rfi 2024-04-10 01:10:27



Champions League

French police step up security over terror attack threats for PSG clash

French police chiefs on Tuesday revealed they plan to step up security in Paris ahead of the Champions League clash between Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona on Wednesday night.

The first leg of the quarter-final football match is expected to attract nearly 50,000 people to the Parc des Princes on the western fringes of Paris.

Thousands more will be following the tie in cafes and bars in and around the capital.

 “The prefect of police prefect has considerably strengthened security resources,” said French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin during a visit to River Police officers on Tuesday.

“There has been a clear threat publicly mentioned by the Islamic State,” Darmanin added.

Last month the group claimed responsibility for an attack at a concert hall just outside Moscow which left 144 people dead and hundreds injured.

Days after the assault, the French prime minister, Gabriel Attal, announced that France would raise its alert status to emergency – the highest level.

Work

“The Islamic State threatened the Champions League quarter-finals, not specifically in France, via one of its communication agencies, which disseminated messages on social networks,”  the French news agency AFP reported.

In one of the messages, a masked fighter with an assault rifle poses in front of photographs of the four stadiums in Madrid, London and Paris that will host the quarter-finals. “Kill them all”, wrote the fighter.

Uefa, the governing body that organises the Champions League competition, said In a statement that it had been informed of the threats to the matches in its most prestigious tournament.

A spokesperson added that the games at the Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid and the Emirates Stadium in London would take place on Tuesday night.

PSG’s tie and the fixture between Atletico Madrid and Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday night at the Wanda Metropolitana in Madrid would also proceed.

Review

Details of the heightened security in France emerged less than 24 hours before a committee of senior French politicians deliver their assessment on the country’s readiness to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games this summer.

The Senate’s Law Commission inquiry was prompted by the disastrous stewardship of the Champions League final in May 2022 between Liverpool and Real Madrid at the Stade de France in Saint Denis. Liverpool supporters narrowly avoided a fatal crush after they became hemmed in. Others were attacked and robbed by local criminals.

The commission’s year-long investigation has focused on whether there will be enough police officers to deal with security threats effectively while respecting individual freedoms during the events which start on 26 July.

The senators have also scrutinised the transport plan for the Games. During 29 days of competition, nearly 16,000 athletes and 13.5 million spectators will be ferried between 37 Olympic and Paralympic venues in France and overseas.

“The Summer 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games are events of unrivalled global proportions,” said a spokesperson for the commission.

“The security arrangements put in place by the authorities will have to be beyond reproach and commensurate with the risks hanging over these Games.”

(With newswires)


Rwandan genocide

NGO files complaint over two French officers slain in Rwandan genocide

A French NGO has filed a complaint seeking a probe into the deaths of two French officers killed in the early days of the 1994 Rwanda genocide.

The Survie NGO that advocates for better relations between France and Africa, and two relatives, on Monday sought answers over the deaths of two military police members Rene Maier and Alain Didot, as well as his wife Gilda Didot, in the Rwandan capital Kigali.

Exactly three decades on, “this complaint aims to establish responsibilities in the death of two French gendarmes and the wife of one of them in Kigali […] in circumstances that remain mysterious,” Survie said in a statement.

It claimed a French intelligence note that year suggested “the three French nationals could have been eliminated after they were witnesses” of the 6 April, 1994 assassination of Hutu president Juvenal Habyarimana.

The downing of his plane over Kigali triggered the genocide that killed more than 800,000 people between April and July 1994, mostly from the Tutsi minority but also moderate Hutus.

The massacres of Tutsis started the day after Habyarimana’s assassination.

  • Rwanda marks 30 years since genocide that horrified the world

A day after that, the Didot couple were reported dead on 8 April, 1994.

Didot, a radio technician, had arrived in 1992 to advise the Rwandan army and secure the French embassy’s communications, according to the complaint.

Maier, an assistant technician, arrived in 1993.

‘No autopsy or investigation’

UN peacekeepers from Belgium retrieved their bodies on 12 April. They found the remains of Maier the next day.

The plaintiffs say the bodies were then repatriated via the Central African Republic, where death certificates were issued. But they say a total of eight inconsistent certificates exist for the three people.

No autopsy or investigation was ever conducted, they say.

Rwanda‘s President Paul Kagame – whose militia helped to stop the massacres – on Sunday said the international community had “failed” his country during the 1994 genocide as he paid tribute to victims 30 years after Hutu extremists tore apart the nation.

(with AFP)


Climate change

Top Europe rights court condemns Switzerland in landmark climate ruling

Europe’s top rights court ruled on Tuesday that Switzerland is not doing enough to tackle climate change, in its first such ruling against a state on the subject.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) issued its decision after a Swiss association of older women concerned about the consequences of global warming argued that the Swiss authorities were not taking enough action to mitigate climate change.

It found that the Swiss state had violated Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees the “right to respect for private and family life”, according to the judgement published by the ECtHR.



The court however threw out two other cases also concerning government policies on climate change on procedural grounds.

It dismissed a petition from six Portuguese people, aged 12 to 24, against 32 states including their own as the case had not exhausted all remedies at the national level.

In a third case, the court rejected a claim from a former French mayor that the inaction of the French state posed the risk of his town being submerged under the North Sea.

The court found that he was not a victim in the case as he had moved to Brussels.

