rfi 2024-04-27 10:06:24



ENVIRONMENT

Why climate change is heating Europe faster than the rest of the world

Climate change is causing Europe to heat up more quickly than any other continent – and twice as fast as the global average – with recent studies warning of mounting threats to food, water and energy security, human health, the economy and nature. What makes the continent more vulnerable than others?

The latest five-year averages show that temperatures in Europe are now running 2.3C above pre-industrial levels, compared to 1.3C globally. 

Even in the best-case scenario, the European Commission warned that Europe would “have to learn to live with a climate that is 3 degrees warmer”. 

With its developed infrastructure and resources, Europe may be better equipped to adapt to climate change compared to more vulnerable regions, but it still faces unprecedented uphill challenges. 

In its first-ever European Climate Risk Assessment, the European Environment Agency (EEA) warned the continent was ill prepared for rapidly growing climate risks – extreme heat, drought, wildfires and flooding – that will affect the living conditions of millions. 

  • Adapting to climate change is like climbing a slippery slope: IPCC author

Climate hotspots

“Europe faces urgent climate risks that are growing faster than our societal preparedness,” EEA executive director Leena Ylä-Mononen said when the analysis was published in March, urging governments to get cracking on course-correction policies. 

Scientists speculate that Europe is warming more rapidly because of its proximity to the Arctic, where climate impacts are more keenly felt, and because of warmer ocean and atmospheric currents. 

All parts of Europe will warm by more than 2C regardless of future emissions cuts – while some regions have been identified as hotspots for multiple climate risks. 

Low-lying coastal regions – including many densely populated cities – face flooding, erosion and saltwater intrusion threats, while southern Europe is at particular risk from wildfires and impacts of heat and water scarcity on agricultural production. 

The EEA found that many of these risks have already reached critical levels and could become catastrophic without urgent action.  

Separate analysis published this week by Europe’s Copernicus Climate Change Service and the United Nations said the number of heat-related deaths in Europe had increased by at least 30 percent over the past two decades. 

The average sea surface temperature for the ocean across Europe, meanwhile, was the highest on record in 2023. In June of that year, the Atlantic Ocean west of Ireland and around the United Kingdom was impacted by an extreme marine heatwave. 

  • Brussels aims to remove Chinese energy giants from the EU market

Agriculture challenge

Climate shocks in Europe are happening despite ambitious legislation the European Union hopes will establish it as a global leader on climate.

Set in 2021, the goal to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55 percent by the end of the decade is a binding commitment under the EU’s Climate Law – which also commits to achieving climate neutrality by 2050. 

While Europe is making progress in some areas – with more energy generated from renewables than from fossil fuels for a second year running – farmer protests have seen a rollback of rules aimed at cutting emissions from agriculture. 

It promises to be a hot-button issue at Europe’s parliamentary elections in June as conservative parties champion the cause of farmers who say the climate measures are not being backed up with support for those working in the sector. 

Reducing agricultural pollution “should be a priority” to increase Europe’s resilience to climate change, the EEA found in its assessment.   

Taking decisive action after the elections, it said, would be critical. 

International report

Aid flotilla from Turkey aims to break Gaza blockade but risks fresh crisis

Issued on:

A group of international activists are seeking to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza with a flotilla of vessels carrying aid. But with 10 people killed by Israeli security forces in a similar mission 14 years ago, fears are growing that the latest flotilla could provoke a fresh crisis. 

The loading of medical supplies and food is underway on the Akdeniz, an old ferry boat that will lead the flotilla of three ships carrying over 5,000 tonnes of aid to Gaza.

At a press conference, the flotilla’s organisers, a coalition of international and Turkish humanitarian groups, claimed the flotilla is not just about delivering aid.  

“We hope to break the illegal naval blockade of Gaza that Israel has had on it for decades,” Ann Wright of US Boat to Gaza explained to RFI. 



Wright acknowledged the aid they plan to deliver will do little to alleviate the humanitarian crisis but hopes it will open the door to more assistance.

“We hope to certainly bring food and medicines that are needed by the people of Gaza. But it’s a small drop in the bucket. We’re calling for the border of Rafah to be opened, where tons of food are waiting. It’s criminal that the world has not forced the entry of these trucks into Gaza.” 

Wright said the issue was being forced because “people that are starving and suffering genocide must have assistance”.

If the governments won’t act, “we, the citizens will”, she said.

Flotilla in 2010

In 2010, ten people died the last time a flotilla sought to break Israel’s Gaza blockade.

When Israeli commandos intercepted the Mavi Marmara, which was leading the flotilla, activists said they were aware of the dangers they faced, but given the humanitarian crisis in Gaza it was a risk worth taking.

  • France condemns killing of Gaza NGO workers as US pressed to toughen stance with Israel
  • Turkish court indicts Israeli soldiers two years after flotilla raid

“We are conscious that it’s not a mission without any danger,” said Nima Machouf is with the group, Canada Boat to Gaza.

“But the danger and the horror is part of the horror that we want to denounce that it is faced by Palestinian people. Gaza people need medical support and need food.”

Flotilla participants are given lessons on how to de-escalate a possible confrontation with Israeli forces. There has been no comment from Israeli officials.

Gallia Lindenstrauss, an analyst with the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Avi, warns the risks are real given the tensions in the region.



“Both on the Israeli side and on the Turkish side, there is an understanding of how dangerous things might get out of hand. So I think there will be caution, both from the Turkish side and the Israeli side,” said Lindenstrauss.

“But obviously, this is a very, very intense time now in Israel. And, also, I would be very careful, and hope that, the authorities are on both sides are aware of what they need to do to make sure that this will not escalate into violence.”

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is likely to have the final say on whether the flotilla will leave, has not commented on the mission. 

But Erdogan met with Hamas’s political leader Ismail Haniyeh last Saturday, in which humanitarian aid to Gaza was discussed – a meeting Israel condemned. 

Whatever risks flotilla organisers say they are determined to deliver aid to Gaza.

“Of course, we are worried, but, we think that, the time is now to act,” said Torstein Dahle, a former Norwegian parliamentarian of Ship to Gaza Norway

But Dahle says the flotilla is looking for international protection.

“We demand support from national governments, from everybody who has influence on this matter, to facilitate the supply of humanitarian aid to the starving people of Gaza,” he said.


UK – Rwanda

Rwandan opposition deplores UK deportation deal as ‘modern slavery’

A British law to send unwanted migrants to Rwanda, which passed this week after months of wrangling, has generated fierce criticism at home and abroad. In Rwanda, opponents of the longtime president say the country is unfit to host asylum seekers – while accusing the UK of outsourcing its responsibilities.

Under the new law, first agreed with the Rwandan government two years ago, any asylum seeker who travels to the UK illegally will be sent to Rwanda.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has promised the first flights will leave as soon as July. The Rwandan presidency, meanwhile, says it’s “pleased” the plan is moving ahead.

But Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza – an outspoken critic of President Paul Kagame and who was once jailed after running against him – told RFI the deportation deal equated to “modern slavery” because Rwanda was being paid to take the people the UK does not want.

Her country, Ingabire said, was not ready to shelter hundreds or thousands of asylum seekers.

“Regime fanatics are saying the country will get lots money …. but people forget that we’re talking about human beings who are looking for safety,” she said.

“We have problems with food security, malnutrition, poverty, joblessness, lack of housing, repression… So what will happen to these refugees?”

€700 million policy

Another opposition figure, Frank Habineza, said he disagreed with the arrangement on principle.

“Rich nations like the UK should fulfil their responsibility to host refugees and not send them to third countries,” said Habineza, who heads the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda.

