rfi 2024-05-21 01:17:24



US – KENYA

Haiti, trade top agenda as Kenya’s Ruto makes historic state visit to US

Kenyan President William Ruto is this week making the first state visit to the US by an African leader in 15 years. The crisis in Haiti, where Kenya has pledged troops to quel gang violence, is topping the agenda – as are trade and security partnerships.

Ruto will meet US President Joe Biden in Washington on Thursday for talks that will largely focus on Kenya’s plan to lead a UN-backed multinational mission to restore order in Haiti. 

Nairobi has offered to send 1,000 military personnel. While several other countries have pledged forces, the US and other major nations have ruled out putting their own troops on the ground.

A first contingent of Kenyan police is expected to make the 12,000-kilometre journey to the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince this week – despite a fresh court challenge in Nairobi against the deployment.



Money for Haiti mission

Ruto has defended what he calls a “mission for humanity” in the western hemisphere’s poorest nation, which has suffered from poverty, political instability and natural disasters for decades.

But a new lawsuit filed last week is seeking to hold Ruto’s government in contempt for “blatantly” ignoring a January court order prohibiting the deployment as unconstitutional and illegal.

Funding could also prove a stumbling block for the mission.

The US is the largest backer of the force, pledging more than $300 million since the Haiti crisis intensified several years ago, but other countries have been slow to offer support. 

Ruto will demand “the US do more to rally financial support for the UN basket fund”, said Meron Elias, an analyst with the International Crisis Group.

“Kenya also wants the US to commit greater backing to stemming the flow of arms into Haiti, including from US ports in Florida.”

  • Kenya confirms security mission to Haiti as transitional administration plans collapse

Trade deal  

Having begun his US visit in Atlanta on Monday, Ruto is due to meet a congressional delegation on Wednesday to call for the extension of a free trade agreement – the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) – which eliminates import tariffs on goods from eligible African nations.

The pact expires in 2025, prompting African leaders to seek clarity on any future arrangements.

Most of Kenya’s imports are from China – also one of its biggest bilateral creditors – and Washington has been keen to eat into Beijing’s clout in the region. 

Kenya began talks with the United States on a free trade agreement in 2020 but nothing has been signed.

  • Kenyan court says police cannot deploy to Haiti mission

‘Extremely disappointed’

A request for Ruto to address a joint session of Congress fell through after Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson declined to extend an invitation.

Last week, Democrats accused Johnson of disrespecting Africa, saying they were “extremely disappointed” by the decision.

The last African leader to address Congress was Liberia’s Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the continent’s first female elected head of state, in 2006.

The visit “feels a bit like a fig leaf” for Africa, the Center for Strategic and International Studies said, as it comes after Biden broke a promise to visit Africa last year.

Kenyan historian Macharia Munene also cautioned that Nairobi’s future relationship with Washington would hinge on the outcome of the US presidential election in November. 


G7 – UKRAINE

G7 mulls tapping frozen Russian funds for €30bn loan to Ukraine

Finance ministers from the Group of Seven major democracies meeting in Italy this week are set to discuss a European Union plan to use the income from frozen Russian assets to help Ukraine’s war effort.

This Thursday’s meeting of finance ministers in the northern Italian town of Stresa is set to do the groundwork for enabling G7 heads of government to reach a final decision on using frozen Russian funds at a summit in southern Italy in June.

The G7 froze around €270 billion worth of financial assets soon after Moscow’s attack on its neighbour in February 2022.

Since then, the European Union and other G7 countries have debated whether and how to use the funds to help Ukraine – specifically a €30 billion loan to Kyiv

The G7 comprises the United States, Japan, Germany, France, Britain, Italy and Canada.

The United States has proposed seizing the assets in their entirety, but Europe has balked, citing risks to the euro currency and potential legal repercussions.

The G7 is, however, expected to support the EU’s line to use the extraordinary revenues from the frozen Russian assets to the benefit of Ukraine.



Question of legality 

The talks will be focused on using income from the assets – not the assets themselves – and any decision must have the backing of the EU and a solid legal basis.

The frozen assets are immobilised and can’t be accessed by Moscow – but they still belong to Russia.

While governments can generally freeze property without difficulty, turning that property into forfeited assets that can be sold for the benefit of Ukraine requires an extra layer of judicial procedure, including a legal basis and adjudication in a court.

In the face of European resistance, Washington has more recently proposed using the assets as collateral to provide loans for Ukraine.

For more than a year, officials from multiple countries have debated the legality of confiscating the money and sending it to Ukraine. 

  • France and EU support for Ukraine ‘will not waver’, Macron vows

The European Union already has begun to set aside windfall profits generated from frozen Russian central bank assets, with the bloc estimating the interest on that money could provide around €3 billion each year.

In March, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told reporters: “The Russians will not be very happy. The amount of money – 3 billion per year – is not extraordinary, but it is not negligible”.



EU leaders ‘hesitant’

Still, some European leaders have expressed hesitation about moving forward with a plan to formally seize Russia’s assets in Europe. 

European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde said at a Council on Foreign Relations event earlier this month that confiscating Russian assets “is something that needs to be looked at very carefully” and could “start breaking the international legal order.”

The reaction from G7 finance ministries so far has been cautious. 

The French Finance Ministry said in a statement: “France supports and shares the fact that more resources are needed for Ukraine. We have taken note of the US proposal and we will work together technically at the G7 level and at the European level to determine the best option.”

  • Macron salutes Zelensky’s G7 tour as Biden pledges more military aid for Ukraine

Meanwhile, Japan’s Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki said last Friday that any proposals to use the frozen Russian assets must comply with international law.

The US Treasury reportedly maintains there is a unified goal among the G7 countries to provide more money to Ukraine, and to demonstrate to Russian President Vladimir Putin that he cannot simply “wait out our coalition”.

The proposal to use revenue from Russian assets as collateral for a bond is still on the table – and G7 ministers will discuss its feasibility – but any final decision will be up to G7 leaders.


Cannes Film Festival 2024

Postcard from Cannes #4: the curveball of cinema

The Cannes Film Festival is a place where audacity is rewarded and experimentation is encouraged. But ordinary people and their struggles also find their place on the screen, in-between the magic and the glamour. One thing is certain, Cannes is like a curveball – you never know what you’re going to get or quite how you’re going to react.

The official selection is definitely full of surprises this year, with first-time directors rubbing shoulders with a host of experienced veterans.

In the running for the coveted Palme d’Or is the latest offering by French director Jacques Audiard – who wowed Cannes audiences in 2015 with Dheepan, that won the top prize.

With Emilia Perez, he has taken the idea of “experimental” into a new dimension.

The pitch goes something like this: mix a Mexican cartel boss wanting a sex change, a lonely lawyer ready to help him with a cast of singing and dancing characters, and you have an explosive cocktail.

  • Cannes reveals 22-film line-up featuring Coppola and Cronenberg

This is in part thanks to the trio of women leading the film, each with their own very strong character. Zoe Saldana is the lawyer yearning to be more appreciated in her job and find love, Selena Gomez is the cartel boss’ wife while Karla Sofia Gascon shines as both the cartel boss Manitas and Emilia Perez.

This is Audiard’s first foray into the musical comedy genre and the film took four years to make – indeed a labour of love.

It was completely shot at studios in Paris, spoken and sung mostly in Spanish, providing quite the international melting pot.

On paper it sounds completely crazy, but somehow it works.

By linking drama, comedy and something in-between it leaves the audience stunned and convinced.

A wild ride

Then there’s Kirill Serebrennikov with Limoniv – The Ballad – the Russian director’s fourth time in competition at Cannes.

Based on the award-winning novel by French writer Emmanuel Carrère, it explores the unpredictable and crazy life of Soviet dissident Edouard Savenko – who changed his name to Limonov which translates as “hand grenade”.

The Russian director takes the audience on a wild ride – following the rebellious Savenko (played by the British actor Ben Whishaw) from the USSR to New York via Paris.

His obsession with becoming famous never lets up even when he ends up doing odd jobs and setting up his own political party.

Graphics, music and dream sequences are cleverly used to carry the story from the late 1960s to the 2000s – sometimes flicking back and forth – echoing the chaotic ramblings of the lead character.

  • Homage to Japanese legends at the 77th Cannes Film Festival

Expect the unexpected

And then there are quiet debut films like Eephus, from American director Carson Lund, selected in the Directors’ Fortnight.

Set in a country town, two teams gather to play their last baseball match at a stadium that is earmarked for demolition.

The guys have been playing every week for as long as they can remember. They’re going grey for the most part, have aching knees and have trouble running to first base but they are adamant they will play until the bitter end – even if that means using car headlights to illuminate the pitch.

  • From glitz to grit, here’s what’s making a buzz at this year’s Cannes

Strangely, the story is about much more than the game, and through gentle humour and camaraderie we learn about their hopes, their dreams and what makes them tick.

For a while, audiences who know nothing about baseball (probably most people in Cannes, let’s face it) are wondering why is the film called Eephus? Is it a person? A team? A nickname?

It turns out it’s a pitching technique like a curveball, moving deceptively slowly so that the batsman loses his nerve and either strikes above or below – missing it.

That’s exactly what the Cannes Film Festival is – kind of like the curveball of cinema.

Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, you are left speechless by something new and unexpected.

You never know what you’re going to get, you might hate it or love it or feel something in-between. In any case, you won’t be left unmoved.


