the art museum will go ahead as planned in light of Inrap’s discoveries. 

Read also:

  • Breakthrough for French researchers with discovery of Neolithic village
  • Archaeologists find 2nd century Roman site in the French city of Reims

(with newswires)


Rwandan genocide

Rwanda marks 30 years since genocide that horrified the world

Rwanda has begun 100 days of commemorations to mark the 30th anniversary of the 1994 genocide, in which 800,000 people, most of them from the Tutsi ethnic group, were massacred by Hutu militias.

Sunday marks the start of Kwibuka 30 (Remembrance), the sombre 30th commemoration of the genocide, which began on 7 April 1994.

At the Kigali Genocide Memorial, President Paul Kagame – whose Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) rebel army helped to stop the massacres – will deliver a speech and light a flame of remembrance, with some foreign dignitaries in attendance.

They will lay wreaths on the memorial’s mass graves, where more than 250,000 victims are believed to be buried.

This year’s anniversary marks an important date for Rwanda, according to Phil Clark, professor of international politics at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, who specialises in post-conflict issues.

“The country has had a lot of time to recover from the events,” he told RFI English.

“It’s a time of reflection, but also a time to look at how far Rwanda has come. The country has completed the justice process and is tackling inequality. We now have a real sense of what the country has done in response.”

The high-profile commemorations are also a chance for the government to show its accomplishments, he noted.

“The ceremony is there to highlight its big success,” Clark said, “including peace, stability and reconciliation, which includes even the Hutu population.” 

Darkest times

Three decades on, the East African nation has rebuilt under Kagame’s iron-fisted rule, but the traumatic legacy of the genocide continues to reverberate across the region.

One of the darkest episodes since World War II, the mass slaughter was orchestrated by Hutu extremists against the Tutsi minority.

The tragic events were triggered by the assassination of Hutu President Juvenal Habyarimana on the night of 6 April 1994. His plane was shot down over Kigali by Hutu extremists and the Interahamwe militia.

The killing started the next day and lasted 100 days, costing the lives of 800,000 people. While most were Tutsis, moderate Hutus were also murdered.

Some were killed by their own neighbours in a surge of incredible violence.

Their victims were shot, beaten or hacked to death in killings fuelled by vicious anti-Tutsi propaganda broadcast on TV and radio.

An estimated 100,000 to 250,000 women were raped, according to UN figures.

Hundreds of thousands of people, mainly ethnic Hutus fearing reprisal attacks, fled to neighbouring countries including the Democratic Republic of Congo, with long-term consequences.

  • Remembering Rwanda’s darkest hundred days and the thousands who died

Suspects at large

According to the Rwandan authorities, hundreds of genocide suspects remain at large, including in the DRC and Uganda.

In the decades since, Kagame’s government has been accused of arming Tutsi-led rebels in eastern DRC.

Kigali has denied the allegations, but says Tutsis in its larger neighbour are victims of persecution.

Mass graves are still being found in Rwanda to this day.

In 2002, Rwanda set up community tribunals where victims could hear “confessions” from those who had persecuted them.

  • Rwandan genocide: The 25-year search for Félicien Kabuga

‘Never again’

The international community has been heavily criticised for failing to protect civilians, with the UN sharply reducing its peacekeeping force shortly after the outbreak of the violence.

“This year, we remind ourselves of genocide’s rancid root: hate,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a message marking the anniversary.

“To those who would seek to divide us, we must deliver a clear, unequivocal and urgent message: never again.”

The UN designated 7 April as the Day of Remembrance of the Victims of the Rwandan Genocide in 2003.

The UN and the African Union will also organise events for this year’s commemorations.

More broadly, thousands of people around the world are expected to participate in memorial services, involving candle lighting and a moment of silence to remember those who died.

  • France to erect Paris memorial to Rwanda genocide victims

A country in mourning

This 7 April marks the beginning of a period of national mourning that lasts until 4 July, known as Liberation Day.

National flags will be flown at half-mast and music is not allowed in public places or on the radio, while sports events and movies are banned from TV broadcasts, unless connected to the commemorations.

Bars, clubs and public leisure facilities will be closed for a week.

The first remembrance was held 10 years after the genocide, in 2004.

Around two-thirds of Rwanda’s population was born after the genocide, in a nation eager to move on from its painful history.

“Ever since I was little, Rwanda’s story has been one of rebuilding,” 27-year-old Roxanne Mudenge told French news agency AFP.

“The scars of the past are still there, but there’s a different energy now, a sense of possibility.”

(with newswires)


Paris Marathon

Ethiopia takes double gold in Paris 2024 Marathon

Despite their relative lack of marathon experience, Ethiopia’s Mulugeta Uma and Mestawut Fikir beat off the favourites to win the men’s and women’s race in the Paris Marathon on Sunday.

Mulugeta Uma, the 26-year-old running only the fourth marathon of his career, smashed his previous personal best by more than 30 seconds, clocking a time of 2h 5min 33sec.

He managed to pull away from Kenya’s Titus Kipruto just 2.5km from the finish line. 

Paris Marathon record holder Kenya‘s Elisha Rotich took third place, while defending champion Ethiopia‘s Abeje Ayana came in ninth.

Women’s sprint finish

Mestawut Fikir, 24, competing in her first full marathon, won the women’s race in 2h 20min 45sec, just one minute off the race record.

She beat off her compatriot Enat Tirusew in a sprint finish. 

Vivian Cheruiyot, the 39-year-old Kenyan who won the Olympic 5,000m title in Rio in 2016 but running her first marathon since 2019, struggled for a while but recovered to take third place.

Dutchman Geert Schipper, 52, won the wheelchair race in 1h 34min 36sec, while Frenchman Julien Casoli, a five-time winner of the event, took second place in 1h 37min 11sec.

Olympic marathon to come

More than 54,000 runners took part in this 47th edition, nearly half of them marathon first-timers.

The route, down the Champs-Elysees avenue and through woodland on the east and west of Paris, was very different from the course the Olympic field will follow on 10 and 11 August during the Paris Games.

That one will start at Paris City Hall, head out of the city to Versailles, and then return to finish near the Invalides memorial, which houses Napoleon‘s tomb.


ENVIRONMENT

Early bloom of cherry blossoms another marker of climate change

Climate change is causing Japanese cherry blossoms, a famous symbol of spring, to burst into peak bloom early. From Tokyo to Paris and Washington DC, nature’s calendar has been disrupted by unprecedented warm weather that could ultimately prove detrimental to one of the world’s most admired flowers. 

A marker of seasonal change, cherry blossoms are profoundly symbolic in Japanese culture –  representing both rejuvenation as well as the fleeting beauty of nature.  

The centuries-old tradition of hanami – “flower viewing” – has been adopted in many countries, with crowds gathering for yearly scenic picnics beneath the fragrant pink sakura

Forecasting the annual bloom is important business in Japan. Since 1955 the weather agency has calculated the precise moment of peak flowering for the 84 cherry tree hotspots up and down the country. 

A tree is deemed to be blossoming once five or six flowers have opened. When 80 percent of it has flowered, it is in full bloom.  

  • Almost zero snowfall in February a record low for French Alps

Blooming early

The average blossom start date has moved forward by 1.2 days per decade since Japan began keeping records in 1953, said Daisuke Sasano, a climate risk management officer at the Japan Meteorological Agency

Between 1961 and 1990, cherry trees in Tokyo on average began blossoming on 29 March – but that date moved up to 24 March between 1991 and 2020. 

Last year’s blossom in Tokyo began on 14 March – the earliest on record. Sasano puts this down to “global warming compounded with urbanisation”.  

Over the past century Tokyo has warmed by 3C. 

The biggest threat to the trees, however, are not springs that are too hot – but winters that are not cold enough.  