Case by case:

The cases before the 17-judge ECtHR panel join a growing trend of communities bringing climate lawsuits against governments with arguments resting on human rights law.

In the winning case of Verein KlimaSeniorinnen Schweiz vs Switzerland, more than 2,000 elderly Swiss women argue that their government’s “woefully inadequate” efforts to fight the heating of the planet put them at risk of dying during heatwaves. They seek a ruling that could force Bern to cut fossil fuel emissions much faster than planned.

The unsuccesful case brought by Duarte Agostinho and five other young Portuguese accuse the 32 countries that are Europe’s leading emitters of greenhouse gases of failing to avert catastrophic global warming, which they say threatens their right to life, saying that “heatwaves, wildfires, and wildfire smoke which they say impact their lives, well-being, mental health and their homes.”

They did not ask for financial compensation, but for governments to drastically cut emissions.

In the final case, which was rejected, Damien Carême, former mayor of the French commune of Grande-Synthe and now a member of the European Parliament for the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance challenged Paris’s refusal to take more ambitious measures to curtail climate change.

All three cases were heard by the ECtHR’s top bench, the Grand Chamber, in 2023.

Some of the governments argued the cases are inadmissible. Switzerland has said it is not the ECtHR’s job to be “supreme court” on environmental matters or to enforce climate treaties.

Climate litigation expands

The verdict in favour of the Swiss claimants sets a precedent for the 46 signatories of the European Human Rights Convention.

Countries may now need to update their plans for reining in climate-warming emissions in the near term. Failure to comply could result in further national litigation, and courts could issue financial penalties.

The rulings, which cannot be appealed, are also likely to serve as a guide for the fast-growing field of climate litigation.

In the last five years, the number of climate-related court cases filed around the world has more than doubled, according to a 2023 report by the U.N. Environment Programme and New York’s Columbia University.

“It’s not like tort law that has hundreds of years of precedent,” said Ruth Delbaere, legal campaigns director at global civic movement Avaaz. “This is kind of new, and so judges and courts are looking at each other.”

Three other international tribunals — the International Court of Justice, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea — are currently writing advisory opinions on states’ obligations on climate change.

“This ruling will almost certainly have a ripple effect across the world, not just Europe but everywhere,” Delbaere said.

  • European citizens sue their governments over climate change failures

(With agencies)


Paris Olympics

Seine pollution too risky for Olympic athletes, warns environmental group

The Seine that runs through Paris and is set to be the stage for the Summer Olympics remains too polluted just months before the start of the games, warns a French environmental organisation that published results from months-long testing of the river

The Surfrider Foundation said Monday it had been analysing twice-monthly tests of the water between the Alexandre-III and Alma bridges, where Olympic events are set to take place, since September and concluded the river remains polluted and potentially dangerous.

In an open letter including the results, the group said it “wanted to share with stakeholders its rising concerns about the quality of the Seine but also the risks faced by athletes moving in contaminated water.”

The Seine will be the stage for the Paris 2024 Olympics opening ceremony, and pending pollution levels, the marathon swimming events and the triathlon are to be held in the river.

The tests, carried out by the Paris water authority, Eau de Paris, and the environmental analysis group Analy-Coand, showed bacteria levels two and three times higher than amounts allowed by European water quality standards and by the triathlon and open-water swimming federations.

The main culprit is heavy rainfall that can overwhelm Paris’ sewage system and lead to direct dumping of untreated water into the river.

Trial swimming events and training sessions have been cancelled because of sewage problems.

The Surfrider results were recorded during one of the wettest winters in 30 years, and organisers have always maintained that sporting events can only take place in the Seine if there is little or no rainfall.

The group asked about “the possibility of a plan B” for the events, which so far organisers have said does not exist.

Cleaning up the Seine is intended to be one of the legacy achievements of the Paris 2024 Olympics, and authorities have spent 1.4 billion euros over the past several years on upgrading sewage and storm water treatment facilities in the Paris region.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo and French President Emmanuel Macron have promised to swim in the Seine before the start of the Games to demonstrate it is safe for athletes and the public.

(with AFP)


War in Ukraine

EU puts tougher restrictions on Ukraine farm imports

EU member states and the European Parliament on Monday agreed tougher restrictions on some Ukraine farm imports. The decision will be formalised on Tuesday.

The accord extends the duty-free access the bloc has given to Ukrainian agricultural goods since Russia’s 2022 invasion, but puts caps on some products.

The EU Council said in a statement that the decision “reaffirms the EU’s unwavering political and economic support for Ukraine,” but it also reinforces “the protection of sensitive agricultural products” such poultry, eggs, sugar, oats, maize, groats and honey.

No cap was applied to wheat, which countries such as France and Poland had initially argued for.



The decision comes just months before elections of the European Parliament and lawmakers, especially conservatives and on the far-right, seem keen to show European farmers that they are in their corner.

Diplomats had previously said the caps would trim around €240 million from the amount Ukrainian farm products earn in the EU, compared with 2023.

Protesting low incomes

Ukraine says it supplies only around one percent of the EU’s eggs and two percent of its poultry while making up for a deficit of sugar on the EU market.

The European Union has sought to maintain solidarity with Ukraine while listening to European farmers who have been protesting low incomes partly blamed on Ukrainian goods they say are undercutting their markets.