“We are completely against these kind of deals whether it is with Denmark or the UK or Israel.”

The British government has already paid Rwanda the equivalent of €256 million to host migrants. This will be followed by at least €175 million more over the next three years. 

The UK will also pay Rwanda a further €176,000 to cover expenses for each person resettled, according to an assessment by the UK’s National Audit Office, which estimates that in total the policy could end up costing around €700 million.

Some 50,000 people could potentially be sent to Rwanda, but it remains unclear how many people the country can actually take.

In the capital, Kigali, authorities have spent the past two years preparing accommodation for people deported from the UK.

Facilities built or renovated using UK funds, including the 100-bed Hope Hostel, remain empty.

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

Deterrent effect?

The British government argues that the law will have a deterrent effect, discouraging would-be asylum seekers from attempting to cross from northern France to southern England by boat.

Boo Adam, a 26-year-old migrant from Sudan, told RFI he had already tried to cross the Channel unsuccessfully before learning of the UK’s Rwanda deal. 

“It’s really a shock. I’m afraid,” he said, speaking from the French port of Calais.

“I crossed six countries in five months… I travelled more than 5,000 kilometres, and after I reach my goal, I’m told: ‘you will go back to Africa’. This is not fair for our case.”

But Adam said he hadn’t given up on his goal of seeking asylum in the UK.

“I will wait, but try again to cross the Channel.”

  • Nearly 30,000 migrants crossed Channel to UK last year

Potential challenges

The Rwanda scheme will most likely trigger further legal challenges by charities, campaigners and judges who argue that Rwanda is not a safe destination.

The European Court of Human Rights, which blocked the UK’s first attempt to deport migrants in June 2022, could again issue orders to halt flights – though Sunak insisted this week that he would not let “a foreign court” get in the way.

The UK is due to hold a general election later this year, which could see Sunak’s government replaced.

His opponents on the left have repeatedly denounced the policy, along with United Nations agencies, human rights watchdogs and refugee organisations.

If elected, the opposition Labour party says it will scrap the scheme and instead pursue a deal with the European Union to return some migrants to mainland Europe.


Urban music

Aya Nakamura scoops French music awards, thanks fans for support over racist abuse

French singer Aya Nakamura confirmed her status as queen of the pop music scene, sweeping three big prizes at Les Flammes awards for rap, R&B and pop on Thursday – where she thanked fans for support over racist attacks following rumours she would perform at the Paris Olympics.

The 28-year-old French-Malian pop star dominated the awards in Paris, winning female artist of the year, pop album of the year and international star of the year.

“I’m very honoured,” she said holding one of the trophies. “Being a female artist, and what’s more a black artist, and coming from the banlieues (suburbs) is very difficult.”

She dedicated the awards “to all the blacks, to all the girls that are watching me” and thanked her fans for “the love and messages of support, despite the controversy and criticism”.

Racism row

Nakamura found herself in the midst of a racism row in February after rumours circulated she had discussed singing an Edith Piaf song at the upcoming Paris Olympics during a meeting with President Emmanuel Macron.

Macron said he backed the idea, though it would be up to the artistic director of the opening and closing ceremonies to decide.

A number of far-right and conservative politicians, including Marine le Pen, founder of the National Rally, openly criticised the French-Malian singer and her music.

  • Aya Nakamura’s Olympic song proposal sparks French far-right backlash

A small extremist group, the Natives, hung a banner by the River Seine that read: “There’s no way Aya. This is Paris, not Bamako market.”

That led to the Paris prosecutor opening an investigation for alleged racist abuse against the singer.



Political overtones

Les Flammes awards were launched last year to showcase rap and other forms of urban music after criticism that the mainstream Victoires de la Musique – the French equivalent of the Grammy awards – lacked diversity.

Thursday’s ceremony had a strong political tone.

Comedian Waly Dia denounced “what they’ve done to Aya this year”, in reference to the racism levelled against her, and called out Culture Minister Rachida Dati for not attending the awards.

Questioned over the Nakamura affair on a Friday morning radio show, Dati praised the singer’s “immense” talent, saying “she has her place, she’s a great artist”.

  • Aya Nakamura: the unstoppable queen of streaming

Rapper Médine performed his 2015 hit song Gaza Soccer Beach, dedicating it to Palestinians.

During the performance, the names and ages of children killed in Gaza in Israeli bombardments following the 7 October Hamas attack on Israel appeared on a screen behind him.

“There isn’t enough room on these theatre walls to write the names of [all] the 35,000 victims,” he said.

Médine, who’s taken a strong pro-Palestinian stance, stirred controversy last August after he posted an allegedly antisemitic message on social media.




FRANCE – PROTESTS

Students at prestigious Paris university protest over Israel-Gaza war

Students at one of France’s top universities occupied its premises overnight Thursday after police broke up a pro-Palestinian demonstration there on Wednesday. It follows similar waves of anger across college campuses in the US in protest over Israel’s bombardment of Gaza.  

Several dozen students at the Paris campus of Sciences Po staged a sit-in Thursday night. Rubbish bins and and other material blocked the main entrance on Friday morning, the French news agency AFP reported.

Organisers – members of the university’s Palestine Committee of Sciences Po – are calling for a “clear condemnnation of Israel’s action by Sciences Po” and a cut in ties with universities and companies that are complicit in “the systemic oppression of the Palestinian people”. 

The committee also demands a commemorative event “in memory of the innocent people killed by Israel”.

Police evacuation

Police intervened on Wednesday evening as dozens of students gathered on the campus for a pro-Palestinian rally.

“After discussions with management, most of them agreed to leave the premises,” university officials said in a statement to AFP – saying the protest was adding to “tensions” at the university.

But after a small group of students refused to leave, “it was decided that the police would evacuate the site,” the statement added.

  • French students protest again after police break up pro-Palestinian demo

Sciences Po said it regretted that “numerous attempts” to have the students leave the premises peacefully had failed.

According to the police préfecture, students had set up around 10 tents.



Red line

In a statement on Thursday, the committee said its activists had been carried out of the school by more than 50 security forces – adding that “around 100” police officers had also been waiting for them outside.

Sciences Po management “stubbornly refuses to engage in genuine dialogue”, the group said.

Separately, the Student Union of Sciences Po Paris said the decision by university officials to call in police was “both shocking and deeply worrying” and reflected “an unprecedented authoritarian turn”.

“The director has crossed a red line by deciding to send in the police,” said Ines Fontenelle, a member of the Student Union.

“Management must take steps to restore a climate of trust.”

Union spokeswoman Eleonore Schmitt said the students would continue to mobilise “despite repression”.

  • Pro-Palestinian protests spread at US universities

Israel-Hamas war

Many top US universities have been rocked by protests in recent weeks, with some students furious over the Israel-Hamas war and ensuing humanitarian crisis in the besieged Palestinian territory of Gaza.

France is home to the world’s largest Jewish population after Israel and the United States, as well as Europe’s biggest Muslim community.

There has been a reported spike in both Islamophobia and antisemitism in France since the war in Gaza broke out on 7 October 2023 with an unprecedented attack by Palestinian militant group Hamas on Israel.

Last month French President Emmanuel Macron condemned “intolerable” antisemitic remarks reportedly made during another pro-Palestinian protest at Sciences Po university.

Around 1,170 people, mostly civilians, were killed in the 7 October attack, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

Israel retaliated with a military offensive that has killed at least 34,305 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.

(with newswires)


Paris 2024 Olympics

Paris expo recounts global struggles throughout Olympics history

French culture chiefs on Friday unveiled their latest blockbuster exhibition aimed at adding a more reflective level to the Olympic and Paralympic fever set to grip France from the middle of July.