“This is because the winter frost signals to the cherry trees that it’s time for them to wake up and start preparing their buds for spring,” Sasano said.  

“Without this cold trigger, the cherry trees will spend the entire winter sleeping. Then in spring they will not flower because they have no buds.” 

  • As temperatures climb, is the future of French wine in England?

Fear of frost

Some 11,000 kilometres away, in Washington DC, cherry trees are also an iconic part of the springtime cityscape. Three-thousand sakura were given to the US capital as a gift of friendship from Japan in 1912. 

On 17 March, the trees saw their second-earliest peak bloom on record – flowering almost a week before they were expected to. 

Early blooms make cherry trees vulnerable to sudden cold snaps, which still happen despite the overall warmer spring temperatures. 

The last major incident was in 2017, when half of DC’s Yoshino blossoms were lost due to a late frost that came in the middle of March.  

This year’s peak bloom happened so soon that it preceded the official start of DC’s National Cherry Blossom Festival on 20 March.

From December to February the entire northern hemisphere notched up its warmest winter on record – reducing the exposure to the sort of cold weather a tree requires during its winter dormancy in order to be able to wake up and flower. 

  • Push for UN protection of clouds driven by ‘weather weaponisation’ fears

Christmas buds

Disconcerted by the milder conditions, some wilful cherry blossoms burst open over Christmas in France’s Maulévrier Oriental Park, home to Europe’s largest Japanese garden.

“That’s really not normal,” head gardener Didier Touzé told RFI, adding that those flowers were then damaged by ensuing frost.

Despite the startling discovery, Touzé hasn’t observed any major fluctuations in bloom dates over the years in the garden, which has drawn in tens of thousands of visitors every spring since its first hanami festival in 2017.  

Errant blossoms aside, the trees’ normal bloom still took place in March – albeit about a week early. Touzé said another variety of cherry tree is on track to bloom in April, its normal flowering period “give or take a few days”.  

Organisers of the park’s annual hanami are toying with the idea of starting the event a little sooner to account for potential early blooms.

“But the risk is that we’ll then end up having a colder winter followed by a later bloom – so we won’t have gained anything,” Touzé said.


France-Africa relations

France to build balanced partnerships with Africa, says FM on Kenya visit

France will aim to renew ties with Africa and build “balanced partnerships” that are beneficial to the continent, the country’s foreign affairs minister Stephane Sejourné said Saturday in Kenya at the start of his first visit to the continent.

Relations between France and some former African colonies have worsened of late, as the continent becomes a diplomatic battleground amid growing Russian and Chinese influence.

According to the foreign office, the choice to begin Sejourné’s visit in Kenya was also to highlight that France’s relationship with the African continent is not confined to issues of security.

“France’s vocation will be to renew and build balanced, mutually respectful partnerships with African countries, for the benefit of all countries,” the foreign minister said during a press briefing alongside his Kenyan counterpart Musalia Mudavadi. 

“That’s what our roadmap is all about: diversifying these partnerships and making them beneficial for the countries in which we are going to invest.”

He said Africa was a “priority” of French foreign policy because “the continent is on the way to becoming a cultural, economic and diplomatic power… that will count in the world’s balance”.

  • Macron to outline revamped Africa strategy ahead of four-nation tour

Strong economic ties

France and Kenya enjoy good diplomatic relations – President Macron visited Kenya in 2019 and Kenyan President William Ruto has visited Paris twice since he was elected in 2022.

France is Kenya’s fifth largest investor and has strengthened its commercial presence in the east African state over the last decade, almost tripling the number of companies operating there from 50 to 140. 

A huge trade imbalance in favour of France has, however, cast a shadow on their relations. 

“It is a work in progress,” said foreign minister Mudavadi in the joint press conference. 

“The process of us addressing the trade imbalance requires consistent programmes and joint efforts like we are doing,” he said, adding that French companies had provided 34,000 direct jobs in Kenya

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

 

Climate cooperation

 

The two ministers said they had agreed on areas of cooperation, including sports and transport infrastructure. 

They also called for the reform of the global climate financing framework to help poorer countries develop cleanly and adapt to the worsening impacts of climate change.

In December, at COP28, the two countries and Barbados launched a coalition to bring together countries wishing to create an international tax to help developing countries tackle climate change.

On Sunday, Sejourné heads to Rwanda to attend the commemorations of the 30th anniversary of the 1994 genocide before making a final stop in Cote d’Ivoire.

  • Thirty years after genocide, Rwanda’s relations with France are slowly mending

(with AFP)


Photography

More than games: photography festival celebrates sport as statement

As France gears up for the 2024 Olympics, the L’Oeil Urbain (Urban Eye) photo festival is celebrating sport not only as competition, but as a form of social engagement. 

Entitled “The Flame”, the 12th edition of the L’Oeil Urbain photography festival explores how sport is used as a political statement and a display of resilience in troubled times. 

Ten exhibitions go on display from Saturday in the working-class suburb of Corbeil-Essonnes, around 30km south-east of Paris.

The subject matter is as diverse and challenging as the Games themselves, capturing the sporting spirit and extreme human effort that goes into each performance.

As guest of honour, veteran French photographer Raymond Depardon presents archive photos from his coverage of past Olympic Games.

From American athletes protesting racial discrimination at the Mexico Games in 1968, to the hostage-taking of nine Israeli Olympic participants in Munich in 1972, he has captured some of the most iconic social and sporting moments.

His large-format images in black and white are displayed in front of Corbeil-Essonnes‘ town hall.

Faster, higher, stronger

This year’s artist in residence is Paris-based photographer Cyril Zannettacci.

He worked closely with members of the city’s amateur sports clubs for the collaborative exhibition “Citius, altius, fortius” – inspired by the official Olympic motto, which translates as “faster, higher, stronger”.

He chose a two-step technique, beginning with over 30 studio portraits of athletes taken against a black background with flash photography to capture them in motion. He then photographed the giant projections of these images onto walls of buildings at night.

The final larger-than-life portraits are displayed on a local church.

In another outdoor location, on the Patton bridge crossing the Seine, Amandine Lauriol shares her portraits of Marzieh Hamidi – a 21-year-old refugee who fled Afghanistan shortly after the Taliban took back power in August 2021.

The exhibition “Azadi (Liberty)” documents Hamidi’s life since arriving in France, her integration into the the French taekwondo team, and her participation in the World Championships in Baku in 2023.

Breakdancing, bodybuilding

Another newcomer featured is Bgirl Campanita, born in Venezuela, who recently settled in the south of France with a visa allowing her to pursue breakdancing as a professional sport.

Thanks to Laurence Kourcia’s exhibition “Breakers”, Campanita can be seen in action in Nice, where she performs with the Bakhus group.

Breakdancing is one of the four new disciplines added to the Olympic Games for 2024, besides surfing, sport climbing and skateboarding.

The festival also features big-wave surfing from Hawaii pictured by Bernard Testemale, and an eye-popping trip through the streets of Jerusalem with Constance Decorde, who met young practitioners of parkour, or free running.

  • Paris Olympic tapestry weaves together heritage of art and sport
  • Paris 2024 Olympics unveil official posters that ‘tell a story’

Staying in the Middle East, Charles Thiefaine shares the story of body builders in Mosul, Iraq, with his exhibition “Sinan and Nebraz”.

Moroccan photographer Rime Sabbar focused on the national football team’s exploits during the World Cup in 2022 in the exhibition “Red and Green”. She is the 2023 winner of the Face à la Mer prize, linked to the Tangers Photography annual summit founded to support North African photographers.

Back in France, the famous Tour de France cycling race takes pride of place in Jérémy Lempin’s collection and Nathalie Champagne shares portraits of Ludivine, a competitive skater who was the victim of sexual abuse.

All of the exhibitions are within walking distance from the station and free to the public.

