rfi 2024-04-21 16:05:24



FRENCH HISTORY

Women’s long battle to vote in France and the generations who fought it

This 21 April marks 80 years since women secured the right to vote in France. A wartime decree finally granted equal suffrage in 1944 – decades later than other European countries, and only after generations of women had demanded their democratic rights.

From Denmark to Azerbaijan, Germany to Georgia, Russia to the United Kingdom, swathes of Europe established at least limited voting rights for women in the 1910s.

Finland enfranchised women even earlier, in 1906. On the other side of the world, Australia and New Zealand had opened voting to certain women in 1902 and 1893 respectively. 

Yet in 1932, a French senator was still arguing in all seriousness: “Giving women the right to vote is a gamble, a leap into the unknown, and we have a duty not to rush into this venture.”

Sure enough, France went slow. It would be another 12 years before Charles de Gaulle’s government in exile passed the decree that, on 21 April 1944, declared women eligible to take part in elections on the same terms as men. 

What took so long? 

Currents of history

“It’s true that it’s a long, long story, and it’s not just 1944,” says Anne-Sarah Moalic, a historian whose book La Marche des Citoyennes (“The March of Women Citizens”) traces the history of the suffrage movement in France.

She is keen to correct the notion that women in France were slow to demand their rights. Equal treatment had been a matter for debate since the French Revolution, with thinkers such as Olympe de Gouges arguing for women to play a role in politics from the 1790s. 

But it was an era of revolution and counter-revolution, when breakneck progress was followed by reactionary backlash.

By 1848, after the conservative monarchy had been restored and toppled once again, a new provisional government declared that all French men could vote from the age of 21 – a suffrage they called “universal”, but that specifically excluded women. 

Bold pioneers

Women began to object immediately, says Moalic – women such as Eugénie Niboyet, who founded France’s first feminist daily newspaper, La Voix des Femmes (“The Women’s Voice”), just weeks later. 

The following year one of her fellow campaigners, a seamstress, schoolteacher and socialist named Jeanne Deroin, became the first woman to run for parliament in France.

“You sincerely want the full consequences of your great principles liberté, égalité, fraternité, and it is in the name of these principles, which do not admit unjust exclusion, that I am standing as a candidate for the Legislative Assembly,” she declared.

Ridiculed in the press and heckled at hustings, Deroin did not win a seat; even if she had, the law wouldn’t have allowed her to take it.

“We have to imagine how difficult it would have been for her,” says Moalic, who marvels at Deroin’s courage.

“But we cannot say that it was really the beginning of a big movement.”

By 1851 a coup d’état had re-established imperial rule and a crackdown was underway on socialists like Deroin, who left France for England and never returned.   

“So we had to wait for the feminists of the Third Republic from 1870, 1875, to find the strong movement for women’s rights in France,” Moalic says.

The first suffragists

The rights they were demanding weren’t just political. A growing number of social reformers were campaigning for better access to education, legalised divorce and broader property rights, among other changes, which they believed would make life fairer and freer for women and girls in France.

But Hubertine Auclert – “the first French suffragist, the big one”, in Moalic’s words – drew a line between reforming the laws and making them in the first place.

“Auclert said the vote was a priority, because if you don’t vote you’re not considered,” says Moalic. 

In 1876, Auclert founded the first French group dedicated to campaigning for women’s suffrage. 

She adopted tactics more militant than any yet seen in France, including refusing to pay taxes and sabotaging ballot boxes at the 1908 municipal elections.

“We could not imagine today that a woman [of the time] was that bold, that audacious in the way she campaigned,” comments Moalic.

Within the law

On the whole, though, French activists were less radical than the suffragettes who were beginning to force the issue to the fore in the UK – chaining themselves to railings, smashing windows, scrapping with police, going on hunger strike and eventually mounting bomb and arson attacks.

“In France, women weren’t using the same kind of action,” says Moalic. “They preferred this respectable, legalist approach, to show that they could be part of the Republic and would obey the law.”

Auclert’s successors, suffragists of the 1910s and ’20s such as Cécile Brunschvicg and Maria Vérone, shunned civil disobedience in favour of peaceful protests and petitions.

Even later activists remained more or less respectable. 

In the 1930s, journalist Louise Weiss grabbed headlines with stunts including staging mock ballots, blocking traffic, burning newspapers, marching onto a racecourse, airdropping pamphlets over a football match and covering policemen in talcum powder.

But though inspired by British suffragettes, the pranks were more playful than confrontational.

“I felt that in France, if the people who laugh are on your side you’re almost sure to win, and we got the laughers on our side,” Weiss later said.

Institutional gatekeepers

It was a time when respect for institutions was especially sacred in France, which was finally in a period of stability after more than a century of upheavals.

That also helps explain why, as French suffragists persuaded MPs to take up their cause in parliament, lawmakers were leery.

Starting in 1901, women’s suffrage was discussed – and dismissed – in the lower house several times. MPs eventually voted in favour for the first time in May 1919. But the upper house, the Senate, took until 1922 to consider the proposal – and then rejected it.

The same thing would happen repeatedly over the following decade. By 1936 the National Assembly had voted for women’s suffrage six times, the Senate not once.

Senators – who at the time, unlike lower-house lawmakers, were not directly elected – saw themselves as the guardians of a delicate status quo, Moalic explains. 

Fearing further tumult, she says, “they have this reaction of protection, and they say: ‘What would they vote for, these women?'”

Opponents claimed women would struggle to vote responsibly or be unduly influenced by husbands – or worse, by priests.

Moalic says: “They’re afraid of what could happen with that vote, so they prefer to keep the situation as it is.”

Sea change

But equal franchise was rarely gained without tumult, Moalic points out. 

Most European countries extended suffrage soon after World War I, when empires were crumbling and new constitutions being written.

“And in France, it’s just the same,” says Moalic. “In 1918 the institutions were strong enough not to be broken by the First World War. And after that we had great stability in our institutions in France for all this period between the two wars.”

That was shattered by World War II. 

“And so, on the ruins of this Third Republic, we had to build something new – and that is the moment of 1944 when the vote is granted at last to French women.”

France was one of a fresh wave of countries, including Italy, Belgium and Japan, that rewrote their voting laws in the wake of World War II.

Even then, de Gaulle’s provisional government didn’t approve the reform unanimously. But women had worked alongside and instead of men and fought in the Resistance.

The argument that they weren’t capable of voting was no longer tenable.

From ballots to seats

The first chance they got to vote was in 1945, first in municipal elections and later in parliamentary ones.

“Women did vote, and that was a very important point, because many people said that women weren’t interested in voting,” says Moalic.

“Where the inequality was stronger, and still is, is with the fact of being elected.”

Just 33 of the 586 lawmakers elected to the National Assembly in 1945 were women; in 1958, it was eight. Today, 215 female MPs make up just over 37 percent of France’s National Assembly.

  • Drop in number of female MPs shows ongoing battle for gender parity in French politics

But in women’s long, unfinished struggle for equality, the right to vote was a milestone – a right not given, but claimed. 

“These women, these feminists, they were looking for a better world,” says Moalic. “They wanted to be included in the ‘republic’. And not as women – they just wanted to be part of this big and beautiful thing that is democracy and republic.

“And I think today, where some ideas and ideologies in society are quite sad and separatist, with everyone looking for their own little right, it’s really important to celebrate this reform, and all these women who gave many of their years and their attention to make a change.”


France – Books

French publishers voice concerns over rise in used book sales

French President Emmanuel Macron’s announcement of a new tax on used book sales to protect new books is the latest proposal from a government with a history of intervening in the publishing industry to keep it afloat.

While the used book market is on the rise in France, the Emmaus charity – a third of whose online revenue comes from books – is raising the alarm over unfair competition from online retailers.

Macron has proposed adding a tax to used book sales, which he says would help publishers, authors and translators.

Speaking at the annual Paris book fair last weekend, Macron said that used books – most of which are sold on major online retail platforms like Amazon – posed a competitive threat to the price of new books in France.

Culture Minister Rachida Dati would give details of how this contribution would work at a future date, he added.



Used books on rise

Used books do compete with publishers, with lower prices that have become more attractive during times of inflation.

A study by the Culture Ministry and the French authors’ rights association Sofia published earlier this month found that the number of people buying used books is going up, while the number of new book sales are staying flat.

Nearly 20 percent of books sold in 2022 were used, though the market value is much lower because of their lower prices.

By some estimates, the used book market is €888 million compared to the €4.3 billion market for new books.

Consumers’ reasons for buying used books is driven by price, and not for environmental concerns, which could drive purchases of other types of second-hand items.

  • Riverside booksellers in Paris refuse to clear out for Olympics

Tax should not affect price

The president of the French publishers’ association, SNE, says a tax on used books would be minimal.

The used book market is dominated by “major international actors that do not pay taxes in France,” Vincent Montagne on France Culture radio last week, making reference to online retail platforms like Amazon, Rakuten or eBay.

The tax would only apply to them, he said, and not independent used book sellers, like the bouquinistes along the Seine in Paris, or charity shops.

French publishers are protective of their market, as they have the right to set the retail price of their books – including e-books – and sellers cannot offer more than five percent off the cover price.

This comes from a 1981 law passed in response to the threat posed to bookstores by the chain store Fnac and large supermarket retailers, which offered discounts on books that smaller stores could not.

  • France’s royal library welcomes families after majestic makeover

Unfair competition

But the used book market is not subject to the same rules, and some resellers are concerned that they cannot compete in the face of online retailers.

The Emmaus charity, which started selling second hand items online via its Label Emmaus online platform in 2016, has launched a campaign calling out what it says is “unlawful competition” from platforms like Amazon, as well as Shein, Temu and Ali-Express.

A third of sales on the charity’s online platform are used books, and it has seen a 20 percent drop in visitors at the start of 2024.