Showing at the national History of Immigration Museum in eastern Paris, the exhibition highlights the fractious hinterland of the Games since they were prised out of the ancient history books and repackaged during a Franco-Hellenic love-in at the end of the 19th century.

Developments in social, gender and racial equality are also surveyed through the 600-odd posters, letters and mementos in “Olympism, a History of the World 1896-2024”, which runs until 8 September – the end of the Paralympic Games.

“We talk a lot today about the impact of the conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East,” said museum director Constance Rivière.

“As far as the Games are concerned, there is a lot of talk about things like inclusion, the environment and sustainability. But these are issues that have existed almost since the inception of the Games.”

Seven curators have worked for the past five years to sift through a treasure trove of sporting memorabilia.

Each of the 33 Games receives its own array of panels featuring details such as the boycotts of 1976, 1980 and 1984, the star athletes who emerged, and the contemporary geopolitical crises that were burning the firmament or smouldering.

Gender battle

Also outlined are the number of male and female athletes as well as their origins.

Pierre de Coubertin, the Frenchman who dreamed up the idea of reinvigorating the ancient Greek model, was eventually forced to concede that the inaugural event should take place in Athens.

But his concepts about women remained: they were essentially on earth to bear and look after children. Sporting pursuits would, for him, harm that capacity.

Consequently, no women were among the 241 participants at the 1896 Games, which was exclusively populated by Europeans. There were no Asian or African competitors.

Four years later in Paris, 22 women were allowed to take part in sports such as golf and tennis. Amsterdam in 1928 marked the first time they could compete in athletic events.

“The inclusion of women in the Olympic Games was an extremely slow process,” added Rivière. “And it’s only now, in 2024 that parity is finally being forced through.

“That’s an incredible achievement. And it didn’t happen by itself. It happened because women had the courage to fight for their rights.”

Racial divide

Fittingly for a museum dedicated to the movement of peoples, the black American athlete Jesse Owens leaping to glory in the long jump at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin takes primacy as the poster for the exhibition.

His exploits – featured in extracts from Leni Riefenstahl’s film of those Games – debunked the Übermensch efforts of the Nazi regime to promote its theory of blonde-haired and blue-eyed Aryan power.

Owens, though, for all his wonders and four gold medals in Berlin, returned home to a segregated society.

In Mexico City, just over three decades after Owens’ brilliance, Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their hands on the podium following respective gold and bronze medals in the 200m as part of a protest for racial equality in the United States.

“All these struggles have had an impact, whether on the inclusion of women, on the issue of minorities, or on the inclusion of the different continents of the world,” added Rivière.

“At one point, the Olympics were truly the Games of the northern hemisphere. They were also very bourgeois games because you had to be an amateur and professionals weren’t allowed to take part.”

Boycott threats

Nearly 11,000 athletes of all hues and income streams are expected in Paris for the 2024 Olympics – half will be female.

But they will come to an event where organisers have trumpeted the low environmental footprint and the sustainability of the buildings.

Threats of boycotts due to the conflict in Ukraine and the Middle East permeate the prelude.

“A question arises,” said co-curator Sandrine Lemaire, a specialist in French colonial history.

“Can we continue to organise this type of mega-event with the traditional rules of unity of place and unity of time? For example, the next football World Cup has been split up to be in several countries.

“Will the Olympic Games have to do the same thing? Today there are a lot of young people who prefer sport but not as we see it in the Olympic Games. It’s clear that the current model is running out of steam.”


Indian elections

Indian politicians woo first-time voters as marathon elections resume

Political parties are making lavish promises to millions of first-time voters as India kicks off a second round of polling in general elections that run from April to June.

Rivals are fighting bitterly over young electors, who were partly responsible for the victories won by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 2014 and 2019. 

Around 20 million people are eligible to vote for the first time in this year’s polls, which will elect 543 members of the Indian parliament. 

Voting is taking place in phases, with 109 seats put to the ballot on 19 April and another 89 a week later.

Results are due on 4 June.

Disaffected voters

Modi’s BJP and the opposition Congress are in a race to woo electors aged between 18 and 29 – the largest chunk of new voters enrolled.

But turnout was below average for the first round of voting, giving rise to worries of political cynicism spreading in the world’s largest democracy.

According to Sanjay Kumar of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) think tank, their research indicates Indians of all ages are angry over unemployment and high food prices.

“From our surveys we do get an impression that the attraction of the youth for the BJP – especially with regards to Prime Minister Modi – still remains, though there are concerns regards unemployment,” he told India Today.

  • Jobs and rights on young voters’ minds for India polls

The unemployment rate rose to 8 percent in 2023 from 7.5 percent the previous two years, according to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE).

“This is an exceptionally high rate of unemployment… with the number of unemployed persons actively looking for employment touching nearly 37 million,” CMIE said

Young people are hit hard, according to the International Labour Organisation’s Indian Employment Report 2024, which said that one in three university graduates were jobless.

“Nearly 83 percent of those unemployed are young, and among these unemployed young Indians, nearly 66 percent are educated,” the report said.

  • Educated and unemployed: India’s angry young voters

Poll promises

When Modi came to power in 2014, his government promised to create some 20 million jobs a year over the following decade. By 2017, it had frozen the publication of annual employment surveys.

As the latest elections neared, the BJP again promised new jobs, as well as free housing for another 30 million people and food for 800 million of the poorest Indians.

“The BJP government has opened doors to new sectors in the country, creating a large number of employment opportunities for the youth,” Modi insisted at a rally in India’s software hub of Bangalore.

But some youngsters argue state policies have done little for the blue-collar job market while focusing on prime sectors such as tech, construction and manufacturing.

Meanwhile the opposition Congress pledged to open up 3 million vacancies in state utilities and year-long internships for new graduates, with 8,500 rupees (€95) as a monthly stipend.

“We understand unemployment and its pain,” Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi said.

Analysts say 90 percent of Indians the equivalent of earn less than 281 euros a month and cannot pay rising tuition fees for engineering or medical schools.

Read also:

  • India faces calls for caste census that could transform nation
  • India’s lower house of parliament votes to reserve a third of seats for women

The Sound Kitchen

A robot in space

Issued on:

This week on The Sound Kitchen you’ll hear the answer to the question about India’s humanoid space robot. There’s listener news and “On This Day”, “The Listener’s Corner” with Paul Myers, lots of good music, and of course, the new quiz and bonus questions, 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 16 March, I asked you a question about India’s space programme. Earlier that week, India unveiled their plans for their next space flight, which is scheduled for this coming fall. As you read in RFI English correspondent Pratap Chakravarty’s article “India picks pilots for space flight that will blast it into cosmic history”, on board that rocket will be a humanoid robot.  You were to write in with the name of the robot (it’s in Sanskrit) and its translation into English.

The answer is: Vyomitra, which translates into English as “space friend”. Vyomitra will make the test flight, to ensure the space-worthiness of the craft before astronauts fly onboard it next year.

In addition to the quiz question, there was the bonus question, suggested by Morium Nessa Momo from Bogura, Bangladesh: “Who is the person – still living – that you most admire, and why?”

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

The winners are: RFI Listeners Club member Shaira Hosen Mo from Kishoreganj, Bangladesh. Mo is also the winner of this week’s bonus question. Congratulations Mo!

Also on the list of lucky winners this week are Nafisa Khatun, the president of the RFI Mahila Shrota Sangha Club in West Bengal, India, and RFI Listeners Club member Faiza, from the International Radio Fan and Youth Club in Khanewal, Pakistan, as well as two members from Bangladesh: Ajharul Islam Tamim from Kishorganj, and Sahadot Hossain, from Sunamganj. 