Corbeil-Essonnes is one of several towns in the local area that will host 24 disciplines including basketball and table tennis for the Paris Olympics and Paralympics this summer.


L’Oeil Urbain festival runs from 6 April to 11 May in Corbeil-Essonnes, France.


Rwandan genocide

Thirty years after genocide, Rwanda’s relations with France are slowly mending

France’s relationship with Rwanda is gradually improving as French authorities acknowledge the country’s responsibility in the 1994 Rwandan genocide, which began 30 years ago this week. An estimated 800,000 people, mostly ethnic Tutsis, died in the violence perpetrated by Hutus – a faction that France had a history of supporting.

After years of controversy over France’s role in the bloodshed, a commission of historians appointed by Macron in 2021 returned a damning indictment.

Vincent Duclert, who led the commission, said France had been “blind” to preparations for the genocide and bore “serious and overwhelming” responsibility – findings the French government accepted.

The commission found no proof that France was directly complicit in the killings.

However in a video message, French President Emmanuel Macron said he believed France and its Western allies “could have stopped” the massacre but lacked the political will to do so.

“When the phase of total extermination against the Tutsis began, the international community had the means to know and act,” he said in the message, to be published Sunday.

  • Macron says France and allies ‘could have stopped’ the Rwandan genocide

‘Partial apologies’

After the report was published in March 2021, Macron asked Rwandans to “forgive France for its role in the 1994 Rwandan genocide”.

Although Macron stopped short of an apology and denied complicity, Rwandan President Paul Kagame said the findings could pave the way for a “better” relationship.

But according to Phil Clark, professor of international politics at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, both France’s responsibility and the failure of the United Nations to stop the genocide need further reckoning. 

“The French government under Macron has issued partial apologies, but nothing clear or systematic for the entire role of France in the genocide,” he told RFI.

“It’s a problem for Rwandan genocide survivors who are still calling for a more systematic and honest reckoning of France’s role in the genocide, including reparations.”  

After years of reparation demands, the Rwandan authorities have taken a step back, Clark said, with Kagame dropping his “rhetoric against France” a decade ago and new diplomatic and economic relationships developing between the two countries. 

  • Killing your neighbour first: Murambi massacre remembered
  • Serving time for Rwandan genocide in Nyamagabe prison

French commemorations

Though France remains a favoured hiding place for Rwandans fleeing justice, the country has tried and convicted half a dozen people over their involvement in the killings.

Macron announced last year that a monument to the genocide is to be erected on the bank of the River Seine in Paris, close to the foreign ministry. 

Duclert said the memorial would allow “recognition of the extreme importance of the 1994 catastrophe” and highlight France’s “responsibility”.

Foreign Minister Stéphane Séjourné is representing France at this year’s anniversary commemorations in Kigali, as part of a wider tour of East Africa.

In Paris, ceremonies are taking place on Sunday at the UN’s cultural agency Unesco, as well as in a city park in the 13th arrondissement.



Meanwhile, the Shoah Memorial in Paris is paying tribute to the victims with an exhibition titled “Rwanda 1994, the genocide of the Tutsis“, in partnership with the charity Ibuka France and the city council.

The town hall in the 18th arrondissement is also hosting a special exhibition the first week of April. 


Youth violence

Fifteen-year-old boy dies after attack outside school near Paris

A French teenager has died from wounds suffered during a violent assault outside a school. It’s the second brutal attack on a pupil in a week, prompting President Emmanuel Macron to warn schools need to be protected from the “uninhibited violence” of some youths.

The 15-year-old boy was badly beaten on Thursday near his school in Viry-Châtillon, about 20km south of Paris, and rushed to hospital following a cardiac arrest. He died of his wounds on Friday afternoon, the public prosecutor’s office said.

An investigation has been opened into murder and gang assault.

Police on Friday afternoon detained five people linked to the attack, including three 17-year-olds, a 15-year-old and a 20-year-old.

Jean-Marie Vilain, the mayor of Viry-Châtillon, said the boy, identified as Shamseddine, was walking home after a music class when he was set upon by “the worst kind of thugs”. They were reportedly wearing balaclavas.

“This extreme violence is becoming commonplace,” he added.

Speaking to franceinfo on Saturday morning he said the town had opened a support unit to provide psychological help.

‘Uninhibited violence’

It was the second such assault this week, after a 14-year-old girl was left temporarily comatose after being attacked outside her school in the southern city of Montpellier on Tuesday.

Three alleged attackers have been charged with attempted murder and detained.

Both incidents come at a time of heightened tensions around French schools, after threats of attacks were sent to dozens of educational establishments via an internal messaging system.

  • French schools sent threatening messages and beheading videos, says ministry

President Emmanuel Macron, visiting a primary school in Paris on Friday morning, said: “We have a form of uninhibited violence among our teenagers and sometimes among increasingly younger ones. 

“Schools need to be shielded from this. School must remain a sanctuary for our children, for their families, for our teachers.

“We will be intransigent against all forms of violence,” he said. 

France’s education minister recently announced the creation of a national “mobile force” to be deployed to schools facing security issues. 


French football

Rebooted Paris Saint-Germain count down to ecstasy on three fronts

What does it say about the essence of a football championship when a team can lose the likes of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Marco Verratti and still be 12 points clear with seven games remaining?

France’s Ligue 1 and Paris Saint-Germain are respectively those beings. And as Luis Enrique’s side prepare to entertain Clermont on Saturday night at the Parc des Princes, highly paid executives at the club must be fearing for their jobs after lustily pursuing such big names.

The departure of such star players, coupled with Enrique’s arrival in July, has saved the club squillions in wages and resulted in much the same thing. Domestic dominance.

And after a few struggles – teething troubles as Enrique described them as his squad tried to assimilate his methods – PSG have pulled away in Ligue 1.

A breeze past Toulouse in January brought them the French Super Cup and barring a catastrophic meltdown, a record-extending 12th top flight crown should be secured within a fortnight or so.

Last Wednesday, PSG overcome bete noire Rennes to reach the final of the Coupe de France where they will play a Lyon side now ecstatically mid table and free of relegation concerns following a disastrous start to the campaign in which they had gathered seven points from 14 games.

The Coupe de France final will be Lyon’s opportunity to hoist a first piece of silverware since 2012. No such penury for PSG who under their Qatari backers have harvested 31 trophies during Lyon’s drought.

Glory

“Cups in any country are particularly important,”  Enrique told PSG TV just after victory over Rennes.

The 53-year-old Spaniard, who steered Barcelona to three Copa del Rey trophies during his three years in charge at the Camp Nou, added: “The Coupe de France has been one of our objectives since the start of the season. The team has been good throughout the entire competition and I think all our supporters will be delighted with what we’ve done.”

Enrique showed how seriously he took the competition by naming PSG’s record goalscorer Kylian Mbappé in the starting line-up.

Doubts over whether the France skipper would appear from the outset arose after he reacted petulantly to being substituted mid way through the second half of the game at Marseille with the side only 1-0 up but down to 10 men.

His replacement Gonçalo Ramos sealed the game with PSG’s second in the closing stages prompting speculation that the Portuguese striker might start against Rennes.

But Mbappé was sent out and after missing two presentable chances including a 37th-minute penalty, he broke the deadlock when his strike took a deflection off Rennes defender Warmed Omari to wrong-foot goalkeeper Steve Mandanda.

Poor

Clermont, who prop up the division with 20 points from 27 games, appear doomed.

“Obviously we don’t go into the game as favourites,” said Clermont boss Pascal Gastien on the eve of the clash.

“But we’re going to fight. From what I’ve seen of the players during the week in training is that we’re not finished yet. We’re not resigned to going down but we’ve got a tough assignment.

“We’re playing at the home of the best team in France and one of the best eight in Europe.”

Progress to ultimate glory in the Champions League – European football’s most prestigious competition – obsessed PSG’s owners following their full takeover of the club in March 2012.