The extension of duty-free imports of Ukrainian agricultural products is to kick in before the current exemption period runs out on June 5.

The European Parliament issued a statement saying that if there was “significant disruption to the EU market or the markets of one or more EU countries due to Ukrainian imports, for instance wheat, the regulation ensures that the (European) Commission can take swift action and impose any measures it deems necessary”.

The rapporteur for the accord, Sandra Kalniete of the centre-right PPE grouping, said it “fortified safeguards to protect EU farmers in case of market turbulence sparked by Ukrainian imports.”

“The ripple effects of Russia’s relentless targeting of Ukraine and its economy are being felt by EU farmers,” she said in a statement.

The farmers’ union grouping COPA-COGECA and five farming federations said in a statement that the deal did not go far enough.

  • Poland and Ukraine struggle to thrash out deal on grain imports

(With newswires)

 


Weather

‘Exceptional’ Sahara dust cloud heading across Europe

A massive dust plume is crossing Europe, deteriorating air quality in many areas, warns the European climate monitor. The phenomenon has been increasing in recent years, and this is the third dust episode in two weeks.

The EU’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (Cams) called the current dust cloud that has now reached parts of France and could go as far north as Scandinavia, “exceptionally intense”.

The episode started on 6 April, and has lead to “high concentrations of PM10”, particles with a diameter less than 10 micrometers, in the Iberian Peninsula as well as in certain parts of France and Germany, according to Cams in a statement published Monday.

These particles of sand and dust make for intense sunsets, but can also irritate the nose and throat and set off asthma attacks or allergic reactions.

The worst affected was Spain, but smaller pollution spikes were also recorded in parts of France, Switzerland and Germany.

Authorities in five departments in southern France this weekend advised residents to avoid intense physical activity, particularly those with heart or respiratory problems.

The latest dust episode, which has been under way since 6 April, is the third of its kind to reach Europe in recent weeks.

Dust plumes from the Sahara are a natural phenomenon and not unusual, though the increase this year is linked to warmer weather conditions across Western Europe.

“While it is not unusual for Saharan dust plumes to reach Europe, there has been an increase in the intensity and frequency of such episodes in recent years, which could be potentially attributed to changes in atmospheric circulation patterns,” said Mark Parrington, senior scientist at Copernicus.

The two previous dust clouds stayed mostly over the Mediterranean and southern Europe, although some dust was found on cars as far north as Scandinavia.

This episode is expected to end progressively on Tuesday, reaching as far as Sweden, Finland, the Baltic and northwest Russia, according to Cams.

(with AFP)


Geopolitics

AUKUS partners eye Japan cooperation, but France may be left behind

Australia, Britain and the United States said on Tuesday they were “considering cooperating” with Japan on the AUKUS security pact, setting the scene as the US president prepares to meet his Japanese counterpart.

In a statement, AUKUS partners said Japan’s “strengths” and close “partnerships” with the countries involved meant it was an obvious ally in the project, which is aimed at checking China’s rising military power.

“Since the inception of AUKUS, our nations have been clear in our intent to engage others in Pillar II projects,” the statement said.

AUKUS was established in 2021 and has two main practical goals: Pillar I aims to provide Australia with a fleet of nuclear-powered attack submarines.

The submarine deal was mired in controversy as Australia decided to ditch a deal with France, as a result of which relations between Paris, Canberra and Washington took a hit. But over time, relations have been restored and observers think France may play a role in an enlarged cooperation between Australia, Japan and the US in the region.

  • Sinking of submarine deal leaves Franco-US friendship in tatters
  • Will Australia turn to France for backup amid Pacific arms race?

Pillar II focuses on developing advanced warfighting capabilities such as artificial intelligence, undersea drones and hypersonic missiles.

Tuesday’s statement said in seeking future opportunities, the group would consider technological innovation, financing, industrial strengths, and the ability to adequately protect sensitive data and information.



There have previously been concerns in Washington about Japan’s ability to protect and handle sensitive intelligence.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday that Japan’s involvement would only be for Pillar II of the agreement, rather than broader membership.

“Japan is a natural candidate for that,” he said.

The statement comes as Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will meet US President Joe Biden at a summit on Wednesday, the first state visit in nearly a decade.

Japan is doubling its military spending as part of an overhaul of its security strategy, and reports say Kishida and Biden could agree the biggest upgrade to US-Japan command and control structures in decades.

Kishida told local media before departing that Japan-US relations were vital as the global security environment becomes increasingly volatile.

(With newswires)


African football

Row erupts over appointment of Brys as Cameroon football team head coach

Yaounde – Cameroonian football’s internecine infighting exploded into the open on Tuesday following the appointment of Marc Brys as head coach of the national football squad.

The 61-year-old Belgian was unveiled on Monday by Cameroon’s sports minister Narcisse Mouelle Kombi as a replacement for Rigobert Song who took the team – nicknamed the Indomitable Lions – to the last-16 at the Africa Cup of Nations in February in Cote d’Ivoire.

However, the president of the country’s football federation, Fecafoot, and other top executives were absent from the ceremony in Yaoundé.

Fecafoot chief Samuel Eto’o claims Brys was appointed without consulting the governing body.

“The national federation cannot recognise these appointments made outside any legal and regulatory framework,” Eto’o said last Wednesday. 

