rfi 2024-05-01 16:09:13



France – May Day

France stages May Day rallies a year after pensions backlash

France’s two main trade unions on Wednesday were once again united for May Day parades after last year’s politically charged march against the government’s unpopular pensions reform. 

The CGT and CFDT walked side by side in processions in at least half of French cities, including Paris, under the scattered slogans of promoting peace, fighting austerity and calling for a “more protective Europe for workers” ahead of the EU’s elections in June. 

A total of 265 rallies were being held across the country.

Pro-Palestinian and anti-Olympics protesters swelled the ranks of many parades, while farmers complaining of excessive red tape with regards to environmental rules joined in. 

  • Amnesty denounces ‘ongoing erosion’ of human rights in France

Violence

In Lyon, 22 people were arrested and two police officers injured after hooded individuals attacked a bank. Similar violence also broke out in the western city of Nantes.

Twenty-five people were arrested in Paris on the sidelines of the parade before it had even set off. Authorities posted a tweet of weapons including a knife and a pair of brass knuckles that had been confiscated.

A police source told FranceInfo that authorities had been ready for both ultra-right and ultra-left demonstrators, with some 12,000 police and gendarmes deployed throughout the country – including 5,000 in Paris.

  • Pro-Palestinian protesters disrupt Paris’s Sorbonne university

Meanwhile MEP Raphaël Glucksmann, president of the EU parliament’s left-wing Place Publique movement, was forced to leave a demonstration in the central city of Saint-Etienne after being chased by young protesters who pelted him with eggs filled with paint.

Glucksmann said he had been targeted by “small, violent groups” in an attack that was the result of “months of hatred and slander” cleverly orchestrated by the hard left.

Prime Minister Gabriel Attal and hard-left France Unbowed party leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon both condemned the violence.

  • French courts uphold use of police drones at May Day marches

Lower turnout

Turnout is expected to be down on the record numbers seen during the 2023 International Workers Day rallies, when the country’s eight trade unions marched arm in arm against a plan – which has since become law – to raise the age of retirement. 

The previous time France’s eight main unions staged united May Day parades was back in 2009 during the financial crisis, when 1.2 million people protested.

After the pensions law was rammed through parliament by decree last year, between 800,000 and 2.3 million people (police and union figures respectively) took to the streets to vent their opposition – with some protests turning violent. 


Senegal

Senegalese unions voice numerous demands on their first Labour Day march in four years

After four years without a May Day parade because of Covid-19 among other strategic reasons, Senegal has organised a rally for Labour Day this year. This will be President Bassirou Diomaye Faye’s first interface with trade unions.

The unions are marching towards Independence Square in the centre of the capital, Dakar.

There, they plan to submit a list of grievances to the president with a list of demands, hoping that social dialogue will be more fluid than in the past.

Cost of living

The principle issue is inflation and the cost of living.

On this point, the unions agree and are awaiting concessions.

The National Confederation of Workers of Senegal (CNTS) is the biggest trade union in Senegal.

“The authorities are very aware of this now, and, since they have just arrived, we do not expect that all the issues will be resolved right away,” Mody Guiro, its general secretary of told RFI.

President Diomaye Faye had previously promised to offer a plan to combat the high cost of living and measures to lower prices before 15 May.

Pay inequity

The second issue for unions is pay. Many unions denounce the inequality in salary between the different state agents, which consist of about 175,000 people in total.



Amidou Diedhiou is the secretary general of the Free Teachers’ Union of Senegal (SELS), the main union of primary schools.

“There is an urgent need to resolve this inequality,” he said.

“Education unions had already raised the question of the remuneration system in 2018.

“The level of injustice is great and this is why, in our opinion, the State’s resources, however meager they may be, must be fairly redistributed.”

Unions in crisis?

The unions face disintegration and distance from their base, in Senegal but also in other Sahel countries, Babacar Fall, professor at the Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar and the Institute of Advanced Studies of Saint-Louis in Senegal.

The general political and social context is one of restriction of freedoms, so unions struggle to be heard.  

“The good news is that marches are back on,” he told RFI. “And we believe that the new government is more attentive to people’s social demands; it’s bringing hope, and it is very important for workers.”


Paris Olympics 2024

Paris Olympic venues won’t use polluting diesel fuel for lighting

French sports venues preparing for this year’s Paris Olympics are set to ditch their diesel generators in favour of power grid connections as part of efforts to cut the carbon emissions linked to the Games.

Though little known to most sports fans, many stadiums around the world rely on diesel generators for the power that runs their lighting, broadcast facilities and computer systems.

Seen as more reliable than regular connections to the electricity grid, the generators are also highly polluting, emitting dirty particulate matter and carbon dioxide that leads to global heating.

“An evening of (French Ligue 1) football is around 4,000 litres of diesel burned and the equivalent of 12 tonnes of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere,” said Nicolas Perrin, Paris director of the French public power grid provider, Enedis.

Powering the London Olympics in 2012 led to an estimated four million litres of diesel being burned for electricity purposes, according to the Paris 2024 organising committee.

French organisers view the new electricity connections at venues around France, including at the 80,000-capacity national stadium in northern Paris, as part of the legacy of the Games which run from 26 July- 8 August.

42 Olympic sites

To remove the need for generators at the 42 Olympic sites and 19 Paralymic sites, Enedis has invested around 100 million euros, resulting in around 8,000 different interventions at sites around its network.

“To guarantee maximum quality, we have offered a doubling of the feed with two delivery points per site,” Perrin said.

This means that “if there’s a problem with the usual schema, the site will trip onto the emergency feed,” he added.

Much of the Paris Olympics will take place in temporary venues around the city, but major sites such as the national stadium used for the athletics will retain their generators as a third line of defence.

“During a 100-metres of 9.58 seconds you can’t allow there to be a power cut,” said Damien Pillac, energy manager at Paris 2024, referring to the world record held by Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt.

Renewable energy

Paris organisers are aiming to reduce by half their carbon emissions compared with the 2012 Olympics in London and the 2016 edition in Rio de Janeiro.

They initially set a target equivalent to 1.58 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, but that ambition has been lowered to around 1.75 million tonnes – the equivalent of the annual carbon footprint of a French town of 200,000 people.

 All the energy supplied to the sites will be certified by national power generator EDF as being renewable.

Although it is impossible to verify the source of the electricity – France relies on nuclear for 70 percent of its needs – EDF will guarantee that an equivalent amount of energy used by the Games was generated from renewable sources.

“What is really pleasing is to know that all the events after the Games can do the same,” Georgina Grenon, director of environmental excellence for the organising committee, told AFP in an interview earlier this year.