Congratulations winners!

Here’s the music you heard on this week’s program: “Habana del Este” written by Juan de Marcos Gonzalez Cardenas and performed by his orchestra; “The Spirit of Man” from Also Sprach Zarathustra by Richard Strauss, performed by the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Jacek Kaspszyk; “The Flight of the Bumblebee” by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov; “The Cakewalk” from Children’s Corner by Claude Debussy, performed by the composer, and “Mamy Blue” written by Hubert Giraud, and sung by Nicoletta.

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 “‘Titanic’ task of finding plundered African art in French museums”, which will help you with the answer.

You have until 20 May to enter this week’s quiz; the winners will be announced on the 25 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

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EAST AFRICA

More than 150 killed in flooding and landslides in Tanzania

At least 155 people have died in floods and landslides in Tanzania following weeks of heavy rain that has pounded East Africa. Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa said the El Nino climate pattern had worsened the ongoing rainy season.

Tanzania’s death toll has more than doubled in two weeks as the amount of rainfall increases, especially in the coastal region and the capital, Dar es Salaam.

Around 200,000 people and more than 51,000 households have been affected.

Flooded schools have been closed and emergency services have rescued people marooned by flood waters.

Addressing parliament on Thursday, Majaliwa said that the rains could continue into May, and urged families living in low-lying areas to move to higher ground.

“The heavy El Niño rains, accompanied by strong winds, floods, and landslides in various parts of the country, have caused significant damage,” Majaliwa said.

“These include loss of life, destruction of crops, homes, citizens’ property, and infrastructure such as roads, bridges and railways.”



  • UN warns of new heat records as El Nino expected to return

Kenya and Burundi impacted

Heavy rains have also swept through neighbouring Burundi and Kenya.

In Kenya, 35 people were reported dead as of Monday, a number that’s expected to increase as flooding continues.

In the Mathare slum in the capital, Nairobi, at least four bodies were retrieved from flooded houses on Wednesday. Local media reported that more bodies were retrieved from the Mathare River.

Kenyan President William Ruto ordered the army to help with rescue operations.

He chaired a multi-agency flood response meeting on Thursday and directed the National Youth Service to provide land for people in flood-affected areas.

Meanwhile in Burundi, the rains have displaced nearly 100,000 people.

(with newswires)


European defence

France, Germany agree deal to develop Europe’s next generation of tanks

French and German defence ministers will sign a landmark deal in Paris on Friday that paves the way for joint development of a new battle tank, known as the Main Ground Combat System (MGCS). The project, already several years in the making, is tipped to put the European partners ahead of the United States or Russia in building the next generation of military hardware.

“After several months of intense negotiations, we can now present a result,” German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius told newspaper FAZ, which published a joint interview on Thursday with him and his French counterpart Sébastian Lecornu.

On Friday, the two countries will sign a formal document to kick off the first development phase.

Lecornu added that a detailed contract should be finalised by “the beginning of next year”.

The new tanks will incorporate “the firepower of the next generation, electronic warfare, artificial intelligence, as well as laser and directed energy weapons”, the French minister said.

With their joint project taking shape, Lecornu said France and Germany have a lead on the US, which has “still not started to think about the future of its Abrams tank“. 

Meanwhile Russia has “experienced some failures with the successor to their tank”, he noted.

Defence partners

Expected to be ready between 2035 and 2040, the MGCS is supposed to replace France’s Leclerc and Germany’s Leopard tanks.

In March, Pistorius and Lecornu announced that they reached a “breakthrough” on how to develop the MGCS and split up tasks between the two nations.

According to the agreement, production costs will be split equally between France and Germany.

It is their second major joint arms project, alongside their ambitions to build a next-generation fighter jet known as the Future Combat Air System (FCAS).

In March, the countries also reached an agreement to allow German-French tank producer KNDS to set up a local branch in Ukraine to produce spare parts and train local workers.

KNDS is a holding structure formed by France’s Nexter and Germany’s Krauss-Maffei-Wegmann, which make the Leclerc and Leopard tanks respectively.

(with newswires)


FRANCE – EUROPE

‘Europe could die’: France’s Macron urges leaders to scale up EU defences

French President Emmanuel Macron has urged Europe to rise up to the challenges of a changed world, warning that “our Europe, today, is mortal and it can die”.

During a keynote speech at the Sorbonne University on Thursday, Macron appealed for stronger, more integrated European defences.

He said the continent must not become a vassal of the United States, as he outlined his vision for a more assertive European Union on the global stage.

“[Europe] can die and this depends only on our choices,” Macron said, warning that Europe was “not armed against the risks we face” in a world where the rules have changed.

“Over the next decade … the risk is immense of [Europe] being weakened or even relegated,” he those attending the event, which was billed as the president’s vision for Europe’s future. 

Macron said Europe needed to emerge from a being “strategic minority” that had left it over-dependent on Russia for energy, and on the United States for security.

He described Russia’s behaviour after its invasion of Ukraine as “uninhibited”, warning that it was no longer clear where Moscow’s limits lie.



‘Existential threat’

The French head of state stressed that the sine qua non for European security was “that Russia does not win the war of aggression in Ukraine”.

Warning that Europe faced an existential threat from Russian aggression, Macron called on the continent to adopt a “credible” defence strategy less dependent on the United States, adding Europe could not be “a vassal” of the United States.

He also sounded the alarm on what he described as disrespect of global trade rules by both Russia and China, calling on the European Union to revise its trade policy.

Macron also called for a “revision” of EU trade policy to defend European interests, accusing both China and the United States of no longer respecting the rules of global commerce. 

He returned to the same themes of his Sorbonne speech in September 2017, months after taking office. Seven years on, however, the world has been turned upside down by Brexit, Covid-19 and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Macron said he would ask European partners for proposals over the coming weeks, and added that Europe also needed to build up its own cyberdefence and cybersecurity capacities.

Meawnhile preference should be given to European suppliers in the purchase of military equipment. Macron backed the idea of a European loan to finance this effort.

Europe’s desire for defence autonomy ‘nothing new’ – Gérald Olivier

Macron’s focus on Europe forging a new path away from over-reliance on America for security is nothing new in the context of the French president’s approach to transatlantic defence cooperation.

“We’ve heard for decades that Europe has to build its own defence, [but] it’s only been words,” explains author and political strategist, Gérald Olivier.

Referring back to Macron’s speech in the Sorbonne in 2017: “seven years later, nothing has changed,” OIivier told RFI.

“In 2017, Trump was president and he was telling everyone NATO was dead,” so in that context, he believes Macron’s approach to European defence was on point.

The use of the word “vassal” in the context of the transatlantic partnership, however, was definitely a provocation.

“France has never been a vassal to the US,” Olivier says, as France under General De Gaulle was kept out NATO – even though it was part of the alliance.

“France has always maintained a form of independence regarding the US. But the point is that the US is offering something [tangible] and that is the concrete capacity to protect Europe … whether or not Trump is elected in November, it’s high time that Europe took into account new state of geopolitics.”

  • France’s Macron urges allies not be ‘cowardly’ on Ukraine
  • ‘Made in France’ champion calls for halt of sale of French nuclear firm to Americans

‘Manifesto’ on future Europe

Following Brexit and the departure from power of German chancellor Angela Merkel, the 46-year-old French president is often seen by commentators as Europe’s number one leader.

But his party is facing embarrassment in June’s European elections, ranking well behind the far-right in opinion polls and even risking coming third behind the Socialists.