Fecafoot added that it was neither closely, nor remotely involved in the selection process for the new coach and his dozen-strong team which includes the former Cameroon striker François Omam-Biyik

Fifa, the world game’s governing body, bans all forms of government involvement in football. A Fifa spokesperson said on Tuesday: “We are trying to shed light on this regrettable situation.”

Complex

In Cameroon, the government wields power behind the scenes as it pays the salaries of national team coaches.

On Friday, Mouelle Kombi wrote to Fecafoot to defend the coaching appointments.

In a letter seen by the news agency Reuters, Kombi said the ministry’s move did not affect the autonomy of Fecafoot. He also rejected accusations that he had flouted any international rules.

But Eto’o and his colleagues could further muddy the waters. Following an emergency meeting last weekend, Fecafoot said it might anoint its own coach within the coming days.

 

Such a scenario would create unprecedented chaos as the national squad attempts to qualify for the 2025 Africa Cup of Nations in Morocco and a tilt at a sixth continental crown as well as the 2026 World Cup.

On 3 June and 10 June, Cameroon face Cape Verde and Angola respectively in their quest to reach the finals in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

After two matches, Cameroon lead African qualifying Group D on goal difference with Cape Verde and Libya also boasting four points.

Mouelle Kombi said Brys was chosen from a short list of 30 candidates due to his experience of coaching teams in Belgium, The Netherlands and Saudi Arabia.

“After the recent poor run of our national team, it is time for a new dawn,” said Mouelle Kombi.

“The national team is the cherished patrimony of Cameroon,” he added. “It plays a critical role in fostering national unity and fostering Cameroon’s image abroad.”

Cameroon’s footballers caught the eye in 1990 when they became the first African side to reach the quarter-finals at a World Cup. The feat was eclipsed in Qatar in 2022 as the Moroccans progressed to the semi-finals.

Despite the machinations in the background, Brys, who is the third Belgian after Henry Depireux and Hugo Broos to take charge of the national team, vowed to build a winning outfit.

“Every day, we will continue looking for players some of whom might not have been selected in the past,” he said.

“I will keep an eye on local games because there is always some lost talent and it is for us to detect them and to see what they can achieve in a more solid group.

“The key to that golden era of Cameroonian football was their unity and genuineness,” said Brys. “Those are the qualities we need to rediscover.”


Champions League

Champions League: Guardiola warns Manchester City to expect pride from Madrid

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola urged his players to forget about last season’s semi-final annihilation of Real Madrid when the sides clash on Tuesday night at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Following a 1-1 draw in the Spanish capital, Real – who had beaten City on their way to the 2022 crown – were pulverized 4-0 at the Etihad Stadium.

Carlo Ancelotti’s team would present a different challenge, said Guardiola in the prelude to the game.

“It’s difficult. Because beating Real Madrid two times the same way is impossible … because they learn. They have pride.

“Expect different games in the same game,” added the Spaniard who steered City to their first title in European club football’s most prestigious competition after lifting the English Premier League trophy and the FA Cup.

“They will be able to press high, so aggressive. They are so dangerous,” said Guardiola who with Ancelotti are among only seven men who have won the European Cup as players before turning their hand to coaching.

“Everybody knows the strength or the transitions that they have.

“At the same time, you can’t come to the Bernabeu just to control the game. You have to try to hurt them, to punch them, to let them feel we are here to score a goal. We feel strong. We are incredibly confident.”

Deja vu

Ancelotti admitted he was anxious about facing Manchester City for a third year running.

“It will be an attractive football match,” added the Italian. “Each team has its own characteristics, with a lot of quality in both teams. This quality will make for a very nice match on a technical level.”

In Tuesday night’s other quarter-final first leg, English Premier League leaders Arsenal host Bayern Munich.

Arsenal are seeking a first appearance in the semi-finals since 2009 while Bayern need glory in the competition to salvage a disastrous domestic campaign.

Third tier Saarbrucken knocked then out of the German Cup in the second round last November and Bundesliga pacesetters Bayer Leverkusen enjoy a 16-point cushion over them with six games remaining.

“We’ve been rightly criticised after our performances in the German Cup and the Bundesliga,” said Bayern head coach Thomas Tuchel.

“We accept that. The consistency in our performances wasn’t what we expect from ourselves but it’s been at a high level so far in the Champions League. We’ve achieved our minimum goal.”

On Wednesday, Paris Saint-Germain face Barcelona at the Parc des Princes in their first leg of their quarter-final and Atletico Madrid host Borussia Dortmund.


French-British relations

Entente Cordiale: 120 years of peace and cooperation between Britain and France

French and British troops on Monday swapped roles and took part in an unprecedented changing of the guards ceremonies outside the palaces of each other’s head of state to celebrate 120 years since the Entente Cordiale.

What was the Entente Cordiale?

The Entente Cordiale was a diplomatic agreement signed between the United Kingdom and France in 1904. It marked the end of centuries of intermittent conflict and competition between the two nations, particularly in colonial territories.

The agreement resolved various colonial disputes between France and Britain, mainly in Africa. It also paved the way for closer diplomatic and military cooperation between the two countries.

Although it was not a formal alliance, the Entente Cordiale was a significant step towards the alignment of British and French interests, particularly in the face of rising tensions in Europe leading up to World War I.