Thanks to the new high-capacity electricity connections installed around Paris, other events such as fashion shows or open-air concerts can also keep the generators turned off.

(with AFP)


FRANCE – STRIKES

Garbage collectors in Paris threaten extended strike during Olympics

Paris faces the risk of unsightly rubbish piling up on its streets during the Olympic Games after a strike notice for the city’s garbage collectors was issued on Wednesday by France’s largest union. 

Less than three months before the Games, the CGT FTD NEEA union is demanding various concessions, including a special bonus of €1,900 for workers on duty throughout the Games as well as a €400 monthly increase in salaries. 

Other demands include raising the monthly driving allowance to €300 for garbage collectors operating small vehicles, and providing additional pay scale increments for garbage collectors, sewer workers and gravediggers. 

Garbage collectors in Paris staged rolling strikes in March and April last year, including blockades of the city’s three incinerator plants, to protest the government’s unpopular pension reform.

Summer of strikes?

The new threatened strike period runs for the entire summer, from 1 July to 8 September – covering both the Olympics and Paralympics, events that are expected to draw huge crowds to the French capital.

Strike notices were also issued for six days in May, a month that has several public holidays. 

“We don’t intend to spoil these Olympics,” said CGT FTD NEEA boss Christophe Farinet in an interview with RMC radio. “It’s a leverage of pressure … because the political sphere isn’t meeting the demands of employees.” 

  • French charity boycotts Olympic torch relay over Coca-Cola sponsorship
  • Unions want justice for worker who died on Paris Olympics construction site

The strike notices apply to staff from the Directorate of Cleanliness and Water, including waste collectors, as well as the Municipal Automobile Transport employees. 

Authorities are yet to respond, but negotiations are expected to take place over the coming days. 

Meanwhile at a national level, the CGT has also issued strike notices across the three public sectors – state, local authorities and hospitals – until 15 September. 


Rwandan election

Rwandan opposition leader asks court to restore her civic rights

Rwanda’s Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, a prominent opposition figure and government critic, has filed a case before the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) seeking a re-establishment of her civic rights, including the right to stand in the next elections.

Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza initiated proceedings earlier this week. 

In March 2024, the High Court in Rwanda controversially denied Ingabire Umuhoza’s application for rehabilitation, “preventing her from recovering her civic rights, including the right to travel out of Rwanda and to participate in any elections in Rwanda”, her lawyers wrote in a press release.

Ingabire Umuhoza is represented by a multinational legal team, including Rwandan lawyer Gatera Gashabana, as well as Kenyan and European lawyers.

The High Court’s decision represents “the latest episode in a series of systematic efforts by the Rwandan State to prevent Ms Ingabire Umuhoza from participating, in any way, in Rwandan political life”, they added.

A few days before filing the case Ingabire told RFI English, “I want to get my civic rights back.

“My party cannot be registered. Three party members have been killed. Four are missing. And nine are in prison. There is literally no space for opposition in Rwanda.”

Long-time opponent

At 66, Rwanda’s President, Paul Kagame, a former military officer and Tutsi rebel, is running for a fifth mandate, after having been the head of state since 2000.

Ingabire Umuhoza left Rwanda in March 1994 to study and live in the Netherlands.

She founded a political party in 2006 then returned to Rwanda In January 2010, after years of exile, to participate in the Presidential elections scheduled to take place later that year.

Instead, she was arrested and convicted to 15 years’ imprisonment.

Her trial was internationally condemned as being politically motivated.

  • Rwandan police arrest opposition leader

She appealed before the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights which ruled that the Rwandan State had violated her rights to freedom of expression and a defense.

In September 2018, Ingabire Umuhoza was released following a Presidential pardon, after serving eight years in prison, five of which were spent in solitary confinement.

The decision violates Rwanda’s obligations under the East African Community Treaty, which require Rwanda to abide by fundamental principles of democracy, rule of law, and human rights.

Lack of democracy

Ingabire Umuhoza’s claim before the EACJ also includes other requests to remove restrictions preventing her from leaving Rwanda.

She hopes to attend the wedding of her son, the birth of her grandchild, or to visit her gravely ill husband in The Netherlands.

It primarily files “an urgent request for interim measures”, to prevent the “irreparable harm that would be caused from precluding her from registering as a presidential candidate” in line with the timetable for the Presidential election scheduled for 15 July 2024.

“Paul Kagame has all the power in his hands in Rwanda,” she told RFI. “Justice is not independent, nor the parliament. and only the presidency runs the country. How is this democratic? Kagame was the leader Rwanda needed after the genocide, he brought back order. But now the population has changed, is much younger, and needs a different kind of leadership.”


Digital media

EU probes Facebook, Instagram over election disinformation concerns

The EU on Tuesday launched an investigation into Meta’s Facebook and Instagram over concerns the platforms are failing to counter disinformation ahead of EU elections in June. 

The probe is under the EU’s new Digital Services Act, a landmark law that cracks down on illegal content online and forces the world’s biggest tech companies to do more to protect users online.

The European Commission said it suspected Meta’s moderation of adverts was “insufficient” and that an increase in paid spots in those conditions could harm “electoral processes and fundamental rights, including consumer protection rights”.

EU leaders are especially worried about Russian attempts to manipulate public opinion and undermine European democracy.

The probe seeks “to make sure that effective actions are taken in particular to prevent that Instagram’s and Facebook’s vulnerabilities are exploited by foreign interference,” EU internal market commissioner Thierry Breton said.

“We suspect that Meta’s moderation is insufficient, that it lacks transparency of advertisements and content moderation procedures,” commission executive vice president Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.

Lack of effective monitoring tools

Facebook and Instagram are among 23 “very large” online platforms that must comply with the DSA or risk fines up running up to six percent of a platform’s global turnover, or even a ban for egregious cases.

Other platforms include Amazon, Snapchat, TikTok and YouTube.

Meta did not comment on the investigation’s focus, instead stating more generally that the US company had “a well-established process for identifying and mitigating risks on our platforms”.

  • Big tech told to identify and label AI deepfakes ahead of EU elections
  • French cyber experts reveal vast network of Russian disinformation sites

A Meta spokesperson added: “We look forward to continuing our cooperation with the European Commission and providing them with further details of this work.”

Brussels is especially concerned that Meta does not have an “effective” tool in place to monitor elections ahead of EU-wide polls 6-9 June.

It pointed to Meta’s decision to shut down CrowdTangle, a digital tool considered vital in tracking viral falsehoods.

Millions of users

Meta has said it will replace CrowdTangle with a new Content Library, a technology still under development.

The commission said the company had five working days to explain what actions it has taken to mitigate the risks from decommissioning CrowdTangle.

