rfi 2024-06-02 00:08:11



D-Day 2024

French volunteers open German command post to the public for D-Day

In northern France, a group of volunteers has spent months renovating the command post of the Merville gun battery – one of the main defences built by the Germans and attacked by British paratroopers in preparation for the Normandy Landings. The team hopes their work of remembrance will draw in visitors on D-Day and beyond.

Each year on 6 June, France commemorates D-Day, when some 156,000 mainly British, American and Canadian troops launched a massive invasion to try and free France from Nazi occupation.

But remembering that history isn’t confined to one day. Many people on the northern coast of Normandy live with the vestiges of German army presence all year round.

Threading together its Atlantic Wall, Germany built a host of fortifications along the coast – bunkers, shelters, defence posts, and casemates to protect artillery guns.

Merville-Franceville, in the Calvados region, is home to the Merville Battery. Just 2 km inland and 13 km from Sword beach, the giant gun emplacement served to protect the coast and the mouth of the river Orne from invasion.

As such, the Allied forces were determined to destroy it. On the night of 5 June, 150 British paratroopers launched an assault to take out the guns. It wasn’t an immediate success and dozens of lives were lost.

“We’re really involved in a slice of history, and it’s still alive, we’re still discovering things,” says Gaetan Dagorn, head of the Merville-Batterie association that’s been working on restoring the site for the last 15 years or so.

Its 30 volunteers spent six years renovating a bunker, and for the last four months they’ve turned their attention to the command post.

“All the information went through this command post, it’s a symbol for the 80th anniversary of D-Day,” Dagorn says.

“This is where decisions were made,” he says, pointing to the telephone cables in the walls. “Firing coordinates were sent here from the main command post on Franceville beach.”

Life in the bunker

“The aim is to renovate the command post exactly as it was 80 years ago,” says volunteer and history enthusiast Philippe Bras.

But for the moment, the priority was making it safe enough for the public to come and visit on this year’s D-Day anniversary.

The team has removed large amounts of earth to literally “unbury” the bunker, and built an entrance using sacks filled with sand and cement.

While the Battery Museum next door provided an excavator, cement mixer and tractor, all the work inside the command post has to be done by hand. 

“You can’t get in here with a machine, not even a wheelbarrow,” says Bras, recounting the toil of removing 40 cm of mud.

But it’s worth the effort.

“When I come into the bunker I imagine how the soldiers lived inside, what they talked about, what they thought,” says the 65-year-old retired factory worker.

“That’s what I find most interesting. They were simple soldiers, they lived here 24/7 for four years – it’s a long time.

“They were human beings too, they were forced to come here.”

  • D-Day veteran remembers Sword Beach 70 years on

Duty to remember

Most of the volunteers grew up in Normandy, and D-Day is in their genes.

“We have a duty to remember,” says Christian Génot from the seat of a quad bike, as he pulls a trailer loaded with heavy hessian sacks.

“My family are from Caen, my grandparents were in the resistance. They were deported.

“You have to hand that memory down to children and future generations, show them these vestiges as a reminder that this shouldn’t happen again.

“I’m steeped in the history of what happened here, I couldn’t not be involved.”

  • Last remaining French D-day veteran Léon Gautier dies at 100

Sharing the spotlight

Fellow volunteer Bras feels the history of the Merville Battery has been sidelined.

“We don’t talk enough about it, unfortunately. We talk a lot about the beaches – Omaha, Utah, Gold and so on – but not that much about what happened in the batteries. And yet they were huge hubs for the war.”

The media focus, he says, has been mainly on the beaches, and soldiers shot dead as they ran along them.

“It’s important of course, but when the casemates were attacked, dead bodies were also left behind.”

As for the war heroes, he says it’s time the British were brought into the limelight.

“We want American heroes, but unfortunately we’ve never made heroes of the English,” he regrets.

  • Long-awaited British memorial opens in Normandy to remember D-Day fallen

Passing on stories

Each year on D-Day, veterans join the commemorations at the Merville Battery. But this year will be different.

“The 80th anniversary is special for us. It’s a big year, but also the first without veterans,” says Dagorn.

“Many of the volunteers got to know the veterans. They’ve listened to their stories and can pass them on.”

After D-Day, the volunteers will carry on working weekends to restore the bunker to its original state – with beds, a pharmacy, a munitions room, telephones, and life-size mannequins of the 160 German soldiers who lived there until the British paratroopers finally took control on 17 August 1944.


South African elections

South Africa’s ruling party sees power weakened for first time in 30 years

South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) has lost its parliamentary majority for the first time since democratic elections began, with early results from this week’s vote showing a dramatic drop in support for the party that led the country out of apartheid.

Results were not yet final but with nearly all votes counted by Saturday afternoon, the ANC had just over 40 percent.

It is a sharp drop from the almost 58 percent it secured at the last election in 2019, and short of a majority for the first time since the end of white minority rule in 1994.

With the last votes still being tallied, the ANC was still the largest party by some way – but without a majority, it will have to negotiate a coalition with smaller partners to continue to govern.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa will likely face calls to quit, though there are no obvious ANC candidates to succeed him.

The public vote decides South Africa’s parliament, with lawmakers responsible for choosing a president. Without a parliamentary majority, the ANC will have to rely on support from other parties’ MPs to re-elect Ramaphosa for a second term.

Parliament must sit and elect a president within 14 days of the final election results, which officials say will be declared by Sunday.

  • PODCAST: South Africa’s 2024 elections: young voters and the legacy of apartheid

Coalition talks

The ANC is now set for a flurry of negotiations with its opponents.

The partial count shows that the centrist Democratic Alliance is the leading opposition party with around 21 percent of the vote, while the populist MK Party of former President Jacob Zuma has over 14 percent and the far-left Economic Freedom Fighters have 9 percent. 