NEW CALEDONIA CRISIS

More arrests as New Caledonia protesters keep up their roadblocks

Pro-independence protesters in New Caledonia have vowed to maintain their blockades as French security forces seek to quell six days of violent unrest sparked by a controversial reform of voting rules in the Pacific territory.

Roads remain blocked in the capital Noumea and elsewhere in the French overseas territory, while the airport is also closed.

The group organising the protests, Field Action Co-ordination Cell (CCAT), said in a statement the blockades would continue but urged protestors to be peaceful.

Six people have been killed, including two gendarmes, and hundreds injured since Monday, when protests against a constitutional amendment approved by French lawmakers turned violent.

The move would change rules over who is allowed to participate in local elections, which the pro-independence indigenous Kanak people say will dilute their voice.

On Monday the two fallen gendarmes were awarded the “interior security medal”, a civil and military honour for security forces established in 2012 that recognises exceptional behaviour.

High Commissioner Louis Le Franc has said that order in New Caledonia would be restored “whatever the cost”.

Gendarmes honoured

French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin and Overseas Minister Marie Guévenoux hounoured the two gendarmes killed in New Caledonia last week, awarding them posthumously the Interior security medal, a civil and military honour for security forces established in 2012 that recognizes exceptional engagement or intervened in a particular context.

The medals were presented at a ceremony attended by the family members who are waiting for the bodies to arrive by military transport later Monday.

Capital ‘battered’

Businesses in Noumea and around the territory have been burnt and looted, cars set alight and roads blocked, cutting off access to medicine and food.

Several media quoted Noumea mayor Sonia Lagarde describing the capital as “battered”, while the CCI chamber of commerce said 150 businesses had been looted and burnt.

  • Why are talks between Paris and New Caledonia’s rival groups deadlocked?

CCI president David Guyenne told the AFP news agency that the rioting had caused about €200 million in damage.

The international airport, which has been closed to commercial flights since Tuesday, will remain closed until Thursday morning.

This was despite repeated requests from Australia and New Zealand to allow flights to evacuate their citizens – tourists and visitors stranded on the island.

French territories united

The presidents of France’s other overseas territories – Guadeloupe, Martinique, Reunion Island and French Guyana – have called for a political solution to the crisis.

In an open letter, they called for the withdrawal of the electoral reform bill and for a political solution to “prevent a civil war”.

Withdrawing the reform should be a “prerequisite to resuming peaceful dialogue”, they wrote.

The security response to the crisis did “not offer any solution” and instead ran the risk of “producing a spiral of violence and comporomising a return to the calm expected”.

(with newswires)


Martinique

No rain in sight as France’s Martinique declares first ever drought

The French Caribbean department of Martinique has declared a drought crisis for the first time in its history. The lack of rain has threatened drinking water, while authorities have imposed heavy water restrictions.

In a statement, Martinique’s prefecture said the island had received 70 percent less rainfall in April than it had in the last 30 years, and warned the drought conditions were getting close to the record set in 1973.

Rainwater is the primary source of drinking water in Martinique, and many residents of south of the island are already contending with rotating water cuts, with rivers and reservoirs dangerously low.

About 20 schools have had to close because they have been unable guarantee the health and safety of the students.

Temperatures are also abnormally high, about 2C more than average, and no significant rain is forecast soon.

  • France poorly prepared for worsening effects of climate change, report warns

Authorities had already limited some use of water in April, including a ban on water lawns and gardens and the filling of private pools.

The crisis status imposes even more restriction, including a ban on washing cars and boats, and the imposition of a 25 percent cut in water usage for companies that consume more than 1,000 cubic metres of water a year.

Authorities have also loosened rules for conservation zones, which will open up access to from rivers that had previously been set aside to protect aquatic species.

(with AFP)


SOUTH AFRICA

South Africa’s top court rules Zuma ineligible to run in general election

Johannesburg (Reuters) – South Africa’s top court ruled on Monday that former president Jacob Zuma was not eligible to run for parliament in this month’s election, a closely-watched decision as it could affect the outcome.

Zuma, who was forced to quit as president in 2018, has fallen out with the governing African National Congress (ANC) and has been campaigning for a new party called uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK) named after the ANC’s formed armed wing.

Opinion polls suggest the ANC‘s majority is at risk after 30 years in power, and MK represents a threat to it, especially in Zuma’s home province of KwaZulu-Natal where he is popular.

The case before the constitutional court stems from a decision in March by South Africa‘s electoral commission to disqualify Zuma on the basis that the constitution prohibits anyone given a prison sentence of 12 months or longer from holding a parliamentary seat.

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In 2021, Zuma was sentenced to 15 months in jail for failing to appear at a corruption inquiry.

In April, a court overturned the disqualification, saying the relevant section of the constitution applied only to people who had a chance to appeal against their sentences, which had not been Zuma’s case.

The electoral commission then challenged that decision in the constitutional court.

“It is declared that Mr Zuma was convicted of an offence and sentenced to more than 12 months’ imprisonment, … and is accordingly not eligible to be a member of, and not qualified to stand for election to, the National Assembly,” the constitutional court said on Monday in its ruling.

In 2021 Zuma’s jailing triggered riots in KwaZulu-Natal in which more than 300 people died and which morphed into a wider spate of looting.


Iran

Iran’s President Raisi killed in helicopter crash, EU sends condolences

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi was killed Sunday in a helicopter crash that appears to have been an accident due to bad weather. The European Union expressed its condolences, as Iran’s allies have reiterated their solidarity with the Islamic Republic.

In a statement, the government said that Raisi’s death would not disturb the administration of the country.

He was travelling back from a visit to the Azerbaijani border when the helicopter crashed in mountainous terrain killing all aboard, Including Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian.

Iran’s cabinet held an emergency meeting led by Vice President Mohammad Mokhber, who under the Iranian constitution will become interim president, with the accord of the Supreme Leader.

Rasi, 63, a hard-line protégé of the country’s supreme leader was elected in 2021, succeeding moderate Hassan Rouhani, whose nuclear deal with world powers was undermined by then then-US President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from it.

He oversaw the security crackdown on mass protests in 2022 after the death of Mahsa Amini, who had been detained over allegedly not properly wearing a headscarf.

Condolences have come in from Pakistan, Iraq and Qatar, as well as Russia, India and Venezuela.

The president of the European Council, Charles Michel, expressed the EU’s “sincere condolences” in a post on X.

Hamas, the Iraninan-backed militant group expressed its “deepest condolences” to Iran and praised Raisi for supporting the Palestinian cause and resistance against Israel.

Israel’s offensive against Gaza, after Hamas attacked Israel on 7 October 2023, killing over 1,400 people and taking hundreds hostage, has sent tensions soaring the region, with Tehran launching hundreds of missiles and rockets directly at Israel in April.

“We believe that Palestine is the first issue of the Muslim world, and we are convinced that the people of Iran and Azerbaijan always support the people of Palestine and Gaza and hate the Zionist regime,” said Raisi, following his visit Sunday to inaugurate a dam project on the border with Azerbaijan.

Israel has not yet reacted to Raisi’s death, according to RFI’s correspondent in Jerusalem, though sources cited in Israeli media insist that Israel was not implicated in the helicopter crash.

(with newswires)


2024 Paralympic Games

Final stretch to Paris Paralympics as 100-day countdown begins

The 100-day countdown starts on Monday for the Opening Ceremony of the Paralympic Games. Plans so far have been marked by highs and lows in areas concerning security, accessibility and broadcasting, while audience anticipation for the event is stronger. 

Just like the Olympic Games, the Opening Ceremony for the Paralympic Games on 28 August will be held in central Paris.

More than 4,000 athletes from 184 countries will soak up the adulation of 65,000 spectators as they move between the Champs Elysées and the Place de la Concorde.

“It will be a spectacle that will showcase the Paralympic athletes and the values that they embody,” said theatre director Thomas Jolly, who is set to choreograph the 28 August procession.

Accessibility concerns

Olympic and Paralympic organisers as well as transport chiefs, have been working hard to ensure everything runs smoothly, including accessibility for disabled attendees coming to the Games’ venues.

Last week, Ile de France Mobilités (IDFM), which oversees public transport in and around the French capital, announced the completion of the revamp of Saint-Denis station some 10km north of Paris city centre.

The four-year refurbishment cost nearly 200 million euros and came as part of a master plan – drawn up in 2009 and amended in 2015 – to upgrade services for passengers with reduced mobility across the region’s transit network. 

“Providing everyone with easier access to transport means reducing the social divide and reducing inequalities,” said the IDFM website while citing that four out of 10 people are temporarily or permanently disabled in the Île-de-France region.

Though the station is a 20-minute walk from the two Olympic and Paralympic venues at the Stade de France and Aquatics Centre transport chiefs say they hope it will ease the burden on the other rail. and metro stations around Saint Denis.

With more than one million spectators expected at 22 sites around Paris, IDFM has also set up a reservation-only shuttle service for wheelchair users. 

The Paralympic Games – which last until 8 September – will give French leaders the chance to show off improvements after the European Committee of Social Rights ruled last year that their policies and attitudes complicated daily life for people with disabilities.

  • Disabled travel in France remains difficult, despite accessibility laws

Broadcasting records

Organisers say the Paralympic Games in Paris will be the first to offer live coverage for all of its 22 sports.