The head of the governing party’s list for the elections – the little-known Valerie Hayer – is failing to make an impact in the polls, especially in the face of the high-profile 28-year-old Jordan Bardella leading the far-right National Rally and Raphael Glucksmann emerging as a new star on the left.

Macron made no reference to the EU elections in his speech, although analysts say he is clearly seeking to wade into the campaign – with his speech reading as a manifesto for the continent’s future.


France – DEMOGRAPHICS

Rise of the ‘supercentenarians’ as more French people live past 100

France is seeing a “remarkable surge” in the number of people living beyond 100 years, a study by the National Institute of Demographic Studies revealed on Thursday. It noted the emergence of a new age group of people known as “supercentenarians” – those older than 110 years.

The report said there were around 100 centenarians in France in 1900, a number that had doubled by 1950. By 1970, however, there were more than a thousand and, in the year 2000, more than 8,000.

As of 1 January, 2024, the number of people older than 100 years stood at more than 31,000: that’s a quadrupling of the age group in less than a quarter of a century.

The study predicts that if the trend continues, there will be more than 200,000 centenarians in France by the year in 2070.

  • France’s law to ensure people ‘age well’ falls short of expectations

Supercentenarians were often people with a history of engaging in physically demanding outdoor work, coupled with a diet rich in wholesome foods, said Laurent Toussaint, a co-author of the study.

The researchers also found a concentration of centenarians in the French Caribbean – particularly in Guadeloupe and Martinique – raising questions about genetic and environmental factors that contribute to longevity.

Meanwhile France is preparing to celebrate the birthday of its oldest citizen, Marie-Rose Tessier, who will turn 114 on 21 May.

The global title of oldest living person belongs to Spanish woman Maria Branyas Morera, who is 117.

(with newswires)

Spotlight on France

Podcast: War on youth, Ionesco in Paris, French women’s right to vote

Issued on:

Why French youth are once again under fire as the government vows to crack down on violent crime. The staying power of Ionesco’s The Bald Soprano in one of Paris’s smallest theatres. And why French women won the right to vote so much later than many of their European neighbours.

In recent weeks President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Gabriel Attal have been looking for ways to tackle what Macron has called a wave of ultraviolence sweeping the country. They’ve put the focus on young people, but not everyone agrees with the assessment. Critics have denounced the government proposals as reactionary, fuelling yet another “war” on youth. Sociologist Laurent Mucchielli, who says statistics do not show any rise in violent crime committed by youngsters, talks about why France regularly targets young people, and how it is often linked to electoral politics. (Listen @2’15”)

The Bald Soprano and The Lesson, by Romanian-French avant-garde playwright Eugène Ionesco, have been running at the tiny Théatre de la Huchette in Paris five times a week non-stop since 1957. Two million people have flocked to watch the plays, which are performed in their original staging and set. But what’s it like for the 45-member company, some of whom have been acting in Ionesco’s absurdist universe for more than 30 years? We went along to the 20,024th performance to find out. (Listen @18’50”)

French women obtained the right to vote on 21 April 1944, later than most other countries in Europe. Historian Anne-Sarah Moalic talks about the long road to equal suffrage, which required patient activism along with a bit of geopolitical chaos. And a woman who voted in France’s very first elections open to all adults, in April 1945, recalls the excitement and pressure of her maiden trip to the ballot box. (Listen @11’05”)

Episode mixed by Cecile Pompéani. 

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


Democratic Republic of Congo

DR Congo accuses Apple of using ‘blood minerals’ from war-torn east

The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo is accusing Apple of using “illegally exploited” minerals extracted from the country’s embattled east in its products, lawyers representing the African country said on Thursday.

Lawyers for the DRC have sent the US tech giant a formal cease-and-desist notice, seen by French news agency AFP, that effectively warns Apple it could face legal action if the alleged practice continues.

The DRC’s Paris-based lawyers accused Apple of purchasing minerals smuggled from the DRC into neighbouring Rwanda, where they are laundered and “integrated into the global supply chain”.

In response to media queries, Apple pointed to its latest annual report on conflict minerals – materials such as tin, tantalum and cobalt that are crucial for a range of high-tech products but are mined by armed groups in unstable areas, often using forced labour.

The company has been auditing its suppliers and publishing the findings for several years.

“Based on our due diligence efforts… we found no reasonable basis for concluding that any of the smelters or refiners of 3TG [tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold] determined to be in our supply chain as of 31 December 2023 directly or indirectly financed or benefitted armed groups in the DRC or an adjoining country,” the report said.

But Amsterdam & Partners, the international law firm hired by the DRC government to investigate its concerns, said Apple lacked verifiable evidence for its conclusions.

  • Dark side of the mine: journalist unearths human cost of smartphones in DRC
  • Women protest against fighting in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo

‘Tainted’ tech

The DRC’s mineral-rich Great Lakes region has been wracked by violence since regional wars in the 1990s. Tensions flared again in late 2021 when the rebel March 23 Movement (M23) began recapturing swathes of territory.

The DRC, the UN and Western countries accuse Rwanda of supporting rebel groups, including M23, in a bid to control the region’s vast mineral resources, an allegation Kigali denies.

“The world’s eyes are wide shut: Rwanda’s production of key 3T minerals is near zero, and yet big tech companies say their minerals are sourced in Rwanda,” Amsterdam & Partners said in a statement.

Their cease-and-desist letter claims that minerals going to Apple are sourced from sites where sexual violence, armed attacks and widespread corruption take place. 

Macs, iPhones, and other Apple products are “tainted by the blood of the Congolese people”, the DRC’s lawyers said.

(with newswires)


French Open 2024

French Open 2024: rain will no longer stop play on Court Suzanne Lenglen

French Open chiefs unveiled on Thursday a package of innovations including a retractable roof and a wheelchair event for juniors as part of the new era at the tennis circuit’s most prestigious clay court competition.

“The most obvious thing will be the roof over Court Suzanne Lenglen,” said tournament director Amélie Mauresmo.

“It will allow us to have matches when it is raining and give us a bit more flexibility with programming.”

The 30 million euro roof will be formally inaugurated on 26 May – the first day of play in the main draw of 128 players.

However, the court which can house 10,000 spectators, will be used for the first time during the qualifiers – matches to provide 24 players for the main draw.

During the final week of the tournament, said Mauresmo, four new events will be played in the wheelchair competition involving juniors in singles and doubles.

“Our idea is to have something different every year,” added Mauresmo, a former tennis world number one whose best result at the French Open came in 2004 when she reached the quarter-final.

Her prize money that day was around 110,000 euros. A player losing in the last eight two decades later will receive 415,000 euros.

The men’s and women’s champions will pocket 2.4 million euros to go along with sporting immortality.

Change

At the other end of the food chain, a loser in the first round will collect 73,000 euros.

“We’ve always tried to make an effort to reward those players who are lower down in the rankings,” said Mauresmo who won the Australian Open and Wimbledon during her 16 years on the WTA circuit.

“And it can help them make it through the season and perhaps support the people who are working with them.”

The men’s defending champion Novak Djokovic will be seeking a record-extending 25th Grand Slam tournament crown when he takes to the courts as top seed.

Iga Swiatek, his counterpart in the women’s draw, will be hunting a fifth Grand Slam tournament crown and a fourth in Paris.

The participation of Rafael Nadal – the undisputed king of the arena – remains a doubt. The 14-time champion, who is on his final year on the men’s circuit, said just before his first round match at the Madrid Masters that he would not play in Paris if he did not feel competitive.

“We’re crossing our fingers that he can play,” said Mauresmo. “We’re watching what happens in his match in Madrid and we’re in close contact with his team.

“But if he does come … whether we do some kind of ovation to him really depends on him and what he wants to do.”