Opposition leaders hailed the historic political shift as a much-needed change.

The ANC retains the loyalty of many voters for its leading role in overthrowing white minority rule, and its social welfare and economic empowerment policies are credited by supporters with helping millions of black households out of poverty.

But over three decades of almost unchallenged rule, its leadership has been implicated in a series of large-scale corruption scandals, while the continent’s most industrialised economy has languished and crime and unemployment figures have hit record highs.

Read also:

  • Parties woo South Africa’s poorest voters with promise of basic income
  • South Africans lose faith in ruling ANC as income inequality grows

(with newswires)


Global development

African campaigners demand reform of ‘unjust’ global financial system

Africa is being crippled by costly loans and unfair interest rates, campaigners in Nairobi warned at a key summit this week as they demanded a rebalance of global financing.

“Africa is at a very crucial moment of its development,” said Desire Assogbavi, of the ONE campaign, a global NGO dedicated to fighting poverty and inequality. 

Assogbavi was in Nairobi for the annual meeting of the African Development Bank (AfDB), which estimates the continent’s average economic growth in 2023 fell to 3.1 percent – down from 4.1 percent the year before.

High food and energy prices were contributing factors, as were political instability and climate shocks. Despite this Africa’s bank, which turns 60 this year, expects growth to starting picking up from 2024.

Campaigners like Assogbavi say that in order for this to happen, lending structures need to be updated so that African economies have access to less costly investment and loans.

Lending bodies such as the World Bank and the International Monetary fund were created 80 years ago, with the post-WWII Bretton Woods agreement, at a time when “most African countries did not even exist”, he told RFI.

The AfDB, created in 1963, and its Africa Development Fund, operational since 1974, are seen as more understanding of the needs of African economies.

“The continent should tape on all options to finance its development, including the AfDB’s fund,” Assogbavi added.

The ONE campaign is calling for that fund to be replenished to the tune of “at least 25 billion dollars”. 

  • Climate finance and debt relief loom large at World Bank, IMF meetings

Mounting debt

The week-long AfDB annual meeting, whose theme this year is “Transform Africa”, could influence global economic policies for the coming years, if not more.

There is an urgent need for reforms to the “unjust” global financial system, which African leaders say penalises African nations with high borrowing rates.

Governments across the continent need vast financial resources, Kenya’s President William Ruto said at the summit.

“We face the rigid barrier of a global financial architecture that is fundamentally misaligned with our aspirations,” Ruto said.

Ruto complained that African countries are forced to borrow on capital markets at rates far above those paid by the rest of the world, “often up to eight to 10 times more”.

African countries battle sometimes crippling levels of debt to fund their development, as well as frequently unstable exchange rates.

  • France to build balanced partnerships with Africa, says FM on Kenya visit

Reform from within

Meanwhile demands for a fairer global economic and financial system are coupled with a drive to transform the AfDB itself.

“Decisions are very positive so far,” Assogbavi told RFI, noting various encouraging finance collaborations for the development world.

“The new strategy of the bank has been unveiled … and we’ve seen the priorities within that strategy match very well with the most pressing need of the continents.”

African countries have to push for their most pressing needs to be met, Assogbavi added. First off is a stronger agricultural sector, and second is the industrialisation of agricultural businesses. 

The AfDB predicts the continent’s overall economy will expand by 3.7 percent this year.


Paris Olympics 2024

French authorities say they foiled plot to attack Olympic football fans

French prosecutors have filed preliminary terrorism charges against an 18-year-old accused of a plot targeting spectators attending football matches at the Paris Olympics. The interior minister said it was the first threat foiled against the Games, which start in eight weeks’ time.

Arrested last week, the suspect is accused of planning a “violent action” based on jihadist ideology, the national counterterrorism prosecutor’s office said in a statement on Friday.

The man, who was not identified, is being held in custody pending further investigation.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said in a statement that members of the General Directorate of Internal Security arrested an 18-year-old man from Chechnya on 22 May on suspicion of being behind a plan to attack Olympic football matches.

According to the initial investigation, the man was preparing an attack on the Geoffroy-Guichard stadium in the southern city of Saint-Etienne, which will host several matches during the Games.

The planned attack was to target spectators and police forces, the statement said. The suspect hoped “to die and become a martyr”, it added.

France is on in its highest security alert ahead of the Paris Olympics and Paralympics, which will take place from 26 July to 11 August. 

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Security ‘highest priority’

The interior minister has said there are multiple potential threats, including those from Islamic extremist groups, violent environmental activists, far-right groups and cyberattacks from Russia or other adversaries.

The Paris Olympics organising committee said it was made aware of the arrest and praised intelligence and security services.

“Security is the highest priority of Paris 2024. We are working daily in close coordination with the Interior Ministry and all stakeholders – and will continue to be fully mobilised,” it said in a statement.

Security concerns are notably high for the opening ceremony, which is set to involve a boat parade on the River Seine watched by world leaders and hundreds of thousands of spectators.

In April, French President Emmanuel Macron said the ceremony could be moved indoors to the country’s national stadium if the security threat is deemed too high.

Organisers had originally planned to host as many as 600,000 people, most watching free of charge from riverbanks – but security and logistical concerns have led the government to scale back that number to around 300,000.

The French government also decided that visitors won’t be given free access to watch the opening ceremony. Instead, free access will be by invitation only.

(with AP)


Indian elections

India’s Modi retreats to meditate as marathon election nears end

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is waiting out the last round of India’s elections at a memorial to a Hindu spiritual leader, where he will remain in silent meditation as millions cast the final votes in polls he is expected to win.