At Tokyo 2020, 19 sports were broadcast, while at Rio in 2016, 15 were shown live. Paris will also break a record by hosting TV and radio crews from 160 countries.

John Lisko, managing director of global media rights at the International Paralympic Committee, said that an improvement in athletic performances has led to greater interest from viewers and broadcasters.

According to Nielsen, which gathers audience metrics, interest in the Paralympic Games has more than doubled in the last eight years.

“This marks an important step towards our goal of taking the visibility of Para sport and Para athletes to another level,” said Tony Estanguet, who heads the Paris 2024 organising committee.


DR Congo

DRC army says it foiled attempted coup involving US citizens

The Democratic Republic of Congo’s military said it has killed the leader of an attempted coup, thwarting a plot that involved some 50 people – both foreigners and Congolese.

In a message broadcast on national television, army spokesperson General Sylvai Ekenge said a coup attempt was halted in the early hours of Sunday morning.

It involved three American citizens and a British man.

The coup operation attacked the presidency in Kinshasa as well as the nearby home of Economy Minister Vital Kamerhe, Ekenge said – adding it had been led by Christian Malanga, a “naturalised American”, who was killed by security forces.

Around 40 attackers were reportedly arrested. Four, including Malanga, were killed.

Two guards at Kamerhe’s home were killed, though he and his family were unharmed.

Repeated attempt

Ekenge said Malanga first attempted an coup in 2017, and that one of the American citizens arrested Sunday was Malanga’s son.

The group had reportedly planned to attack the home of Prime Minister Judith Suminwa and the residence of Defence Minister Jean-Pierre Bemba, but they “could not identify” Suminwa’s home, and Bemba was not home.

After the attack at Kamerhe’s home, the group then went to the Palais de la Nation, brandishing flags of Zaire, the name of the Democratic Republic of Congo under the dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, who was overthrown in 1997.

  • Macron urges Rwanda to end support for DRC M23 rebels, withdraw troops
  • Tshisekedi visit to France likely to focus on war in eastern DRC and commerce

The US ambassador to Kinshasa said she was “shocked” by the events while the African Union said it “strongly condemns” the attempted putsch.

“Rest assured that we are cooperating with authorities in DRC to the fullest extent possible, as they investigate these criminal acts and hold accountable any American citizen involved,” ambassador Lucy Tamlyn posted on X.

Felix Tshisekedi was re-elected at the end of December for a second term, and parties backing him won around 90 percent of seats in the National Assembly. However he has yet to form a government, six weeks after appointing Suminwa as prime minister.

Kamerhe was a candidate to become speaker of the National Assembly in an election that had been scheduled for Saturday but had been delayed by Tshisekedi.

(with newswires)


France – protests

French pro-Palestine student protests not just a mirror of US

Pro-Palestinian student protests against the war in Gaza have come to a head in France at Sciences Po – the prestigious international relations school – where students continue to stage demonstrations and the government has become involved, pressuring the university to forcibly shut them down. This comes as protests have erupted on campuses across the United States, but the scale, scope and politics are unique to France.

Debates and demonstrations began at Sciences Po soon after Hamas’ attack on Israel on 7 October 2023 and Israel started a retaliatory bombing campaign in Gaza.

Pro-Palestinian students, calling on Sciences Po to denounce Israel’s offensive, have called out what they maintain is a hypocritical response from the school. 

The university held a minute’s silence for the Israeli victims of the 7 October attack, and has condemned other conflicts like Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

“I’m not comfortable with the silence around the genocide and I’m not comfortable being a part of it… not using my voice to denounce something, especially when my school is not doing anything for it,” Louise, a first-year master’s student in political science, told RFI at a recent pro-Palestinian demonstration in front of the Paris campus.

Another demand from the protesters is for Sciences Po to review its partnerships with Israeli institutions, which the university has refused to do, citing a need to keep academic dialogue open.

More on this story in the Spotlight on France podcast, listen here

The protests hit a tipping point at the start of May, when the president of Sciences Po asked police to forcibly remove several dozen students who had set up encampments in the university’s main building in Paris.

“You have real student protests for every topic, and this is the one that has been repressed,” said Louise, who was among those occupying the building.

She is French, with no personal connection to the Middle East, but felt compelled to join the protest movement on moral grounds. The police crackdown was even more galvanising.

”Having the police enter the building is really something that is a red line that has been crossed,” she said.

  • Police remove pro-Palestinian students occupying Paris university

Police crackdown

While the student protests and the police response in the United States set off debates about freedom of speech, in France the focus has been more on a perceived radicalisation of students and the government’s intervention, especially at Sciences Po, a private school that receives a lot public funding that has trained much of France’s political elite, including President Emmanuel Macron.

“Like many students I have been shocked by this political and police interference in a legitimate student action,” Hubert Launois, an undergraduate student at Sciences Po, told RFI.

“It’s normal that students mobilise, and it’s shocking that the only response from the government is repressive. It’s never normal to see police entering a university.”

Administrators of Sciences Po and other universities, like the Sorbonne, where other pro-Palestinian demonstrations have been organised, are under pressure from the government to contain the protests.

But students like Launois say the crackdown is unjustified. He joined the protests, though was not among those arrested by the police, and says he studied the history of student protests in a class.

“Student protests in the past were much more violent. In May 1968, students threw cobblestones at police,” he said.

“Today police are sent against students who are protesting peacefully, in tents. And then there’s the way politicians are exploiting such movements.”

  • Council suspends funding to Paris university amid pro-Palestinian protests

Political opportunity

Fewer than five percent of Sciences Po’s 15,000 students have taken part in the protests, but they have drawn a lot of attention, partly because of the elite nature of the school, partly because of the events in the US.

French politicians eying European Parliament elections at the start of June are also using the demonstrations as a backdrop for their political campaigns.

The government got involved in March, when a Jewish student was called a Zionist and was prevented from entering an amphitheatre for a debate on the war in Gaza organised by a pro-Palestinian student group.

Macron called the incident “intolerable”, denouncing anti-Semitism, and Prime Minister Gabriel Attal and Higher Education Minister Sylvie Retailleau made the unusual decision to attend a board meeting to push the university to shut the protests down.

The pro-Palestinian protesters have received support from the hard-left France Unbowed party, whose leader Jean-Luc Melenchon, called them France’s “honour against genocide”.

He has been accused of supporting the demonstrations for political gain, but right-wing politicians have also weighed in, calling out anti-Semitism and denouncing “Islamo-leftists”, who they say are taking the universities hostage.

As the school year comes to a close, and students are sitting for exams, the authorities are continuing their efforts to contain the protests at Sciences Po campuses around the country.


Find this story and more in the Spotlight on France podcast, episode 111, listen here.


Geopolitics

Macron, Scholz voice ‘deep concern’ at Georgia foreign influence law

The leaders of France and Germany on Sunday said they are “deeply concerned by the situation in Georgia” where parliament approved a controversial “foreign influence” law that goes “against European values”.

“It is with deep regret that we take note of the Georgian government’s decision… to move away” from the EU candidate country’s European path, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz wrote in a Facebook message.

Ruling Georgian Dream party lawmakers voted through the legislation this week in defiance of protesters concerned the ex-Soviet republic is shifting away from a pro-Western course back toward Russia.

The move has sparked a wave of protests unprecedented in the recent history of the Black Sea nation.

“Today I set a veto… on the law, which is Russian in its essence, and which contradicts our constitution,” Georgia’s President Salome Zurabishvili said in a televised statement on the measure Saturday.

However the Georgian Dream party has enough lawmakers in parliament to override the veto.

Macron invited

In an interview published in France’s La Tribune Dimanche paper, Zurabishvili, herself a former French diplomat, called on President Emmanuel Macron to come to Georgia to back their cause.

“I wrote to President Macron, I am expecting him for Georgia’s independence day, May 26,” she said.

“It is not only Georgia that is at stake, it is a question of definitively extricating the Caucasus from the mentalities of the Soviet yoke and Russian influence,” Zurabishvili told the paper.

Warnings from EU

The bill has sparked a wave of protests unprecedented in the recent history of the Black Sea nation. Its critics say it resembles Russian legislation used to silence dissent.

According to opinion polls, more than 80 percent of the population wants to join the European Union and NATO, and is staunchly anti-Kremlin.

Brussels on Saturday repeated its warnings that the measure is incompatible with Georgia’s bid for EU membership, which is enshrined in the country’s constitution.

  • Georgian envoy to France resigns over ‘foreign agent’ bill

European Council chief Charles Michel on Saturday posted on X, formerly Twitter, that the president’s veto offered “a moment for further reflection”.

He called on lawmakers to “make good use of this window of opportunity” to keep Georgia on its EU path.

Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze has signalled his party’s readiness to consider Zurabishvili’s proposed amendments to the law, should she lay them out in her veto document.

But the figurehead president — at loggerheads with the ruling party — has ruled out the prospect of entering “false, artificial, misleading negotiations” with Georgian Dream.

The bill requires NGOs and media outlets that receive more than 20 percent of their funding from abroad to register as bodies “pursuing the interests of a foreign power.”

(With newswires)


Cannes Film Festival 2024

Postcard from Cannes #3: Breaking the silence

The Cannes Film Festival is not just an outlet for artistic expression – it is a powerful platform to draw attention to social issues. In an unprecedented way, women from around the globe are breaking the silence on the topic of sexual abuse and harassment, both on and off the screen.