Pursuit of glory in the tournament led to the arrival of marquee signings such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Edinson Cavani and Angel Di Maria.

Throw in the likes of Neymar, Messi and Mbappé and the lack of success has amplified the schadenfreude among other supporters.

Enrique raised eyebrows at the beginning of this season’s European tilt by downplaying its importance.

“When any person, or any club, becomes obsessed with something, it is not a good sign,” said Enrique who steered Barcelona to the Champions League title in 2015.

“We need to be hopeful, ambitious too, but becoming obsessed does not work in any area of life,” added the former Spain boss.

And voilà. For the first time since 2021, they are in the last eight.

But for Enrique, that is then. He is concerned with the now.  “We’ve got some important matches ahead of us and we’re not champions yet, so we have to play against Clermont to win,” he said in the prelude to the fixture.

“We’re in first place; they’re last. They’re going to give it everything they’ve got and so I want players who think about the match against Clermont and not the rest.”

Should PSG eclipse Barcelona over the two legs, some heavyweight teams remain to conquer.

But if after failing in the Champions League, there’s still weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth from PSG fans following a triple crown of French Super Cup, Coupe de France and Ligue 1, well, that says a lot about them.


Senegal

Senegal’s youngest president names ‘breakaway’ government

Dakar (AFP) – Senegal’s President Bassirou Diomaye Faye has named a “breakaway” government, appointing a host of fresh faces to top roles following his landslide election win last month.

The 44-year-old, who has never before held elected office, swept to a first-round victory on a promise of radical reform, becoming the country’s youngest president.

Faye looks set to share responsibilities with his appointed prime minister and former mentor Ousmane Sonko, who helped propel the political newcomer’s rise to power.

Sonko unveiled on Friday a cabinet of 25 ministers, hailing it as a break from the past.

“The government set up here on April 5 is a breakaway government… that embodies the project, a systemic transformation voted for by the Senegalese people,” said Sonko.

Sonko, 49, spearheaded Senegal’s anti-establishment movement but endorsed Faye on the presidential ballot after he was barred from running himself due to a defamation conviction.

Birame Souleye Diop was appointed energy minister, a strategic position in a country that is due to start producing oil and gas in 2024.

Ousmane Diagne, a former public prosecutor at the Dakar Court of Appeal, becomes justice minister.

The government included four women, who were handed the portfolios of foreign affairs, fisheries, family and youth and culture.

Senegal is facing a host of major challenges, including an official unemployment rate of 20 percent.

Sonko said on Friday the government’s priorities would include employment for young people, lowering the cost of living and protecting human rights.


Sporting values

International sports stars join forces in Paris to promote peace

Former footballer Didier Drogba joined South Africa’s rugby World Cup-winning captain Siya Kolisi and Olympians Marlène Harnois and Masomah Ali Zada in Paris to launch the 2024 white card campaign as part of the celebrations on Saturday for the international day of sport for development and peace.

“Everyone has to pass on the message of peace to everyone in their circle,” said Drogba during a conference at Unesco’s headquarters.

“And you’ve got to want to believe in what the message is about,” added the former Chelsea star.

The white card campaign – created by the independent organisation Peace and Sport – urges people to post a picture of themselves on social media holding up a card just like a football referee.

But rather than yellow or red, the white card is meant as a gesture of inclusion, equity and peace.

“Last year there were 180 million people who supported the campaign,” said Marlène Harnois who won a bronze medal for Canada in taekwando at the 2012 Olympics in London.

“We’ve had all the biggest names in sport supporting the campaign and it just shows that a lot of those champions believe in those values.”

Finding a sense of belonging

The four sports stars in Paris spearhead a group of more than 100 high level athletes campaigning to promote peace on the back of their sporting achievements.

“When I was younger, I struggled with quite a lot of simple things like food,” said Siya Kolisi who has set up a foundation to fight against inequality and gender-based violence in South Africa. 

“I was walking to school without shoes on,” he told the conference. “I found the game of rugby and I started playing it. So I felt this sense of belonging, where people loved me and cared about me just because of what I can do on the rugby field.

“They didn’t want anything more than that. And I think I also discovered that we all come from different backgrounds and we face different challenges but we do something common and just play sport and then they accept me through that.

“Then I kind of found my peace because I knew that even when everything isn’t going well at home or in the neighbourhood, when I go to training, that’s where I found my peace.”

Giving back ‘the right thing to do’

Kolisi, 32, also spoke of his surprise in 2018 when he became the first black man to skipper the South Africa rugby team – traditionally considered the preserve of the white minority.

“The South Africa coach was my team coach when I was younger so he knew that I used to drink a lot and get into trouble. I thought it was a joke … I was looking around behind me to see if he was talking to someone else but he was being serious.

“It was tough because it was a lot of pressure,” he added.

Kolisi was inspirational during the side’s surge to the 2019 rugby union World Cup in 2019 and he was equally transcendent as the South Africans defended the title in 2023 in France. 

  • South Africa eliminate France from rugby union World Cup

“Those life lessons that I learned when I was young have  helped me become the person that I am today,”Kolisi added.

“And the giving back has come from there, it’s not because I made it and I became someone. No. I just want to give back just because it’s the right thing to do.”

Defending women’s rights

Masomah Ali Zada, who took part in the cycling at the 2020 Olympic Games as part of the refugees Olympic team, told delegates of her struggles to train as a cyclist in Afghanistan.

“When I was in Afghanistan, there were security problems and the other problem was that people didn’t agree with me. Sometimes we wanted to get out of Kabul and go to villages near Kabul to train.

“But afterwards, people would tell us: ‘You mustn’t come here, you’re not an example for the other women in our neighbourhood.'”

  • From refugee to PSG and beyond: The striking story of Nadia Nadim

After fleeing Afghanistan with her family in 2016, Zada has settled in France where she is studying for an engineering degree. She is due to be be chief supervisor of the Refugee Oympic Team at the Paris Games.

“I’m here in France,” she told the conference. “I’m still doing sports, I’m taking part in the Olympics,” she added.

“I’m trying to integrate in a new country and trying to improve myself to give the best back to my host country.

“And that positive message, at least for me, is important and I can transform it. Taking part in the Olympics was already a positive image for me as a refugee. It was a chance to defend women’s rights.”


EU – CRIME

Europol report identifies more than 800 criminal networks in EU

The Hague-based crime-fighting body Europol has mapped 821 of the EU’s “most threatening networks” involving some 50,000 people engaged in drug trafficking, fraud, migrant smuggling, human trafficking and organised property crime.

For the first time in history, Europol has gathered the information into one data centre for the judicial authorities of all 27 EU member states to access.

The result of the 12-month investigation commissioned by Brussels was presented in a 59-page report.

“Until now, every country had its own criminal oversight,” Belgian Justice Minister Paul van Tigchelt told a press conference on Friday.

“Now for the first time, we have a European oversight. A network of specialised prosecutors will be put in place on a EU level, which will use the mapping to coordinate their actions.”



Transnational operations

The main findings of the report have revealed that 821 “most threatening networks” are active across the EU.

“They commit crimes for profit and are able to operate in different countries simultaneously,” according to Catherine de Bolle, executive director of Europol, which was founded in 1993 as the “Europol Drugs Unit (EDU)”.

Gangs are active in fields ranging from drug trafficking to fraud, property crime, migrant smuggling and human trafficking.

They’re hard to get, as most of them operate semi-legally, and manage to remain under the police radar.

According to the report, 86 percent of the gangs make use of legal business structures. They Infiltrate companies at a high level, or they set up their own legal business structures, most often within the European Union.

‘Under the radar’

Sectors most vulnerable to infiltration are construction, the hospitality industry and logistics.