Modi arrived at the Swami Vivekananda Rock Memorial in southern India on Thursday and is not expected to emerge until late Saturday – by which time the remaining 57 constituencies should have finished voting for their representatives in the Indian parliament.

Saturday’s polling is the seventh and final leg of a staggered general election that began on 19 April.

Results from all rounds are due on 4 June, with the prime minister’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is predicted to clinch a majority for the third time in a row.

In a symbolic move, Modi is spending the final hours of the vote at a mid-sea retreat dedicated to 19th-century spiritual leader and social reformer Vivekananda, who supposedly attainted enlightenment there in 1892. 

Surrounded by police and armed ships, Modi went into meditation at 7pm on Thursday and will break his silence after 48 hours, party members told RFI.



Strategic choice

Analysts say Modi’s choice to retire to southern Tamil Nadu state was strategic, as the BJP has so far struggled to make a dent in India’s south.

But his rivals alleged the high-profile spiritual exercise was actually aimed at voters in Modi’s northern constituency of Varanasi, who will decide on Saturday whether to return him to parliament for a third term.

The main opposition Congress party complained to the Indian Election Commission that the PM’s display of piety was a breach of electoral codes, which require a blackout on campaigning immediately before the vote.

“The trip would be widely televised and would therefore be shown during the 48-hour silence period in Varanasi,” the Congress told the watchdog on Thursday.

“Through the meditation trip, Modi is attempting to unfairly leverage the ethnocultural significance of the chosen location in an attempt to bolster his campaign and maximise his vote share.”

  • Indian opposition accuses Modi of divisive rhetoric as religion sours polls

A calling

The BJP described the prime minister’s trip to the memorial as “personal business”.

Modi, who has moulded a cult of personality within the party, says he was simply following God’s orders on earth.

“I am convinced that God sent me for a purpose. Once the purpose is achieved, my work will be one done,” he told the NDTV news channel last weekend.

“God does not open his cards but makes me do his biddings.”

But critics accuse Modi of seeking to stay in power with increasingly authoritarian tactics.

“Modi has very dangerous intentions for India as he is pushing for a ‘one leader, one nation’ policy,” said Arwind Kejriwal, chief minister of Delhi and head of the opposition Aam Aadmi Party. 

“He has sent many of his rivals to prison and sidelined colleagues who dared to speak up,” said Kejriwal, who was himself jailed by the Modi regime before being released on bail earlier this month.

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

Majoritarian peril

Modi has also resorted to inflammatory comments on the campaign trail against those outside India’s Hindu majority, especially Muslims.

In one case, the premier told a rally the opposition Congress wanted to hand out Hindus’ wealth to “infiltrators” with large families, widely taken as a disparaging reference to Muslims.

Analysts say the comments, which came as the six-week vote kicked off, were intentional to test the ground.

“With the seven phases of voting, one sees Modi’s speeches have become much more strident, much more divisive,” Gopinath Ravindran, history professor at Delhi’s Jamia Millia University, told RFI.

He said the anti-Muslim rhetoric reflected insecurity in the ruling faction. “It however does not mean that they are going to lose this election,” Ravindran argued.

“Today, the threat is if the present government comes back to power they may go in for major revisions to our constitution and take it towards a majoritarianism Hindu polity.”

He added: “The nation must keep a close watch.”


Climate protest

Eco-activist arrested after sticking poster over Monet painting in Paris

A climate activist was arrested on Saturday for sticking an adhesive poster on a Monet painting at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris to draw attention to global warming. The museum says the artwork was not damaged in the stunt.

A video shared on social media showed a woman placing a large red sticker over most of the painting Coquelicots, known by the English title Poppy Field, by French Impressionist Claude Monet.

The activist, a member of the environmental group Riposte Alimentaire (Food Response), said the poster showed what Monet’s idyllic scene might look like in a climate-ravaged future.

“This nightmarish image awaits us if no alternative is put in place,” she can be heard saying.



Monet’s well-known painting, completed in 1873, shows people with umbrellas strolling in a blooming poppy field in the French countryside.

It did not suffer any permanent damage despite not being under glass, the Musée d’Orsay told French news agency AFP after an inspection by a restoration expert.

The painting has since been put back on display, a spokesperson said.

It was originally shown at the first ever Impressionist exhibition of 1874, and currently features in the museum’s blockbuster exhibition tracing the origins of the movement.

The museum plans to file a criminal complaint, the spokesperson added.

Riposte Alimentaire has claimed responsibility for several attacks on art in a bid to draw attention to the climate crisis and food security.

They include throwing soup on the Mona Lisa in the Louvre and on another Monet painting, Springtime, in the Lyon Fine Arts Museum.

Last month the group’s activists stuck flyers around Liberty Leading the People, a painting by Eugene Delacroix displayed in the Louvre.

Two of its members were arrested at the Musée d’Orsay in April on suspicion of preparing a protest there.

“We love art,” the movement has said, “but future artists will have nothing to paint on a burning planet.”

Read also:

  • Civil disobedience only way to protest climate change, say French activists
  • What is tomorrow made of? Artists probe consumerist society and planetary crisis

(with AFP)


Roland Garros 2024

Sabalenka and Rybakina bulldoze their way into last-16 at French Open

Two of the big hitters in the women’s game – second seed Aryna Sabalenka and fourth seed Elena Rybakina – powered their way into the fourth round at the French Open on Saturday with respective straight sets victories over Paula Badosa and Elise Mertens.

Rybakina appeared out of sorts during the early stages of her match on Court Philippe Chatrier against the 25th seed. Her Belgian opponent failed to profit from the lapse after breaking to lead 3-2.

She promptly coughed up her own serve to make it 3-3. And even after Mertens claimed Rybakina’s service again to lead 4-3, she failed to consolidate.