On Becoming a Guinea Fowl by director Rungano Nyoni tackles patriarchal traditions in her native Zambia and gives a voice back to those who have been silenced.

“I’m denouncing traditions, but I don’t think it’s the traditions themselves that are a problem – it’s the misogyny in the shape of tradition” Nyoni told RFI’s Houda Ibrahim after the premiere in Cannes on Thursday.

The young director – at Cannes for the second time – skillfully uses mesmerising dream sequences mixed with realism and traditional storytelling techniques to tell the story.

It focuses on Shula (played by Susan Chandy), who is suddenly confronted with her past when her uncle Freddy is found dead in mysterious circumstances.

As the family gathers for a long, drawn-out mourning period and funeral, an ugly dark secret emerges and Shula can no longer contain her painful memories. Grief is gradually replaced with anger until the unspoken can no longer be ignored, turning into a kind of “me too” moment on a family level.

Agenda of misogyny

“When you look at traditional Bemba culture, they tell you that men and women are equal. But something happens, it just get warped into the agenda of misogyny, and through victimising women. That’s what I’m trying to fight,” Nyoni explains.

“In each culture, misogyny manifests itself in different ways. People always find a way of suppressing women and I don’t know why. We all come from different parts of the world but women are experiencing the same thing of being treated so unfairly and unequally.”

Running in Un Certain Regard category, On Becoming a Guinea Fowl continues the themes addressed in Nyoni’s first film I’m not a Witch, which was part of the Directors’ Fortnight selection in 2017. She was also a jury member for the main competition last year.

  • RFI’s coverage of the Cannes Film Festival

It’s the second time that Nyoni’s heroine is called Shula, named after the director’s great grandmother. It’s a way of “channelling her legacy”, Nyoni says, emphasising her elder’s strength of character and ability to fight against unfair traditions, despite her lack of education.

Nyoni, who was born in Zambia but schooled in the UK, says she deliberately cast people who were not trained as actors in order to create natural scenes, but without falling into a documentary style.

Just like the guinea fowl’s cries warn other animals that danger is coming, this film acts as a powerful warning cry.

Stop ignoring

Another plea to break the silence came in the short film Moi Aussi (Me Too) by French actress and director Judith Godrèche.

She stunned the cinema world earlier this year when she filed a legal complaint against two directors who she said abused her when she was a young actress.

“It’s important to stop ignoring, pretending, when everyone knows,” she said at the time.

  • French parliament to investigate sexual abuse in cinema

At the César awards – France’s Oscars – she went on to call out sexual harassment across the film industry, a move which prompted French MPs to launch a special government inquiry.

Her short film – based on hundreds of victims’ testimonials – was screened at the opening night of Un Certain Regard and also at the beach cinema on Wednesday evening.

“I asked myself, how can I use the cinema wisely to share a story that is respectful and considerate of people’s experiences,” she told RFI.

The challenge for Godrèche was to create an experience that would not just be a documentary, but a form of artistic expression in its own right.

“The cinema is a place where we can feel less alone. It is universal, it can travel,”she said.

A sign that the Me Too movement has gained traction since it hit the news in 2017 in the US, Cannes organisers have this year placed signs in all public spaces around the festival, including in the toilets, advertising a hotline for people to report harassment.


Paris Olympics 2024

French B-boy Dany Dann hopes to spin gold at Paris Olympics

European 2022 breakdance champion Danis Civil, aka Dany Dann, hopes to become one of the first breakdance Olympic medalists in history. The event makes its debut at the Paris Games this summer, but won’t be part of the Los Angeles Games in 2028.

Dann, 36, started breakdancing “by chance” when, at the age of 14, he passed a hall in Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni, a city in the overseas department of French Guiana bordering Brazil, where his cousin was taking part in a training session.

“I fell in love with it,” said the double French and 2022 European champion, who came “as a tourist” to attend the French championship in Grande-Synthe in northern France.

After that, he spent “hours and hours” watching videos of his idols, training at the gym to reproduce their moves, followed by his first battles with “local” crews.

At the age of 19, after two years in the army, the B-boy – as breakdancers are known – left his native Guiana to “take a chance” in mainland France. 

To make a living he took on a series of jobs: parks and gardens receptionist, delivery boy, canteen employee, then caregiver in a retirement home.

In 2022, Dann, who now makes a living from breakdancing, joined Insep, the training centre for athletes in Paris.

Battles in Paris Olympics

Dann will be taking part in the Olympics along with three other French breakdancers, including two women, who have yet to qualify.

“I know they Olympics are grandiose, but I’m not stressed because I can’t be afraid of something I haven’t seen or experienced [before],” Dann said.

Breakdance battles will take place on 9 and 10 August at Place de la Concorde in the centre of Paris

Considered an additional sport in the Paris Olympics, breakdance has not been selected for the Los Angeles Games in 2028.

(with AFP)


EU – AFRICA

Why Europe is banking on Africa for its big-ticket investments

The European Union is investing heavily in Africa – pouring half of its global mega budget of €300 billion into projects on the continent. Renewable energy, internet access, transport, vaccines and education are several sectors benefiting from private and public EU funds – an effort that’s being supported by the European Investment Bank (EIB). RFI spoke to vice president Ambroise Fayolle about the bank’s strategy for Africa. 

RFI: Why is the EIB interested in investing in Africa? 

AF: Africa remains a priority in terms of what we can achieve outside of Europe. Last year the EIB invested more money in Africa than anywhere else – about 4 billion euros. This accounts for about 40 percent of our investments outside Europe.

Priority sectors include urban mobility, transportation, water, energy – particularly clean and renewable energy – and issues related to economic development. 

RFI: How does the EIB finance its operations? 

AF: EU member states, including France, are EIB shareholders. We raise funds on the market through borrowing from investors and then finance projects with other partners. There is no taxpayer money involved, but we benefit from the support of Europe, which allows us to borrow under excellent conditions. 

RFI: Is the money you raise redirected according to European priorities? 

AF: Yes, absolutely. We are a public bank and therefore we finance projects that are of European interest – something that’s defined by politicians at the European Council. Anything related to climate change, whether inside or outside of Europe, is a priority.

  • Can Europe’s Global Gateway out-rival China’s Belt and Road? 

RFI: Why does Europe finance projects in Africa? 

AF: Europe has been funding projects for a long time. Africa is the continent closest to us and unfortunately it has suffered the greatest climate impact, despite having contributed the least to climate change.

There are many reasons for us to be active in Africa, particularly in projects aimed at combating climate hazards. 

RFI: What are some flagship projects supported by the EIB? 

AF: We finance a project in Côte d’Ivoire that aims to bring the country’s cocoa production in line with European standards. This means eliminating cocoa sourced from deforestation and child labour, among other issues. 

Cocoa has a considerable impact on Côte d’Ivoire’s economy, accounting for a quarter of jobs and a quarter of GDP. It’s important for Europe to finance concrete projects, as well as projects that increase the income of residents.

The cocoa project is an example of this. The price paid for sustainable cocoa is higher than for conventional cocoa. It is a way to increase the income of small producers and improve the living conditions of people in the region. 

RFI: This support is provided through financing to the Ivorian microfinance group Cofina, is that correct? 

AF: We finance Cofina, and Cofina finances agricultural cooperatives – particularly in the sustainable cocoa sector. While we’re not a network institution, we are interested in ensuring that our projects benefit the agricultural cooperatives who meet the criteria of our sustainable development loans. 

The EIB has loaned Cofina about €10 billion euros for Côte d’Ivoire. A portion also went to Senegal. The distribution of the loan is ongoing, but 1.5 billion CFA francs have already been disbursed to 24 agricultural cooperatives – including 22 in cocoa and two in rubber.  

Usually this takes a long time, but we signed just six months ago and already cocoa farmers are benefiting from the income – I find that remarkable. 

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

RFI: Do any other countries have ambitions to develop cocoa, such as Cameroon or Liberia? 

AF: Côte d’Ivoire is the world’s leading cocoa producer and the leading exporter of cocoa to Europe – so it’s of particular interest to us. We’re obviously ready to finance cocoa projects elsewhere, as long as the new European rules apply. 

RFI: Have any countries reached out to you? 

AF: Cofina and the cooperatives reached out to us for both financing and technical assistance. Thanks to the European Union, we’ve been able to offer that – and especially enable women to play a bigger role in cocoa production. 


This interview has been adapted from the original French by Charlotte Cosset and lightly edited for clarity


NIGER

Final date for US troop pullout from Niger set for September

The US troop withdrawal from Niger, at the demand of the West African nation’s military rulers, has begun and will be over by 15 September “at the latest”, a joint statement said Sunday.

The two sides announced they had reached a disengagement agreement and US forces deployed as part of an anti-jihadist mission have started to leave after Niamey claimed their presence was illegal.

The decision comes after several days of talks between a delegation from the US Department of Defense and Nigerien counterparts in Niamey this week.

Niger’s military rulers seized power in a July 2023 coup and scrapped a military cooperation deal with Washington in March.

  • US to withdraw military personnel from Niger

The United States has around 650 soldiers in Niger with a major drone base near Agadez in the north of the country.

Niger has already overseen the withdrawal of troops from France, the former colonial power and traditional security ally, and has strengthened ties with Russia which has provided instructors and equipment.

The joint statement added that the US troop withdrawal would in no way affect ties relating to development in Niger, one of the world’s poorest countries.