The EU’s concern arises from the Meta platforms’ reach in the 450-million strong bloc. Both platforms have more than 260 million monthly active users respectively.

  • Tech giants grilled on their compliance with EU’s new Digital Markets Act

The focus of the EU investigation is wide, and also includes Meta’s move to reduce political content in Facebook and Instagram’s recommender systems.

Brussels fears this could be in violation with the DSA’s rules on transparency.

The EU also suspects that Meta’s mechanism to flag illegal content is not sufficiently easy to access or user-friendly, the commission said.

There is no deadline by which the probe must end.

Political advertising law

AFP currently works in 26 languages with Facebook’s fact-checking programme, in which Facebook pays to use fact checks from around 80 organisations globally on its platform, on WhatsApp and on Instagram.

The DSA is one law in a bolstered EU legal armoury to bring big tech to heel.

Brussels has shown it is is willing to flex its legal muscle under the DSA, opening investigations into Elon Musk’s X, TikTok and Chinese retailer AliExpress.

TikTok, owned by China’s ByteDance, bowed to pressure from the commission last week and suspended a rewards programme on its spinoff Lite app in France and Spain after Brussels threatened a suspension.

Another regulation is the political advertising law that will complement the DSA when most of its provisions will enter into force in late 2025.

(with AFP)


Geopolitics

Japanese PM sets off on six-day trip to France and Latin America

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida travelled to France on Wednesday for a visit that will also take in Brazil and Paraguay. Tokyo is seeking to boost ties with Paris and Latin America in areas of defence, climate and energy.

The six-day itinerary will see Kishida meet French President Emmanuel Macron as well as Brazilian leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

In December Macron and Kishida adopted a “common roadmap” aimed at intensifying cooperation in defence and nuclear power while also agreeing to “coordinate closely in the face of international crises”.

The 21-page document expressed worry about China’s growing assertiveness, especially in the South China Sea and to “oppose any action that … endangers regional stability and the international rule-based order”.

It also stressed the importance of the yearly meeting of South Pacific Defence Ministers (SPDMM), which was hosted last December by France in New Caledonia, and reiterated the joint support of Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression.

  • France blocks NATO plan for a liaison office in Tokyo

Security in the Pacific

France’s military presence in the Pacific consists of seven vessels, nine aircraft and some 7,000 military personnel.

France, Japan and other regional powers such as Australia routinely stage joint naval exercises, while last year France and Japan held the first ever ground force exercises, in New Caledonia.

The “Brunet-Takamori” drills were named after Jules Brunet, the French military officer whose story inspired the 2003 Hollywood movie The Last Samurai, and Takamori Saigo, a Meiji Restoration-era Japanese warlord.

Yet, France is walking a fine line between China and Japan. During Macron’s April 2023 trip to Beijing, his tone was markedly milder than that of other EU leaders.

After the NATO Vilnius meeting last June, France successfully opposed plans for the opening of a NATO-liaison office in Tokyo out of fear of antagonising Beijing.

In Paris, Kishida will meet with Macron and attend an OECD meeting to “lead the discussions on solutions to various economic and social issues”, according to his office.

  • Japan’s PM to meet President Macron, visit Notre-Dame cathedral

‘Year of Latin America’

He will then cross the Atlantic to Brazil.

“This year, Brazil is chairing the G20 and Peru is chairing APEC. This is the year of Latin America, and it is the focus of the world’s attention”, the Japanese government spokesperson said.

“Japan would like to seize this opportunity to strengthen ties with Latin America.”

During his meeting with Lula, Kishida is expected to sign a deal on bilateral cooperation in areas from climate change to decarbonisation and other environmental issues.

Kishida will also bring a delegation representing at least 40 companies eyeing greater Japanese investments in Brazil to bolster bilateral cooperation on green technologies.


DRC – France

Macron urges Rwanda to end support for DRC M23 rebels, withdraw troops

Rwanda must end support for M23 rebels in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and withdraw troops from its neighbour’s territory, French President Emmanuel Macron said Tuesday.

“Rwanda must halt its support for M23 and withdraw its forces from Congolese territory,” Macron said at a joint press conference with the DRC president, Felix Tshisekedi, adding that “we argue for territorial integrity on the African continent as well” as in Europe following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Tshisekedi welcomed Paris’s “even stronger support at the side of the Congolese people”, saying it showed his country “can count on France”.

He added that Kinshasa would be open to new talks with Kigali once its troops had left DRC territory.

The mostly Tutsi M23 rebellion began in late 2021, seizing large swathes of North Kivu province in the eastern DRC after eight years of relative peace.

According to DRC, the United Nations and Western countries, neighbouring Rwanda is backing the M23.

Tshisekedi called the rebels “an empty shell” used by Kigali to threaten the DRC.

“I could not fail to express myself on the tragedy that my country is experiencing,” he had said on Monday evening, ahead of events around business partnership, denouncing the “predatory and expansionist desires expressed by certain foreign powers.”

Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame has long brushed off the allegations, but said he is sympathetic to the M23 and accused the DRC of itself supporting a Hutu militia hostile to Kigali.

Tens of thousands of people have been displaced in recent fighting.

The UN estimated at the end of 2023 that nearly seven million people were displaced in the DR Congo, including 2.5 million in North Kivu province alone.

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) has also called on Presidents Macron and Tshisekedi to “place the search for peace, respect for the environment and human rights at the heart of this meeting,” in a statement including its member organisations in the DRC and in France.

 (with newswires) 


Paris Olympics 2024

French charity boycotts Olympic torch relay over Coca-Cola sponsorship

A French environmental charity says it has turned down the chance to take part in next Thursday’s Olympic torch relay in Marseille over Coca-Cola’s sponsorship of the event. 

“Clean My Calanques”, an NGO in the southern port city of Marseille that specialises in cleaning up beaches, received funding from the 2024 Paris Olympics organising committee for its work educating school children.

But on Monday it announced that it would not take part in the torch relay which begins in the city on 8 May, partly in opposition to financing from premium Olympics sponsor Coca-Cola.

“We are not going to carry a flame which is paid for by the same people who make us bend over,” to pick up waste, the founder of Clean My Calanques, Eric Akopian, told news agency AFP.

Polluting Olympic ‘goodies’

Set up in 2017, the organisation’s volunteers clean beaches around Marseille and in the nearby national Calanques park, whose narrow coves and azure waters make it a popular spot for tourists and locals.

Akopian said Coca-Cola was one of the world’s “most polluting” companies, with its bottles and cans some of the products found most frequently during the charity’s beach-combing operations.