Called “all our books are equal”, the campaign juxtaposes the covers of two biographies, one Emmaus founder Abbé Pierre, and Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon.

Director Maud Sarda attributes drops in sales to inflation, but also to the “harmful” strategies of the platforms, including constant advertisement, increasingly rapid delivery, and lower prices.

Last month the National Assembly passed a bill to make fast-fashion less attractive, including a ban on advertising for the cheapest clothes, and an environmental tax added to low-cost items. The Senate has yet to vote on the proposal.

Sarda would like to see laws that would prohibit free delivery, which has been prohibited for new book orders of under €35 since last year.

It is important to act, says Sarda, otherwise the Emmaus model of sustainable consumption will be compromised.

“There is an urgency to fight against these harmful sales practices and prioritise sustainable and fair [consumer] solutions, which run the risk, otherwise of disappearing well and truly.”


Media

French ‘first lady’ Brigitte Macron inspires television series

Film production company Gaumont says it intends to make a short series based on the life of Brigitte Macron, wife of the French president. Still in its early stages, it is not clear yet whether it will take the form of fiction or a documentary.

Gaumont announced on Tuesday that it was launching the writing phase of a fiction series dedicated to Brigitte Macron. 

“Gaumont is developing a series called Brigitte Une Femme Libre (Brigitte a Free Woman) in six episodes of 45 minutes,” a press release from the production company said.

The cast and distributor have yet to be chosen.

Macron herself has not yet reacted to the subject, nor has the president’s office, but her entourage noted: “We are not associated with this project which we learned about today through the press.”

The screenwriters are Bénédicte Charles and Olivier Pouponneau, already co-authors of the series Mirage and J’ai Menti (I Lied).

The story is to cover Brigitte Trogneux’s early years as a teacher in the northern town of Amiens, where she met her student and future husband Emmanuel – who was aged 15 at the time – up until her arrival at the Elysée Palace.

Making her mark

Born in 1953, Brigitte Macron has a master of arts degree and a secondary school teaching qualification in French language and literature. She began her career in Paris.

She has three children from her first marriage, and seven grandchildren.

Macron stopped teaching in 2015 to join her husband’s election campaign in 2016.

Since her arrival at the Elysée Palace, she has made her mark supporting child protection policies, the fight against school bullying and improving conditions for people with disabilities.

  • Brigitte Macron lashes out at ‘relentless’ online bullying

Finding her feet as “first lady” has not always been smooth sailing, especially when it came to deciding on her official duties and whether or not she would have perks enjoyed by previous presidential wives. 

Filmmakers have been inspired by the role, with a film dedicated to Bernadette Chirac, wife of former leader Jacques, in 2023. Catherine Deneuve played the title role in the true-false biopic, Bernadette.

In the United States, Natalie Portman played Jacqueline Kennedy, wife of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, in 2016 in Jackie.

Brigitte Macron is meanwhile tipped to be making an appearance in the series Emily in Paris.

Call me Brigitte

However, Brigitte made it clear from the beginning she had no intention of drawing too much of the spotlight to her role.

In her first interview after her husband won the presidential election in 2017, Macron told Elle magazine that she paid little attention to her status as France’s first lady, adding she was happy for people to address her simply as “Brigitte.”

“I don’t feel as if I’m the ‘first lady’, which is the translation of an American expression, a figure of speech which does not appeal to me in the least. When I hear people say it, I always want to look behind me and say ‘Who are they talking about?’.

  • Brigitte and Emmanuel: ‘Not an ideal couple’, but they make it work

“I am not the First Lady, nor the last, nor even a lady. I am simply Brigitte Macron.”

However, the personal lives of the presidential couple and their age gap is periodically a source of media attention in both France and abroad.

Most recently Macron and her brother Jean-Michel Trogneux took legal action against two women who posted a Youtube video in December 2021 alleging she had once been a man named “Jean-Michel”.

A Paris criminal court is to try them on charges of defamation in March next year, a source close to the case has said.

(with newswires)


India elections

India to rerun election at 11 places in Manipur after violence

India, staging the world’s biggest election, will rerun voting at 11 polling stations in the northeastern state of Manipur on Monday after reports of violence and damage to voting machines in the state torn by months of ethnic clashes.

The election authorities declared the voting void at the 11 locations and ordered the fresh poll, the chief electoral officer of Manipur said in a statement late on Saturday.

Friday marked the start of voting by nearly one billion people in the world’s most-populous country, in an election running through 1 June.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is forecast to win a rare third term on the back of issues such as growth, welfare and Hindu nationalism.

The main opposition Congress party had demanded a rerun at 47 Manipur polling stations, alleging that booths were captured and elections were rigged.

There were scattered incidents of violence on Friday in the state, including clashes among armed groups and attempts to take over polling stations under heavy security.

Voters turned out in large numbers, despite the threat of clashes that have killed at least 220 people in the past year.

Manipur has been roiled by fighting between the majority Meitei and tribal Kuki-Zo people since May.

It remains divided between a valley controlled by Meiteis and Kuki-dominated hills, separated by a stretch of no-man’s land monitored by federal paramilitary forces.

Major polls

Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeks a rare third term on the back of issues such as growth, welfare and Hindu nationalism.

  • Nearly a billion people to vote as India kicks off colossal elections

The vote pits Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) against an alliance of two dozen opposition parties that promise greater affirmative action and more handouts while stressing what they call the need to save democratic institutions.

Nearly 970 million people are eligible to vote in the seven-phase exercise, the world’s largest election, which runs through the peak of summer until 1 June, with results set for 4 June.

Election Commission figures after polls closed on Friday’s first day of voting estimated voter turnout at 60%, with the small northeastern state of Tripura top of the list at 80% and the northwestern state of Rajasthan at the bottom with 51%.

 (Reuters)


Israel-Hamas war

More than 14 Palestinians killed as violence flares in West Bank

Israeli forces killed 14 Palestinians during a raid in the occupied West Bank on Saturday, while an ambulance driver was killed as he went to pick up wounded from a separate attack by violent Jewish settlers, Palestinian authorities said.

Israeli forces began an extended raid in the early hours of Friday in the Nur Shams area, near the flashpoint Palestinian city of Tulkarm and were still exchanging fire with armed fighters well into Saturday.

Israeli military vehicles massed and bursts of gunfire were heard, while at least three drones were seen hovering above Nur Shams, an area housing refugees and their descendants from the 1948 war that accompanied the creation of the state of Israel.

The Tulkarm Brigades, which groups forces from numerous Palestinian factions, said its fighters exchanged fire with Israeli forces on Saturday.

The West Bank, a kidney shaped area about 100 km (60 miles) long and 50 km wide that has been at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since it was seized by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war.

The Gaza war has overshadowed continuing violence in the territory, including regular army raids on militant groups, rampages by Jewish settlers in Palestinian villages, and street attacks by Palestinians on Israelis.

Settler violence is a source of growing concern among Israel’s Western allies.

A number of countries, including the United States, have imposed sanctions on violent settlers and urged Israel to do more to stop the violence.

  • French FM calls for end to Israeli settler violence in Occupied Territories

Thousands of Palestinians have been arrested and hundreds killed during regular operations by Israeli army and police since the start of the Gaza war, most members of armed groups, but also stone-throwing youths and uninvolved civilians.

On Saturday, Palestinian health authorities said at least 14 Palestinians, two of whom were identified by Palestinian sources and officials as a gunman and a 16 year-old boy, were killed during the raid, one of the heaviest casualty totals in the West Bank in months. Another man was killed on Friday.

The Israeli military said a number of militants were killed or arrested during the raid, and at least four soldiers were wounded in exchanges of fire.

In a separate incident, the Palestinian health ministry said a 50-year-old ambulance driver was killed by Israeli gunfire near the village of Al-Sawiya, south of the city of Nablus, as he was making his way to transport people injured during the attack on the village.

It was not immediately clear whether he was shot by settlers. There was no immediate comment from the military.

Gaza strikes continue  

In Gaza, where fighting has continued despite the withdrawal of most of Israel’s combat forces earlier this month from southern areas, the death toll passed 34,000, Palestinian health authorities said on Saturday.

Israeli strikes hit the southern city of Rafah, where over one million Palestinians are sheltering, as well as Al-Nuseirat in central Gaza, where at least five houses were destroyed, and the Al-Jabalia area in the north, health officials and Hamas media said.

In Rafah, a strike hit a house and killed a father, daughter and pregnant mother, Hamas and Palestinian media outlets said.

Doctors at the Kuwaiti hospital were able to save the baby, medics said, making the baby the family’s only surviving member.

Five other Palestinians were killed in a separate Israeli air strike on the city before midnight, health officials said.

The Israeli military said troops were carrying out raids in central Gaza, where they were engaged in close quarter combat with Palestinian fighters.

Overall, Israeli strikes in Gaza killed 37 Palestinians and wounded 68 over the past 24 hours, Palestinian health authorities said.

Rafah is the last Gaza area that Israeli ground forces have not entered in a more than six-month war aimed at eliminating the Islamist Hamas group that rules the enclave, following the Hamas attack on southern Israel on 7 October, that killed some 1,200 Israelis and foreigners.

  • Israel vows ‘mighty vengeance’ after Hamas surprise attack

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has faced wide international opposition to the plan to attack Rafah, where the military says the last remaining organised brigades of Hamas are located and where the remaining 133 Israeli hostages are believed to be held.

 (with Reuters)


Coup in Niger

US to withdraw military personnel from Niger

The United States will withdraw its troops from Niger, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters late on Friday, adding an agreement was reached between US Deputy Secretary of State Kurt Campbell and Niger’s leadership.

There were a little over 1,000 US troops in Niger as of last year, where the US military operated out of two bases, including a drone base known as Air Base 201 built near Agadez in central Niger at a cost of more than $100 million.

Since 2018, the base has been used to target Islamic State militants and Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen, an al Qaeda affiliate, in the Sahel region.