On 25 April, the US said that Niger ambassador Kathleen FitzGibbon and Major General Kenneth Ekman, of the US Africa Command, would meet with local authorities “on an orderly and responsible withdrawal of US forces from Niger”.

(with newswires)


Civil unrest

French forces sent to take control of New Caledonia’s airport access road

French forces launched a “major operation” on Sunday to regain control of a road linking New Caledonia’s capital Noumea to the main international airport, after a sixth night of violent unrest.

Officials said more than 600 heavily armed gendarmes were dispatched to secure Route Territoriale 1, the main artery connecting the restive capital with air links to the outside world.

Six people have been killed and hundreds injured since rioting began on Monday, according to local authorities.

The violence has been fuelled by economic malaise, ethnic tensions and long-standing opposition to French rule on the Pacific archipelago.

A nighttime curfew, state of emergency, ban on TikTok and arrival of hundreds of troops from mainland France failed to prevent more unrest overnight Saturday to Sunday.

Unidentified groups set two fires and raided a petrol station, according to the office of New Caledonia’s high commissioner.

But authorities insisted the situation is improving.

“The night has been calmer,” the commissioner’s office said.

Local media reported a public library was among the buildings burned.

The mayor’s office told French press agency AFP there was “no way of confirming for the moment” as the “neighbourhood remains inaccessible”.

Trapped tourists

For almost a week, protesters have set vehicles, shops, industrial sites and public buildings alight, while pro-independence forces have blocked access to Tontouta International Airport.

A local business group estimated the damage, concentrated around Noumea, at more than €200 million.

AFP reporters attempted to reach the airport on Sunday but were stopped by groups blocking access at several locations.

Flights to and from New Caledonia’s main island have been cancelled since the unrest began, stranding an estimated 3,200 travellers and cutting off the trade route.

Australia and New Zealand are among the nations waiting for Paris’ all clear to send planes to evacuate trapped tourists.

In Wellington, Foreign Minister Winston Peters said on Sunday that the New Zealand Defence Forces had “completed preparations” for flights to “bring home New Zealanders in New Caledonia while commercial services are not operating.”

  • Azerbaijan accused of stirring unrest in New Caledonia as tensions persist

(with newswires)


Euroscepticism

Have the French fallen out of love with Europe?

Although France is a founding member of the European Union, surveys show Euroscepticism is on the rise in the nation. In the lead up to the EU elections, RFI looks at what’s feeding the disenchantment and what, if anything, can be done to rekindle the flame.

The European project has been fuelled by French men. Jean Monnet and Robert Schumann helped lay the foundations for what would become the EU, Jacques Delors founded the single currency and Giscard d’Estaing, François Mitterrand and incumbent President Emmanuel Macron have all championed Europe and its values of peace, unity and democracy.

But surveys suggest France’s love affair with Europe is going through a rocky patch.

The European Commission’s 2023 Eurobarometer ranked France bottom of the 27 member states with only a third saying they trusted the EU. It also found the French were the most pessimistic about the EU’s future.

A poll published on May 8 showed 46 percent were “worried” about Europe, while another survey showed half were not interested in EU elections.

“Mistrust of the EU is higher in France than our neighbours,” says Laurence de Nervaux, head of the think tank Destin Commun, citing its recent research.

“Only 41 percent of the French consider belonging to EU is a good thing compared to 54 percent of Germans and 61 percent of the Spanish.”

Meanwhile, the number of people saying the EU had a negative impact on their lives went up from 27 percent to 37 percent between 2021 and 2024.  

“We see that discontent is growing,” de Nervaux told RFI.

Spectre of Frexit

With mounting discontent, support for the far-right populist National Rally (RN) party is also growing.

Its candidate, the telegenic MEP Jordan Bardella with his 1.2 million followers on TikTok, is polling well ahead of both Macron’s Renaissance party candidate Valérie Hayer and the Socialist Raphael Glucksmann.

According to de Nervaux, more than a third of French voters are in favour of leaving the EU, compared to 24 percent in neighbouring Germany.

While the RN no longer officially supports leaving the EU or abandoning the Euro currency, the spectre of Frexit still looms.

“After the chaos following Brexit in 2020, the top leaders of the National Rally stopped talking about Frexit almost overnight,” says Laetitia Langlois from Angers University, who has researched Euroscepticism in the UK.

“But some hardcore supporters are still determined to leave the EU. Some would like to push for a more Europhobic, not just Eurosceptic, discourse on Europe.”

De Nervaux says the RN electorate is the only group where a majority – 56 percent – support Frexit.

“The nationalist fantasy of Frexit remains the marker of far-right culture, even if its leaders deny that today,” she adds.

Listen to a conversation with Laetitia Langlois in the Spotlight on France podcast

Bermuda triangle

Like other populist parties, RN slams the EU as a remote, elite institution that works for the interests of big business, rather than ordinary working people, and facilitates mass immigration.

The EU’s institutions are seen by many as an “enormous machine only making norms and regulations,” says Langlois.

“The RN takes advantage of this and exaggerates the bureaucratic dimension.”

And yet “it does a lot for people’s everyday lives,” she notes, pointing to the EU’s Erasmus student exchange programme and large sums invested in poorer parts of Spain, Italy and pre-Brexit Scotland.

But the complex inner workings of its institutions don’t help foster an understanding of and attachment to the EU system.

Even French politicians, accustomed to a very different political system from the EU, are disorientated, says European affairs consultant Yves Bertoncini.  

“France’s political system under the 5th republic is a presidential monarchy where winner takes all, whereas the European system is more federal, based on the dispersion of power,” he told RFI.

“We need to double down on our pedagogy because the institutional triangle  – EU Parliament, Commission and European Council – is like a Bermuda triangle for the French. We’re not used to it.”

  • Europe Day: rise of populism and shifting dynamics ahead of crucial elections

Poor communication

De Nervaux says France’s mistrust of Europe and its institutions is largely down to ignorance – 65 percent of the French say they don’t have a clear vision of the way the EU functions and its policies, compared to 42 percent of Germans. 

She blames the higher ignorance largely on French media, which is among those in the bloc covering European issues the least.

The EU hasn’t been great at blowing its own whistle either, de Nerveux points out, citing a failure to communicate well on its capacity to make collective decisions such as its Covid vaccination campaign, the post-Covid recovery plan and support for Ukraine.

“When we ask people what Europe has brought them, they talk about the Europe of 20 or 30 years ago – of Schengen and the Euro – but they don’t refer to these recent episodes.”

Even if the French are interested in Ukraine, de Nerveux insists they are more preoccupied by domestic issues than geopolitical or international ones.

“Their main preoccupation is purchasing power,” she says, adding that they need to be reminded of what Europe brings them in their daily lives.

“There is the mistaken perception that the EU had a negative impact on inflation but the truth is that the Eurozone has played a more protective role in terms of inflation, whereas in the UK [post-Brexit] it exploded.

“And to take a very concrete example, one meal out of four distributed by the Restos du Coeur food charity is financed by the EU.”

  • EU members agree to historic €750bn coronavirus recovery plan

Pragmatic and lucid

The picture is not all bleak, even where surveys are concerned.

A recent Ifop poll also found that nearly 60 percent of the French said they were proud to be European.

“Beyond the mistrust, the French have a pragmatic and lucid attachment to Europe,” says de Nevreux.

And in a “dangerous, complex and unstable world,” a majority of French people describe their relationship with Europe as “necessary”.

Faced with superpowers China, the US and Russia, Macron’s “vision of building a strong Europe is widely supported by the French,” she says, noting that they “also want Europe to take the lead on climate issues”.

There’s even a willingness to get to grips with EU institutions says Langlois, underlining the unexpected success of the French TV series Parlement.

The first three series drew in 7 million viewers, with a fourth out soon.

Additionally, Christophe Préault, of the pedagogical All of Europe website, says there’s growing interest in European issues like economy, defence and security. Connections to their site have “doubled since January”.

He’s calling for more education on the EU.

“Kids are taught about how the 5th Republic works but do we teach how the EU functions? No. And yet it’s where we live and work.”

Get them young, says de Nevreux: “Children should learn the 27 member states like they learn the alphabet.”


Climate change

D-Day’s historic beaches threatened by rising sea levels

As France prepares to mark the 80th anniversary of the Normandy landings that helped change the course of World War II, the historic beaches and coastlines where Allied forces landed are once more under attack – but this time from rising sea levels linked to climate change.

A 100-kilometre stretch of Normandy’s coastline bears witness to the 6 June 1944 D-Day landings.

Millions of visitors are drawn each year to walk its coastal paths and contemplate bunkers, shipwrecked vessels and other vestiges of war in memory of those that died or suffered.

Nowadays, the sea that brought in 150,000 Allied soldiers is threatening those heritage sites. Chalk cliffs and dunes are being eroded, while marshes and land reclaimed in the 18th and 19th centuries risk submersion.

According to the Normandy climate change report, two-thirds of the coast are being eroded and – over the last 80 years – “Normandy’s chalky cliffs have moved back by an average of 20-25cm per year”.   

The famed D-Day beaches – codenamed Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword – look nothing like they did in 1944.

“They’re suffering from both erosion and the risk of flooding,” Régis Leymarie, a geographer with the Coastal Conservatory in Normandy, told AFP news agency.

“We’re in the process of moving from historic sites to places for interpreting history”.