The agreement was driven largely by growing militarism across Europe, which saw Germany pushing to develop its armed land forces and maritime forces.



In 1900, Germany issued a new Navy Law, part of which envisaged the construction of 19 new battleships and 23 cruisers over the following 20 years.

The UK, until then the world’s dominant maritime power, felt threatened by the move and went looking for friends.

Historian Barbara Tuchman, writing in her chronicle of that time The Proud Tower, says that Edward VII, the new king of England, in response “prepared the ground for reconciliation with France” and visited Paris “with tact and aplomb.”

The result was the Entente Cordiale, or the “Agreement between Great Britain and  France”. It was signed on 8 April 1904.

‘Forgetting old quarrels’

In the text, Paris and London agreed to forget  “old quarrels  [with a view]  to establishing a new friendship and fundamentally defining the balance of Europe.”

The text gave the French fishing rights in formerly disputed areas near Newfoundland, fixed boundaries between French and British colonies in Niger and Chad, Siam  (Thailand) and solved disputes regarding Zanzibar, Madagascar and the New Hebrides.

The Franco-British alliance was preceded by a rapprochement between France and Russia, signed in 1892, when Paris and Moscow agreed to form a military pact in the face of growing German militarism.

When the Bosnian Serb Gavrilo Princip murdered Austro-Hungarian Arch-Duke Franz Ferdinand on 28 April 1914, Vienna declared war on Serbia.

When Russia, Serbia’s traditional ally, started mobilising along the Austrian and Hungarian border and did not react to a German ultimatum to stand down, Berlin mobilised and declared war on Russia. It demanded, but did not get a guarantee of French neutrality. Its invasion of Belgium triggered Britain’s entry into the war followed by France as its ally in the Entente.

‘Close friendship’

The Entente Cordiale lasted through two world wars and continues today. 

Before celebrating the 120th anniversary of the treaty, British Foreign Minister David Cameron and his French counterpart, Stéphane Séjourné, celebrated what they described as their close friendship in a joint op-ed published on Sunday in the British newspaper The Telegraph

Talking about NATO and its increased involvement in the war in Ukraine, they wrote: “Britain and France, two founding members and Europe’s nuclear powers, have a responsibility in driving the alliance to deal with the challenges before it.

“We must do even more to ensure we defeat Russia. The world is watching – and will judge us if we fail.”

During the ceremonies, British guards took part in the changing of the guard outside the Elyéee Palace of President Emmanuel Macron, who watched together with Menna Rawlings, the British Ambassador to France.

“This is the first time in the history of the Elysée that foreign troops have been invited to participate in this military ritual,” a French presidential official said.

Meanwhile, French guards did the same outside Buckingham Palace in London, watched by the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh, Prince Edward and his wife Sophie. The UK ‘s chief of the general staff, General Patrick Sanders, and the French chief of the army staff Pierre Schill were also in attendance.



The event on the forecourt of Buckingham Palace marked the first time a country from outside the Commonwealth has taken part in the changing of the guard.

At the end of 2023, Macron made the changing of the Republican Guard public again, on the first Tuesday of each month, though the ceremony is much less spectacular than its counterpart outside Buckingham Palace.


Rwandan genocide commemorations

Macron acknowledges France’s ‘failure to heed warnings’ of looming massacres in Rwanda

As Rwandans began to commemorate the painful memories of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsis, on Sunday French President Emmanuel Macron released a video message from France.

Saying he stood by his comments in May 2021, when he acknowledged France’s failure to heed warnings of looming massacres, Macron once again stopped short of an official apology.

“I have no word to add, no word to take away from what I told you that day,” Macron said. “We have all abandoned hundreds of thousands of victims to this infernal closed door.”

At the time of the genocide, the French government had been a long-standing backer of Rwanda’s Hutu-dominated regime, leading to decades of tensions between the two countries.



However, the French presidency‘s communication office had published on Thursday a different text for his speech, stating that Macron would release a message saying France and its Western and African allies “could have stopped” the bloodshed, but lacked the will to do so.

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

The eventual message did not however represent a significant step forward from Macron’s earlier comments on the genocide.

Need for more

In Rwanda, and among the Rwandan survivors living in France, the change of tone surprised many.

Philibert Gakwenzire, president of Ibuka, the French association of genocide survivors, told RFI that he wants Paris to go further, to the point of an official apology, even though he remains satisfied with a message of continuity in the improvement of Franco-Rwandan relations.

“We must go futher, we need apologies and reparations for the survivors,” he said, “and to contribute to the fight against historical denial of the genocide, which is rife all over the world.

Macron didn’t go to Kigali this year, but sent his foreign affairs minister, Stéphane Séjourné. 



French General Jean Varret also told RFI that France had all the means to influence the then-Rwanda president Juvenal Habyarimana, if it had started early, from 1989/1990.

On Sunday, in Paris the Eiffel Tower displayed illuminated letters which read as ‘Kwibuka’ (To Remember) 30 in Kinarwanda, for the official commemorations of the 30 years after the start of the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

France remains one of the top destinations for Rwandans fleeing justice at home, even though its justice has tried and convicted half a dozen people over the killings.

  • Seventh Rwandan genocide suspect goes on trial in Paris

In Rwanda, commemoration continues until early July, as President Kagame also campaigns for his reelections for polls schedules mid-July. 