Last year, Niger‘s army seized power in a coup. Until the coup, Niger had remained a key security partner of the United States and France.

  • Niger no closer to restoring order as Ecowas deadline looms

But the new authorities in Niger joined juntas in neighbouring Mali and Burkina Faso in ending military deals with one-time Western allies like Washington and Paris, quitting the regional political and economic bloc Ecowas and fostering closer ties with Russia.

In the coming days, there will be conversations about how that drawdown of troops will look, the source told Reuters, asking not to identified.

The source said there would still be diplomatic and economic relationships between the US and Niger despite this step.

The New York Times earlier on Friday reported more than 1,000 American military personnel will leave Niger in the coming months.

Last month, Niger’s ruling junta said it revoked with immediate effect, a military accord that allowed military personnel and civilian staff from the US Department of Defense on its soil.

  • Niger’s junta revokes military deal with US

The Pentagon had said thereafter it was seeking clarification, about the way ahead. It added the US government had “direct and frank” conversations in Niger ahead of the junta’s announcement, and was continuing to communicate with Niger’s ruling military council.

Hundreds took to the streets of Niger’s capital last week to demand the departure of US troops, after the ruling junta further shifted its strategy by ending the military accord with the United States and welcoming Russian military instructors.

Eight coups in West and Central Africa over four years, including in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, but also Gabon, have prompted growing concerns over democratic backsliding in the region.

  • Listen to: Podcast – After Senegal’s success, can Mali and Niger also hope for elections?

 (with Reuters) 


Middle East crisis

Deadly blast at Iraq army base amid Israel-Iran tensions

Iraq’s Popular Mobilisation Forces, an official security force, said its command post at Kalso military base about 50 km south of Baghdad was hit by a huge explosion late on Friday, and two security sources said it resulted from an air strike.

One person was killed and eight wounded in an overnight explosion at an Iraqi military base housing a coalition of pro-Iranian armed groups, officials said Saturday.

The explosion hit the Kalsu military base in Babylon province south of Baghdad, where Iraq’s Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), or Hashed al-Shaabi, is stationed.

It comes days after Iran launched an unprecedented assault on Israel which reportedly responded with a drone strike on the Islamic republic, amid tensions fuelled by the Gaza war.

The Iraqi security forces media unit said “an explosion and a fire” hit the Kalsu base in the early hours of Saturday, leaving one person dead and eight wounded.

Air defence command reported “no drones or combat aircraft in the airspace of Babylon province before or during the explosion”, it added in a statement.

An interior ministry official had initially reported an “aerial bombing” on the site.

In a statement, Hashed al-Shaabi said an “explosion” had inflicted “material losses” and casualties, without giving a number.

The group confirmed its premises on the military base had been hit and that investigators had been sent to the site.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Responding to questions from AFP, the security sources did not say who may have been behind the attack.

“The explosion hit equipment, weapons and vehicles,” said the interior ministry source.

‘Odious crime’

Shortly after the explosion, the US military said its forces were not behind a reported strike in Iraq.

“The United States has not conducted air strikes in Iraq today,” US Central Command (CENTCOM) posted on social media, adding that reports that American forces had carried out a strike were “not true”.

The Iraqi military official, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the subject, said the overnight explosion had occurred in “warehouses storing equipment”.

When reached by AFP, the Israeli army said it “does not comment on information published in foreign media”.

The Hashed al-Shaabi is an integral part of the official Iraqi security apparatus under the authority of the prime minister.

It brings together several pro-Iran armed factions, some of which have also carried out dozens of attacks in Iraq and Syria against US forces deployed as part of an international anti-jihadist coalition.

“We will retaliate against whoever is behind this aggression,” Hashed commander Abu Alaa al-Walai wrote on social media. “Those involved in this odious crime will pay the price.”

On Friday, strikes blamed on Israel targeted a military base near the city of Isfahan in central Iran.

  • Iran’s foreign minister downplays drone attack, as Gaza death toll reach 34,000

The explosion came in response to Tehran’s unprecedented attack on Israel last weekend, in retaliation for a deadly strike on Iran’s embassy in Damascus.

Iraq’s foreign ministry expressed “strong concern” on Friday over the blast in Iran, warning of the “risks of military escalation which threatens security and stability in the region.”

“This escalation must not be allowed to divert attention from what’s happening in the Gaza Strip,” it said.

Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani is in Washington, where he met US President Joe Biden this week.

 (AFP)


Middle East crisis

Iran’s foreign minister downplays drone attack, as Gaza death toll reach 34,000

Iran’s foreign minister said Tehran was investigating an overnight attack on Iran, adding that so far a link to Israel had not been proven as he downplayed the strike.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian told NBC News on Friday that the drones took off from inside Iran and flew for a few hundred meters before being downed.

“They’re … more like toys that our children play with, not drones,” Amirabdollahian said.

“It has not been proved to us that there is a connection between these and Israel,” he said, adding that Iran was investigating the matter but that media reports were not accurate, according to Tehran’s information.

Iranian media and officials described a small number of explosions, which they said resulted from air defences hitting three drones over Isfahan in central Iran in the early hours of Friday.

They referred to the incident as an attack by “infiltrators”, rather than by Israel, obviating the need for retaliation.

Amirabdollahian warned that if Israel retaliated and acted against the interests of Iran, Tehran’s next response would be immediate and at maximum level.

“But if not, then we are done. We are concluded,” he said.

The attack appeared to target an Iranian Air Force base near the city of Isfahan, deep inside the country, but without striking any strategic sites or causing major damage.

Israel has said nothing about the incident.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States had not been involved in any offensive operations, while the White House said it had no comment.

Calibrated retaliation

Israel had said it would retaliate after a strike on 13 April, the first ever direct attack on Israel by Iran, which caused no deaths after Israel and its allies shot down hundreds of missiles and drones.

Tehran launched those attacks in response to a presumed Israeli airstrike on 1 April that destroyed a building in Iran’s embassy compound in Damascus and killed several Iranian officers including a top general. 

Allies including the US had pressed all week to ensure any further retaliation would be calibrated not to provoke more escalation, and Western countries tightened sanctions on Iran to mollify Israel.

There was no word from Israel on Friday as to whether further action might be planned.

Apart from direct strikes on Iranian territory, it has other ways of attacking, including cyber attacks and strikes on Iranian proxies elsewhere.

Violence between Israel and Iranian proxies across the Middle East has intensified throughout six months of bloodshed in Gaza, raising fears the longstanding foes’ shadow war could spiral into a direct conflict.

Gaza war still on

Israel’s assault on Gaza began after Hamas Islamists attacked Israel on 7 October, killing 1,200, according to Israeli tallies. Israel’s military offensive has killed 34,000 Palestinians in Gaza, according to the Gazan health ministry.

As night fell on Friday, Israeli planes and tanks pounded several areas across the Gaza Strip, with air strikes hitting areas of Rafah where over half of Gaza’s 2.3 million people are sheltering, according to residents, Hamas media and officials at the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry.

One strike hit two apartments in a residential building in the city, killing nine people, including four children, and wounding several others, health officials said.

Air strikes also destroyed at least five houses in the Al-Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza, residents and Hamas media said.

“They (Israeli security) phoned some residents and ordered them to evacuate their houses before planes bombed some buildings nearby,” Abu Omar, a resident of Al-Nuseirat, told Reuters via a chat app.

“Soon as we ran away explosions shook the ground,” he added.

Israel’s government did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

 (with Reuters) 


CHAD

Chad is ‘not a slave who wants to change masters’, says president

Chad goes to the polls next month for a presidential election hoped to mark a return to democratic rule three years after military leaders seized power. Growing Russian influence in Africa, meanwhile, is shaking up historical ties to France. Transitional ruler Mahamat Idriss Deby, who is running to stay in power, spoke to RFI and sister station France 24 about the vote, Russia and the future of Chad’s relations with France.

RFI/France 24: Chad’s presidential election is scheduled for 6 May and some observers say the outcome is already a foregone conclusion. Members of the opposition are calling it a sham, claiming that you control all the electoral institutions.

Will Chad hold a real election?

Mahamat Idriss Deby: We’ve come a long way with the whole political class and also a large part of the ex-politico-military [former rebels]. And all the institutions created by the new constitution are independent.

The most important is the Agence nationale de gestion des élections, ANGE… Today, ANGE is independent.

So I think that those who say that this is a sham or that the election has already been decided, well, I understand: that’s what politics is all about, it’s fair game.

But I have confidence in the [election] agency, which will play its role fully and independently.

You will see that, on 6 May, the people of Chad will choose. They will elect a president who will lead this country for the next five years and the people’s choice will be respected.



RFI/F24: On 28 February 2024, opposition politician Yaya Dillo was killed in an assault by the Chadian army on his party’s headquarters. His party has called it an execution and Human Rights Watch says his body had a single shot to the head.

How do you respond to claims that you had your fiercest opponent taken out?

MID: Yaya Dillo and his militants attacked the headquarters of the intelligence services with weapons of war. Does a political party have the right to bear arms? Do the militants of a political party have the right to have weapons? That’s the question.

During this macabre attack, there were deaths: deaths on the side of the defence and security forces, and also among the militants of [Dillo’s party] the PSF.

So it was perfectly normal for the state to expect that the person who carried out this attack should be arrested to answer for his actions.

The police intervened to arrest him. He refused to comply. On the contrary, he fired at the police and the police fired back. There were deaths on both sides.

The case is now in the hands of the courts. We are going to wait for the court’s decision.

And we have made it very clear that we are also open to an independent investigation, which means that we have nothing to hide.

RFI/F24: You are open to an investigation?

MID: An international investigation.

RFI/F24: How soon?

From the outset, we issued a press release to explain to those at home and abroad what happened. And we also called for an independent inquiry.