In low-lying areas like the Gold Beach, marshes at Ver-sur-Mer “the environment will be transformed in 10 years or so,” he added.

  • Climate change weakens fragile French coastline

Powerless to intervene

In Graye-sur-Mer, north of Caen, the sea has toppled entire bunkers, with locals fearing the changing landscape is washing away important souvenirs of the war.

Charles de Vallavieille, mayor of Sainte-Marie-du-Mont and director of the Utah Beach Museum, recalls seeing “veterans waving to the sea and crying ‘Utah is the beach, it’s the emotion of the beach’”.

He regrets they receive little help in trying to battle mother nature.

“We don’t have the right to lay down stones [or] to do anything to stop the advance of the sea,” he told AFP.

“The law protects dykes but not dunes. We can’t get help, even though it’s a problem that affects the whole coast – protect one place and the water will go elsewhere”.

  • D-Day in numbers

US investment

The Bessin Cliffs – where German artillery batteries pounded the beaches from hard-to-reach promontories such as Pointe du Hoc – are gradually wasting away under the impact of waves, sea salt, thawing and refreezing.

The site is of special importance to Americans. On the morning of 6 June, 200 US rangers scaled the 30-metre-high Pointe du Hoc and seized the German artillery installations that could have fired on American troops landing at Omaha and Utah beaches.

The site is managed by the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) in memory of the 135 rangers who died on that day.

In 2010, US authorities spent nearly €5 million to reinforce the cliff and prevent the observatory from falling into the sea.  

By 2022, the US invested another €6 million to try and secure the whole site after the Pointe was badly damaged.

Coastal paths have been “set back 20 metres” to ensure public safety, the ABMC has said.

Sea levels are currently rising by a few millimetres every year so “it’s only over two or three generations that we realise this,” said Leymarie. 

“We’re coming to the end of the D-Day landing sites as we knew them, and nature will reclaim its rights.”

(with AFP)


AFRICA – HEALTH

Why extinguishing Africa’s dirty cooking fuel crisis is a global priority

The scourge of dirty cooking fuels in Africa – an invisible killer for half a million women and children each year – stirred up pledges of €2.2 billion in Paris this week as oil and gas companies joined efforts to bring about access to healthy cooking methods by 2030.  

Four in five Africans – mostly women and girls – cook their food over open fires and primitive stoves that are powered by polluting fuels such as wood, charcoal, kerosene and animal waste.  

Three-quarters of people rely on these smoky, rudimentary cooking systems for their meals. Much of the time they’re used inside small and enclosed spaces. 

Among the harmful toxins released: carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and fine particulate matter.

The result, according to the World Bank, is the premature deaths of about 600,000 Africans a year – making dirty cooking an even bigger killer than malaria. 

Then there are the hundreds of billions of euros in associated health and climate impacts, including increased carbon emissions and deforestation. 

Forgotten issue

“This summit has delivered an emphatic commitment to an issue that has been ignored by too many people, for too long,” said Fatih Birol, director of the International Energy Agency (IEA), which convened the Paris event, held on Tuesday.  

Pledges came from the European Union, the African Development Bank, countries like the US, investment bodies and oil and gas companies including TotalEnergies and Shell. 

Some 2.3 billion people around the world lack access to cooking with clean fuels (biogas, ethanol and liquified petroleum gas) and electric stoves.

  • Food shortages and malnutrition reach record levels in west and central Africa
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But despite the scale of the problem, Birol has said that fixing it is relatively uncomplicated. 

“The barriers to delivering on the promise of clean cooking for all are not technical,” he wrote in a report last year. 

“What is encouraging and disturbing, in equal measure, is that this huge environmental, economic and human challenge could be solved with relatively modest investment.” 

Women hit hard

Access to clean cooking fuel has also been labelled a gender equality issue given the hours women spend each day collecting wood – time that could be spent on work or education. 

The Clean Cooking Alliance, a US-based non-profit, estimates that women and children in developing countries spend up to 20 hours a week gathering wood to prepare meals for their families. 

Meanwhile the global economic cost of that lost time is put at $800 billion a year. 

The IEA estimates that Africa needs $4 billion in yearly investments to transition away from dirty cooking methods by 2030.  

Birol has suggested the sale of carbon credits could help to meet that goal, while the IEA would ensure “good quality” projects to avoid greenwashing. 


Gastronomy

Tiny ‘bare bones’ Mexican taco restaurant wins Michelin star

El Califa de Leon taqueria is among the first restaurants in Mexico to be awarded a star by the prestigious Michelin Guide – an accomplishment its owner credits to “love and effort.”

El Califa de Leon is one of 18 restaurants given either one or two stars in the inaugural Michelin Guide Mexico unveiled this week.

The longstanding family business specialises in just four types of tacos and has room for only a few customers at a time in the San Rafael district of Mexico City.

“This taqueria may be bare bones with just enough room for a handful of diners to stand at the counter but its creation, the Gaonera taco, is exceptional,” the Michelin Guide said on its website.

“Thinly sliced beef filet is expertly cooked to order, seasoned with only salt and a squeeze of lime. At the same time, a second cook prepares the excellent corn tortillas alongside.

“The resulting combination is elemental and pure.”

The Gaonera, which costs a little over four dollars, was created in honor of the celebrated Mexican bullfighter Rodolfo Gaona, whose nickname in the ring was “El Califa de Leon.”

The restaurant was founded more than 50 years ago by the parents of current owner Mario Hernandez.

“My father said, ‘Do you want me to tell you the secret of the meat? There is no secret,” only “love and effort,” the 66-year-old said outside, his voice full of emotion.

Hernandez said his father taught him to always take care of quality, customer service and prices, because “life is a wheel of fortune with high times and low times.”

‘Well deserved’

On Wednesday, the usual office workers and other regulars were outnumbered by dozens of journalists and gastronomy experts attracted by the Michelin star.

The tacos “are really delicious,” said 19-year-old gastronomy student Hector Lancastre, adding that the international recognition was “well deserved.”

Tire-manufacturing brothers Andre and Edouard Michelin launched their first guide in 1900 to encourage motorists to discover restaurants around France.

It has since expanded to dozens of destinations around the world.

(with AFP)

The Sound Kitchen

Forgotten Sudan

Issued on:

This week on The Sound Kitchen you’ll hear the answer to the question about the Sudan conference in Paris. There’s “The Listener’s Corner” with Paul Myers – who also cooked up “Music from Paul” for us this week – 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!

ePOP News: The early bird gets the worm …

RFI’s ePOP video competition will open on 5 June. There will be more information in the coming days, but you can already start to plan your video.

The ePOP video competition is sponsored by the RFI department “Planète Radio”, whose mission is to give a voice to the voiceless. ePOP focuses on the environment, and how climate change has affected “ordinary” people …you are to create a three-minute video about climate change, the environment, pollution – told by the people it affects.

So put on your thinking caps and start planning your video!  

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

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

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

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

More tech news: Did you know we have a YouTube channel? Just go to YouTube and write RFI English in the search bar, and there we are! Be sure and subscribe to see all our videos.

Would you like to learn French? RFI is here to help you!

Our website “Le Français facile avec RFI”  has news broadcasts in slow, simple French, as well as bi-lingual radio dramas (with real actors!) and exercises to practice what you have heard.

Go to our website and get started! At the top of the page, click on “Test level”. According to your score, you’ll be counselled to the best-suited activities for your level.

Do not give up! As Lidwien van Dixhoorn, the head of “Le Français facile” service told me: “Bathe your ears in the sound of the language, and eventually, you’ll get it.” She should know – Lidwien is Dutch and came to France hardly able to say “bonjour” and now she heads this key RFI department – so stick with it!

Be sure you check out our wonderful podcasts!

In addition to the breaking news articles on our site with in-depth analysis of current affairs in France and across the globe, we have several podcasts that will leave you hungry for more.

There’s Paris Perspective, Spotlight on France, 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. NB: You do not need to send her your quiz answers! Email overload!

We have a new RFI Listeners Club member to welcome: Arifa Alam Dolan from Natore, Bangladesh.

Welcome, Arifa! 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 13 April, I asked you a question about an article RFI English journalist Melissa Chemam wrote: “Sudan conference opens in Paris to try and fix ‘forgotten’ crisis”. The crisis in Sudan has been pushed out of the global conversation by other ongoing conflicts – such as those in the Middle East or Ukraine – and only five percent of the 3.8-billion-euro target in the UN’s latest humanitarian appeal has been funded so far this year, according to the French foreign ministry.

You were to re-read Melissa’s article and answer this question: Aside from France, Germany, and the EU, who else was included in the conference?

The answer is, to quote Melissa’s article: “The ministerial meeting was held behind closed doors, and also brought together representatives from Sudan’s neighbours, as well as from Gulf nations and western powers, including the United States and Britain, along with regional organisations and the UN.”

The meeting was a success: French President Emmanuel Macron said the Paris conference raised more than 2 billion euros in aid to help Sudan and its neighbouring countries.

In addition to the quiz question, there was the bonus question, suggested by Sultan Mahmud Sarkar, the president of the Shetu RFI Listeners Club in Naogaon, Bangladesh: “What is your favorite flower, and why?”

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

The winners are: RFI Listeners Club member Father Steven Wara, who lives and serves at the Cistercian Monastery in Bamenda, Cameroon.  Father Steven is also the winner of the week’s bonus question. Congratulations Father Steve!