 (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)


Sustainable development

Staff at France’s EDF question involvement in futuristic Saudi city

Some employees of French energy giant EDF want the company to reconsider its involvement in a hydro-electric plant in the Saudi desert that would power Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s futuristic megacity Neom, following concerns over the project’s sustainability and alleged human rights abuses.

Neom is being built in the Tabuk region in northeast Saudi Arabia on some 26,000km2 of land, an area the size of Belgium.

It is part of MBS’s Vision 2030, which is aimed at diversifying Saudi Arabia‘s economy and reducing its dependence on oil revenues.

Its most dazzling part of the €500 billion project is The Line, a 170km-long vertical megacity that will house up to nine million people. 

Neom will also have a ski resort to host the 2029 Asian Winter Games, a luxury island on the Red Sea and an industrial complex with a floating port.

The Saudis promise the car-free, street-free city will be run entirely on renewable energies resulting in zero carbon emissions.

Some 2,100 megawatts of its electricity will be produced by Nestor, a pumped hydro energy storage project (PHES) that enables the mass storage of excess energy from renewable sources.

EDF, a leader in hydro-electric technology, won the tender in January to carry out preliminary studies on Nestor’s conception and construction. If the collaboration continues it could give the renationalised EDF – saddled with a €47bn debt – a welcome boost.

  • Electricity supplier EDF loses €18 billion, worst result in company’s history

Gigatonnes of emissions

But not everyone at EDF is comfortable with the deal. A recent investigation by Radio France revealed that some staff considered it was out of synch with the company’s ethical charter and commitments to promote low-carbon energy.

They said that while Nestor would provide carbon-free electricity, building Neom will be energy-guzzling.

“The construction will generate an estimated 1.8 gigatonnes of CO2,” Philip Oldfield of New South Wales University in Australia told Radio France. “That’s the equivalent of four times the UK’s annual emissions.”

In December last year, EDF reaffirmed its commitment to the climate and to achieving net zero emissions by 2050, which is needed to stay below 1.5C of warming as per the Paris Agreement. It also has its own charter on socially responsible practices.

“We understand Saudi Arabia needs to decarbonise and it’s not up to us to give them lessons, but this pharaonic project seems contrary to EDF’s values and our tradition of public service,” engineer Jean-Yves Ségura, an FO union rep with EDF’s hydro-electric energy department, told RFI. 

“We’ve been involved in other PHEC operations such as Hatta in Dubai but this is different.  And who will benefit? Mainly rich people? We’re not sure it will benefit the local population.”

His union began alerting management in 2022, just a few months after Neom Company chose EDF to identify sites for the plant.

At the end of 2022 FO carried out a survey among staff in the hydro-electric engineering department. “73 percent (of respondents) were against Neom, saying the project was contrary to EDF’s commitment to be socially responsible,” Ségura said.

The union put forward recommendations but “we haven’t had much response; there’s been little consultation”.

Human rights concerns

The Taduk region of Saudi Arabia, where Neom is being built is home to the Howeitat tribe. An investigation by Saudi rights group ALQST found that Saudi authorities had “violently cracked down on members of the tribe who peacefully opposed or resisted eviction”.

ALQST confirmed that at least three members of the tribe had been sentenced to death and 14 handed prison terms of between 15 to 50 years. 

Questioned over the ethical issues relating to Nestor, EDF told Radio France that respect for fundamental human rights and environmental and social standards was “a precondition for each project EDF took part in” and that their ethical and ecological charter had been sent along with their bid.

As for employees’ opposition to Neom, it said: “EDF respects the opinion of all its staff and offers many other opportunities within the company to allow them to flourish through other projects”.

Ségura acknowledged that the media attention had “certainly helped to relieve pressure on staff”.



The union is now pushing for the establishment of a right to withdraw from a project for “environmental and ethical reasons”, which would apply not just to EDF employees but also to those at other big energy providers.

If it succeeds, employees could be relieved of certain projects they deem “contrary to their company’s public undertakings and the need to bring about an exemplary energy transition”, the union wrote in a statement.


France

Four charged with murder for beating French teen to death

French prosecutors have charged four people with murder over the violent beating of a teenaged boy who died from his injuries – the second assault of a student outside of school in the past two weeks.

Two brothers and two other young men were charged with the murder of the 15-year-old identified as Shemseddine, the Evry prosecutor’s office announced Monday, after an overnight hearing.

Police said Shemseddine was attacked by three people wearing balaclavas as he left his middle school on Friday in Viry-Chatillon, a town around 20 kilometres south of Paris.

He died in hospital of his injuries later that day.

Shemseddine was attacked because of a dispute linked to the brothers’ younger sister on “subjects relating to sexuality”, Evry prosecutor Gregoire Dulin said in an earlier statement.

“Fearing for her reputation and that of their family, they had ordered several boys to no longer have contact with her,” he said. The brothers then learned that “the victim boasted of being able to speak freely with their sister”.

This is the second assault of a teenager in a week, after a 13-year-old girl was left comatose after being attacked outside her school in the southern city of Montpellier on Tuesday.

Both incidents come at a time of heightened tensions around French schools, after dozens of schools received bomb threats in the past weeks.