In a video message posted on Instagram, he said the organisation had decided it was “not comfortable” with the commercial aspects of the Olympics, although he stressed they had “nothing against sports, or the athletes”.

 Akopian noted the mass production of so-called “goodies” linked to the Games such as stickers, key rings, pens or mascots.

“They can seem cute, but we know that we’re going to find them on the coastline,” he said.

  • Protecting Marseille’s beautiful bays from too many tourists

The battle to reduce plastic waste

The Olympic flame set sail from Athens last Saturday on board the Belem – a historic 19th-century three masted ship.

French authorities say up to 150,000 people are set to gather in Marseille for the start of the torch relay, where the Olympic flame will be carried through mainland France and the country’s overseas territories in the Caribbean and Indian Ocean. 

  • Olympic flame sets sail for France on historic ship

The Olympics will run from 26 July through to 11 August, followed by the Paralympics from 28 August to 8 September.

Paris 2024 organisers have worked with Coca-Cola to reduce plastic waste from its drinks packaging.

The group has agreed to install 700 newly designed drink fountains at Olympic venues, meaning that around 50 percent of soft drinks will be served without a plastic bottle, according to the organising committee.

  • Man behind recycled plastic seats in Olympic venues plots ways to stop the trash

(with AFP)


Migration

NGOs say France detained more migrants last year than in 2022

France held slightly more undocumented migrants in detention centres last year than in 2022, NGOs said on Tuesday, warning of increasing violence inside.

French authorities held 46,955 migrants in the detention centres across the country and in overseas territories in 2023, compared to 43,565 the previous year, a report by migrant rights groups including SOS Solidarity and France Terre d’Asile said.

In mainland France, the large majority were men, five percent were women and 87 individuals were children accompanied by their parents. More than 120 said they were under-18 but French authorities found them to be adults.

Most were Algerian, Tunisian and Moroccan.

On average they were held 28.5 days out of a maximum allowed of 90 days, a week more than the previous year.



Increasing violence

This had impacted the mental health of the detainees, sometimes leading to suicide attempts, self-mutilation, tensions and even violent incidents with people working with them, the report said.

Last year, four migrants died, it added.

“Never have our associations witnessed so many violent acts as in 2023,” the report said.

It added that detainees sometimes clashed with others held with them, but some also complained of police violence.

For example, at one centre in the Paris region, more than 40 migrants officially complained of “physical violence, threats or insults of racist or homophobic character, (and) sexual assaults” from police inside the facility, it said, adding others with similar stories likely did not come forward.

But of those held in detention centres, 15 percent fewer had been expelled from the country last year compared to 2022, despite an increase in deportations overall, the report said.

This contradicted “the political argument claiming that detention is the only way to allow removals”, it said.

The reported noted that “since 2022, France has been responsible for more than a third of all removal measures issued across the European Union“.

(with AFP)


Israel – Hamas conflict

Council suspends funding to Paris university amid pro-Palestinian protests

The Paris regional council sparked controversy on Tuesday by temporarily suspending funding for Sciences Po, one of the country’s most prestigious universities, after it was rocked by tense pro-Palestinian demonstrations. 

“I have decided to suspend all regional funding for Sciences Po until calm and security have been restored at the school,” Valérie Pécresse, the right-wing head of the greater Paris Ile-de-France region, said on social media on Monday.

She took aim at “a minority of radicalised people calling for anti-Semitic hatred” and accused hard-left politicians of seeking to exploit the tensions.

They should not “dictate their law to the entire educational community,” she said.

The regional council‘s support for the Paris Institute of Political Studies – known as Sciences Po – includes €1 million “planned for 2024 as part of a state contract (CPER)”, Pécresse’s entourage told French news agency AFP.

Other suspended funds were linked to hosting overseas mentors, planned “for spring and the start of the school year” later in 2024 the source said.

Maintain dialogue

On Tuesday, the university’s acting administrator, Jean Basseres, said he regretted the decision.

“The Ile-de-France region is an essential partner of Sciences Po, and I wish to maintain dialogue on the position expressed by Mrs Pecresse”, he told French daily Le Monde in an interview published Tuesday.

  • Students at prestigious Paris university protest over Israel-Gaza war

In an echo of tense demonstrations rocking many top US universities, students at Sciences Po have staged a number of protests, with some students furious over the Israel-Hamas war and ensuing humanitarian crisis in the besieged Palestinian territory of Gaza.

Police cleared a rally last Thursday but protesters maintained their sit-in on Friday. Clashes were reported after the arrival of about 50 pro-Israeli demonstrators.

However, with exams scheduled to start soon, the university said the pro-Palestinian students had agreed to call off their action in return for an “internal debate” about the university’s ties to Israel.

University authorities also agreed to drop all disciplinary proceedings against demonstrators, said a note sent to students and faculty by Jean Basseres.

No plans to cut ties with Israel

However both Basseres and Higher Education Minister Sylvie Retailleau said there were no plans to suspend Sciences Po‘s collaboration with universities in Israel.

Retailleau also said on Tuesday the French government had no plans to suspend funding for Sciences Po.

Speaking to broadcaster France 2, she estimated the state’s funding for the university at €75 million euros. She said there had been “no anti-Semitic remarks” and no violence had been committed during the demonstrations.

  • Pro-Palestinian protesters disrupt Paris’s Sorbonne university

Critics on the left have denounced Pécresse’s announcement.

“It’s shameful and an absolute scandal,” said Mathilde Panot, the head of hard-left France Unbowed (LFI) deputies in parliament, adding the behaviour of the students was a “credit to the world and a credit to our country”.

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

The war in Gaza began with an attack by Palestinian militants Hamas on Israel on 7 October that resulted in the deaths of around 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

In retaliation, Israel launched 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 AFP)


South African elections

Surprise comeback of South Africa’s ex-president Jacob Zuma could challenge ANC

South Africa’s ex-president Jacob Zuma is running a visible and noisy campaign for May’s elections against his former party, the ruling African National Congress (ANC), another bump on a difficult road for the historical post-apartheid party. 

Zuma, now 82, announced in December he would campaign for the small radical uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK, or the “Spear of the Nation” in Zulu) party.

South Africans will vote for parliament on 29 May. Elected members then vote for the president. 

This election is likely to be the tightest since the introduction of democratic rule with the end of the apartheid era, in 1994.

After 30 years in power, the African National Congress (ANC) risks losing its absolute majority and being forced to share power in a coalition government.

Marianne Séverin, associate researcher at Sciences Po Bordeaux a specialist in South Africa told RFI that “Jacob Zuma could drain ANC votes in KwaZulu Natal” the second largest province of the country.