Also on the list of lucky winners this week are RFI Listeners Club member Samir Mukhopadhyay from West Bengal, India, and RFI English listeners Bidhan Chandra Sanyal from West Bengal, India; Umesh Regmi from Biratnagar, Nepal, and Shihab Ahamed Khan from Naogaon, Bangladesh.

Here’s the music you heard on this week’s program: The “Allegro moderato” from Mozart’s Piano Sonata No. 10 in C major, K. 330, played by Vladimir Horowitz; “Dancin’ Pants” by Quincy Jones, performed by the Quincy Jones Ensemble; “The Flight of the Bumblebee” by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov; “The Cakewalk” from Children’s Corner by Claude Debussy, performed by the composer, and “Peg” by Walter Becker and Donald Fage, performed by Steeley Dan.

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’s article “South Africans lose faith in ruling ANC as income inequality grows”, which will help you with the answer.

You have until 17 June to enter this week’s quiz. The winners will be announced on the 22 June podcast. When you enter, be sure you send your postal address with your answer, and if you have one, your RFI Listeners Club membership number.

Send your answers to:

english.service@rfi.fr

or

Susan Owensby

RFI – The Sound Kitchen

80, rue Camille Desmoulins

92130 Issy-les-Moulineaux

France

or

By text … You can also send your quiz answers to The Sound Kitchen mobile phone. Dial your country’s international access code, or “ + ”, then  33 6 31 12 96 82. Don’t forget to include your mailing address in your text – and if you have one, your RFI Listeners Club membership number.

To find out how you can win a special Sound Kitchen prize, click here.

To find out how you can become a member of the RFI Listeners Club, or form your own official RFI Club, click here. 

The Sound Kitchen

Forgotten Sudan

Issued on:

This week on The Sound Kitchen you’ll hear the answer to the question about the Sudan conference in Paris. There’s “The Listener’s Corner” with Paul Myers – who also cooked up “Music from Paul” for us this week – 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!

ePOP News: The early bird gets the worm …

RFI’s ePOP video competition will open on 5 June. There will be more information in the coming days, but you can already start to plan your video.

The ePOP video competition is sponsored by the RFI department “Planète Radio”, whose mission is to give a voice to the voiceless. ePOP focuses on the environment, and how climate change has affected “ordinary” people …you are to create a three-minute video about climate change, the environment, pollution – told by the people it affects.

So put on your thinking caps and start planning your video!  

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

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

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

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

More tech news: Did you know we have a YouTube channel? Just go to YouTube and write RFI English in the search bar, and there we are! Be sure and subscribe to see all our videos.

Would you like to learn French? RFI is here to help you!

Our website “Le Français facile avec RFI”  has news broadcasts in slow, simple French, as well as bi-lingual radio dramas (with real actors!) and exercises to practice what you have heard.

Go to our website and get started! At the top of the page, click on “Test level”. According to your score, you’ll be counselled to the best-suited activities for your level.

Do not give up! As Lidwien van Dixhoorn, the head of “Le Français facile” service told me: “Bathe your ears in the sound of the language, and eventually, you’ll get it.” She should know – Lidwien is Dutch and came to France hardly able to say “bonjour” and now she heads this key RFI department – so stick with it!

Be sure you check out our wonderful podcasts!

In addition to the breaking news articles on our site with in-depth analysis of current affairs in France and across the globe, we have several podcasts that will leave you hungry for more.

There’s Paris Perspective, Spotlight on France, 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. NB: You do not need to send her your quiz answers! Email overload!

We have a new RFI Listeners Club member to welcome: Arifa Alam Dolan from Natore, Bangladesh.

Welcome, Arifa! 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 13 April, I asked you a question about an article RFI English journalist Melissa Chemam wrote: “Sudan conference opens in Paris to try and fix ‘forgotten’ crisis”. The crisis in Sudan has been pushed out of the global conversation by other ongoing conflicts – such as those in the Middle East or Ukraine – and only five percent of the 3.8-billion-euro target in the UN’s latest humanitarian appeal has been funded so far this year, according to the French foreign ministry.

You were to re-read Melissa’s article and answer this question: Aside from France, Germany, and the EU, who else was included in the conference?

The answer is, to quote Melissa’s article: “The ministerial meeting was held behind closed doors, and also brought together representatives from Sudan’s neighbours, as well as from Gulf nations and western powers, including the United States and Britain, along with regional organisations and the UN.”

The meeting was a success: French President Emmanuel Macron said the Paris conference raised more than 2 billion euros in aid to help Sudan and its neighbouring countries.

In addition to the quiz question, there was the bonus question, suggested by Sultan Mahmud Sarkar, the president of the Shetu RFI Listeners Club in Naogaon, Bangladesh: “What is your favorite flower, and why?”

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

The winners are: RFI Listeners Club member Father Steven Wara, who lives and serves at the Cistercian Monastery in Bamenda, Cameroon.  Father Steven is also the winner of the week’s bonus question. Congratulations Father Steve!

Also on the list of lucky winners this week are RFI Listeners Club member Samir Mukhopadhyay from West Bengal, India, and RFI English listeners Bidhan Chandra Sanyal from West Bengal, India; Umesh Regmi from Biratnagar, Nepal, and Shihab Ahamed Khan from Naogaon, Bangladesh.

Here’s the music you heard on this week’s program: The “Allegro moderato” from Mozart’s Piano Sonata No. 10 in C major, K. 330, played by Vladimir Horowitz; “Dancin’ Pants” by Quincy Jones, performed by the Quincy Jones Ensemble; “The Flight of the Bumblebee” by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov; “The Cakewalk” from Children’s Corner by Claude Debussy, performed by the composer, and “Peg” by Walter Becker and Donald Fage, performed by Steeley Dan.

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’s article “South Africans lose faith in ruling ANC as income inequality grows”, which will help you with the answer.

You have until 17 June to enter this week’s quiz. The winners will be announced on the 22 June 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

South Africa’s 2024 Elections: young voters and the legacy of apartheid

Issued on:

South Africa is holding general and provincial elections on 29 May. In this episode of Spotlight on Africa, we look at young people and the elections and how  the country has changed since the end of apartheid in 1994.  

First, we talked to the director of the Ichikowitz Family Foundation, Ivor Ichikowitz, who outlines the impact of corruption in South Africa and why the youth vote will be important. 

We also talked to Mary Paccard and Vincent Jackson, two South Africans living in France, who discuss how and why they campaigned for the main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, from abroad. 


Episode mixed by Vincent Pora.

Spotlight on Africa is a podcast from Radio France Internationale. 

International report

Greek and Turkish leaders ready for diplomacy talks amid Aegean tensions

Issued on:

Greece and Turkey are stepping up rapprochement efforts, with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis visiting Turkey on Monday for talks with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The trip is part of detente attempts after years of tensions centered on territorial disputes in the Aegean Sea. 

Monday’s meeting follows Erdogan’s visit to Athens last December, which was also part of mutual efforts towards bringing the countries closer.

“I think it’s one of the ways in which Turkey and Greece could add more new momentum to the diplomacy that has started,” Berkay Mandiraci, a senior Turkey analyst for the International Crisis Group, said.

“They’ve been actually engaged in quite intense diplomacy on different fronts for over a year now.”

Territorial disputes over the Aegean Sea – believed to have vast energy reserves – have brought the neighbours to the brink of war in the past.

Both nations backing rival sides over the divided island of Cyprus has also thwarted previous rapprochement endeavours.

Side-stepping issues 

Erdogan and Mitsotakis are predicted to avoid contentious subjects and are expected to take a one-step-at-a-time approach on areas of collaboration.

Confidence-building measures under discussion include increasing trade, further developments of a recently expanded road at the Turkey-Greece border and ensuring visa-free travel to Turkish citizens for eastern Aegean islands.

“I think they are all important in terms of people-to-people contact, building trust, increasing trade and also improving connectivity and energy cooperation,” Mandiraci said.

“Hopefully this will lead to the opening of a new round of negotiation on the Aegean dispute.”

Conflicts in Gaza and Ukraine are seen to provide further incentive to improving ties as analysts say both leaders realise that bilateral tensions will only exacerbate regional instability. 

“Look at what’s happening in Israel, in Gaza and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Both sides want to limit their exposure to foreign risks,” said political scientist Ioannis Grigoriadis of Ankara’s Bilkent University.

“Greek-Turkish relations had gone through a very difficult period until five years ago, but ever since the earthquakes that hit south-eastern and southern Turkey, both sides have declared their willingness to reduce tensions.”

Greece was quick to help Turkey after last year’s earthquakes. But unless territorial disputes over the Aegean are addressed, the rapprochement is considered vulnerable – especially because both militaries are re-arming.

Common ground

“As long as they don’t tackle [the Aegean Sea dispute] and they don’t take the bull by the horns, things will go like a pendulum, backward and forwards,” said Alexis Heraclides of Panteion University in Athens.

“The Greek-Turkish relations in this region is the most complicated of relations. I’m not saying that it’s impossible for them not to make a U-turn and get back to the default position of confrontation and mutual acrimonious accusations.”

But there is cause for cautious optimism given that Erdogan and Mitsotakis renewed their electoral mandates last year.

“Both leaders are very strong domestically and this makes them less eager to listen to the sort of nationalist voices that exist in both countries that are more comfortable with a more aggressive attitude,” said Grigoriadis.