(with AFP)


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)


Paris 2024 Olympics

History of Olympic gold, silver and bronze glitters in Paris museum

As nearly 11,000 obsessed and stressed athletes continue their preparations around the globe for the 2024 Olympics in Paris in just over three months, around 5,000 gold, silver and bronze medals remain under lock and key in the various vaults of La Monnaie de Paris – the Paris Mint – waiting to garland the frames of the elite three who will receive gold, silver and bronze for coming first, second and third in their event.

It wasn’t always so. The inaugural edition of the modern Olympic Games in Athens in 1896 offered a silver and a bronze medal to the top two – a radical departure from the ancient games in Greece where only the winner was hailed.

For the reboot in the late 19th century, La Monnaie de Paris made the medals. “At the time, La Monnaie de Paris was making Greek coins,” explained Dominique Antérion who is curating the exhibition Gold, Silver Bronze at the latter day La  Monnaie de Paris about the history of Olympic medals.

“So making the medals for the Games was the same kind of thing – more or less.”

And to underline the stature of La Monnaie de Paris at the genesis of the era inspired by the Frenchman Pierre de Courbetin, the exhibition boasts the first Olympic medal designed by Jules-Clément Chaplain.

“We have the two tools – the two dies – to make the medal for the front and back,” Antérion added proudly.

The medal of the American triple jumper James Connolly – the first winner of an Olympic medal – adorns the exhibition along with the five gold medals from the 1924 Paris Games brandished by Finland’s Paavo Nurmi who was nicknamed ‘the Flying Finn’ for his exploits in the middle and long distance races.

Start

When gold medals made their debut at the 1900 Olympics in Paris, the innovation was rectangular and designed by the Frenchman Frédéric de Vernon.

“The shape was very fashionable in France around the fin du siècle,” said Antérion. “And they are superb, magnificent pieces.”

Not so splendid though was the event which went virtually unnoticed as it clashed with the six-month long Universal Exhibition.

The fiasco prompted de Courbetin to lobby anew for Paris but while the brains behind the games glad-handed, St Louis, London, Stockholm and Antwerp hosted the subsequent extravaganzas before they returned to Paris in 1924.

In St Louis, instead of medals being handed out in boxes, they were pinned onto tracksuit tops hanging from a little ribbon.

The fad faded. Medals were back in their boxes by Stockholm and the custom continued up until the 1960 Games in Rome where they were placed around the necks of the first three on metal leaf chains. While other organising committees have since opted for ribbons, such flexibility has not been evident in the design of the medals.

Rigidity

Between 1928 and 1968, the medals for the Summer Games bore Giuseppe Cassioli’s ‘Trionfo’ design of Nike, the Greek goddess of victory, holding a winner’s crown with a depiction of the Colosseum in the background.

The reverse featured a crowd of people carrying a victorious athlete. From the 1972 Olympics in Munich, the reverse side was left to the whims of the organising country.

Cassioli’s work was ditched for the 2004 Games in Athens. Elena Votsi’s design highlights Nike with the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens in the background. 

“While the medals for the Summer Games were always the same, the Winter Games were having the time of their lives,” said Antérion. “They were doing what they wanted. There were no constraints.”

The exhibition, which runs through the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games until 29 September, displays medals from the first Winter Games in Chamonix in 1924 as well as a patinated bronze medal from Cortina d’Ampezzo in Italy in 1956.

“The medals were also made by great design houses, sometimes goldsmiths,” added Antérion.

Freedom

A medal from the 1988 Calgary Winter Games showing a native Indian in profile with the feathers of a head dress comprising shapes of a ski, luge and bobsleigh, draws particular praise.

“It’s superbly well done,” Antérion enthused. “And admirably well designed, drawn and conceived. You can see that this winter medal is a field of total freedom for the creators and designers.”

For the impending summer show in France, some prized local metal will be added to what the athletes describe charmingly as “the hardware”.

Disused iron girders from the Eiffel Tower have been melted down and shaped into a hexagon – the locals’ nickname for France. 

“There’s an intimacy between the athlete who wins the medal and the object itself,” said Antérion

“When you are watching on TV, you often see the medal being awarded and the athlete turning to celebrate. Then it moves on to the next shot and we just don’t see the medal.”

 

 

 

 


Panama Papers

Founders of ‘Panama Papers’ law firm on trial for money laundering

The trial of 27 people accused of money laundering in connection with revelations in the Panama Papers is set to open Monday in a Panamanian criminal court. The leaked documents revealed how many of the world’s richest people stashed assets in offshore companies and avoided paying taxes.

The trial, which was initially to open in 2021, but was put off until now, opens Monday, with Jurgen Mossack and Ramon Fonseca Mora, founders of the Mossack Fonseca law firm at the centre of the scandal, among the defendants.

11.5 million files

Mossack Fonseca closed in 2018, because it said it was unable to continue doing business due to “irreparable damage” to its reputation.

Some 11.5 million files from the company were leaked in 2016 to the German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung, which shared them with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

Journalists, including a number from the French daily Le Monde, revealed the offshore accounts of some of the world’s wealthiest and influential figures, and their reporting triggered investigations around the world.

Many of those implicated said they had not acted illegally.

Panama, whose reputation was tarnished by the revelations, is hoping for some redemption through the trial.

Tax evasion

Tax evasion in Panama has only been punishable since 2019, and only for amounts greater than $300,000 a year.