“These structures are used to launder money, done through real estate and cash intensive businesses. While they are expanding in these legal sectors, they can stay under the radar for periods longer than ten years,” de Bolle said.

Annelies Verlinden, Belgium’s minister of home affairs, has identified the illegal drug market as “one of the main sources of violence within the EU” and one of the main sources of income for criminal organisations.

Actions have become “more visible”, threatening the safety of EU citizens, while more minors were being drawn into the networks. Half of the drug gangs were involved in cocaine trafficking.

  • Europol busts Franco-Israeli gang behind €38 million CEO fraud

De Bolle said information on which gangs were active, and the names and locations of leaders and members were not in the public version of the report.

But Van Tigchelt revealed that in Belgium, the “Mocro maffia” drug traficking gang, is one of the most active groups.

It consists of Belgian and Dutch Moroccans and is controlled from Spain, the UAE and Morocco.

The Albanian mafia is also well represented, Van Tigchelt said, adding that Albanian was the language most used in Sky ECC messages, the encrypted messaging app that was infiltrated by law enforcement and taken down in 2021.

European Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johanson added that last year, there were 350 shootings in Sweden alone and 700 arrests related to drug raids in France.

“Gangs are resilient, and able to maintain business even if the leaders are in prison. Gangs have end-to-end control. So we need an end-to-end police organisation,” she said.

Previous reports ‘incomplete’

While Europol has in the past published “Serious and Organised Crime Assessments” (Socta), they “remained incomplete” without much detail on the intentions and capabilities of the key players behind the crimes, Johanson said.

That’s changed now, and the new report will serve as a stepping stone to “dismantle entire criminal networks.”

  • European police agency raises alarm over fake Covid-negative certificates

Preceding Interpol’s efforts, EU law enforcement already got a stronger mandate on the use of “e-evidence” – including checking emails, text messages or content from messaging apps, audiovisual content and information about a user’s online account – to fight gangs, as “85 percent of criminal investigations involve digital data”, according to an EU brief.

On 24 January, the European Commission launched the European port alliance aimed at strengthening security in all EU ports to fight drug trafficking and organised crime.

According to an EU factsheet, some 70 percent of all drug seizures made by customs take place at EU ports. Customs authorities seized 500 tonnes of drugs in 2023, more than half of which was cocaine.


EU – ARMENIA

EU vows €270m package for Armenia as ties with Russia collapse

Brussels (AFP) – The European Union on Friday pledged a €270 million financial package for Armenia as Brussels and Washington push to boost ties with Yerevan while its relations with Russia crumble.

The announcement came after talks between Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, EU chief Ursula von der Leyen and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken aimed at ramping up cooperation.

Caucasus nation Armenia is looking to solidify economic support from the West as it edges away from traditional ally Russia after anger with Moscow for failing to stop neighbouring Azerbaijan from recapturing territory in recent years.

Von der Leyen said the four-year “resilience and growth” package of financial grants for Armenia showed the EU stood “shoulder to shoulder” with Yerevan.

“Europe and Armenia share a long and common history and the time has come to write now a new chapter,” she said.

  • France ups military ties with Armenia with first ever visit by a defence minister

‘Shared vision’

Pashinyan said Friday’s meeting in Brussels was proof of his ex-Soviet country’s “expanding partnership” with the EU and US.

“I believe that our shared vision of a democratic, peaceful and prosperous future will continue to serve as the backbone and the guiding star of our mutually trusted relations,” he said.

Blinken said the US was also bolstering its economic support for Yerevan to $65 million this year to aid efforts to make Armenia “a strong, independent nation at peace with its neighbours”.

“We have to harness this moment of choice for the Armenian people and for its leaders,” he said.

Armenia has drawn Russia’s ire by criticising its role as a regional security guarantor and even floating the idea of applying to join the EU.

Yerevan has a longstanding alliance with Moscow but was infuriated when the Kremlin – consumed by the Ukraine war and annoyed by Pashinyan’s overtures to the West – failed to stop Azerbaijan’s seizure of the Nagorno-Karabakh region from Armenian separatists last year.

Since then, Pashinyan and Azerbaijan‘s President Ilham Aliyev have voiced hope for a comprehensive peace agreement between their countries.

  • Armenian Resistance hero Manouchian joins France’s Panthéon luminaries

Karabakh tensions

But the two sides on Tuesday traded accusations of opening fire across their border, renewing fears of conflict.

Ahead of the talks in Brussels, Blinken called Aliyev on Wednesday to try to ease the tensions.

Pashinyan said at the Brussels meeting that he remained “committed to the normalisation of relations with Azerbaijan”.

But Turkey, Azerbaijan’s main backer, warned that Armenia’s talks with the US and EU “undermine the neutral approach that should be the basis for the solution of the complex problems of the region”.

“This initiative, which excludes Azerbaijan, will pave the way for the South Caucasus to become an area of geopolitical confrontation, rather than serving peace,” Turkey’s foreign ministry said.

The Sound Kitchen

Côte d’Ivoire’s “triple crown”

Issued on:

This week on The Sound Kitchen you’ll hear the answer to the question about the Africa Cup of Nations trophy. There’s “The Listener’s Corner” with Paul Myers, a delicious dessert from Erwan Rome on “Music from Erwan”, and of course, the new quiz and bonus question, 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!

Facebook News: There’s a “new and improved” Facebook page for you, the RFI English Listeners Forum. 

It’s for everyone who reads and listens to us and wants to connect with others, so ask to join, and I’ll sign you up!

The RFI Listeners Club page and the RFI English Clubs page no longer exist; if you belonged to the RFI English Clubs page and not the RFI Listeners Club page, you’ll need to ask to join. I promise I won’t click “Decline” 😊 

Here’s your job: send me your photos for the banner! Send them to thesoundkitchen@rfi.fr

More tech news: Did you know we have a YouTube channel? Just go to YouTube and write RFI English in the search bar, and there we are! Be sure and subscribe to see all our videos, and Erwan has even made a weekly Sound Kitchen promo for you to hear. Don’t miss out!

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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 counselled 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 staff 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 that 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 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. N.B.: You do not need to send her your quiz answers! Email overload!

This week’s quiz: On 17 February, I asked you a question about Paul Myers’ final article on the Africa Cup of Nations, which he had been covering for us for a month in Côte d’Ivoire. Côte d’Ivoire won their third “continental crown”, as Paul put it – they beat Nigeria 2-1 in the final.

You were to send in the answer to this question: “What is the name of the Côte d’Ivoire player who was the first to hold the Africa Cup of Nations 2023 trophy?”

The answer is: Max Gradel. As Paul wrote in his article: “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.”

In addition to the quiz question, there was the bonus question, suggested by Debashis Gope from West Bengal, India: “What are you doing to prevent climate change?” 

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

The winners are: Hari Madugula, the president of the Young Stars Radio Club in Hyderabad, India. Hari is also the winner of this week’s bonus question. Congratulations, Hari!

Also on the list of lucky winners this week is Kolimuddin, a member of the RFI International DX Radio Listeners Club in West Bengal, India, and RFI English listeners Bidhan Chandra Sanyal, also from West Bengal; Faiza Zainab, a member of the International Radio Fan and Youth Club in Khanewal, Pakistan, and Tara Regmi from Biratnagar, Nepal.  

Congratulations winners!

Here’s the music you heard on this week’s program: “Joy” by Avishai Cohen, performed by the Avishai Cohen Trio; “Smoking Guns” by Steve Shehan, performed by Steve Shehan and Friends; “The Flight of the Bumblebee” by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov; “The Cakewalk” from Children’s Corner by Claude Debussy, performed by the composer, and “Setembro” by Gilson Peranzzetta and Ivan Lins, performed by the Ivan Lins Orchestra.