FRANCE

Blades of Paris landmark Moulin Rouge windmill collapse

The blades of the Moulin Rouge windmill, one of the most famous landmarks in Paris, collapsed overnight Thursday, just months before the French capital hosts the Olympics.

There was no risk of further collapse, Paris firefighters said. The reason for the accident was not yet known.

“Fortunately this happened after closing,” a Moulin Rouge official told AFP on the condition of anonymity.

“Every week, the cabaret’s technical teams check the windmill mechanism and did not note any problems,” the source added.

It’s the first time that an accident like this has happened since the cabaret first opened its doors on 6 October, 1889.

Images on social media showed the blade unit lying on the street below, with some of the blades slightly bent from the apparent fall.

  • The Moulin Rouge celebrates 125th birthday
  • Life’s a ball as Moulin Rouge marks 130 years of razzle dazzle

Concerns

The Moulin Rouge cabaret, with its distinctive red windmill blades, is located in northern Paris and is one of the most visited landmarks in the city.

Known as the birthplace of the modern dance form the cancan, it opened its doors in October 1889 at the foot of the Montmartre hill.

It quickly became a hit and a stop to look at its facade or catch a show inside is a must-do on most tourists’ lists of things to do in the French capital.

The accident will add to concerns of whether Paris, one of the most visited cities in the world, is ready to host the thousands more that will descent during July-August for the Olympic Games.

The only serious accident the Moulin Rouge has endured was a fire that erupted during works in 1915, which forced the venue to close for nine years.

(with newswires)


WEST AFRICA

Mauritania president to run for second term in June polls

Nouakchott (AFP) – Mauritania President Mohamed Ould Ghazouani said Wednesday he would run for a second term in presidential elections due in June.

Ghazouani, 67, has been at the helm of the vast West African country since 2019 and provided stability in the Sahel region, which faces rising jihadism.

“I have deemed it appropriate to address you directly, dear compatriots, through this letter, to inform you of my decision to present myself to you, so that you renew your confidence in me for a new term,” he said in a statement.

Ghazouani, the current chairman of the African Union, is the clear favourite in the polls.

Last year, his El Insaf party won a landslide victory in legislative elections — taking 107 of the 176 seats in the National Assembly, well ahead of the Islamist party Tewassoul, which won 11 seats.

The well-known anti-slavery activist and opponent Biram Dah Ould Abeid, who was a runner-up in the last presidential election, also announced his candidacy on Wednesday.

  • EU pledges €200m to help Mauritania clamp down on illegal migration
  • Chad and Mauritania pave way to dissolve G5 anti-jihadist alliance

Concerns

Ould Abeid, whose political group is not authorised and has no legal existence, expressed his concern about the smooth running of the electoral process.

“We are moving forward, aware of the imperfection of the electoral register and the partiality and deficiencies of the CENI (Independent National Electoral Commission,” he said.

Mauritania was hit by a series of coups from 1978 to 2008, before the 2019 election marked the first transition between two elected presidents.

While jihadism has spread elsewhere in the Sahel, particularly in neighbouring Mali, Mauritania has not seen an attack since 2011.

Under the terms of a presidential decree issued this month, the electoral campaign will begin at midnight on 14 June and end at midnight on June 27.

The first round will take place on 29 June, with a possible second round on 14 July.


Olympic Games

French police union threatens to disrupt Olympics relay

A French police trade union is threatening to disrupt the Olympics torch relay ahead of the start of the Paris Games in July unless officers are given bonuses they were promised. The union says they’re ready to strike later today, Thursday.

The police’s Alliance Union said that the French prime minister’s office and economy ministry are holding up special Olympics payments promised to police, which could amount to as much as 1,900 euros.

Warning that a first demonstration had been called for today, the union said that other actions could follow and that it not had ruled out disrupting the Olympic torch relay when it arrives in France.

Strike threats

The threat underlines the challenge for French authorities as they negotiate Olympics bonuses for public sector staff who are being asked to work over the traditional summer holiday period.

The biggest union representing staff in the civil service, the CGT, has issued a strike notice that will cover the duration of the Olympics which begin on 26 July.

The first French stage of the torch relay is set to begin in Marseille on May 8.



Meanwhile, the country’s air traffic controllers had also announced a strike for today, but it has been called off. They had previously promised an “Olympic truce” last September.

However, the French civil aviation authority has said that despite the strike’s cancellation following a last-minute deal with the biggest union, the need to finalise details with smaller unions means there will still be disruptions.

Elsewhere, workers at the national mint producing the medals for the competitors have also been on strike, demanding bonuses for what they say is highly demanding work.

Optimism

“I hope that we can welcome the whole world in the best possible conditions and that [no one] ruins the party,” chief  Olympic Games organiser Tony Estanguet said in February when asked about the risk of stoppages during July and August.

The first Olympic Games in Paris in 100 years will take place between 26 July and 11 August and will be followed by the Paralympics from 28 August to 8 September.

 (with AFP) 


FRANCE

Far-right French mayor imposes curfew on children to tackle ‘violence’

A far-right French mayor has announced the introduction of a nighttime curfew for children under 13 in a bid to curb alleged youth violence, which has become a political issue in the run-up to European elections in June. 

Robert Ménard, the independent mayor of the southern town of Beziers, on Tuesday said the curfew would be effective every night in three neighbourhoods from 11pm to 6am until 30 September. 

Children may only be outside if accompanied by an adult. 

In cases of emergency or “immediate danger to themselves or others”, minors may be either escorted home or to a police station, a decree filed with the police prefecture said.  

Parents of the children concerned may face criminal charges.

Ménard, former associate of far-right leader Marine Le Pen, said the move was needed to combat urban violence – namely the burning of a school in 2019 and riots in July 2023 – and because an increasing number of minors were being “left to themselves in the middle of the night”. 

  • French PM seeks ‘jolt of authority’ in bid to tame violent teenagers
  • French PM says boarding school key step in preventing juvenile violence

Youth ‘blind spot’

The curfew comes 10 years after Ménard enacted a similar decree that was later rejected by the Council of State because it failed to provide evidence to support the existence of particular risks relating to minors under 13. 

In an interview with Agence France-Presse, Ménard said the delinquency of minors under 13 was a “blind spot” in statistics because they were not brought before a court and not sentenced. 

As many as 3,000 people marched in Beziers on Tuesday against the policies of the far-right mayor. 

France last week ordered a curfew on children under 18 in its overseas territory of Guadeloupe to address a wave of crime. 

Christian Estrosi, mayor of the southern city of Nice, told BFM television he was considering reinstating a curfew for under-13s in his city of more than 300,000 people. 

Several French cities have installed nighttime curfews for children for limited periods in the past. 

(with AFP)


FOOD SECURITY

Global food insecurity surges as almost 300 million face ‘acute hunger’: report

UN agencies and development groups have reported that food insecurity worsened around the world in 2023, with some 282 million people suffering from acute hunger due to conflicts, particularly in Gaza and Sudan.

The report, which described the global outlook as “bleak” for this year, is produced for an international alliance bringing together UN agencies, the European Union and governmental and non-governmental bodies.

2023 was the fifth consecutive year of rises in the number of people suffering acute food insecurity – defined as when populations face food deprivation that threatens lives or livelihoods, regardless of the causes or length of time.

Extreme weather events and economic shocks also added to the number of those facing acute food insecurity, which grew by 24 million people compared with 2022, according to the latest global report on food crises from the Food Security Information Network.



Much of last year’s increase was due to report’s expanded geographic coverage, as well as deteriorating conditions in 12 countries.