The fact that the laws did not exist when the Panama Papers revelations emerged could complicate efforts to convict the defendants on trial

In 2023, Mossack and Fonseca were tried in Panama for alleged money laundering in Brazil’s “Car Wash” corruption scandal involving the construction group Odebrecht.

The verdict has not yet been announced, though prosecutors asked for up to 12 years in prison for both men.

The Panama Papers trial is expected to run through 26 April.

(with AFP)


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)


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. 


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. 


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.

International report

Erdogan’s local election defeat reshapes Turkey’s political landscape

Issued on:

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s worst electoral defeat in nationwide municipal elections has changed Turkey’s political landscape. However, the Opposition’s victory came at an awkward time. Turkey’s Western allies were looking to strengthen ties with the Turkish President. 

Turkey’s main opposition CHP (Republican People’s Party) gains in nationwide local elections are a significant reversal of the party’s fortunes after Erdogan’s resounding reelection last May.

“After the opposition’s loss in the May elections, everybody thought the opposition was in a state of despair,” explains Can Selcuki, head of Istanbul polling firm Economics Research.

“But that doesn’t seem to be the case, and it’s a turning point for the Turkish political landscape.

“It’s the first time since 1977 that CHP has managed to come out number one in the popular vote.”

Threat of authoritarianism

With much of the media under his control and the judiciary targeting dissent, critics claim Erdogan’s grip on power is tightening.

Addressing supporters on election night Ekrem Imamoglu, the re-elected CHP mayor for Istanbul who Erdogan personally tried to unseat, claimed his victory was a stand against the global threat of authoritarianism.

“Today is a pivotal moment not only for Istanbul, but for democracy itself. As we celebrate our victory, we send a message that will reverberate worldwide,” Imamoglu told thousands of jubilant supporters.

“Democracy’s decline is now ending,” continued the mayor, “Istanbul stands as a beacon of hope, a testament to the resilience of democratic values in the face of growing authoritarianism.”

  • Deepfake videos used in local elections in Turkey as Erdogan battles for Istanbul
  • Turkey’s embattled civil society fears worst as foreign funding dries u
  • Prosecutor seeks prison terms for alleged PKK members on trial in Paris

Muted reactions

Despite this,Turkey’s Western allies’ response to the CHP’s resounding victory was muted.

“There were no congratulations extended, even to Turkey’s democracy, let alone to the opposition itself,” Sezin Oney, a commentator for Turkey’s Politikyol news portal, said.

“[This] is a big contrast compared to the May elections because right after the May elections, the Western leaders, one after the other, extended their congratulations to Erdogan.

“So there is a recognition that Erdogan is here to stay, and they don’t want to make him cross. And given that there is the Ukraine war on one side and the Gaza war on the other, they want a stable Turkey.”

Turkey’s location, bordering the Middle East and Russia, makes Ankara a critical ally for Europe and the United States in international efforts to control migration and contain Russia.

Ahead of the March polls, Erdogan had been engaged in rapprochement with his Western allies, with Washington even inviting the Turkish President for a summit in May.

However, Erdogan could still pose a headache to his Western allies as he ramps up his nationalist rhetoric in the aftermath of his defeat.

“We are determined to show that terrorism has no place in the future of Türkiye and the region,” Erdogan said Thursday. “With the recent elections, this determination has been further strengthened.”

Massive military offensive

Meanwhile, Erdogan has warned that his army is poised to launch a massive military offensive into Northern Iraq and Syria against the Kurdish group PKK, including affiliates that work with American forces in fighting the Islamic State.

A crackdown on the PKK, analysts say, will play well with conservative nationalist voters. Those voters were the ones with which the opposition scored its biggest successes in Central Turkey – a region known as Anatolia – for the first time in a generation.

“CHP has never been successful in those places before. These are places that are considered to be religiously conservative, or at least conservative,” Istar Gozaydin, a Turkish religion and state relations expert at Istanbul’s Istinye University, said.

“And that’s also valid for Central Anatolia. Central Anatolia is usually much more nationalist and much more religiously sensitive, but for the first time, they’ve been successful.”

It is not the first time Erdogan has sought to play the nationalist card. After the 2015 general election in which the president’s AK Party lost its parliamentary majority, Erdogan launched military operations against the PKK across Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish region, leveling many city centres.

Erdogan’s action resulted in his AK Party taking power in a second election later that year.

Fix the economy

“I’m sure there’s a temptation,” said analyst Can Selcuki, “but the facts on the ground do not allow it. Erdogan needs to fix the economy.”

Turkey’s near 70% inflation and 50% interest rates, were widely seen as key factors in AK Party’s defeat. But analyst Sezin Oney of Turkey’s Politikyol news portal says a new conflict could change the political rules of the game.

“The economy is a concern, but there is a war psyche, then he [Erdogan] might be propagating,” Oney added..

Some Turkish analysts say the opposition victory will be viewed privately as inconvenient by some of Turkey’s Western allies coming at a time of growing cooperation with Erdogan, with the fear now that Erdogan’s resounding defeat could make the Turkish leader unpredictable at a critical time in both the Middle East and Russia’s war with Ukraine.

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.


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Madhya Pradesh: the Heart of beautiful India

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In partnership with Madhya Pradesh’s tourism board.


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Exploring Malaysia’s natural and cultural diversity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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