Do you have a music request? Send it to thesoundkitchen@rfi.fr

This week’s question … you must listen to the show to participate. After you’ve listened to the show, re-read our article “French Foreign Minister expects ‘clear messages’ from China to Russia on Ukraine”, which will help you with the answer.

You have until 29 April to enter this week’s quiz; the winners will be announced on the 4 May 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,orform your own official RFI Club, click here. 


ENVIRONMENT

Sand storms ahead with Saharan dust cloud set to smother France

A cloud of sand from the Sahara Desert will cover the whole of France this weekend – an orange spectacle visible to the naked eye that may cause some health problems.

France will once again be covered by a cloud of sand from the Sahara this weekend, a phenomenon that already affected the south-east of the country last Saturday.

However, the dust will return for three days from Saturday 6 April, this time affecting the whole of the country.

The Saharan dust will tint the skies orange, to the delight of amateur photographers, but with consequences for the health of people with respiratory problems.



Weather models clearly show a cluster breaking away from North Africa, moving up towards France and continuing towards the rest of Europe over the next three to four days.

According to Vincent Guidard, a researcher at Météo France: “This phenomenon is caused by sand on the ground that is lifted by the wind and then falls back down. As the sand is lifted up and blown back down, the grains of sand break up into smaller dust particles.”

The dust rises into the atmosphere to an altitude of between one and seven kilometres, and is then transported by the prevailing air mass – which at the moment is headed towards Europe.

Depending on the location of the dust cloud, the sky will take on a sepia hue, and will settle on windows and windscreens.

  • French regions hit by Sahara sands on air pollution alert

Health risks

Antoine Trouche, an engineer at Airparif – the organisation that monitors air quality in the Paris region – says the sand cloud also entails health risks.

“At least on Saturday and Sunday, air quality in the Paris region will deteriorate as a result of the presence of these sand particles,” he said.

“Because within the sand mists that travel in the atmosphere, there are small particles that are less than 10 micrometres in diameter, and these [micro particles] are capable of breaking through the natural barriers that we have, particularly in the nose, and therefore of getting into the lungs.”

During episodes of sand clouds, vulnerable people suffering from respiratory illnesses, pregnant women and young children are advised to be vigilant.

“Be alert to the appearance of any symptoms linked to air pollution, such as throat irritation, coughing or breathing difficulties, and potentially, especially if you have pre-existing pathologies, call your doctor,” Trouche said.

  • French TV transforms weather forecasts to include climate change context

‘Natural cycle’

The severity of the pollution caused by sand clouds depends on their intensity, which varies, as does their number.

The arrival of sand clouds in Europe are “natural cycles” occuring regularly, usually between February and May, when weather conditions are favourable.

Sand and dust storms mainly affect people living in arid or semi-arid regions of North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, Central Asia and China, representing “a serious threat to health,” according to the World Meteorological Organisation.

However these sand mists are less toxic than the ultrafine particles produced by road traffic, wood burning, coal burning or fires.


EAST AFRICA

Somalia’s spat with Ethiopia deepens over naval base plans in Somaliland

Somalia has expelled the Ethiopian ambassador, ordered the closure of two Ethiopian consulates and recalled its own ambassador over Addis Ababa’s plan to build a naval base in the breakaway region of Somaliland.

Authorities in Mogadishu say they’ve given Ethiopia’s ambassador 72 hours to leave the country and ordered the closure of Ethiopian consulates in Somaliland and the semi-autonomous region of Puntland.

However Ethiopia’s foreign ministry told Reuters it was unaware of any such moves and has no information on the matter, which was first announced by ther Somalian prime minister’s office.

“This follows … the actions of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia which infringe upon Somalia’s sovereignty and internal affairs,” Somalia’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

Senior officials from Somaliland and Puntland, which is engaged in another constitutional dispute with Mogadishu, said they would not apply the order to shut the consulates.

“The embassy shall remain open irrespective of what Mogadishu says,” said Rhoda Elmisaid, Somaliland’s deputy foreign minister, adding that Somaliland was an “independent sovereign nation“.

Mohamud Aydid Dirir, Puntland’s information minister, said: “Somalia’s decision will not work. It cannot shut the consulates in Puntland and Somaliland.”



Naval aspirations

The expusion is linked to a dispute over a deal to lease 20km of Somaliland coastline to landlocked Ethiopia.

Somalialand claims independence and has had effective autonomy since 1991.

Ethiopia said it wanted to set up a naval base there and offered possible recognition of Somaliland in exchange – prompting a defiant response from Somalia and fears the deal could further destabilise the region, which has been plagued by an Islamist insurgency and piracy. 

Somalian President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said the port deal, agreed on 1 January, was illegal – adding the country would “defend itself” if Ethiopia were to go ahead with its plan.

  • Somalia recalls envoy in anger over Ethiopia-Somaliland port deal
  • Somalia signs law ‘nullifying’ Ethiopia-Somaliland port pact

Constitutional changes

Tensions between Mogadishu and Puntland also flared last month when Puntland’s state council said it had withdrawn from the country’s federal system and would govern itself independently in a dispute over proposed changes to Somalia’s constitution.

Last weekend, Somali legislators overwhelmingly approved a series of constitutional amendments aimed at restructuring the political and electoral framework, granting greater authority to the president, and allowing him to appoint and dismiss prime ministers.

They also enhance the president’s control over electoral commission appointments, diminishing the role of federal states in the process. 

The potential repercussions of the amendments have raised concerns about violence given they would mean significantly changing the constitution.

Somalia’s move to expel the ambassador and shut down the consulates also raises concerns over the fate of some 3,000 Ethiopian soldiers stationed in Somalia as part of an African Union peacekeeping mission fighting al Shabaab militants.

In February, Mohamud said he had no plans to kick them out of the country. 


ENVIRONMENT – HEALTH

French MPs vote to ban ‘forever chemicals’ except in cookware

French lawmakers have adopted a bill to restrict the production and sale of non-essential products that contain PFAS, a group of synthetic “forever chemicals” that break down slowly and have been linked to cancer.

After a first reading, MPs in the National Assembly on Thursday unanimously approved a bill aimed at restricting the production, import, export and sale of some products containing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, called PFAS.

MPs had been divided over the legislation, while industry groups were opposed – arguing that banning the chemicals would mean layoffs.

The legilsation was approved unanimoulsy after cookware was excluded from the text, marking a win for manufacturers.

Used in some non-stick and stain-resistant products, PFAS are sometimes called “forever chemicals”, because they take a long time to break down and have been detected in water, air, fish and soil in the remotest corners of the globe.

Prime Minister Gabriel said the bill, introduced by Greens MP Nicolas Thierry, is unnecessary because the use of PFAS is an issue that should be addressed on a European level.

The European Union is considering a blanket ban, but Thierry said the timeframe was too long.

The French proposal bans by 2026 the use of PFAS in cosmetics,as well as most clothing, except for some safety gear. The entire textile industry would come under the ban by 2030.

The legislation would also set up monitoring of PFAS in water supplies across France, and would require companies to pay to clean up any spills or pollution.

Industrial pushback

Companies had lobbyied against the law, and some lawmakers have introduced amendments pushing back its implementation, for kitchen appliances for example, to 2030.

The French company SEB, which owns Tefal, the world’s largest cookware producer, warned the legislation would impact jobs. It encouraged dozens of employees to bang pots in and around the National Assembly in Pars on Wednesday to demand the bill’s withdrawal.

The company says 3,000 jobs in its Rumilly and Tournus factories that produce Tefal non-stick pans would be under threat.

The best known PFAS is non-stick Teflon, which uses PFOA, which has been shown to be carcinogenic. Its American manufacturer, DuPont, has been the subject of thousands of lawsuits over water pollution and health impacts.

When it bought the Tefal brand in 1968, Seb decided to create its own non-stick coating that does not use PFOA but polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), another PFAS that the company says is not dangerous.