  • Concerns ahead of Chad elections after death of main opposition figure
  • Chad excludes military rulers’ main opponents from presidential vote

RFI/F24: You paid a high-profile visit to Russian President Vladimir Putin at the end of January 2024, calling Russia a “brother country”. Do you envisage military cooperation with Moscow of the kind that that Niger recently agreed? 

MID: We held very fruitful discussions with President Putin, based on mutual respect and on issues on which we agree. On issues that concern us, between two sovereign states.

RFI/F24: Does that include security cooperation?

MID: It’s not just military cooperation. There are other areas of cooperation. Why do we always talk about military cooperation when it comes to African countries?

There are other forms of cooperation: economic cooperation, which is very important today for our countries.

We talked about lots of things: military cooperation, economic cooperation, diplomatic cooperation… I can tell you that I am satisfied with the visit.

RFI/F24: Are you considering a change of military alliance? Are you considering dropping your alliance with France and forging an alliance with Russia?

MID: Chad is an independent, free and sovereign country. We are not like a slave who wants to change master. We intend to work with all the nations of the world, all the nations that respect us and want to work with us with mutual respect.

  • Diplomatic dip for France as African nations seek out stronger partners
  • Chad’s opposition fears France will maintain status quo after elections

RFI/F24: In practical terms, does this mean that the French contingent of over 1,000 troops and the three French military bases currently in Chad will remain?

MID: [France’s special envoy for Africa] Jean-Marie Bockel recently visited Chad. We discussed the future of our cooperation.

We had discussions, we are going to continue our discussions and together, with sovereignty, we are going to decide on our future cooperation.

And this cooperation must not be limited to defence. There are other areas of cooperation too, notably economic. Economic cooperation is more important to us today than defence cooperation.

RFI/F24: This election raises a question. Are you committed to standing for only one or two terms or – as some people fear – is a “Deby dynasty” taking hold?

First of all, you have to realise that I am a candidate and I have an ambitious programme that I am going to present to the Chadian people.

Then it’s up to the Chadian people to decide, even if I’m confident. I am confident in my programme in terms of all the things I have done, in terms of respecting the commitments I made for the transition: in particular organising an inclusive national dialogue and constitutional referendum.

The people of Chad know that I am a man of action and a man of my word. If I am elected, I will serve my five-year term and at the end of my term, it will be up to the people to judge me…

As for a dynasty, our constitution is very clear – a candidate cannot serve more than two successive terms.

I would like to reassure the people of Chad that I and everyone will respect the constitution that was adopted and voted for by the Chadian people.


This interview has been edited from the original French for length and clarity.


Togo elections

Togo parliament approves contested constitutional reforms

Lawmakers in Togo approved changes to its constitution on Friday linked to presidential term limits and how presidents are elected, which some opposition politicians and civil society groups have denounced as a constitutional coup.

Parliament passed the amendments in a vote in March, but further consultations and a second parliamentary vote were scheduled, and legislative elections were pushed back from 20 to 29 April, due to fierce backlash.

Those opposed to the changes fear they could allow further extensions of President Faure Gnassingbe’s 19-year rule and his family’s grip on power.

  • Opponents slam Togo’s new constitution as ploy for Gnassingbé to stay in power

His father and predecessor Gnassingbe Eyadema seized power in the coastal West African country via a coup in 1967.

In the second vote, lawmakers unanimously approved the amendments that lengthen presidential terms by to six years from five, while limiting the number of terms to one.

Under the amended charter, which introduces a parliamentary system of government, the president will no longer be elected by universal suffrage, but by members of parliament.

It also does not take into account the time already spent in office, which could enable Gnassingbe to stay in power until 2031 if he is re-elected in 2025, a highly likely scenario as is party controls parliament.

The amendments amount to a “project to … confiscate power by a regime that is systematically opposed to any form of democratic change,” a group of 17 civil society organisations said in a joint statement this week.

They called on West Africa‘s main political and economic bloc Ecowas to take action against the amendments.

Several other African countries, including Central African Republic, Rwanda, Congo Republic, Ivory Coast and Guinea, have pushed through constitutional and other legal changes in recent years allowing presidents to extend their terms in office.

The West and Central African region has also witnessed eight military coups in the past three years.

Violent police crackdowns on political demonstrations have been routine under Gnassingbe, as they were during his father’s long rule.

Faure Gnassingbe was last reelected in a 2020 landslide disputed by the opposition.

The new constitution also creates a new role, president of the council of ministers, with extensive authority to manage government affairs.

 (Reuters)


Migration

More than half of African migrants remain in Africa, report finds

People in African countries primarily migrate within the continent rather than trying to leave it, new analysis shows. A report by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the African Union seeks to counter misconceptions and find better solutions to help people migrate safely.

Lack of democracy, insecurity, violence and conflict are the main drivers of migration in Africa. And as the climate crisis worsens, and more more people are pushed to leave their homes to seek a better future. 

Yet the latest Africa Migration Report found that, contrary to popular belief, internal migration on the continent surpasses external migration.

“The report finds that migration primarily occurs within the African continent rather than beyond its borders,” Yvonne Ndege, regional spokesperson and head of communication for IOM in the east and Horn of Africa, told RFI

“We see a lot of media coverage on Africans trying to reach Europe in particular, but the findings of the Africa Migration Report seem to counter this belief.”

‘Close to home’

An estimated 20.8 million people had moved from one African country to another as of 2020, according to the report, which analysed existing migration data.

Meanwhile 19.7 million people had left the continent for non-African countries.

That means intra-African migration makes up 51 percent of all emigration from African countries.

“People want to remain close to home,” Ndege said. “It is important to remember that Africa is a continent of origin, transit and destination. Public perception is that it is primarily a continent of origin.”

Within Africa, the report found, migration takes places predominantly between countries that share a land border, with migrants travelling short distances to neighbouring countries.

Return migration is also common, it said. Often people leave temporarily for work or in crisis, only to move back later.

Refugees

The report also found that refugees and asylum seekers represent a high proportion of people leaving their countries in Africa.

In 2020, 21 percent of all emigrants and 30 percent of all immigrants in African countries were refugees or asylum seekers, it said.

The vast majority of people fleeing conflict or persecution remain in Africa: 86 percent of all refugees and asylum seekers from African countries were received in Africa, compared to 9.6 percent in Europe.

Africa hosted nearly a quarter of the world’s total population of refugees and asylum seekers in 2022, according to the report – some 8.1 million people out of 34.9 million globally.

East Africa hosts the largest number, with Uganda and Sudan among the biggest destinations – despite Sudan being in the grip of conflict itself.

  • Sudan on its knees after one year of brutal civil war


Horn of Africa crisis

The displacements are much higher in the east and Horn of Africa now, according to the report, due to conflict, climate events and socio-economic difficulties.

“The migratory landscape of Eastern Africa in particular is mostly humanitarian in nature and largely made up of refugees and asylum seekers who have contributed or contribute around 61 percent of the region’s international migrant population,” Ndege told RFI.

She also said that the Covid-19 pandemic had worsened existing inequalities and heightened the vulnerability of migrant populations, especially people in irregular situations and those who migrate out of necessity.

Many of these people become vulnerable to exploitation by smugglers and people traffickers.

Many migrants moving without papers took riskier routes to avoid tighter border controls and avoid being detected, Ndege said.

  • UN says 2023 was the deadliest year on record for migrants

Need for safe passages

IOM is advocating for more safe and regular pathways for migrants wishing to move.

“We believe that well-managed migration has benefits for many, many states,” Ngede said, pointing to European countries with shortages of workers.

In some instances, bilateral deals can also be beneficial to countries of origin, she noted.

“So we’re working in partnership with states to help them realise the benefits of well-managed migration and governance of migration.”

Read also:

  • Forced to flee or too poor to leave: how climate change affects refugees
  • From Côte d’Ivoire to Ukraine to France and back again, one student’s journey

Spotlight on Africa

After Senegal’s success, can Mali and Niger also hope for elections?

Issued on:

The delayed March presidential vote in Senegal confirmed the country remains a beacon of democracy in a region facing increasing instability. RFI looks at how the peaceful victory of Bassirou Diomaye Faye and mentor Ousmane Sonko stands to influence the politics of neighbouring Sahel nations.

This edition of Spotlight on Africa looks at the vast and diverse West Africa region, from Senegal to Benin to Niger and Mali.

It’s a big election year for Africa in general, with no fewer than 16 countries heading to the polls.

These include a complicated parliamentary vote in Togo on 19 April, general elections on South Africa on 29 May, presidential elections in Algeria in September, and presidential elections in Ghana in December.

But for Sahel nations Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, elections appear a distant dream as the military juntas in power delay processes for a return to civilian rule.

Many hope the inspiring outcome of the Senegalese election can galvanise the region.

Speaking to RFI about the polls are former Senegalese diplomat Babacar Ndiaye and Nigerien researcher Seidik Abba.

Meanwhile Yvonne Ndege, of the International Organisation for Migration, looks at the issue of migration on the continent.

And finally Azu Nwagbogu, curator of the Benin pavilion for the Venice Biennale, speaks to RFI’s Ollia Horton ahead of the event’s opening on Saturday.

Read also:

  • Senegal sets March date for delayed presidential election
  • Insecurity erodes chances of return to civilian rule in Niger and Mali

Episode mixed by Erwan Rome.

Spotlight on Africa is a podcast from Radio France Internationale. 


ART and CULTURE

African feminism pumps the heart of Benin’s debut at Venice Biennale

For the first time since its inception in 1895, the Venice Biennale contemporary art fair has invited the West African nation of Benin to host a pavilion. Curator Azu Nwagbogu and his team of four artists have created a warm, homely space where visitors are encouraged to slow down, reconnect with what unites humanity and explore the roots of African feminism.

Originally from Lagos, Nigeria, Nwagbogu is one of the art world’s most sought-after curators. He was asked personally by the President of Benin, Patrice Talon, to head up the team dedicated to making the national pavilion come to life.