The Sound Kitchen

Wingèd Victory

Issued on:

This week on The Sound Kitchen you’ll hear the answer to the question about Nike and the Olympic medals. There’s “The Listener’s Corner” with Paul Myers, Erwan Rome’s “Music from Erwan”, 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!

ePOP News: The early bird gets the worm …

RFI’s ePOP video competition will open on 5 June. There will be more information in the coming days, but you can already start to plan your video.

The ePOP video competition is sponsored by the RFI department “Planète Radio”, whose mission is to give a voice to the voiceless. ePOP focuses on the environment, and how climate change has affected “ordinary” people …you are to create a three-minute video about climate change, the environment, pollution – told by the people it affects.

So put on your thinking caps and start planning your video!  

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

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

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

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

More tech news: Did you know we have a YouTube channel? Just go to YouTube and write RFI English in the search bar, and there we are! Be sure and subscribe to see all our videos.

Would you like to learn French? RFI is here to help you!

Our website “Le Français facile avec RFI”  has news broadcasts in slow, simple French, as well as bi-lingual radio dramas (with real actors!) and exercises to practice what you have heard.

Go to our website and get started! At the top of the page, click on “Test level”. According to your score, you’ll be counselled to the best-suited activities for your level.

Do not give up! As Lidwien van Dixhoorn, the head of “Le Français facile” service told me: “Bathe your ears in the sound of the language, and eventually, you’ll get it.” She should know – Lidwien is Dutch and came to France hardly able to say “bonjour” and now she heads this key RFI department – so stick with it!

Be sure you check out our wonderful podcasts!

In addition to the breaking news articles on our site with in-depth analysis of current affairs in France and across the globe, we have several podcasts that will leave you hungry for more.

There’s Paris Perspective, Spotlight on France, 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. NB: You do not need to send her your quiz answers! Email overload!

We have a new RFI Listeners Club member to welcome: Shreyosi Dhali from West Bengal, India.

Welcome, Shreyosi! 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 13 April, I asked you a question about an article Paul Myers wrote about the history of Olympic medals: “History of Olympic gold, silver and bronze glitters in Paris museum”. You were to send in the answer to this question: Who is Nike?

The answer is, to quote Paul’s article: “Between 1928 and 1968, the medals for the Summer Games bore Giuseppe Cassioli’s ‘Trionfo’ design of Nike, the Greek goddess of victory, holding a winner’s crown with a depiction of the Colosseum in the background.”

So the answer is: Nike is the Greek goddess of victory – not only in athletics but in art, music, and war, too. She is usually portrayed with wings, in the motion of flight.

In addition to the quiz question, there was the bonus question: What is your favorite “home remedy”?

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

The winners are:  Brand-new RFI Listeners Club member Shreyosi Dhali from West Bengal, India. Shreyosi is also the winner of this week’s bonus question. Congratulations, Shreyosi!

Also on the list of lucky winners this week are A. K. M. Nuruzzaman, the president of the RFI Amour Fan Club in Rajshahi, Bangladesh; Begum Firoza Hossain, a member of the RFI International DX Radio Listeners Club in West Bengal, India; RFI Listeners Club member Hans Verner Lollike from Hedehusene, Denmark, and RFI English listener Musfika Argina Banu from Naogaon, Bangladesh.

Congratulations winners!

Here’s the music you heard on this week’s program: Movements III and IV from the String Quartet op 20 no 6 by Franz Joseph Haydn, performed by the Juilliard Quartet; traditional Greek music for the sirtaki and bouzouki; “The Flight of the Bumblebee” by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov; “The Cakewalk” from Children’s Corner by Claude Debussy, performed by the composer, and “Rectangle” for synthesizer and guitar by Jacno, with Jacno on the guitar.  

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 “EU’s Green Deal the target of online disinformation ahead of polls”, which will help you with the answer.

You have until 10 June to enter this week’s quiz. The winners will be announced on the 15 June 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: Pro-Palestinian student protests, French euroscepticism, Channel Tunnel

Issued on:

How student protests in support of Palestinians at Paris’s political science institute are different from those in the US, a look at France’s growing disaffection with Europe, and the long birth of the Channel Tunnel linking France to Britain – 30 years old this week. 

Student protests against Israel’s war in Gaza came to a head in the past week, when the president of the prestigious Sciences Po university called the police to forcibly clear out an occupation of the Paris campus’ main building. Some have called the protests an imitation of what is happening in the United States, but the scale, scope and politics are a bit different. Students talk about why they have joined the protest movement, their shock over reactions by government and police, and compare today’s mobilisation with student protests of the past. (Listen @0’00)

On Europe Day, and with only a month to go before EU elections, surveys are showing France is an increasingly eurosceptic nation – only a quarter of the population place their trust in Europe and its institutions, and even fewer are optimistic about the EU’s future. The disaffection with Europe comes as polls also show the far-right, populist National Rally is tipped to oustrip President Macron’s ruling party in the elections. Laetitia Langlois from Angers University examines what’s behind growing eurosceptism in France and what it means for President Emmanuel Macron. (Listen @16’30)

The Channel Tunnel turns 30 years old this week. Officially opened on 6 May 1994, it was the culmination of two centuries of dreaming about a land link between France and the UK. (Listen @9’30)

Episode mixed by Cecile Pompéani. 

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

International report

Turkey cuts trade with Israel but seeks role in resolving Gaza conflict

Issued on:

Turkey has cut off trade with Israel as bilateral relations deteriorate over the Gaza conflict. The move follows domestic calls for a tougher stance against Israel, while Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is seeking a more prominent regional role.  

The Turkish Trade Ministry announced Friday that all exports and imports with Israel have been cut until uninterrupted and adequate humanitarian aid is allowed into Gaza.

The Israeli foreign minister, Israel Katz, was quick to condemn the move, saying it violated trade agreements and was the action was that of a “dictator”. 

It follows Erdogan’s high-profile meeting with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh last month.

Domestic criticism

Erdogan’s actions are seen as an attempt to quell growing domestic criticism of his complicated stance on the war – on one hand maintaining trade with Israel, while on the other condemning the country’s war with Hamas. 

“In order to convince conservative voters that there is no such thing as a hypocritical approach… they are taking a tougher stance and necessary measures,” says Selin Nasi, a visiting fellow at the London School of Economics.  

Nasi says Erdogan could further deepen Turkey’s ties with Hamas, especially if cut theirs.

“We know that Qatar has been facing a lot of pressure in the international arena because of its ties with Hamas,” she points out.

“Turkey might emerge as a potential candidate country to host Hamas if Qatar decides to send Hamas members abroad.”

  • Turkish government looks to regain ground by limiting ties with Israel

Regional cooperation?

Erdogan’s party was handed a thumping defeat in March local elections, which saw many of his traditional conservative religious voters abstaining or voting for opposition parties – a move blamed in part on ongoing trade ties with Israel.

However, Ankara is seeking a wider role in resolving the Gaza conflict. Erdogan is also stepping up diplomatic efforts with Egypt after hosting Egyptian foreign minister Sameh Shoukry in April.

Relations between Turkey and Egypt have been warming after years of tensions, and analysts say there’s room for cooperation.   

“Both are very active in the rhetorical space in terms of their deep sympathy for the Palestinians in Gaza. At the same time, they maintain their diplomatic and security ties with Israel,” says Jalel Harchaoui at the Royal United Services Institute in London.

“Both are known – particularly Egypt, from Washington’s perspective – for their direct communication line [with Hamas]. Both use that as a source of leverage vis-a-vis the West,” he explains.

  • Turkey and Egypt turn page on decade of friction with show of friendship

But analysts warn Erdogan’s public attacks on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu limit any mediating role for Turkey. 

“At some point, the government has to moderate its tone, to repair its dialogue with Israel, because as it stands Turkey is no longer perceived as an impartial, third-party actor that can take on a role as a mediator,” says Nasi. 

She nonetheless believes there is room for Ankara to play a constructive role.

“Instead of perhaps endorsing Hamas, Turkey has to shift to a more balanced position between Hamas and Fatah and perhaps put its energy and resources into reconciling different rival Palestinian factions.”

Washington visit postponed

Erdogan this month blamed Iran and Israel for increasing tensions, a break from only criticising Israel. Analysts say Turkey’s close ties to Hamas could counter Iran’s influence on the group. 

However, Erdogan’s overtures to Hamas were a factor in the postponement of a planned visit to Washington in May, which was blamed on scheduling issues. 

“It’s impossible not to rule out Gaza as one of the reasons for the cancellation,” said Asli Aydintasbas, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

“I think at a time when people are talking about mass graves and there are protests all around US campuses, the Turkish president does not want to be seen with the president of the United States,” she suggests.

However, Aydintasbas suspects Washington, too, may not be unhappy about that Erdogan’s visit was put on hold. 

“I don’t think the White House is in a place – for all types of reasons, including the domestic difficulty of this issue – to be hosting a world leader who’s going to criticise in front of cameras the US position on Gaza,” she says.

Despite the visit’s postponement, Washington and Ankara say they remain committed to high-level cooperation.

While doubts remain about what meaningful role Turkey can play in resolving the Gaza conflict, given the scale of the crisis, the region needs all the help it can get. 


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Madhya Pradesh: the Heart of beautiful India

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In partnership with Madhya Pradesh’s tourism board.


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Exploring Malaysia’s natural and cultural diversity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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