New campaign, old controversy

On Tuesday, Zuma denied forging the signatures required to enable the uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK) party run in the elections

The MK party is bracing for a court pronouncement on whether its leader can be on the ballot or not.

Scandal-hit Jacob Zuma was the fourth president of democratic South Africa between 2009 and 2018.

He was later was forced out of office after being accused of corruption.

In 2021, he was jailed for contempt of court after refusing to appear before a corruption inquiry.

His jailing in July 2021 triggered unrest that left more than 350 dead, South Africa’s worst episode of violence since the fall of apartheid.

 Zuma spent only two months behind bars despite having been sentenced to 15 months.. He was released initially for health reasons, after which President Cyril Ramaphosa commuted his sentence.

An anti-corruption commission was launched to investigate the public money he had allegedly embezzled during his nine years in power.

And a damning 2022 report concluded that Zuma had played a central role in state corruption.

He is due to face trial in a bribery affair more than 20 years old where he is accused of having pocketed hundreds of thousands of dollars from defence firm Thales, one of the companies handed lucrative arms contracts.

Mandela’s legacy

In recent months, Zuma has overcome an additional string of legal challenges, launched by the government, seeking to disqualify the small party he has aligned himself with from elections and trying to invalidate his candidacy.

  • South Africa’s Zuma wins court bid to run in May election

His new party’s name, MK, harks back to that of the armed wing of the ANC when it fought white-minority rule.

Playing on his legacy, Zuma has urged his supporters to follow him and not the ANC, and to “take back the country”. 

Zuma spent 10 years in Robben Island prison with Nelson Mandela.

When the ANC was forced into exile under apartheid, he was a fearsome head of intelligence, cracking down on traitors and regime informers.

According to an Ipsos survey released last week, the ANC is on course to score below 50 percent for the first time since it came to power in 1994 when apartheid ended.

Meanwhile, the MK could score more than eight percent.

Zuma is trying to capitalise on his singular legacy. 

According to Séverin, if  the number of corruption charges soared in the ANC under Zuma, Zuma claims that the ANC is trying to blame him for their own  problems by any means. 

The powerful orator is still very popular, despite the corruption charges, and has stepped up his attacks on the ANC.

He says he “no longer recognises” the party, denouncing its leaders as “traitors”.

 (with newswires)


Crime

France seeks clampdown on teen violence after boy’s fatal stabbing

France’s government has sought wide political support to respond to teen violence after a 15-year-old boy was stabbed to death by another teenager at the weekend, the latest in a string of youth attacks that have shocked the country. 

French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal has scheduled a series of meetings with parties across the political spectrum.

France has seen a series of attacks on adolescents by their peers in recent weeks, with far-right and conservative politicians citing the violence as they slam the government’s immigration policies, weeks before European Parliament elections.

In the latest attack, a 15-year-old was killed in a brawl in the central French town of Chateauroux on Saturday.

The suspect is a boy of “Afghan origin”, a source close to the investigation told French news agency AFP.

He and his 37-year-old mother were detained and expected to appear before a judge on Monday, with prosecutors saying there is evidence suggesting that she might have been involved.

  • French PM says boarding school key step in preventing juvenile violence

The motive for the street fight was not immediately clear. However, the same source said it “had nothing to do with Islamism”.

Earlier this month Attal announced a series of measures to crack down on teenage violence in and around schools as the government seeks to reclaim ground on security from the far-right ahead of June elections.

The announcement came after a 15-year-old was beaten to death outside Paris in early April.

Attal has floated the possibility of children in exceptional cases being denied the right to special treatment on account of their age in legal cases. In France, the age of majority is 18.

Later Monday, Attal was to receive Manuel Bompard, a senior figure in the France Unbowed (LFI) hard-left party, and also meet with representatives of President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist camp.

‘Savagery and extreme violence’

Pointing to the latest attack, far-right and conservative politicians once again accused the French government of not doing enough on security and immigration.

“This is another tragedy linked to our migration policy”, Jordan Bardella, whose anti-immigration National Rally (RN) has soared ahead of the government coalition in polls, said on X.

Attal and Bardella are set to meet on Thursday.

Bruno Retailleau, the head of the right-wing Republicans faction in the upper house of parliament, called for “a penal revolution and a genuine immigration law”.

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

Saturday’s victim, a 15-year-old apprentice chef and son of a restaurant owner, had no previous criminal record and was accompanied by a friend, also an apprentice, at the time of the violence, according to sources.

Authorities have launched an investigation into voluntary manslaughter.

The suspected attacker “has never been convicted of a criminal offence and has no criminal record”, according to the regional prosecutor.

But earlier this month he had been placed under judicial supervision following other infractions.

Second attack

A witness interviewed by AFP said the boy was among a group of assailants who had attacked a 22-year-old man in a local park a week earlier.

Chateauroux Mayor Gil Avérous told reporters that the victim’s parents “do not want this to be exploited for political gain”.

“This is very hard for the town,” Avérous told AFP.

“The murderer has been arrested twice in recent weeks,” the mayor also pointed out.

“Both the perpetrator and the victim are 15 years old. For me, this is proof of savagery and extreme violence that our society is seeing among minors”, said Averous.

“There is an urgent need to redefine policies in this area”, he added.

 (AFP) 


Democratic Republic of Congo – France

Tshisekedi visit to France likely to focus on war in eastern DRC and commerce

French President Emmanuel Macron met his Congolese counterpart Felix Tshisekedi on Monday in Paris. The visit, which will continue tomorrow, Tuesday, will focus on business partnerships, but is also likely to touch on the war in eastern DRC.

Felix Tshisekedi has already visited Paris in the past for international summits, but this is his first official visit to France.

The French president previously visited Kinshasa in March 2023 as part of a tour of Central Africa.

During that visit Macron pledged 34 million euros of aid to Congo’s conflict-hit east and said any party seeking to derail peace efforts there should face sanctions.

  • Macron warns of sanctions if east Congo peace process is derailed

For this visit, Macron has organised a ceremony for Tshisekedi at the Hôtel des Invalides in Paris as well as meetings with political representatives at the National Assembly and Senate on Monday. He will visit the Élysée Palace on Tuesday. 

Business meetings between French and Congolese partners are also scheduled for Tuesday during a Franco-Congolese economic forum organised at the conference centre in Bercy.

Meanwhile, Medef, the group representing French business leaders, will also host roundtable discussions with Congolese guests. It says it wants to foster French investment in the DRC, especially in agriculture and in the energy sector. 

Congolese business leaders intend to plead for investments for small and medium-sized companies.

Demands for peace

But for the Congolese president, the main point of discussion is the situation in the east of his country, according to diplomats talking to RFI last week.  