“I really hope there will be a reflection around Benin’s history and feminism … something that we can all relate to and brings us back to the thing that makes us all feel human,” Nwagbogu told RFI ahead of the opening of the Venice Biennale which runs from 20 April until 24 November.

According to Nwagbogu, the momentum of getting Benin into the international spotlight began with a political turn of events in 2021: the identification and final restitution of 26 precious traditional objects to Benin from Paris’s Quai Branly Museum.

Nwagbogu was present at the historic exhibition that took place in 2022 at the presidential palace in Cotonou. People of all walks of life came and queued up to see the artefacts, he says, underlining the symbolic importance of this event.

Hope on the horizon

“The remarkable thing was that it was curated to present the work of contemporary artists in the same space.

“It was easy to see the genetic connection between the work of these contemporary artists and the work of our forebears that were made 200 or 500 years ago.

“I believe that exhibition really created a general sense of purpose, hope and positive anticipation for what was to come next.”

The artistic team was commissioned to explore several themes for the Benin pavilion at the Venice Biennale: spirituality, Vodun, the figure of the Amazon, and the slave trade.

  • Benin opens exhibition of stolen art treasures returned by France

Nwagbogu says he carried out extensive research, travelling around the country to meet “the custodians of Benin’s culture”, referring to the representatives of the Vodun religion and the King of Dahomey.

All of them reinforced the idea that “nature is fecund, the earth is fecund. That life and nature are feminine,” he explains.

“The reason the world is out of kilter is because we’ve embraced this other sort of rootlessness that is lacking in care.”

The final result is an exhibition called “Everything Precious is Fragile” – a chance to come back to the essential and “reflect on the way we treat the things that are most important to us,” Nwagbogu says.

The title is in fact the literal translation of the term Gelede, one of Benin’s key cultural traditions.

The Gelede is a ceremony performed by the Yoruba-Nago community that is spread over Benin, Nigeria and Togo and pays tribute to the primordial mother Iya Nla and to the role women play in society.

Moving forward

“I’d settled on working on the idea of African feminism, something that was tangible and real and was manifest especially before colonial times,” he says, underlining the need to reach back into the past to move forward.

Nwagbogu and his team – co-curator Yassine Lassissi and scenographer Franck Houndégla – selected four major artists to provide works for the pavilion: Chloé Quenum, Moufouli Bello, Ishola Akpo, and Romuald Hazoumè.

He says each artist was chosen “not only for their individual artistic prowess but also for the unique ways in which their works and methodologies complement each other” within the themes explored.

  • Franco-Senegalese documentary ‘Dahomey’ wins Berlin’s Golden Bear

“We didn’t want to get into the debate over the Western logic around feminism, instead we wanted to stay with what we knew was real and what really connects humanity and everyone can relate to it,” he says.

The strength of women throughout Benin’s history is contrasted with the fragility of life and vulnerability, a state of being that Nwagbogu insists must be embraced, not feared.

“I think the thematic approach allows us to deal with a lot of the urgent issues of the world today: ecology, economy, loss of biodiversity, memory, restitution. All of these things are super fragile but are fading away from us.”

He describes a central dome which makes the pavilion feel like a sacred space. He says he hopes the atmosphere will provide a counterbalance to the frenetic pace of our daily lives and reinstate the importance of the word “care”.

“I’m hoping people will come to the Benin pavilion and really slow down and say to themselves, I want to hang out here because there is knowledge here,“ Nwagbogu says.

“I want it to feel homely, I want people to feel like this is an ideal or a vision for the museum of the 21st century.”


Sudan crisis

Why aid isn’t a lasting solution for millions facing famine in war-torn Sudan

After a year of war, millions of people in Sudan are facing displacement, violence and hunger. While the world has pledged billions in aid, the United Nations says the crisis can only be solved if Sudanese people are given the means to rebuild and produce their own food again.

Internally displaced people and refugees are impacting the already fragile economies of Sudan and its neighbours.

A conference in Paris on Monday raised more than €2 billion in international pledges that come one year after the start of fighting between the Sudanese army and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

It’s a conflict that has forced millions to flee and brought the population to the brink of famine. 

Donor countries at the Paris event recognise the seriousness of Sudan’s crisis and are genuine in their desire to take meaningful action, the UN Development Programme (UNDP)’s Abdallah Al Dardari, told RFI.

They know the situation in Sudan will spillover and affect the entire region.

“Investing in Sudan is actually a global public good. There is finally a sense of urgency on the issue,” Al Dardari said.

  • Sudan on its knees after one year of brutal civil war

Urgent need for agriculture

But emergency handouts will not offer a lasting solution. The UN needs to revive agriculture in Sudan and to bring back food production, jobs and incomes.

“Forty percent of farmers in Sudan this year could not plant their seeds,” Al Dardari said, adding that food security was a major obstacle.

“There will not be a harvest next year, which means this is very serious.”



UNDP figures, meanwhile, show that 50 percent of salaried employees in Sudan have lost their incomes.

Even if there was food available, half of the population would lack the money to buy it.

“What we are suggesting is a comprehensive approach that takes into consideration the immediate humanitarian needs but also [the need] to bring back livelihoods,” Al Dardari said.

The logic is that investing in livelihoods will in turn reduce reliance on aid, and much of Sudan stands to benefit from the right sorts of investment.

“If we produce food in Sudan today, and if we invest in local infrastructure, bring back the microfinance markets and allow farmers to buy their inputs and so on – in areas where safety and security allow for that – it will reduce the humanitarian burden,” Al Dardari said.

It would also signal to Sudanese that they aren’t merely seen as victims of a human catastrophe, but as people with agency and with active voices.

  • UN says 5 million at risk of starvation in Sudan

International pressure

When fighting broke out on 15 April, 2023, most diplomats and aid workers left Sudan – effectively ceasing to serve those most vulnerable. 

With the country on the brink of famine, the UN says it has been able to reach only 10 percent of Sudan’s 48 million people.

Those still working on the ground already see “children dying of malnutrition every day”, said Isobel Coleman of USAID, the United States’ international development agency.

The international community has a role to play in stopping the fighting, she told RFI after attending the conference this week. 

Conflicting parties must be brought back to the negotiating table, Coleman said, adding that a ceasefire would allow for full humanitarian aid access and avert an even more serious crisis. 

“The sooner the better, because the suffering is immense. Most parts of the country are on the verge of famine,” she said.



The US is considering further sanctions against Sudanese commanders and hopes that other countries will do the same, according to Coleman. 

She said she was optimistic about the reopening of peace talks, which are expected to resume in Saudi Arabia.

“We don’t yet have a precise date, but I hope that we will know soon so we can bring all the parties involved in this crisis around the table.

“This is the only way to move forward.”


FRANCE – SECURITY

French police detain suspect after surrounding Iranian consulate in Paris

French authorities on Friday detained a man after receiving an alert from the Iranian consulate in Paris that someone had entered carrying an explosive, the capital’s police authority said.

A security perimeter was reportedly set up around the consulate ahead of what was described as an “imminent police intervention” after witnesses say they saw a man enter the building carrying either a grenade or an explosive belt.

Authorities said Paris prefect Laurent Nuñez had mobilised the BRI, an elite unit, after the consulate made an intervention request to police.



  • France joins other countries condemning Iranian drone attacks on Israel

The area around the Iranian consulate, on Avenue d’Iéna in the 16th arrondissement, has been completely sealed off and a strong police presence remains.

Traffic on metro lines 9 and 6 serving Trocadero station, the closest to the Iranian consulate, has been interrupted.

This comes as tensions in the Middle East rise following an overnight counter-attack on Iran – allegedly launched by Israel – in retaliation for an Iranian drone attack on the Jewish state earlier this week. 

(with newswires)


French football

PSG return to local labour against rising Lyon as Champions League glory beckons

It’s just as well Paris Saint-Germain’s players enjoy a 10-point lead in Ligue 1 or they might have to think seriously about the French top flight rather than their impending clashes in a couple of weeks against Borussia Dortmund in the semi-finals of the Champions League.

PSG reprise their domestic activities on Sunday night at the Parc des Princes against Lyon who they will face in the final of the Coupe de France on 25 May at the Pierre Stade Mauroy in Lille.

That encounter in northern France will provide Lyon with their only chance of silverware this season. PSG, by then, should have wrapped up the Ligue 1 crown for the 10th time in 12 seasons.

Putative rivals Marseille are also into the semis of a European competition following a penalty shoot-out win over Benfica on Thursday night in the Europa League. 

They will face Atalanta for a place in the final against Bayer Leverkusen or Roma. Marseille’s progress on Thursday night forced Ligue 1 organisers on Friday to reschedule the penultimate round of games from 9pm on 11 May to the same time on 12 May to give Marseille time to recover from the second leg of their semi-final on 9 May.

By then PSG will probably be giving run-outs to the fringe players in the squad as they nurse their wounds from Champions League elimination or preparing giddily for a crack at European club football’s most prestigious trophy.

For all of PSG’s Ligue 1 supremacy, May 2024 will only be the club’s fourth appearance in the last four of the Champions League since it emerged from its European Cup iteration in 1992.

Run

Three of the adventures to the semis have come under Qatar Sports Investments (QSI) who took over the PSG extravaganza in March 2012 and started injecting squillions of euros into acquiring some of the best players on the planet as well highly rated coaches.

Thomas Tuchel steered the course to the 2020 Champions League final. The German was sacked a few months after the defeat to Bayern Munich.

His successor, Mauricio Pochettino, led the side to the last four in 2021 where they were undone by Manchester City. And then nada.

Divested of superstars such as Neymar, Marco Verratti and Lionel Messi, a less glittering constellation under Luis Enrique has managed to shine.

The two-legged tie on 1 and 7 May in Dortmund and then Paris will provide a test of mettle.