Rybakina levelled for 4-4 and seemingly bored at the descent into club-level pitter-patter, she held to lead 5-4.

Mertens was still in the old groove though and lost her service again to give Rybakina the set after 37 minutes.

It was one way traffic in the second. Rybakina, a quarter-finalist in 2021, raced through it 6-2 to finish the match after 67 minutes.

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Joy

“I’m happy to get through another round,” said the 25-year-old Kazakh. “Every match is difficult. I was happy with the second set. I played with a little more confidence.”

Sabalenka also finished with a flourish but she was under the cosh during the first set. Badosa served for the opener at 5-3 up but could not press home her advantage against her best friend on their tour. Sabalenka exploited the reprieve with savage efficiency.

She won the next five games to wrap up the first set 7-5 and establish a 4-0 lead in the second set. Badosa got on the board to inject a modicum of respectability into the proceedings. 

But Sabalenka, spraying winners off her forehand and adding drop shots and slice to the searingly one-sided affair, took the set 6-1. 

“Even when Paula served for the set, I just tried to play my best fight for every point,” the 25-year-old Belarusian told on-court interviewer Mats Wilander.

“And I was just trying to enjoy this incredible atmosphere.”

Elsewhere in the women’s draw, Varvara Gracheva from France advanced to the last-16 at one of the four Grand Slam tournaments for the first time following a 7-5, 6-3 victory over Irina-Camelia Begu from Romania.

“In March and February I lost most of my matches,” said Gracheva. “I couldn’t have hoped to be back on track so quickly so it’s good and I’m proud.

“I’m happy to be solid here for the French Open where on paper it shouldn’t be this way.”


Nuit Blanche Festival 2024

Overseas France takes centre stage at all-night festival of art and culture

Every year, Paris and its suburbs pull an all-nighter of culture on Nuit Blanche – literally “white night” – when the city hosts a cocktail of art, performance and discovery. This year’s edition, taking place on Saturday, celebrates the melting pot of cultures in French overseas territories from the Caribbean to the Pacific and everywhere in between.

Curator Claire Tancons has spent the afternoon in a warehouse in the northern Paris suburb of Saint-Denis checking the finishing touches to one of the artworks that will be displayed at this year’s Nuit Blanche.

“Edgar Arceneaux’s painting is drying, and hopefully tomorrow the weather will hold,” she tells RFI by phone, referring to a metallic canvas by the American artist that will provide the outdoor stage for a sunset performance at the ancient Roman arena of Montmartre.

Based in California and descended from Creole heritage, Arceneaux has teamed up with actor Alex Barlas to explore France’s historic connection to the Americas and its impact on today’s diaspora, in a piece called The Mirror Is You.

It’s just one of over a hundred events concocted for this vast ephemeral event, which begins at 7pm on Saturday and lasts all night long.

The theme this year is overseas France – a vast patchwork of territories and cultures, spanning the globe from the Caribbean to the Indian Ocean and on to the South Pacific. 

“Given what we know of contemporary geopolitics, I’m not in the mood for celebrating,” Tancons admits.

She’s referring to tense situations in several of France’s overseas territories, including drought in Martinique, slum clearances in Mayotte, the uprising and crackdown in New Caledonia and a curfew for minors in Guadeloupe.

Born and bred in Guadeloupe herself, but having travelled and worked most of her adult life elsewhere, Tancons could see that it would be impossible to avoid the politics of such a theme.

Her solution as a curator was to look for projects that would bring historical perspective to contemporary issues.

Taking a longer view reveals that the problems the overseas territories are experiencing, she says, are “not their problems, they are everyone’s problems”.

  • Voices from former French colonies reflect on painful slave trade legacy

Tangled histories

The pieces Tancons has selected seek to remind the audience of the connection between mainland France and its far-flung territories, which she says are too often relegated to the periphery of the French imagination.

“We tend to think: ‘oh, it’s something happening over there’. We don’t know why they are rebelling, they’re just getting on our nerves and we ask: ‘what is wrong with them?’

“If you know anything about history, you will know to what extent our histories are entangled,” she says.

This shared legacy is at the heart of the programme, says Tancons, pointing to the example of Kaldûn Requiem or The Invisible Country.

Written and directed by French-Algerian director Abdelwaheb Sefsaf, this sound, light and musical show recreates the intersecting destinies of diverse groups of rebels who found themselves exiled to the French penal colony of New Caledonia in the late 19th century – from the Communards of Paris to Kabyles from Algeria and ethnic Kanaks cut off from their own home.

Another performance piece, Lucioles (“Fireflies”), is a critical analysis of overseas territories, inspired by the writing of Martinican author Patrick Chamoiseau and put forward by Tancons herself.

Adapted by actor-director Astrid Bayiha and accompanied by musician Délie Andjembé, the piece will be performed in Paris’s historical library in the Marais district.

  • Artist’s quest to honour hidden heroes of fight against French slavery

Olympic flavour

This year’s Nuit Blanche also ties in with the Cultural Olympiad, the celebration of art and culture taking place in the lead-up to the Paris Olympics, and sport features in several of the performances across the capital and its suburbs.

Visual artist Kenny Dunkan, who hails from Guadeloupe, mixes skateboarding with sound for his show Wélélé!!! Performing on the plaza in front of Paris City Hall as well as the Place de la République, his team of skateboarders will transform themselves into human beatboxes to recreate the atmosphere of a Caribbean night, complete with birds and frogs.

Then there’s a homage to the Chevalier Saint-George, the first musician of African descent to attain widespread acclaim in Europe in the 18th century. Born Joseph Bologne in Guadeloupe in 1745, he was a violinist, conductor and composer – as well as a skilled fencer and dancer.