Tina Salama, the spokesperson for the Congolese presidency, told RFI that  Tshisekedi’s priority is to resolve the crisis in the Great Lakes region.

“France is the permanent member of the United Nations Security Council,” she said, “which is responsible for proposing resolutions and declarations relating to the situation in the DRC.”

Ahead of his arrival in Paris, Tshisekedi met with the ambassadors of Belgium, the United States and France to discuss the security and humanitarian situation in eastern DRC.

The three also went to Goma to assess the needs of the people displaced by the conflict in the east of the country

Tshisekedi also met Germany’s Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Sunday in Berlin.

 

Earlier this week, the French president encouraged the resumption of high-level talks between Rwanda’s Paul Kagame and Tshisekedi.

Yet, Congolese authorities are still waiting for a clear position from Paris regarding the presence of Rwandan troops on Congolese territory, and their alleged support to the violent rebellion led by the M23 group.

 


Theatre

Paris theatre shares secrets of staging same play for record-breaking 67 years

The Bald Soprano, the debut play by Romanian-French avant-gardist Eugène Ionesco, has been running in a tiny venue in Paris’s Latin Quarter for a record 67 years. RFI looks at what’s behind its staying power – and what it’s like for the theatre’s unique 45-member company, some of whom have been performing the same absurdist roles for decades.

When La Cantatrice Chauve (The Bald Soprano) premiered at Paris’s Theatre de la Huchette in May 1957, a well-known critic at Le Figaro newspaper announced it would “drive audiences away from theatre”. 

He was wrong. On 2 March this year, just ahead of the 30th anniversary of the author’s death in Paris, the theatre celebrated the play’s 20,000th performance. More than two million spectators have settled into its 85 red-velvet seats since it began.

Teamed up with another short Ionesco play, La Leçon (The Lesson), the two works have been running five nights a week at that same theatre for 67 years, interrupted only by the 2020 Covid pandemic.

“We’ve had two shows since 1957, it’s a world record of representations in the same theatre,” la Huchette’s director Franck Desmedt says proudly in his poster-lined basement office below the stage.

“It’s a unique story. We have 45 actors and it’s the last [private] theatre to have a permanent troupe. This theatre is very rich because of those people. It’s like a family.”

Didier Bailly became part of the family 38 years ago. “Joining the Theatre de la Huchette is like joining a religion,” he laughs.

Family members are all shareholders in the theatre.

“I feel very privileged to be part of this company,” says actor Hélène Cohen, who joined “between 30 to 40 years ago”. 

“It’s more difficult for us than male actors – there are fewer roles for older women, so we’re lucky to be in the troupe and to be able to carry on in the profession.”

Listen to a report at the Theatre de la Huchette on the Spotlight on France podcast:

The same old, popular show

The Bald Soprano is set in England in the late 19th century, in the home of the Smiths, who after 20 years of marriage have nothing left to say to one another.

It begins with the clock chiming 17 times.

“Oh, it’s 9 o’clock,” says Mrs Smith, setting off a string of ever more nonsensical dialogue and non sequiturs, as she darns socks and Mr Smith buries his head in The Financial Times to ignore her, smoking a pipe and clicking his tongue.

They fill an empty space with empty words, twisting the conventions both of theatre and polite society.

The Martins, another couple who no longer recognise one another, join them for dinner. A maid comes in and out, is murdered; a fireman dressed as a policeman pops by “looking for fire”.

There is silence, followed by a lot of shouting, but no plot as such. 

Ionesco called it an “anti-play”. When asked what he meant by it all, he replied “absolutely nothing” – but “a superior nothing”.

When the piece was first performed in 1950, audiences were not ready for such absurdity and it closed after only 25 performances.

But when Nicolas Bataille and Marcel Cuvelier, Theatre de la Huchette’s avant-garde directors, took a gamble on Ionesco in 1957, it gradually found a home, and an audience.

Bataille had the idea of acting it deadpan rather than playing for laughs, Bailly explains. “It’s the contrast that brings out the black humour.”

Meanwhile Jacques Noël’s set design also broke the codes of the time in privileging the colour green – considered bad luck in French theatre.

Keeping it real

La Huchette has stuck religiously to Bataille’s original staging and Noël’s set design. That’s part of its charm, but acting in a time warp seems like it might get old.

“Not at all!”, laughs Cohen, who is currently playing the role of Mrs Martin, having started out aged 20 playing the pupil in The Lesson.

“We never stick with the same partner, that’s what’s great. It means you have to keep adapting. There are always surprises.”

The 45 members of the company also work intermittently, around two weeks every two months.

“The rest of the time we work on other projects so it’s stimulating. When you come back to the role you’re no longer the same person,” Cohen adds.

Bailly runs a weekly rehearsal for those picking up after a break to keep performances fresh and fine-tuned. There might be the odd tweak to a gesture, but given Bataille’s stage direction was so precise, there’s no question of improvising.

“Sometimes you think it’s a good idea to bring this or that, but more often than not it isn’t,” he says cheekily.

A play for our time

The Bald Soprano‘s staying power is largely due to the “fantastic” text, Bailly believes. 

Couples still struggle to communicate, and social media has arguably sped up the breakdown in communication. Meanwhile politicians, trapped in the jargon of communications, struggle to interact meaningfully with the public.

The play was written just four years after World War II, Bailly points out, so with a background of “fear for order, authority but also of fascism”.

Bernard the fireman, dressed in a Gestapo-inspired black leather coat, has a key role in the play.

“He comes to ask them if they’ve hidden fire, but you can hear: ‘are you hiding Jews, or drugs?’”, Bailly says.

“It’s eternal, the fear of fascism. And now, when in Europe there’s the shadow of the extreme-right political parties coming, it’s still relevant.”

Neither bald nor soprano 

Desmedt first saw the play when he was six years old and people like him who’ve grown up with it now make up around a third of the audience, often returning with their children or grandchildren.

Then there are tourists intrigued to see the original production, and schoolkids studying the play.

“We’ve been studying it in English but my teacher said I absolutely had to see the original version,” says Sophia-Rose, a drama student over from the UK.

“I love it, the fact it doesn’t makes sense, makes sense to me. And seeing it in the original and thinking about all those actors playing in this little theatre and the people who’ve kept it going over all those years is really special.”

To encourage foreign audiences, subtitles in English were recently introduced on Wednesdays, and they’ll become a daily feature during the Paris Olympics and Paralympics.

It’s useful, but can be a bit disconcerting since “the audience tend to look up to read rather than watching the actors”, Bailly notes.

Perhaps Ionesco would have approved; it’s all part of the unpredictability of live theatre.