Enrique, who took over last July, appears to be growing in belief that his mien and methods are reaping dividends.

His confident prediction that his side would prevail in the quarter-final second leg in Barcelona reeked of hubris – more so when Raphinha opened the scoring for the hosts to give them a 4-2 aggregate lead. 

But Barcelona starred in their own tragedy. Or was it a Farcelona? Ronald Araujo was sent off for a cynical foul on Bradley Barcola in the 29th minute and Joao Cancelo conceded a needless penalty on the hour mark just after coach Xavi Hernandez was dismissed for petulance on the sidelines.

“I think that throughout the season our supporters have seen our team working and fighting,” said Enrique somewhat drily after the 4-1 victory took PSG through 6-4 on aggregate.

“They feel that we’re a team that goes until the end. Everyone was expecting a defeat, so it’s very positive.”

A win in Paris on Sunday night would effectively confirm Lyon’s status in Ligue 1 and keep them in the hunt for a place in next season’s Europa Conference League.

The third-tier European tournament is a far cry from the heights envisaged when John Textor took control of the club two years ago.

The American tycoon’s projections included rivalling PSG for the Ligue 1 crown and snazzy performances in the Champions League. And why not? But not quite yet.

Return

Earlier this season, Lyon – winners of seven succesive Ligue 1 titles at the turn of the century – looked destined to be grubbing around Ligue 2 grounds.

Under former France boss Laurent Blanc they gained one point from their first four games. Replacement Fabio Grosso added another six to the pot before he shuffled off the coil after eight games in charge.

And his replacement Pierre Sage hardly hit the ground running with two more defeats.

With seven points from 14 games, Lyon were a diminished titan. But Sage has inspired the most impressive of recoveries with the sweep to the Coupe de France final and steady ascent into seventh place in Ligue 1 with 41 points from 29 games.

“Since December, when he took over a team in distress, Pierre Sage has been hammering home the point that only hard work can turn things around,” wrote regional politician Sébastien Michel in a column in Lyonmag.com.

“A rather conventional line in these circumstances,” added the mayor of Écully. “But where he has made an impression, particularly on his players, is in his ability to show humility on a daily basis. Whether it’s the way he speaks, his attitude after matches, whether he wins or loses, or even the way he dresses.

“Everything about this man exudes humility, where the times constantly push for egotism in the literal sense of the word.

Humility

“It’s a humility that is visibly contagious if you look at the attitude of the players, who have rediscovered their ability to work together and for each other, where the start of the season was marked by excessive individualism on the part of most of them.

“Even some individuals renowned for their exaggerated selfishness on the ball seem to have been contaminated, and are making more and more runs and collective choices.”

The eulogy could be used for PSG too. The players who took to the field in the early years of the QSI era often exuded privilege.

Enrique has cultivated a far more yeoman look and the 53-year-old Spaniard has responded to the widely expected departure of striker Kylian Mbappé to Real Madrid with the dexterity that defined his own playing career.

“We’re going to wait for Kylian to speak,” said Enrique after the match in Barcelona. “And when he does, we’ll give our opinion. Until the parties have spoken, I’ll remain calm. It’s like in a trial. I’m a witness and I’m waiting for the parties to speak.” 

Mbappé, who was roundly criticised for his poor showing in the first leg in Paris on 10 April, made the apposite noises too following his brace in the 4-1 rout.

Dream

“I dream of winning the Champions League with PSG,” said the 25-year-old who has been at PSG since 2017.

“We’ve taken one more step and beaten a great team,” added PSG’s record goalscorer. “My pride in playing for this club, in representing the club from the capital of my country, is something special. To experience evenings like this as a Parisian is great.”

The open secret is that Mbappé is heading for Real Madrid next season and that the deal will not be announced until after one of the sides is eliminated from the Champions League.

Madrid will play Bayern Munich in the semis after disposing of holders Manchester City. A Madrid v PSG final is in the offing but then so is an all-German final.

That latter scenario would at least precipitate the details over Mbappé’s future. And leave PSG focused on a Coupe de France final and more domestic glory. Plus ça change.


AFRICA – WEALTH

Number of African-born millionaires to skyrocket over next decade: report

Africa’s millionaire population is expected to rise by 65 percent within the next 10 years, accordig to the 2024 Africa Wealth Report, published this week.

Africa is home to 135,200 millionaires and 21 billionaires, measured in US dollars.

The five African states that account for the largest share of the continent’s millionaires are (in order of the number of high-net-worth individuals) South Africa, Egypt, Nigeria, Kenya and Morocco.

They collectively account for 56 percent of Africa’s high-net-worth individuals and more than 90 percent of its billionaires.

South Africa leads with 37,400 millionaires and five billionaires while Egypt’s wealth is in the hands of seven billionaires and 15,600 millionaires.

“The ‘big five’ are the five most developed countries in terms of infrastructure with much more advanced economies when you compare them to other African countries,” said Dominic Volek, the group head of private clients at Henley and Partners, the company that published the ninth Africa Wealth Report.

Henley and Partners, with 55 offices worldwide, specialises in advising very rich individuals around the world requiring residence and citizenship by investments.



Africa’s wealthiest

Johannesburg is home to the wealthiest in Africa with 12,300 millionaires and two billionaires.

“If you look globally, there are about 54 African-born billionaires around the world, one of them being Elon Musk from South Africa. But, out of the 54, only 21 percent still live on the continent,” Volek added.

  • Tesla boss Elon Musk becomes world’s richest person, thanks to share jump

Almost half of the African-born billionaires have left the continent and moved to places such as Switzerland, Singapore or Monaco or the United States.

They want to have a better quality of life, better education for their children, better healthcare, better business opportunities.

“But, Africa is a continent that stays close to one’s heart,” Volek told RFI.

“A lot of millionaires from the continent do feel the need to reinvest some of their fortune back into their home country.

Fintech is one of the fast growing sectors they’ll choose, as well as business process outsourcing, green tech, media and entertainment,”

Ecotourism and sustainable projects looking to better the life of those living in Africa are also sectors they are keen to invest into.”

Tax incentives

The jurisdictions that typically attract millionaires are those that offer attractive fiscal policies such as Mauritius, Volek explained.

According to the report, Mauritius’s high growth rate made it the third fastest growing market in the world for millionaires, from 2013 to 2023.

Over the next decade to 2033, the likes of Mauritius, Namibia, Morocco, Zambia, Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda are expected to experience an 80 percent growth in the number of millionaires.

Through their investment migration programmes, Namibia and Mauritius are two of the countries in southern Africa that have interesting options for high net-worth individuals to invest into.

And, in return the country gives them some form of residency rights.

For a minimum investment of 375,000 US dollars in real state, the government allows foreign investors to obtain a residence permit in Mauritius.

“If millionaires move into a country, they’ll be looking to invest in that country. They’ll be typically investing in businesses, buying real estate and other luxury goods that add to the GDP of that country,” said Volek.

According to economist Myriam Blin, attracting high-wealth individuals to Mauritius has indeed boosted the real estate sector and this has led to increased inflows of foreign direct investment (FDI) in real estate.

“However, investment in real estate does not contribute to the productive capacity and innovation of a country to the same extent as FDI in industry would,” Blin told RFI.

Namibia offers interesting investment opportunities in its offshore oil and gas explorations. It is also poised to become a leader in green hydrogen production, making the sector a profitable source of investment.

“With the millionaires’ physical migration, there comes along significant consumption and investment,” Volnek said.

The Sound Kitchen

Sailing on the Seine

Issued on:

This week on The Sound Kitchen you’ll hear the answer to the question about the Paris Olympics Opening Ceremony. There’s a surprise guest with good news, “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 questions 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!

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.

We have a new/old podcast! RFI English has revived our monthly podcast Spotlight on Africa. It’s produced and hosted by Melissa Chemam from our newsroom’s Africa desk. Every month, Melissa will take an in-depth look at one of the leading stories on the continent today, with interviews and analysis from on-the-ground specialists.

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, Spotlight on Africa, 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!

We have a new RFI Listeners Club member to welcome: Rodrigo Hunrichse from Ciudad de Concepción, Chile.

Welcome, Rodrigo! So glad you have joined us!

You too can be a member of the RFI Listeners Club – just write to me at english.service@rfi.fr and tell me you want to join, and I’ll send you a membership number. It’s that easy. When you win a Sound Kitchen quiz as an RFI Listeners Club member, you’ll receive a premium prize. 

This week’s quiz: On 9 March, I asked you a question about our article “Scaled-back opening ceremony for Paris Olympics to offer 326,000 tickets”. Earlier that week, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin gave the exact number of tickets for the Opening Ceremony: 326,000 –  which is a significant scale back from the original amount, 600,000. The scale-back is due to security issues. 

Remember, this is the very first time that an Olympics Opening Ceremony has been held outdoors and not in a sports arena. And on the water, at that!

You were to refer to our article and answer these questions: How many boats will sail in the ceremony, and on how many of those boats will there be athletes?

The answer is, to quote our article: “A total of 180 boats are set to sail around six kilometres down the Seine, of which 94 will contain athletes.”

In addition to the quiz question, there was the bonus question, suggested by Alan Holder from the Isle of Wight, England: “Are you superstitious?  Give examples of the steps you take to avoid any bad luck.”

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

The winners are: RFI Listeners Club member Radhakrishna Pillai from Kerala State, India. Radhakrishna is also the winner of this week’s bonus question – congratulations, Radhakrishna!

Also on the list of lucky winners this week are RFI Listeners Club members Shadman Hosen Ayon from Kishoreganj, Bangladesh; Sagor Mia, also from Kishoreganj – and the president of the Let’s Go on the Right Path and Tell the Truth Radio Listener Club, as well as Hans Verner Lollike from Hedehusene, Denmark.

Last but assuredly not least, faithful RFI English listener Rafiq Khondaker from Naogaon, Bangladesh.