Celebrating his diverse talents, Guadeloupean violinist Romuald Grimbert-Barré collaborated with Johana Malédon, a dancer from French Guiana, to come up with a hybrid creation that combines music and dance with fencing.


Nuit Blanche is a programme of free cultural events organised by the City of Paris and running throughout the night of 1-2 June 2024.

Launched in Paris in 2002, it is also celebrated simultaneously in 30 other cities around the world, including Taipei, Riga and Winnipeg.

International report

Turkey’s Saturday Mothers keep up vigil for lost relatives

Issued on:

Turkey’s longest-running peaceful protest has entered its thousandth week. For decades, the “Saturday Mothers” have been holding silent vigils to demand justice for relatives who disappeared while being held by security forces.

At Galatasaray Square, in the heart of Istanbul, a mother calls out for justice for a child who’s not been seen for decades – since being apprehended by police.

The Saturday Mothers, named after a similar campaign in Argentina, gather in this square to demand answers. They want to know what happened to their missing relatives, and to hold those responsible to account.

On display are hundreds of photos of those who disappeared while being held by security forces. Among the youngest is a 13-year-old shepherd called Davut.

Denials

Ikbal Eren has been campaigning for decades to find the truth behind her brother Hayrettin’s enforced disappearance.

“Hayrettin Eren was detained at the Saraçhane crossing in Istanbul and taken to the Gayrettepe police headquarters, where he disappeared,” Eren says.

“Although we have five witnesses confirming his detention, they always deny he was held. We also saw his car in the yard of the Security Directorate.”

Even if 44 more years pass, Eren says he will not give up seeking justice for his brother and the others who are missing.

Hayrettin vanished during military rule in the 1980s, but most of the hundreds of enforced disappearances happened in the 1990s at the height of the Turkish state’s war against the Kurdish rebel group, the PKK.

“Especially in the early ’90s – ’92 to ’94 mostly – an enormous number of mainly men were arrested and never seen again,” says Emma Sinclair Webb of Human Rights Watch.

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Justice eluded

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan promised justice in 2011, when he was prime minister, after meeting with some of the Saturday Mothers.

There were criminal investigations into those accused of being behind the disappearances, and even court cases, but all ended in acquittal.

The state has cracked down on the mothers in recent years, deeming their protest to be subversive. Galatasaray Square is now permanently sealed off, and usually only a weekly token of 10 or so people are allowed in.

“Those in power cannot bear to have these women and the relatives of the disappeared meeting every Saturday and presenting them with the crimes the state committed,” said Sinclair Webb.

“For years the authorities have done everything in their power to criminalise this vigil and those who have been involved in it.”

The thousandth week anniversary of Saturday Mothers, held in May, saw an outpouring of support across social media – and even a pop music video commemorating their struggle.

Rock star Teoman recorded the song “Saturday Mothers”, recalling the fight for justice in the face of intimidation and adversity. The song’s video went viral across social media.

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

Ongoing struggle

With the Saturday Mothers campaign passing the thousand-week threshold, they’re vowing to continue until they find justice for their lost relatives.

“We are trying to explain that our disappeared are not abandoned; they are not orphans. We are trying to learn about their fate,” says Birsen Karakoc, who’s been searching for her brother Ridvan since the 1990s.

“We are trying to understand why they were tortured to death. We want justice; that is why we are here every week.

“For 30 years we have been here since the first week, and we will continue to be here.”

At the end of the 1,000th-week ceremony in Galatasaray Square, Birsen’s brother Hasan places flowers on a sculpture celebrating the Turkish Republic.

He calls out to onlookers to say: “Until all our disappeared are found and those responsible are brought to justice, we will never give up.”


European elections 2024

Facing Chinese competition, Europe struggles to hold its position in Africa

With the French being chased out of Niger and Mali and Russian and Chinese influence growing, the European Union is struggling to maintain its presence on the African continent. Experts say that Brussels must rewrite its Africa policy if it wants to hold on to its clout.

Over the past 10 years, Chinese development funds have played an “absolutely essential role” in helping a number of African countries close the gaping infrastructure gap, says Eric Olander, editor of the China-Global South Project (CGSP), which tracks Chinese investment in Africa and other developing parts of the world.

China and its multibillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative loans were often the only option for African countries, Olander says, as multilateral funders like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund turned off the tap or attached conditions that African governments were unwilling to meet, such as making improvements in human rights or governance.

Over recent years, China too scaled back its loans after growing economic problems at home.

But, says Olander, the Chinese “are going to come back in a very different way than they did in the past: rather than a concessional or a commercial loan, you’re going to see more public-private partnerships, more creative financing that doesn’t cause more debt distress on the borrowing country and also de-risks the loan from the point of view of the Chinese”.

Playing on resentments

Meanwhile, the EU seems to be losing ground in Africa.

Leading member France, which has strong roots in Africa due to its colonial past, sees its position weakening with the forced departure of French troops and diplomatic personnel from West African countries including Mali and Niger.

“The resentment against Europeans and Americans in the West, not only for colonialism but for the hypocrisy of the ‘rules-based order’, runs very, very deep, not just in Africa but across the global South,” according to Olander.

“And the Chinese are very effective at playing on those resentments. At UN votes, the Chinese are on the side of the global South. Chinese propaganda says: ‘unlike those who colonised you, we do not’. And they really emphasise that. So that’s a card that’s being played,” he says.

  • China calls for more African representation in international bodies

EU ‘spread too thin’

Concerned by the growing influence of China in Africa, several other countries quickly launched competing infrastructure initiatives – including Japan’s Free and Open Indo Pacific initiative, the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor, a joint project by India and Japan, Washington’s Build Back Better World partnership and the EU’s Global Gateway.