MPs urged to step up

In response to the protests, Thierry told the AFP news agency that the legislation is intended to protect the very employees sounding the alarm.

He added that the companies were trying to distract from the real danger by talking about employment.

“We must face up to a large scale health scandal, maybe the largest massive pollution in history,” Thierry said. “We must show up and step up to it.”

The bill must now be debated in the Senate before it can become law.

(with AFP)


FRANCE – RWANDA

Macron says France and allies ‘could have stopped’ the Rwandan genocide

President Emmanuel Macron believes France and its Western and African allies “could have stopped” Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, but lacked the will to halt the slaughter of an estimated 800,000 people, mostly ethnic Tutsis, the presidency has said.

Macron expressed the view in a video message to be published on Sunday to mark the 30th anniversary of the genocide, which was carried out by Hutu extremists and lasted 100 days.

He will not be travelling to Rwanda to attend commemorations in Kigali alongside President Paul Kagame.

France will instead be represented by Foreign Minister Stéphane Séjourné.

Macron’s message will emphasise that “when the phase of total extermination against the Tutsis began, the international community had the means to know and act”, a French presidential official said, asking not to be named.

The president believes that at the time, the international community already had historical experience of witnessing genocide with the Holocaust in World War II and the mass killings of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey during World War I.

Macron will say that “France, which could have stopped the genocide with its Western and African allies, did not have the will” to do so, the official added.

‘One more step’

Macron had already recognised France’s “responsibilities” in the genocide during a visit to Rwanda in 2021 – adding only the survivors could grant “the gift of forgiveness”.

Since he was elected in 2017, Macron commissioned a report on France’s role before and during the genocide and ordered the country’s archives to be opened to the public. 

The Ibuka France association, which brings together survivors of then genocide living in France, said Macon’s message was an “important step”.

Its president, the historian Marcel Kabanda, told RFI: “It is reassuring for us to go to the 30th commemoration with this declaration.”

Kabanda also called on France to go further by apologising to the victims of this genocide, and open the way to reparations – even if only through a symbolic gesture.

French historian Vincent Duclert, who chaired the commission responsible for shedding light on the role of France in Rwanda between 1990 and 1994, told RFI that Macron’s speech was an example of ongoing efforts to recognised what happened.

He said France, which had military forces on the ground in Rwanda, could have intervened in April 1994.

The troops and other western troops had “all the means to do so” and organise “evacuation operations”, he told RFI.

“This is the way to resolve past traumas.”

(with AFP)

The Sound Kitchen

Côte d’Ivoire’s “triple crown”

Issued on:

This week on The Sound Kitchen you’ll hear the answer to the question about the Africa Cup of Nations trophy. There’s “The Listener’s Corner” with Paul Myers, a delicious dessert from Erwan Rome on “Music from Erwan”, and of course, the new quiz and bonus question, 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!

Facebook News: There’s a “new and improved” Facebook page for you, the RFI English Listeners Forum. 

It’s for everyone who reads and listens to us and wants to connect with others, so ask to join, and I’ll sign you up!

The RFI Listeners Club page and the RFI English Clubs page no longer exist; if you belonged to the RFI English Clubs page and not the RFI Listeners Club page, you’ll need to ask to join. I promise I won’t click “Decline” 😊 

Here’s your job: send me your photos for the banner! Send them to thesoundkitchen@rfi.fr

More tech news: Did you know we have a YouTube channel? Just go to YouTube and write RFI English in the search bar, and there we are! Be sure and subscribe to see all our videos, and Erwan has even made a weekly Sound Kitchen promo for you to hear. Don’t miss out!

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 counselled 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 staff 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 that 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 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. N.B.: You do not need to send her your quiz answers! Email overload!

This week’s quiz: On 17 February, I asked you a question about Paul Myers’ final article on the Africa Cup of Nations, which he had been covering for us for a month in Côte d’Ivoire. Côte d’Ivoire won their third “continental crown”, as Paul put it – they beat Nigeria 2-1 in the final.

You were to send in the answer to this question: “What is the name of the Côte d’Ivoire player who was the first to hold the Africa Cup of Nations 2023 trophy?”

The answer is: Max Gradel. As Paul wrote in his article: “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.”

In addition to the quiz question, there was the bonus question, suggested by Debashis Gope from West Bengal, India: “What are you doing to prevent climate change?” 

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

The winners are: Hari Madugula, the president of the Young Stars Radio Club in Hyderabad, India. Hari is also the winner of this week’s bonus question. Congratulations, Hari!

Also on the list of lucky winners this week is Kolimuddin, a member of the RFI International DX Radio Listeners Club in West Bengal, India, and RFI English listeners Bidhan Chandra Sanyal, also from West Bengal; Faiza Zainab, a member of the International Radio Fan and Youth Club in Khanewal, Pakistan, and Tara Regmi from Biratnagar, Nepal.  

Congratulations winners!

Here’s the music you heard on this week’s program: “Joy” by Avishai Cohen, performed by the Avishai Cohen Trio; “Smoking Guns” by Steve Shehan, performed by Steve Shehan and Friends; “The Flight of the Bumblebee” by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov; “The Cakewalk” from Children’s Corner by Claude Debussy, performed by the composer, and “Setembro” by Gilson Peranzzetta and Ivan Lins, performed by the Ivan Lins Orchestra.

Do you have a music request? Send it to thesoundkitchen@rfi.fr

This week’s question … you must listen to the show to participate. After you’ve listened to the show, re-read our article “French Foreign Minister expects ‘clear messages’ from China to Russia on Ukraine”, which will help you with the answer.

You have until 29 April to enter this week’s quiz; the winners will be announced on the 4 May 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,orform your own official RFI Club, click here. 

The Sound Kitchen

Striking French farmers and their European allies

Issued on:

This week on The Sound Kitchen you’ll hear the answer to the question about the French farmer’s political action campaign and the other European farmers who have joined in. 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.

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!

We have a new RFI Listeners Club member to welcome: Orlando Teamah from Monrovia, Liberia.

Welcome Orlando! So glad you have joined us!

This week’s quiz: On 3 February, I asked you a question about the French farmers and their political action campaign – which has not cooled off. You were to re-read our article “France seeks change to EU nature laws in bid to appease farmers” and answer this question: in which other European countries are farmers striking?

The answer is, to quote our article: “While farmers in Germany, the Netherlands, Romania and Belgium have also taken to the streets, those in France – Europe’s largest agriculture producer – complain they are being further penalised by restrictions on pesticides that are harsher than in neighbouring countries.”

Farmers in other countries than those above have been striking, too – Hans Verner Lollike noted that Denmark’s farmers were, but that there was too much snow for them to drive their tractors to the capitol or block roads!

In addition to the quiz question, there was the bonus question, suggested by Rodrigo Hunrichse from Ciudad de Concepción in Chile: “For you, which age is the best? Childhood? Teenager? Young Adult? Adult? Middle Age? Senior? Old Age? Why?” 

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

The winners are: RFI Listeners Club member Nasyr Muhammad from Katsina State, Nigeria. Nasyr is also this week’s bonus question winner. Congratulations, Nasyr!

Also on the list of lucky winners this week are Saleem Akhtar Chadhar, the president of the RFI Seven Stars Radio Listeners Club in District Chiniot, Pakistan, and Nuraiz Bin Zaman, who’s a member of the RFI Amour Fan Club in Rajshahi, Bangladesh.

There’s also RFI Listeners Club member Habib ur Rehman Sehal, who is also the president of the International Radio Fan and Youth Club in Khanewal, Pakistan.  Last but not least, RFI English listener Adiba Ava, from Munshiganj, Bangladesh.  

Congratulations winners!