Congratulations winners!

Here’s the music you heard on this week’s program: “Chopin’s Charleston Dream” written by Alfredo Gattari, and performed by the composer and Gottlieb Wallisch; “The Flight of the Bumblebee” by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov; “The Cakewalk” from Children’s Corner by Claude Debussy, performed by the composer, and “Popurri des Boleros”, sung by Gina Leon.

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 Melissa Chemam’s article “Sudan conference opens in Paris to try and fix ‘forgotten’ crisis”, which will help you with the answer.

You have until 13 May to enter this week’s quiz; the winners will be announced on the 18 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, or form your own official RFI Club, click here. 


EUROPE – SECURITY

Sweden ramps up Eurovision security amid outcry over Israel’s inclusion

The Swedish Eurovision host city Malmo has promised heightened security for this year’s song contest, which faces protests over Israel’s participation while the war in Gaza continues.

Authorities in Sweden have vowed “visible” measures – including police with submachine guns and reinforcements from Denmark and Norway – around the Eurovision event, ending with the final on 11 May.

Normally associated with rhinestones and kitsch, this year the competition has become a more controversial affair as critics have called for Israel to be banned from competing, with the war in Gaza entering its seventh month.

Malmo, Sweden’s third largest city, is home to over 360,000 people spanning 186 nationalities, and a significant part of the population is of Palestinian origin.

  • Israel threatens Eurovision pull-out if entry vetoed
  • Eurovision geopolitics: French entry in Breton, Ukraine favourites and an OK UK

Demonstrations 

At least half a dozen applications have been filed for demonstration permits to protest the Israeli presence at the competition, which is organised by the European Broadcasting Union together with Sweden’s public broadcaster SVT.

Malmo’s city authorities say the situation is under control.

“For the various events linked to Eurovision, security measures will be clearly visible,” the city’s security director, Per-Erik Ebbestahl, told a press conference.

Security checks will be stepped up, in particular for access to the various sites, where bags will mostly be prohibited, he added.



‘Heavier weapons’

The police presence will also be strengthened, with reinforcements coming from Norway and Denmark, and officers will be more heavily armed than usual.

“There will be a lot of police in Malmo this time, with their usual armament, but also with heavier weapons” including submachine guns, Malmo police chief Petra Stenkula said.

The executive producer of the event for SVT, Ebba Adielsson, has assured that the security plan for the event is “extremely stable”.

“Now what scares me the most is that people are too afraid” to participate, she added.

More than 100,000 visitors are expected to descend on Malmo in the week leading up to the Eurovision final. 


INDIA ELECTIONS

Nearly a billion people to vote as India kicks off colossal elections

India on Friday launched the largest elections in human history, with ruling Hindu nationalists expected to win a third term in power with an even larger majority than in 2019.

India’s opposition has been shoring up its tattered frontlines of late, with some leaders including two chief ministers in prison and dozens of MPs suspended from parliament ahead of the seven-phase polls starting this Friday in 21 of India’s 28 states.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s untainted popularity has secured his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) a head start in polls held ahead of the elections, which will involve some 970 million voters – including 26 million young adults who will be casting their ballots for the first time. 

The opposition Indian National Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi alleges a crackdown has been launched to ensure the elections are a one-sided affair for the BJP during the 44-days of polls, to be overseen by 15 million officials.

“All our bank accounts are frozen, we can do no campaign work, we cannot support our workers and this is being done two months before the election,” Gandhi said, joining a chorus of protest from several opposition groups facing police suppression.

In 2019, the BJP and its allies won 303 of the total 543 seats in parliament’s lower house and Modi hopes for a 400-plus tally after the 44-day event with final results due to be announced by 4 June.



High security 

This Friday, 20,000 troopers will oversee voting in north-eastern state of Manipur where 220 people have died, scores of women have been raped and 5,000 homes burned down in year-long ethnic clashes.

Seventy-thousand soldiers will be also deployed in Kashmir for the state’s first election to take place since Delhi revoked its semi-autonomous privileges, effectively splitting the state into two.

“The trends show the BJP will be back in power in India but with a fairly large reduction of seats in parliament,” Siddiq Wahid, a former Harvard University teacher, told RFI.

“Broken promises will be in focus.”

Wahid was alluding to Modi’s previous election vows of creating 20 million jobs a year, doubling farm income and a one-time allowance of €17,000 for each of India’s 1.4 billion people.

Wahid said voters in Kashmir were likely to approve either the main opposition Congress Party or a regional group, which have promised the speedy restoration of democratic institutions in the Muslim-majority state.

  • Indian opposition leader’s arrest before elections draws international rebuke

Credibility concerns

In 2023, the US-based Freedom House think-tank ranked India as “partly free” for the third year in a row while in 2018 Sweden’s V-Dem downgraded it as an “electoral autocracy” branding New Delhi “one of the worst autocratisers” six years later.

The BJP has rejected the rankings as a plot to discredit the Modi-led government.

Meanwhile, Modi has implemented a divisive citizenship law that analysts say is likely to play a key role in unifying Hindu voters in favour of the BJP.

Political analyst Shivaji Sarkar told RFI a 41-party opposition alliance led by the Congress Party would try and discredit the BJP on its unfulfilled pledges.

“The BJP currently ahead of the opposition, but an [opposition] alliance is slowly coming together and could spring surprises,” says Sarkar, a former dean of the Mangalayatan University

Ethnic tenstions in Manipur state will hit the BJP’s fortunes in 26 north-eastern constituencies, while the nationalists are unlikely to easily break into a fortress of 174 seats where local governments are part of the opposition alliance, he added.

  • India’s top court untangles nexus between politicians and businesses

‘Democracy on the line’

Meanwhile, the husband of Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has warned that India’s “map will change” and democracy will “perish” if the BJP is returned to power.

“Of course, Modi’s a dictator; he’s dragging India back to the dark ages. His return to power would be a disaster for India,” said Parakala Prabhakar, Sitharaman’s husband.

Prabhakar, a scholar from London School of Economics, also attacked the BJP government for turning into law a scheme for political donations which was struck down in February by the courts.

“It is not only the biggest scam in India but is the biggest scam in the world,” Prabhakar added.

Modi insists the now-scrapped electoral bond scheme was actually designed to combat political corruption.


FRANCE – SECURITY

French teen dies of heart failure after knife attack near school

Souffelweyersheim (AFP) – A 14-year-old girl has died of a heart attack in eastern France after her school locked down to protect itself from a knife attacker who lightly wounded two other girls, an official said on Friday.

The teenager “was rescued by teachers who were very fast to call the fire department. She died at the end of the afternoon,” education official Olivier Faron said.

The girl’s middle school in the village of Souffelweyersheim closed its doors on Thursday afternoon after a man stabbed two other girls aged 7 and 11 outside a nearby primary facility.

“Sadly this pupil underwent an episode of very high stress that led to a heart attack,” Faron said.

Lockdown terror

A mother outside the middle school on Friday morning said her son in first year of secondary had also been scared during the lockdown the previous day.

“Whereas in the primary school they made it more like a game, perhaps here it was a little too direct,” Deborah Wendling said.

  • Fifteen-year-old boy dies after attack outside school near Paris
  • France rolls out ‘mobile security force’ for troubled schools

“He thought there was an armed person in the school. They could hear doors slamming, but in fact it was just other classrooms locking down.”

Faron defended the teachers.

“There is no perfect solution,” he said.

But “we will analyse in depth what happened. If there are lessons to be taken from this, we will take them.”

Attempted murder probe

The two girls hurt in the attack were discharged from hospital on Thursday evening with only light wounds.

Police have arrested the 30-year-old assailant, and a probe has been opened into “attempted murder of minors”, the prosecutor’s office said.

It was not immediately clear what had motivated him, but he was “psychologically fragile” and it did not appear to be “a terrorist act”, it said.

The incident follows a series of attacks on schoolchildren by their peers, in particularly the fatal beating earlier this month of Shemseddine, 15, outside Paris.

French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal on Thursday announced measures to crack down on teenage violence in and around schools.

The Sound Kitchen

Sailing on the Seine

Issued on:

This week on The Sound Kitchen you’ll hear the answer to the question about the Paris Olympics Opening Ceremony. There’s a surprise guest with good news, “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 questions 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!

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.

We have a new/old podcast! RFI English has revived our monthly podcast Spotlight on Africa. It’s produced and hosted by Melissa Chemam from our newsroom’s Africa desk. Every month, Melissa will take an in-depth look at one of the leading stories on the continent today, with interviews and analysis from on-the-ground specialists.

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, Spotlight on Africa, 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!

We have a new RFI Listeners Club member to welcome: Rodrigo Hunrichse from Ciudad de Concepción, Chile.

Welcome, Rodrigo! So glad you have joined us!

You too can be a member of the RFI Listeners Club – just write to me at english.service@rfi.fr and tell me you want to join, and I’ll send you a membership number. It’s that easy. When you win a Sound Kitchen quiz as an RFI Listeners Club member, you’ll receive a premium prize. 

This week’s quiz: On 9 March, I asked you a question about our article “Scaled-back opening ceremony for Paris Olympics to offer 326,000 tickets”. Earlier that week, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin gave the exact number of tickets for the Opening Ceremony: 326,000 –  which is a significant scale back from the original amount, 600,000. The scale-back is due to security issues. 

Remember, this is the very first time that an Olympics Opening Ceremony has been held outdoors and not in a sports arena. And on the water, at that!

You were to refer to our article and answer these questions: How many boats will sail in the ceremony, and on how many of those boats will there be athletes?

The answer is, to quote our article: “A total of 180 boats are set to sail around six kilometres down the Seine, of which 94 will contain athletes.”

In addition to the quiz question, there was the bonus question, suggested by Alan Holder from the Isle of Wight, England: “Are you superstitious?  Give examples of the steps you take to avoid any bad luck.”