​​​​​The Global Gateway was launched in December 2021 and “aims at mobilising investments of up to 300 billion euros between 2021 and 2027”, according to the EU Commission.

But Olander says the scheme lacks vision and strategy.

“We know from internal European Commission documents that the Global Gateway is spread too thin,” he says.

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

Preoccupied by immigration

Investment isn’t the only area where the EU needs to adjust its approach, according to Olander.

Europe’s Africa policy has become dominated by its stance on immigration. The EU’s current strategy, increasingly in line with demands from the hard right, seems to be aimed at making deals with countries such as Tunisia and Egypt to keep immigrants on the African side of the Mediterranean.

“The key question is: what is going to keep people from leaving their homes to come to Europe?” says Olander.

The answer, he believes, is economic development, jobs and measures to mitigate climate change, with a focus on young people in particular.

“European policymaking in Africa should be anchored in two things: youth and employment.”

00:53

REMARK: Eric Olander, editor of The China-Global South Project

Jan van der Made

“This will help to mitigate some of the immigration pressures, and at the same time, that is precisely the agenda of most democratically elected African leaders,” he argues.

As for the tug of war between China and the EU’s close ally, the US, Olander believes Europe should try and stay out of it.

“That’s just not Europe’s fight to win,” he says. “There’s no upside for them to get sucked into this.”


NEW CALEDONIA CRISIS

New Caledonian capital Noumea ‘under control’ after deadly riots

France said it had regained full control of the New Caledonian capital Nouméa on Friday – more than two weeks after major riots rocked the overseas Pacific territory.

Elite police units and gendarmes carried out an operation to secure the Rivière-Salée neighbourhood north of the capital – the last to have roadblocks in place.

In a post on social media, Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said 12 people had been arrested and 26 roadblocks removed.

The operation mobilised 400 law enforcement personnel, the French High Commission in New Caledonia told reporters.

Other districts blocked

Despite assurances the capital had been brought under full control, local officials said some neighbourhoods remained blocked.

Sonia Backès, president of the South Province and a key figure in the Loyalist movement, said there were still problems in neighborhoods including Mont-Dore, Païta and Dumbéa.

  • Key dates in New Caledonia’s history
  • New Caledonia makes a slow return to normal as state of emergency lifted

“The state has the means to act, as we saw in Rivière-Salée, and it’s urgent to do so wherever necessary,” she told reporters.

Another roadblock was being dismantled by gendarmes at La Tamoa, near La Tontouta International Airport, which remains closed to commercial flights until Monday.

Ongoing crisis

New Caledonia is experiencing its worst political crisis since the 1980s over French plans to reform voting rights in the territory. 

Independence capaigners fear the move will marginalise the indigenous Kanak population.

Seven people have died and thousands wounded in rioting that broke out on 13 May.

President Emmanuel Macron has agreed to pause, but not withdraw, the legislation.


Roland Garros 2024

Roland Garros: Five things we learned on Day 6 – Where Iga dares

Tennis player as campaigner? Discuss. It’s exam time at the French Open. The top seed and defending champion Iga Swiatek is posing the questions … and also coming up with the answers on her 23rd birthday.

Battle

Who’d have thought that the winning machine that is Iga Swiatek would suddenly be at the epicentre of an existential debate at a tournament that she is trying to claim for the fourth time in five years. But voilà, the young Pole has uttered what should have been stated and dealt with a while ago: poor behaviour in the stands. She mentioned it just after her three-set slugfest on Day 4 against the former world number one Naomi Osaka. Swiatek said immediately afterwards that she feared she might have done the wrong thing by speaking out and might incur the wrath of fans. Well, on Day 6 supporters cheered her onto Court Philippe Chatrier for her match against Marie Bouzkova. After her 6-4, 6-2 romp into the fourth round, they even belted out Happy Birthday for the 23-year-old before she left. You done right Iga.

Equality control?

Once Iga Swiatek had voiced her concerns about the rowdiness in the stands, it was instructive to see French Open tournament director Amélie Mauresmo react swiftly by banning alcohol in the stands and telling umpires to be more strict with the spectators. She’s been curiously obdurate about the evening ties on Court Philippe Chatrier featuring mainly men since the inception of the night game a few years back. Hey Amélie, the imbalance is as loud as the louts in the stands. Change the stance before you look lumpen. “It is sad, of course,” said eighth seed Ons Jabeur when asked about the paucity of women in the night games. “I would like us to show more women’s matches, of course. Usually I go back to my hotel, I switch on the TV, and there are always more men’s matches than women’s matches. We try to speak up about it,” Jabeur added. “I keep on speaking up and I really hope things will change. I can feel that women’s tennis at the moment is in a really good position.”

Big brother is watching you 

After regaling us with the joys of stepping out with Paula Badosa, Stefanos Tsitsipas was back talking domestics following his straight sets sweep past Zhizhen Zhang and into the last-16. Stef’s siblings, Petros and Pavlos, are trying to make their way in the game. Petros, 23, is pursuing a career in doubles and Pavlos, 18, is hoping to follow big brother into the singles. “I have been supporting obviously because they want to play professional tennis and this is something that comes completely naturally from my side,” said the 25-year-old alpha prong of the Tsitsipas trident. “Because I completely understand what it takes to make it into professional tennis.” He’ll doubtless be a first port of call should the younger brothers find gushing partners who are players as well.

Last man

So well done Corentin Moutet. The last local hero in the tournament. The 25-year-old Frenchman reached the last-16 at his home tournament for the first time following a four-set victory over Sebastien Ofner from Austria. It was supposed to be the last match on Court Simonne Mathieu on Day 4 but with rain messing up the schedule, it was moved to Court Suzanne Lenglen where there is a roof. Logical really as Moutet will next face second seed Jannik Sinner who played his match during the afternoon on Court Philippe Chatrier which also has a snazzy cover. You want to be as fresh as possible to face the Italian. “I’m going to play my game,” said Moutet. “I’ve never played him. We’ve never practiced together but I’ve watched him a lot. He’s very aggressive and one of the best players in the world, So let’s see how it goes.” We sense a night match a-coming. 