Sometimes the company have added their own absurdist touches, like exchanging gender roles with their onstage spouses.

“I played Mrs Smith but not as a drag queen, only the costume, no make-up or wig,” says Bailly.

“It was a dream! I was a bald Mrs Smith. And she was not a soprano!”

That’s altogether appropriate: there never has been a soprano, bald or otherwise, in Ionesco‘s play anyway.


This story appeared on the Spotlight on France podcast, episode 110.


France

French screen star Depardieu to go on trial for sexual assault in October

French screen legend Gerard Depardieu will go on trial for sexual assault in October, the Paris prosecutor said on Monday after police questioned the actor over claims made by two women, the latest in a litany of such charges.

French police on Monday detained actor Gerard Depardieu for questioning after two women accused him of sexual assault, police sources have revealed.

The 75-year-old actor, who has starred in more than 200 films and television series, was charged with rape in 2020 and was forced to put his career on hold last autumn as allegations of sexual harassment and assault mounted against him. He denies the accusations.

After police questioned Depardieu on Monday, the Paris prosecutor said Depardieu would face charges over the assaults allegedly committed in September 2021 during the filming of The Green Shutters movie.  

“Gerard Depardieu was given a summons to appear before the criminal court. He will be tried in October 2024 for sexual assaults likely to have been committed in September 2021 to the detriment of two victims, on the set of the film ‘The Green Shutters‘,” said a statement.

  • French celebrities distance themselves from Depardieu, accused of rape

Earlier, Depardieu was questioned, and later released, over allegations from two women that he assaulted them on film sets, one in 2021 and the other in 2014.

The actor’s lawyers, Christian Saint-Palais and Beatrice Geissmann Achille, have not commented.

The first woman accuses Depardieu of having assaulted her when she was a member of the crew on the 2022 feature film The Green Shutters.

The set designer, who filed a formal complaint in February, told the investigative website Mediapart that Depardieu grabbed her as she left the set in a private hotel in Paris.

She alleged he groped her waist and stomach, moved up to her breasts and made obscene comments before his bodyguards removed him.

‘Certainly other victims’

“It’s a relief,” the woman’s lawyer, Carine Durrieu-Diebolt, told AFP after the announcement of a trial.

“There are certainly other victims,” she said, adding that up to 25 women have spoken out about “acts ranging from contempt to sexist violence, including harassment and sexual assault. It’s time for him to be judged.”

Anouk Grinberg, who starred with Depardieu on The Green Shutters, has described how she and others on set were treated to his salacious nonsense from morning to night.

“When film producers hire Depardieu on a film, they know they are hiring an aggressor,” she told the French news agency AFP.

Grinberg said producers of The Green Shutters had supposedly appointed someone to deal with harassment issues but that she did nothing.

A third woman has alleged Depardieu groped her all over and made inappropriate remarks while she was an assistant on the set of 2015 film Le magician et le Siamois, she told regional newspaper Le Courrier de l’Ouest.

Depardieu will not face charges over those claims because the statute of limitations had expired, her lawyer Durrieu-Diebolt said.

“If we had a sliding statute of limitations for adults like we do for minors, these women could have had legal recourse,” Durrieu-Diebolt said.

Stripped of top honour

Depardieu already faces a rape charge, as well as claims of assault from more than a dozen women – all of which he has denied.

“Never ever have I abused a woman,” Depardieu wrote in Le Figaro newspaper in October.

Police in 2020 charged Depardieu with rape and sexual assault after actor Charlotte Arnould alleged he raped her in 2018 when she was 22 and anorexic.

Spanish journalist and author Ruth Baza said in December she had filed a criminal complaint in her home country against Depardieu, alleging he raped her in 1995 in Paris.

  • French actor Depardieu stripped of Quebec honor over misogynistic comments

Despite the events having passed the statute of limitations, she said she decided to file her complaint in the hope that it would help other people to do the same.

Debate over whether to show his films intensified at the end of 2023 after a television report showed the actor repeatedly making obscene comments in the presence of a female interpreter during a 2018 trip to North Korea.

His wax sculpture was hurriedly removed from the Musée Grévin waxwork museum in Paris and Canada’s Quebec region stripped him of its top honour.

(with AFP)


France

French media boss Arnaud Lagardere resigns after embezzlement charge

French media baron Arnaud Lagardere resigned Tuesday as chief executive of the sprawling group of the same name after being charged with misuse of corporate funds.

Lagardere, who sold the firm built by his father to media giant Vivendi in November, plans to appeal a temporary ban on holding management positions resulting from the charges, his company said.

The firm operates the profitable Relay chain of airport and train station stores, airport duty-free shops, major performance venues, as well as media including radio station Europe 1 and Sunday paper the Journal du dimanche and France’s top book publisher Hachette.

Now 63, Arnaud Lagardere inherited his father Jean-Luc’s former business empire on his death in 2003.

He was charged on Monday after a day of questioning by specialist financial investigators.

A source familiar with the case said the charges originated in part from a complaint by activist investor Amber Capital, as well as market watchdogs.

‘Financing his personal spending’

Lagardere is suspected of “financing his lifestyle and his personal spending from the funds” of two of his companies, the source added.

The firm said the charges “largely relate to companies belonging personally” to Arnaud Lagardere, rather than those that are part of the publicly-traded Lagardere SA group.

He was however charged with “vote-buying, abuse of power and spreading false or misleading information” in 2018-19, the group acknowledged, saying the former CEO “strongly contests” the accusations.

The business built by the elder Lagardere by merging aerospace firm Matra and publisher Hachette has gradually eroded under his son’s stewardship.

He sold off the EADS aerospace arm as well as several media houses within a decade as debts grew.

And in 2021 Arnaud Lagardere had to give up a corporate structure that had allowed him and his father to control the company with a stake of less than 10 percent, opening the empire up to further dismemberment.

The November sale to Vivendi – controlled by the family of billionaire Vincent Bollore – sealed the end of Lagardere as an independent firm.

  • French business tycoon Vincent Bolloré retires, but unlikely to let go

“We are now part of the Vivendi family. On a personal note, we’re entering the Bollore family, which I find even more flattering,” Arnaud Lagardere told the group’s annual general meeting last week.

The younger Lagardere has long had a close personal connection to Vincent Bollore and lives in the same gated community in the western Paris neighbourhood of Auteuil.

(with AFP)


Health

Cholera cases in the French department of Mayotte double in two days

The number of cholera cases in the French department of Mayotte has doubled in two days, according to local health officials, who identified the first locally-acquired cases last week. The island in the Indian Ocean has been battling a cholera epidemic since the start of the year, brought by migrants from Democratic Republic of Congo, transiting through neighbouring Comoros islands.