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

The winners are: RFI Listeners Club member Radhakrishna Pillai from Kerala State, India. Radhakrishna is also the winner of this week’s bonus question – congratulations, Radhakrishna!

Also on the list of lucky winners this week are RFI Listeners Club members Shadman Hosen Ayon from Kishoreganj, Bangladesh; Sagor Mia, also from Kishoreganj – and the president of the Let’s Go on the Right Path and Tell the Truth Radio Listener Club, as well as Hans Verner Lollike from Hedehusene, Denmark.

Last but assuredly not least, faithful RFI English listener Rafiq Khondaker from Naogaon, Bangladesh.

Congratulations winners!

Here’s the music you heard on this week’s program: “Chopin’s Charleston Dream” written by Alfredo Gattari, and performed by the composer and Gottlieb Wallisch; “The Flight of the Bumblebee” by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov; “The Cakewalk” from Children’s Corner by Claude Debussy, performed by the composer, and “Popurri des Boleros”, sung by Gina Leon.

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 Melissa Chemam’s article “Sudan conference opens in Paris to try and fix ‘forgotten’ crisis”, which will help you with the answer.

You have until 13 May to enter this week’s quiz; the winners will be announced on the 18 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, or form your own official RFI Club, click here. 

Spotlight on Africa

After Senegal’s success, can Mali and Niger also hope for elections?

Issued on:

The delayed March presidential vote in Senegal confirmed the country remains a beacon of democracy in a region facing increasing instability. RFI looks at how the peaceful victory of Bassirou Diomaye Faye and mentor Ousmane Sonko stands to influence the politics of neighbouring Sahel nations.

This edition of Spotlight on Africa looks at the vast and diverse West Africa region, from Senegal to Benin to Niger and Mali.

It’s a big election year for Africa in general, with no fewer than 16 countries heading to the polls.

These include a complicated parliamentary vote in Togo on 19 April, general elections on South Africa on 29 May, presidential elections in Algeria in September, and presidential elections in Ghana in December.

But for Sahel nations Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, elections appear a distant dream as the military juntas in power delay processes for a return to civilian rule.

Many hope the inspiring outcome of the Senegalese election can galvanise the region.

Speaking to RFI about the polls are former Senegalese diplomat Babacar Ndiaye and Nigerien researcher Seidik Abba.

Meanwhile Yvonne Ndege, of the International Organisation for Migration, looks at the issue of migration on the continent.

And finally Azu Nwagbogu, curator of the Benin pavilion for the Venice Biennale, speaks to RFI’s Ollia Horton ahead of the event’s opening on Saturday.

Read also:

  • Senegal sets March date for delayed presidential election
  • Insecurity erodes chances of return to civilian rule in Niger and Mali

Episode mixed by Erwan Rome.

Spotlight on Africa is a podcast from Radio France Internationale. 

International report

Turkish government looks to regain ground by limiting ties with Israel

Issued on:

The Turkish government has announced restrictions on Israeli trade, along with the suspension of scheduled flights to Israel. The moves come in the aftermath of a shock defeat for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s party in nationwide local elections, in which the opposition targeted trade with Israel amid growing condemnation over the war in Gaza.

Turkish Airlines announced that it will not resume flights to Israel until March next year.

At the same time, Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan announced sanctions on Israel after aid deliveries to Gaza were blocked by Israel.

“We have submitted our request to join this aid operation with cargo planes belonging to our air force. We learned today that our request – which had been approved by Jordanian authorities – was rejected by Israel,” Fidan told a press conference.

“There can be no excuse for Israel preventing our attempts to send aid from the air to our Gazan brothers who are fighting hunger. In response to this situation, we have decided to take a series of new measures against Israel,” he said.

Ankara has banned the export of 54 products to Israel, including aviation fuel, steel, and cement.

Fidan said the export ban would remain in force until Israel declares a ceasefire and allows aid to be delivered unhindered.

  • Turkey under fire after declaring Hamas a ‘liberation’ group
  • Iran leader to visit Turkey as rapprochement continues over Gaza war

‘Hypocritical stance’

Israel’s Foreign Minister Israel Katz condemned the Turkish sanctions, accusing Ankara of supporting Hamas, and warned of retaliation.

The trade restrictions come amidst growing criticism in Turkey of the ruling AKP party’s stance of condemning Israel’s war on Hamas but maintaining trade relations, which the opposition claims supports the Israeli military war effort.

The government’s stance had become untenable, argues Soli Ozel, a lecturer in international relations at Istanbul’s Kadir Has University.

There is “pressure from the public over this hypocritical stance on Israel”, he says. “You have all these AKP-related businesses or AKP politicians very closely, intimately trading with Israel and stuff. They [the government] had to respond somewhat; they had to show that they were doing something.”

Suspending Turkish Airlines flights was the “best, most effective, and most visible way of doing it”, according to Ozel.

“I think there must be over 30 daily flights, and this was supposed to be one of the most profitable lines that Turkish Airlines operate.”

Electoral meltdown

Last month, President Erdogan‘s AKP suffered its worst electoral defeat to date in nationwide local elections.

The Islamist Yeniden Refah Party – led by Fatih Erbakan, son of Erdogan’s former political mentor Necmettin Erbakan – targeted the AKP’s religious base, focusing his campaign on condemning the Turkish president for continuing to trade with Israel.

“Fatih Erbakan is once again an important figure apparently,” observes Istar Gozaydin, a specialist on Turkish religion and state relations at Istanbul’s Istinye University.

“I think the sort of end is near for AKP, but I guess it will be replaced by the Yeniden Refah Party,” he adds.

Crucial relations

Protests in Turkey are continuing against relations with Israel. However, Israeli analysts say trade and travel are vital to maintain bilateral ties at times of diplomatic tension. 

“It’s unprecedented; there’s for so long no flights from Turkey to Israel and from Israel to Turkey, and that’s a damage to the relationship,” warns Gallia Lindenstrauss, an expert with the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv.

“Also for business relationships, it’s very important to have a regular transport route.” 

  • With spy raids, Turkey warns Israel not to seek Hamas revenge on Turkish soil
  • Turkey talks tough on Israel but resists calls to cut off oil

“There were things that kept the relations going, even though the political relations were in crisis,” she explains.

“And one element was the economic relations, and part of this was also the travel connections and the transport connections between Turkey and Israel, and the fact that people-to-people relations were enabled.”

All eyes on Gaza

Even when Israeli forces in 2010 killed 10 Turkish citizens delivering aid by ship to Gaza, flights and trade between the countries were unaffected.

But analysts warn given the magnitude of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and Israel’s ongoing war against Hamas, this time could be different.

“This is a goddamn massacre that’s going on for six months that people are watching live,” says international relations expert Ozel.

“People are watching live, and this is truly unconscionable; that’s why the level of protest on this particular issue of trading with Israel has increased as the devastation became even worse.”

With Israeli forces poised to launch a new offensive into Gaza, protests against ongoing Turkish trade with Israel are predicted to grow – and add further pressure on Erdogan.

The Sound Kitchen

Eid Mubarak! Shuba Naba Barsaw!

Issued on:

This week on The Sound Kitchen you’ll hear the answer to the question about French girls, maths, and the role model in a recent French film. There’s The Sound Kitchen mailbag, “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 questions 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!

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.

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 24 February, I asked you to listen to the Spotlight on France podcast 106 – Alison Hird did a story on French girls and mathematics, and how they are not doing well in the subject – in fact, they’re failing maths at an astonishing rate.

As Alison noted, the reasons for girls not doing as well in maths as boys are multitudinous, most having to do with taught gender roles – but also because there are so few role models.

She cited a recent but rare type of film about a young Frenchwoman working on her doctorate in mathematics, in a film that made it to Cannes. You were to write in with the name of that film.

The answer is: The name of the film is Marguerite’s Theorem. It’s about a brilliant young female mathematician; she’s the only girl in a class of boys. A French-Swiss film co-written and directed by Anna Novion, and starring Ella Rumpf as Marguerite Hoffmann, it was featured at the 76th Cannes Film Festival in 2023.

In addition to the quiz question, there was the bonus question, suggested by Kashif Khalil from Faisalabad, Pakistan: “What human quality, or characteristic, do you think is necessary to equip you to live a full and honest life?”

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

The winners are: RFI Listeners Club member Helmut Matt from Herbolzheim, Germany. Helmut is also the winner of this week’s bonus question. Congratulations, Helmut!

Also on the list of lucky winners this week are Ferhat Bezazel, the president of the RFI Butterflies Club, Ain Kechera in West Skikda, Algeria; Hasina Zaman Hasi, a member of the RFI Amour Fan Club in Rajshahi, Bangladesh; RFI Listeners Club members Anju Regmi from Biratnagar, Nepal; Zenon Teles, the president of the Christian – Marxist – Leninist – Maoist Association of Listening DX-ers in Goa, India, and RFI English listener Sima Paul from West Bengal, India.

Congratulations winners!

Here’s the music you heard on this week’s program: “Monta Re” by Amit Trivedi and Amitabah Bhattacharya, performed by the Hamelin Instrumental Band; The minuets I and II from French Suite No. 1 in d minor, BWV 812 by Johann Sebastian Bach, performed by Murray Perahia; “The Flight of the Bumblebee” by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov; “The Cakewalk” from Children’s Corner by Claude Debussy, performed by the composer, and the traditional “El Suïcidi i el Cant”, arranged by Marta Torrella and Helena Ros, and performed by Tarta Relena. 

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 Paul Myers’ article “History of Olympic gold, silver and bronze glitters in Paris museum”, which will help you with the answer.

You have until 6 May to enter this week’s quiz; the winners will be announced on the 10 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. 

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.”

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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. 


Sponsored content

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

Madhya Pradesh: the Heart of beautiful India

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In partnership with Madhya Pradesh’s tourism board.


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

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.