First time

Clara Tauson was among a cluster of players on Day 6 who reached the last-16 at one of the four Grand Slam tournament venues for the first time. The 21-year-old from Denmark removed the 2020 runner-up Sofia Kenin 6-2, 7-5. On Day 4, Tauson, who is ranked number 72 in the world, saw off the ninth seed Jelena Ostapenko who bludgeoned her way to the French Open title in 2017. “I definitely feel like I have always had a lot of easy power in my game: my serve, my forehand, my backhand. It comes very easy to me,” said Tauson after her win over Kenin. “I don’t have to use that much of my strength but that’s also the way I like to play and the way I love to watch people play.”  Next up comes eighth seed Ons Jabeur, who adores angles and savours slices. It will be a fascinating clash of cultures. The review has an idea: Night match.


D-Day

Russia not invited to D-Day 80th anniversary commemorations in France

Russia will not be invited to events marking the 80th anniversary of the Second World War’s D-Day landings next Thursday given its war of aggression against Ukraine, the French presidency has announced.

Organisers had said in April that while President Vladimir Putin would not be invited to 80th-anniversary events in France, some Russian representatives would be welcome in recognition of the country’s war-time sacrifice.

The commemorations will be attended by dozens of heads of state and government, including Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and US President Joe Biden.

IN a press briefing on Thursday, a French presidency confirmedRussia‘s absence and that Zelensky had been invited given his country’s “just fight” in the war against Russia.

“Russia has not been invited. The conditions for its participation are not there given the war of aggressionlaunched in February 2022, which has only increased these last weeks,” the official said.

‘Unease’ over Russia presence

Russia is advancingin eastern Ukraine as two years of war sapsUkraine‘s ammunition and manpower.

Earlier this month, three other EU diplomats told Reuters news agency that a number of states from the bloc had said they would be uneasy if Russia attended.

More than 150,000 Allied troops launched the air, sea and landD-Day landings in Normandy on June 6, 1944, an operation that would lead to the liberation of western Europe from Nazi Germany.

The Soviet Union lost more than 25 million lives in what it calls the Great Patriotic War. Moscow marks the victory with a huge annual military parade on Red Square.

  • Putin says nuclear forces ‘always’ on alert in Victory Day speech
  • France marks World War II end, won’t stop Putin attending D-Day ceremonies

Russians officials have attended D-Day ceremonies in the past.

During the70th-anniversaryevents in 2014, Putin along with the then-leaders of France, Germany and Ukraine set up the so-calledNormandy format – a contact group aimed at resolving the conflict between Ukraine and Russia.

At the time it focused on the Donbas and Crimea regions.

(with Reuters)


Roland Garros 2024

Fans serenade birthday girl Swiatek after waltz into last-16 at French Open

Fans on Court Philippe Chatrier regaled the defending champion Iga Swiatek with the Happy Birthday song on Friday afternoon after the top seed celebrated her 23rd birthday with a 6-4, 6-2 victory over the unseeded Czech Marie Bouzkova to reach the last-16 at the French Open. 

Two days ago on the same court, Swiatek saved a match point to emerge from a three-hour struggle with the former world number one Naomi Osaka.

After her win, she used her on-court interview to plead with spectators to control themselves and not scream out during points.

Less than 18 hours after her comments about the poor etiquette on one of the most famous courts in world tennis, French Open tournament director Amélie Mauresmo announced a package of measures including a ban on alcohol in the stands in an effort to reduce rowdy antics.

Any fears of a fan backlash were quickly dispelled as the Pole walked onto the centre court amid cheers.

She served for the opener at 5-2 but fluffed that chance. But the three-time champion made no mistakes at the second time of asking. Bouzkova, ranked 41 places beneath Swiatek, showed superb athleticism to keep herself in several rallies but Swiatek’s superior firepower and court craft crushed her resistance.

“It was a long match on Wednesday but I felt fine physically,” Swiatek told on-court interviewer Fabrice Santoro. “Marie is a difficult player so I am happy to win in straight sets.”

Elsewhere in the top half of the women’s draw, third seed Coco Gauff disposed of the 30th seed Dayana Yastremska in straight sets and eighth seed Ons Jabeur exhibited more composure on the key points to overcome the Canadian Leylah Fernandez 6-4, 7-6 on Court Suzanne Lenglen.

The 2020 runner-up Sofia Kenin went down to the 21-year-old Dane Clara Tauson whose 6-2, 7-5 victory took her into the last-16 at a Grand Slam tournament for the first time.

Olga Danilovic from Serbia emulated the Dane. The 23-year-old, who came through the three qualifying rounds, shrugged off an abject first set to beat the experienced Croatian Donna Vekic 0-6, 7-5, 7-6 after three hours and eight minutes.

Relief

Following the victory Danilovic burst into tears. “For me it was just big, big relief,” she said. “I fought for every shot. Every shot that I could get to hit back, I did. So it was like a proud moment to soak it in.”

In the bottom half of the men’s draw, the unseeded Italian Matteo Arnaldi shocked the sixth seed Andrey Rublev from Russia in straight sets.

“The point was to not play in same rhythm as him,” said Arnaldi. “Because he hits faster than me. I tried to do a lot of variation and I think I did it pretty well,” he added. “I served really well especially in the important moments. That’s what helped a lot.”