More geographical areas experienced “new or intensified shocks” while there was a “marked deterioration in key food crisis contexts such as Sudan and the Gaza Strip”, said Fleur Wouterse, deputy director of the emergencies office within the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization.

Some 700,000 people, including 600,000 in Gaza, were on the brink of starvation last year, a figure that has since climbed yet higher to over 1 million in the war-torn Palestinian enclave. 

  • US warns Gaza facing ‘acute food insecurity’ as UN declares famine ‘imminent’

Children starving

Since the first report by the Global Food Crisis Network covering 2016, the number of food-insecure people has risen from 108 million to 282 million, Wouterse said. 

Meanwhile, the share of the population affected within the areas concerned has doubled 11 percent to 22 percent, she added. 

Protracted major food crises are ongoing in Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Syria and Yemen.

“In a world of plenty, children are starving to death,” wrote UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in the report’s foreword. 

“War, climate chaos and a cost-of-living crisis – combined with inadequate action – mean that almost 300 million people faced acute food crisis in 2023”. 

“Funding is not keeping pace with need,” he added.

This is especially true as the costs of distributing aid have risen. 

For 2024, progress will depend on the end of hostilities, said Wouterse, who stressed that aid could “rapidly alleviate” the crisis in Gaza or Sudan, for example, once humanitarian access to the areas is possible. 

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

Floods and droughts

Worsening conditions in Haiti were due to political instability and reduced agricultural production, “where in the breadbasket of the Artibonite Valley, armed groups have seized agricultural land and stolen crops”, Wouterse said.

The El Niño weather phenomenon could also lead to severe drought in West and Southern Africa.

According to the report, situations of conflict or insecurity have become the main cause of acute hunger in 20 countries or territories, where 135 million people have suffered. 

Extreme climatic events such as floods or droughts were the main cause of acute food insecurity for 72 million people in 18 countries, while economic shocks pushed 75 million people into this situation in 21 countries.

On a positive note, the situation improved in 17 countries in 2023, including the Democratic Republic of Congo and Ukraine, the report found. 


PORTUGAL

Portugal marks 50 years of democracy with far right on rise

Lisbon (AFP) – Portugal on Thursday marks 50 years since a military coup ended a decades-long dictatorship and 13 years of colonial wars in Africa, an anniversary that comes as a far-right party gains prominence.

The anniversary of the Carnation Revolution – named after the flowers protesters placed in soldiers’ guns during the peaceful uprising – comes a month after the far-right party Chega more than quadrupled its seats in parliament, cementing its position as Portugal’s third-largest party.

The highlight of the celebrations will be a military parade through central Lisbon featuring some of the roughly 5,000 soldiers who were part of the putsch, as well as around 15 restored military vehicles used on the day.

On April 25, 1974, the oldest authoritarian regime in Western Europe at the time fell within a matter of hours, virtually without bloodshed, thanks to an uprising by non-commissioned officers that was immediately backed by the public.

The coup paved the way for the country’s first free elections based on universal suffrage on 25 April, 1975, as well as the independence of Portugal‘s remaining African colonies: Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde.

“The main motivation was to resolve the problem of the colonial wars” that had been going on for 13 years in Angola, and almost as long in Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau, said retired colonel Vasco Lourenco.

Lourenco, one of the officers who took part in the coup, now heads the April 25 Association that represents putschist soldiers.

As a young officer, he said it took almost a year to put together the “conspiracy” to carry out “a coup d’etat aimed at opening the way to freedom, putting an end to the wars and building democracy in Portugal”, he told AFP.

As it does every year, parliament will hold a special commemorative session and there will be a parade. And this year the heads of African states that were once Portuguese colonies will join the celebrations.

  • Lisbon street plaques tell story of Portugal’s forgotten slave trade
  • Portugal mobilises military to fight Mozambique’s hardline Islamist militants

‘Poor, backward, illiterate’

Portugal’s dictatorship years began in 1926, consolidated under prime minister Antonio de Oliveira Salazar and continued from 1968 by his successor Marcelo Caetano.

Many Portuguese believed the country’s authoritarian past would offer it some protection from the rise of the far right, which has been seen elsewhere in Europe, but the breakthrough by Chega in a general election last month has dampened this view.

While its founder and leader Andre Ventura has criticised the dictatorship years, Chega (“Enough”) has used the slogan “God, Homeland, Family, Work” – an echo of the Salazar dictatorship‘s “God, Homeland, Family”.

Set up in 2019, Chega promises greater law and order, tougher immigration measures and chemical castration for paedophiles.

It is the first hard-right party to gain ground on Portugal’s political scene since the end of the dictatorship.

“I thought that 48 years of dictatorship would have made the country immune to this wave of populism and radical far-right movements, but the reality turned out to be different,” said Maria Inacia Rezola, a historian who is overseeing the anniversary celebrations.

During the dictatorship Portugal remained “a poor, backward, illiterate country isolated from the rest of the world”, Rezola said.

Despite the fact that the Carnation Revolution still appears widely appreciated, a sizable part of the population express a certain nostalgia for the previous regime.

A survey published last week found that half of respondents said the former regime had more negative aspects than positive — but a fifth said the opposite.

International report

Aid flotilla from Turkey aims to break Gaza blockade but risks fresh crisis

Issued on:

A group of international activists are seeking to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza with a flotilla of vessels carrying aid. But with 10 people killed by Israeli security forces in a similar mission 14 years ago, fears are growing that the latest flotilla could provoke a fresh crisis. 

The loading of medical supplies and food is underway on the Akdeniz, an old ferry boat that will lead the flotilla of three ships carrying over 5,000 tonnes of aid to Gaza.

At a press conference, the flotilla’s organisers, a coalition of international and Turkish humanitarian groups, claimed the flotilla is not just about delivering aid.  

“We hope to break the illegal naval blockade of Gaza that Israel has had on it for decades,” Ann Wright of US Boat to Gaza explained to RFI. 



Wright acknowledged the aid they plan to deliver will do little to alleviate the humanitarian crisis but hopes it will open the door to more assistance.

“We hope to certainly bring food and medicines that are needed by the people of Gaza. But it’s a small drop in the bucket. We’re calling for the border of Rafah to be opened, where tons of food are waiting. It’s criminal that the world has not forced the entry of these trucks into Gaza.” 

Wright said the issue was being forced because “people that are starving and suffering genocide must have assistance”.

If the governments won’t act, “we, the citizens will”, she said.

Flotilla in 2010

In 2010, ten people died the last time a flotilla sought to break Israel’s Gaza blockade.

When Israeli commandos intercepted the Mavi Marmara, which was leading the flotilla, activists said they were aware of the dangers they faced, but given the humanitarian crisis in Gaza it was a risk worth taking.

  • France condemns killing of Gaza NGO workers as US pressed to toughen stance with Israel
  • Turkish court indicts Israeli soldiers two years after flotilla raid

“We are conscious that it’s not a mission without any danger,” said Nima Machouf is with the group, Canada Boat to Gaza.

“But the danger and the horror is part of the horror that we want to denounce that it is faced by Palestinian people. Gaza people need medical support and need food.”

Flotilla participants are given lessons on how to de-escalate a possible confrontation with Israeli forces. There has been no comment from Israeli officials.

Gallia Lindenstrauss, an analyst with the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Avi, warns the risks are real given the tensions in the region.



“Both on the Israeli side and on the Turkish side, there is an understanding of how dangerous things might get out of hand. So I think there will be caution, both from the Turkish side and the Israeli side,” said Lindenstrauss.

“But obviously, this is a very, very intense time now in Israel. And, also, I would be very careful, and hope that, the authorities are on both sides are aware of what they need to do to make sure that this will not escalate into violence.”