Here’s the music you heard on this week’s programme: The “Prelude” to the Partita for Violin Solo No. 3 in E, BWV 1006 by Johann Sebastien Bach, performed by Philippe Honoré; “Take me home, country roads” by John Denver, arranged by Graham Byrd; “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 “Hommage aux Chanteuses Kabyles Anciennes” by Ferroudja Saidani, performed by Saidani and her ensemble.

This week’s question … you must listen to the show to participate. After you’ve listened to the show, re-read our article “Scaled-back opening ceremony for Paris Olympics to offer 326,000 tickets” which will help you with the answer.

You have until 1 April to enter this week’s quiz; the winners will be announced on the 6 April 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

The Sound Kitchen

The Bocuse d’Or International Cooking Competition

Issued on:

This week on The Sound Kitchen, a special treat: You’ll hear about the European final from one of the world’s most prestigious cooking competitions. Just click on the “Play” button above and enjoy!

Hello everyone! Welcome to The Sound Kitchen weekly podcast, published every Saturday. This week, you’ll hear about a European “cook-off”: 20 young chefs from Europe compete for the chance to make it to the international finals of the cooking competition founded by the beloved French chef, Paul Bocuse. 

The quiz will be back next Saturday, 6 April. Be sure and tune in! 

Spotlight on France

Podcast: France-Russia relations, hair discrimination, tax history

Issued on:

How France’s new hardline position on Russia marks a major shift away from decades of pro-Russia policies. The fight to make hair discrimination illegal. And why VAT – a tax introduced 70 years ago – is so important to French finances, despite being deeply unequal.

French President Emmanuel Macron has recently done a U-turn on Russia:  having argued against humiliating Russia following the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, he has now become one of President Vladimir Putin’s biggest critics. Journalist Elsa Vidal, the head of RFI’s Russia service, author of La fascination russe (The fascination with Russia), talks about France’s long history of Russophile foreign policy and how it has been coloured by a certain anti-Americanism. It led to complacency – even blindness – over Putin’s increasingly autocratic rule. (Listen @0’30)

France’s parliament has begun debating legislation against a form of discrimination that’s often overlooked: prejudicial treatment on the basis of hair. The bill is inspired by laws in the United States, where anti-racism campaigners have long argued that black people face unfair pressure to change their natural hair. Artist and activist Guylaine Conquet, who first came up with the idea for the French bill, explains why France is taking a different approach from the US: her proposal would classify hair discrimination as discrimination on the basis of physical appearance, not race. That’s in line with France’s universalist, “colour-blind” approach to racial discrimination, but also broadens the application of the law to everyone. (Listen @21’10) 

France was the first country to introduce a Value Added Tax (VAT), on 10 April 1954. 70 years later, the tax brings in more than half of France’s revenue, and far more than income tax. Economist Julien Blasco explains that while VAT is regressive, it serves to fund crucial social welfare programmes. (Listen @16’30)

Episode mixed by Cecile Pompéani. 

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

With Somalia naval deal, Turkey steers into strategic but volatile region

Issued on:

A naval agreement between Turkey and Somalia positions the Turkish navy in a strategically vital region, underlining Ankara’s growing ambitions at sea. But analysts warn that the deal threatens to escalate tensions with Somalia’s neighbour, Ethiopia.

Under a ten-year defence agreement ratified earlier this month, the Turkish navy will help protect Somalia’s territorial waters and facilitate training and equipment for the Somali navy.

The deal is just the latest step in Ankara’s deepening relationship with Mogadishu.

“Not only is this the location of Turkey’s largest international military base, it’s also the location of Turkey’s largest embassy in the world,” explains Norman Ricklefs, chair of multinational consultancy group Namea.

“This shows the importance Turkey has placed on Somalia, and rebuilding Somalia as a major state in the Horn of Africa, and making Somalia’s future success part of Turkey’s broader strategic goals in eastern Africa in the Red Sea region,” he says.

Turkey also signed an energy exploration deal with Somalia this month. The East African country is believed to have major oil and gas reserves both on land and within its territorial waters.

Blue-water navy 

Experts see the deepening of ties with Somalia as part of growing international competition for influence in this strategically vital region.

“This will provide Turkey an opportunity to increase its influence in the Horn of Africa,” says Elem Eyrice-Tepeciklioglu, an associate professor of African studies at Ankara’s Social Sciences University.

“Because all those external countries – Gulf countries, Western countries… even Japan – have bases in Djibouti, they are all vying to increase their development in the region, especially for economic purposes. So this is also an opportunity for Turkey,” she says.

The Somali deal comes as Ankara rapidly expands its navy’s so-called “blue-water” capabilities – the ability to operate on the open oceans, far from the country’s home ports.

Turkey has built up a fleet of energy research ships and a growing navy.

“[Naval expansion] focuses on the projection of Turkish military capacity in the maritime domain – both in protecting its own exclusive economic zones and waters, while also helping its allies and partners to do the same,” explains Sine Ozkarasahin, an independent defence analyst.

“And Somalia has been facing an increased threat of piracy.”

Tensions with Ethiopia

Turkey’s deepening military ties with Somalia come as the Horn of Africa nation faces tension with its neighbour, Ethiopia.

In January, Ethiopia infuriated Somalia by signing an agreement with the breakaway region of Somaliland, giving Addis Ababa long-desired sea access.

But Mehmet Ozkan of the Turkish National Defence University says Ankara is well placed to contain any fallout, given its ties with Ethiopia. 

“Military cooperation, personal cooperation, the personal relationship between the leaders – I think relations are pretty good,” he says.

“Because in the region everybody is looking for security cooperation, and it’s same for Ethiopia… Turkey is a security provider for Ethiopia as well.”

  • Turkey and Italy consider teaming up to seek new influence in Africa

‘Drone diplomacy’

With Turkish-made military drones widely used by both the Ethiopian and Somali militaries in their wars against insurgencies, Ankara’s so-called “drone diplomacy” has been instrumental in balancing its relations with rivals.

“Turkey has also probably supplied some drones to Somalia – which are operated by Turkish operators, not Somalis – but they’ve been useful in the conflict against Al-Shabaab,” explains analyst Ricklefs.

“I know Turkey has a good relationship with Ethiopia. It has a good relationship with Somalia. So its presence in Somalia is more likely than not – given Turkey’s broader strategic aims in the region – to have a stabilising effect rather than a destabilising effect,” he argues.

  • Newly reconciled, Turkey and Egypt could be a force for stability in Africa

However, Africa expert Eyrice-Tepeciklioglu warns that, given the region’s volatility, Ankara will still need to tread carefully.

“In the long run, this might lead to Turkey’s involvement in regional conflicts. This is what Turkey was trying to avoid in its Africa policy: it does not want to be a part of African conflicts, but it might be dragged into [them],” she says.

As Turkey extends its influence in one of the most volatile parts of the world, analysts suggest Ankara will need to perfect its diplomatic balancing skills.

The Sound Kitchen

There’s Music in the Kitchen, No 34

Issued on:

This week on The Sound Kitchen, a special treat: RFI English listeners’ musical requests. Just click on the “Play” button above and enjoy!

Hello everyone! Welcome to The Sound Kitchen weekly podcast, published every Saturday. This week, you’ll hear musical requests from your fellow listeners Bidhan Chandra Sanyal from West Bengal, India, Helmut Matt from Herbolzheim, Germany, and Jayanta Chakrabarty from New Delhi, India.

Be sure you send in your music requests! Write to me at  thesoundkitchen@rfi.fr

Here’s the music you heard on this week’s program: “Aaj Na Chhodenge” by Rahul Dev Burman, sung by Kishore Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar; Simple Symphony by Benjamin Britten, performed by the English Chamber Orchestra conducted by the composer, and “Sun is Shining” by Bob Marley, performed by Bob Marley and the Wailers.

The quiz will be back next Saturday, 30 March. Be sure and tune in! 


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The editorial team did not contribute to this article in any way.

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.