Health authorities in Mayotte on Sunday said they had identified 26 cases of cholera, compared to 13 two days before, and the hospital capacity to treat patients is already stretched.

France’s poorest department

“The situation at the hospital in Mayotte, in terms of human resources, is very critical, especially in emergency services,” Olivier Brahic, the director of Mayotte’s Regional health agency (ARS), told a news conference.

Cholera is an infectious disease typically causing severe diarrhoea, vomiting and muscle cramps and spreads easily under insufficient sanitation conditions

Earlier this month authorities launched an operation against unsanitary housing, insecurity and illegal immigration in Mayotte, France’s poorest department.

Many migrants travel to Mayotte from the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is facing a cholera epidemic that killed hundreds of people last year.

On Friday the ARS said that it had identified three patients who contracted cholera in Mayotte, the first cases that originated on the island.

The three – a woman and a man and a baby who are unrelated to each other in the Koungou region – were probably contaminated through contact with a sick person who did not seek treatment.

The ten previous identified cases were people who had arrived on the island from elsewhere.

A vaccination campaign is being organised on the ground, according to the ARS, which was expecting additional medical staff to arrive Saturday, to go out in the field and encourage people to get treatment.

(with AFP)


Cannes Film Festival 2024

French stars Omar Sy and Eva Green part of 2024 Cannes Film Festival jury

The eight-member jury for the 77th edition of the Cannes Film Festival includes French actor and producer Omar Sy and actress Eva Green, presided by Barbie director Greta Gerwig.

Festival organisers unveiled the jury Monday, with four men and four women, including Omar Sy, one of the biggest names in French cinema, known internationally for hit Netflix show Lupin.

Eva Green, one of the most memorable James Bond actors, recently played Milady in The Three Musketeers and has appeared in a string of Hollywood blockbusters.

Joining them is Oscar-nominated actor Lily Gladstone, who won a string of awards for her performance in Martin Scorsese’s 2023 Killers of the Flower Moon.

The 37-year-old will be the youngest member of the jury, which also includes Turkish screenwriter and photographer Ebru Ceylan, Lebanese director and screenwriter Nadine Labaki, Spanish director and screenwriter Juan Antonio Bayona, Italian actor Pierfrancisco Favino, and Japanese director Kore-eda Hirokazu, who won the 2018 Palme d’Or for Shoplifters.

  • American director Greta Gerwig chosen as jury president for 2024 Cannes Festival
  • Cannes reveals 19-film line-up featuring Coppola and Cronenberg

     

Palme d’or

The Jury will award the 2024 Palme d’Or – the festival’s top prize – to one of the 22 films in competition, which include Francis Ford Coppola’s with his long-awaited epic, Megalopolis.

Coppola has twice won the Palme d’Or, for The Conversation in 1974 and for Apocalypse Now in 1979, which was not finished when it premiered at the festival.

A biopic of Donald Trump, The Apprentice, by Iran-born director Ali Abbasi, is also in the running.

The winners will be announced on 25 May at the closing ceremony.

Late additions

There have been late additions to the festival’s line-up in recent days, including The Seed of the Sacred Fig by Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof, who has faced prison time for criticising the government. It is unclear if he will be able to attend the festival.

Oliver Stone will present his latest documentary, Lula, about the current president of Brazil.

Actor Emma Stone and Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos will present Kinds of Kindness, after their 2023 collaboration, Poor Things, won Lanthimos the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, while Stone picked up an Oscar for Best Actress.

Un Certain Regard

Five jury members have also been selected for the Un Certain Regard, chaired this year by Canadian actor, director, screenwriter and producer Xavier Dolan.

He will be joined by French-Senegalese screenwriter and director Maïmouna Doucouré, Moroccan director, screenwriter and producer Asmae El Moudir, German-Luxembourg actress Vicky Krieps, and American film critic, director, and writer Todd McCarthy.

The parallel competition showcases art and discovery films by young auteurs.

This year, 18 films have been selected, including 8 first films. The 2023 top prize went to director Molly Manning Walker’s debut feature How to Have Sex.

(with AFP)


Togo

Togo heads to polls amid claims of power grab by President Gnassingbé

Some four million Togolese are to vote Monday for legislative and regional elections that have been twice delayed. Opponents accuse longtime ruler Faure Gnassingbe of seeking to extend his grip on power after MPs signed off on controversial changes to the constitution.

Campaigning was rushed on the back of parliament’s approval of constitutional reforms that would allow lawmakers to elect the president instead of a direct vote by the people.

The move transformed Togo, one of the world’s poorest countries, from a presidential system to a parliamentary one. 

It establishes new prime minister-style position called President of the council of ministers, to be held by the leader of the biggest party.

‘Power grab’

Opposition parties denounced the reform as a ploy by Gnassingbé and his ruling Union for the Republic party – which has a majority in the 91-seat National Assembly – to get around presidential term limits.

The 57-year-old leader will likely assume the new position when his term expires next year.

“We are calling on the heads of our institutions to refer the matter to the Constitutional Court,” Maître Claude Amegan, who leads the Collective against impunity in Togo, told RFI.

  • Togo parliament approves contested constitutional reforms

Gnassingbe has been in office since 2005 after succeeding his father, who had remained in power for nearly 38 years following a military coup.

He then later won re-election in multiple votes that were condemned as fraudulent by his rivals.

While opposition groups boycotted the last legislative elections in 2018, this time round they have mobilised.

“We are going to the elections,” Jean-Pierre Fabre, president of the National Alliance for Change, told RFI.

“We have noticed that it is worse not to run or to boycott. We are asking the population to vote massively for us, to correct the problems in the electoral register.”

Protest ban

In the lead up to campaigning, protests against the constitutional reforms were banned, further ratcheting up tensions.

Public protests have been outlawed since 2022 after a gendarme was killed in an attack at a market in the capital Lome.

The African Union’s Commission on human and peoples’ rights and rights groups condemned the restrictions on the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression.

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

Meanwhile the West African regional bloc Ecowas was accused of failing to enforce democratic rules in its member states after a fact-finding mission sent to Togo last week did not denounce the constitutional reforms.

Alioune Tine, founder of the Dakar-based thinktank AkricaJom Centre, told RFI that Ecowas should sanction heads of states when they seek to hold on to power undemocratically.

Togo became independent in 1960, after being colonised by the German, British and French empires successively.

It has only been through a brief area of democratic freedom in the early 1960s. 

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. 


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

Madhya Pradesh: the Heart of beautiful India

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In partnership with Madhya Pradesh’s tourism board.


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

Exploring Malaysia’s natural and cultural diversity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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