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is likely to have the final say on whether the flotilla will leave, has not commented on the mission. 

But Erdogan met with Hamas’s political leader Ismail Haniyeh last Saturday, in which humanitarian aid to Gaza was discussed – a meeting Israel condemned. 

Whatever risks flotilla organisers say they are determined to deliver aid to Gaza.

“Of course, we are worried, but, we think that, the time is now to act,” said Torstein Dahle, a former Norwegian parliamentarian of Ship to Gaza Norway

But Dahle says the flotilla is looking for international protection.

“We demand support from national governments, from everybody who has influence on this matter, to facilitate the supply of humanitarian aid to the starving people of Gaza,” he said.

The Sound Kitchen

A robot in space

Issued on:

This week on The Sound Kitchen you’ll hear the answer to the question about India’s humanoid space robot. There’s listener news and “On This Day”, “The Listener’s Corner” with Paul Myers, lots of good music, and of course, the new quiz and bonus questions, 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 16 March, I asked you a question about India’s space programme. Earlier that week, India unveiled their plans for their next space flight, which is scheduled for this coming fall. As you read in RFI English correspondent Pratap Chakravarty’s article “India picks pilots for space flight that will blast it into cosmic history”, on board that rocket will be a humanoid robot.  You were to write in with the name of the robot (it’s in Sanskrit) and its translation into English.

The answer is: Vyomitra, which translates into English as “space friend”. Vyomitra will make the test flight, to ensure the space-worthiness of the craft before astronauts fly onboard it next year.

In addition to the quiz question, there was the bonus question, suggested by Morium Nessa Momo from Bogura, Bangladesh: “Who is the person – still living – that you most admire, and why?”

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

The winners are: RFI Listeners Club member Shaira Hosen Mo from Kishoreganj, Bangladesh. Mo is also the winner of this week’s bonus question. Congratulations Mo!

Also on the list of lucky winners this week are Nafisa Khatun, the president of the RFI Mahila Shrota Sangha Club in West Bengal, India, and RFI Listeners Club member Faiza, from the International Radio Fan and Youth Club in Khanewal, Pakistan, as well as two members from Bangladesh: Ajharul Islam Tamim from Kishorganj, and Sahadot Hossain, from Sunamganj. 

Congratulations winners!

Here’s the music you heard on this week’s program: “Habana del Este” written by Juan de Marcos Gonzalez Cardenas and performed by his orchestra; “The Spirit of Man” from Also Sprach Zarathustra by Richard Strauss, performed by the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Jacek Kaspszyk; “The Flight of the Bumblebee” by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov; “The Cakewalk” from Children’s Corner by Claude Debussy, performed by the composer, and “Mamy Blue” written by Hubert Giraud, and sung by Nicoletta.

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 “‘Titanic’ task of finding plundered African art in French museums”, which will help you with the answer.

You have until 20 May to enter this week’s quiz; the winners will be announced on the 25 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 France

Podcast: War on youth, Ionesco in Paris, French women’s right to vote

Issued on:

Why French youth are once again under fire as the government vows to crack down on violent crime. The staying power of Ionesco’s The Bald Soprano in one of Paris’s smallest theatres. And why French women won the right to vote so much later than many of their European neighbours.

In recent weeks President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Gabriel Attal have been looking for ways to tackle what Macron has called a wave of ultraviolence sweeping the country. They’ve put the focus on young people, but not everyone agrees with the assessment. Critics have denounced the government proposals as reactionary, fuelling yet another “war” on youth. Sociologist Laurent Mucchielli, who says statistics do not show any rise in violent crime committed by youngsters, talks about why France regularly targets young people, and how it is often linked to electoral politics. (Listen @2’15”)

The Bald Soprano and The Lesson, by Romanian-French avant-garde playwright Eugène Ionesco, have been running at the tiny Théatre de la Huchette in Paris five times a week non-stop since 1957. Two million people have flocked to watch the plays, which are performed in their original staging and set. But what’s it like for the 45-member company, some of whom have been acting in Ionesco’s absurdist universe for more than 30 years? We went along to the 20,024th performance to find out. (Listen @18’50”)

French women obtained the right to vote on 21 April 1944, later than most other countries in Europe. Historian Anne-Sarah Moalic talks about the long road to equal suffrage, which required patient activism along with a bit of geopolitical chaos. And a woman who voted in France’s very first elections open to all adults, in April 1945, recalls the excitement and pressure of her maiden trip to the ballot box. (Listen @11’05”)

Episode mixed by Cecile Pompéani. 

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

International report

Turkey’s Erdogan targets support against Kurdish rebels during Iraq trip

Issued on:

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visits Iraq on Monday for the first time in 12 years. He’ll be seeking support for Ankara’s war against Kurdish rebels in Iraq as well as deeper economic ties. 

With Turkish forces continuing their build-up for a major offensive against the Kurdish rebel group the PKK, enlisting Iraq’s support is expected to top Erdogan’s agenda in Baghdad.

The PKK has for decades used Iraqi territory to wage war against the Turkish state. Erdogan’s visit is part of a new approach to Baghdad in fighting the PKK.

“Turkey wants to start a comprehensive strategy that has an economic, social, and security base,” said Murat Aslan, a senior security analyst for the Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research, an Ankara-based think tank.

“In the meantime, expanding the capabilities of the Iraqi security forces may make Iraq much safer, and Turkey may feel more secure.”

Breakthrough

Last month, Ankara achieved a diplomatic breakthrough when Baghdad banned the PKK.

Erdogan will have also leverage when he visits Iraq. Iraq is suffering a severe drought and Baghdad has repeatedly called on Ankara to release more water from dams controlling rivers serving Iraq.

This week, Erdogan said he is ready to consider Baghdad’s pleas.

“One of the most important agenda items of our visit is the water issue,” Erdogan told reporters.

“Baghdad has made some requests regarding water and we are working on these issues.

“We will make efforts to resolve this issue with them. They already want to resolve this matter. We will take steps in this direction.”

Bilateral trade

Deepening bilateral trade is also a key part of the Turkish leader’s visit. Ankara seeks to increase international transit through Iraq as part of a planned new trade route between China and Europe.

“The main backbone of this upcoming presidential visit to Iraq, to Baghdad and Erbil, will be the new so-called development road,” said Aydin Selcen, a former senior Turkish diplomat who served in Iraq.

“It will connect the port of Basra to the Turkish border, to Habur, or to a new border gate. Perhaps it will have a railroad, and then parallel to it, there will be a highway. And that will be an oil and gas pipeline.”

Erdogan also said he may visit Erbil, the capital of semi-autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan, with whom the Turkish leader has developed close ties.

However, Iran could thwart the goal of expanding Turkish influence in Iraq.

“In Baghdad, the sun does not shine without the approval of Iran, of course,” warned Selcen, who works as a foreign policy analyst for Turkey’s Medyascope news portal.

“So how will Ankara be able to align all these stars and build a capacity to cooperate with it? It’s still debatable to me, and it looks unrealistic to me.”

Balance

However, some experts say Baghdad is looking to Ankara to balance Tehran’s influence, especially as speculation grows over the withdrawal of United States forces from Iraq, one of the few checks to Iran.

“My hunch is that the Iraqi government wishes to free itself at least somewhat from the grip of Iranian influence and Turkey can be a balancer,” said Soli Ozel, who teaches international relations at Istanbul’s Kadir Has University.

 “I think Turkey would like to be a balancer here because Turkey, just like every other country in the region, is not all that happy with the kind of power that Iran has in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.” 

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. 


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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Presented by

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.