Arnaldi’s more celebrated compatriot Jannik Sinner also reached the last-16. The second seed eased past the unseeded Russian Pavel Kotov 6-4, 6-4, 6-4. It was even more composed for the ninth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas. The 25-year-old Greek beat Zhizhen Zhang 6-3, 6-3, 6-1 in 91 minutes.


Justice

Guilty on all counts: Trump criminal conviction makes history

New York (AFP) – Donald Trump on Thursday became the first former US president ever convicted of a crime after a New York jury found him guilty on all charges in his hush money case, months before an election that could see him yet return to the White House.

The jury found him guilty on each of the 34 counts of falsifying business records to hide a payment meant to silence porn star Stormy Daniels. He could in theory be sentenced to four years behind bars for each count but is more likely to receive probation.

The 77-year-old Republican, who was released without bail, is now a felon – a historic and startling first in a country where presidents are frequently described as the most powerful man in the world.

Trump, however, is not barred from continuing his battle to unseat President Joe Biden in November – even in the unlikely event he goes to prison.

His lawyer, Todd Blanche, said his team was eying an appeal “as soon as we can.”

And Trump himself voiced immediate defiance.

“I’m a very innocent man,” Trump told reporters, vowing that the “real verdict” would come from voters on election day. He branded the trial “rigged” and a “disgrace.”

Biden’s campaign issued a statement saying the trial showed “no one is above the law.” It added that “the threat Trump poses to our democracy has never been greater.”

Judge Juan Merchan set sentencing for July 11 – four days before the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee, where Trump is due to receive the party’s formal nomination.

The 12-member jury had deliberated for more than 11 hours over two days before the foreman read out the unanimous conclusion within a matter of minutes.

Merchan thanked the jurors for completing the “difficult and stressful task”.

Their identities had been kept secret throughout proceedings, a rare practice more often seen in cases involving mafia or other violent defendants.

Trump also faces federal and state charges of conspiring to overturn the results of the 2020 election won by Biden, and for hoarding secret documents after leaving the White House.

However, those trials – on far weightier alleged crimes – are unlikely to get underway before the presidential election.

Election conspiracy

Trump was convicted of falsifying business records to reimburse his lawyer, Michael Cohen, for a $130,000 payment to Daniels on the eve of the 2016 election, when her claim to have had sex with him could have proved fatal to his campaign against Hillary Clinton.

The trial featured lengthy testimony from the adult performer, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford and who described to the court in graphic detail what she says was a 2006 sexual encounter with the married Trump.

Prosecutors successfully laid out a case alleging the hush money and the illegal covering up of the payment was part of a broader crime to prevent voters from knowing about Trump’s behavior.

Cohen, who was the key witness as a tainted former aide who had turned on his old boss, called the verdict “an important day for accountability and the rule of law.”

Trump has denied any sexual encounter with Stormy Daniels, but did not testify in his own defense. His lawyers argued that any payments made to the performer were entirely legal.

Campaigning from courthouse

The trial has distracted Trump in his campaign to unseat Biden.

However, he milked the media attention throughout.

Shortly after the verdict was issued, Trump’s campaign put out a fundraising appeal, titled “I am a political prisoner!” He also announced he would make a public statement to journalists early Friday.

Keith Gaddie, a political analyst and professor at Texas Christian University, said the political impact of the shocking events has yet to be determined.

“It probably doesn’t move a lot of votes, but in particular states with particular swing votes, it could matter around the margins. So in particularly tight races, it can tip things back from one direction to the other,” he said.

Trump, who made his name as a brash real estate mogul before a stunning ascent to the nation’s highest office in the 2016 election, most likely faces probation, because he is a first-time convict.

An appeal is all but certain, but could take months to complete.

Should he win the presidency he will not be able to pardon himself, given that the case was brought not by the federal government but by the state of New York, where only the governor could clear his name.


south sudan

UN Security Council extends South Sudan arms embargo

United Nations, US (AFP) – The UN Security Council overcame resistance from several countries on Thursday and extended an arms embargo and sanctions imposed in an effort to stem violence in South Sudan.

The US-drafted resolution passed with the minimum amount of support necessary, with nine countries in favor and six abstentions.

The text decried “the continued intensification of violence, including intercommunal violence, prolonging the political, security, economic and humanitarian crisis in most parts of the country.”

The resolution extends an arms embargo on the country by a year to May 31, 2025.

It also extends an exemption, adopted a year ago, permitting the transfer of non-lethal military aid in support of a 2018 peace deal without necessitating prior notification.

It also affirms the Security Council‘s readiness to review the arms embargo measures, including their ultimate suspension or easing, “in the light of progress” on certain key issues.

The embargo “remains necessary to stem the unfettered flow of weapons into a region awash with guns. Too many people, and especially, women and children, have borne the brunt of this ongoing violence,” said deputy US ambassador to the UN Robert Wood.

Juba rejects that position, along with several Security Council members including Russia, which has long demanded the lifting of the embargo.

“It is essential to acknowledge the significant achievements we have made,” said South Sudan‘s ambassador to the UN Cecilia Adeng, who called for a “more balanced approach.”

  • South Sudan buckles from stream of refugees fleeing Sudanese war
  • After DRC, Pope Francis takes peace mission to South Sudan

‘Negative effects’

“Lifting the arms embargo will enable us to build robust security institutions necessary for maintaining peace and protecting our citizens.”

The embargo “is no more serving the purposes of which it was established” and “it is having negative effects since it hinders the ability of the transitional government to create the necessary capacity,” said Amar Bendjama, the ambassador of Algeria which abstained on the vote along with the other African members including Sierra Leone and Mozambique, joining Russia, China and Guyana.

UN arms embargos are increasingly opposed by some member states, particularly African countries which are often backed by Russia.

“It is clear that at this stage, many of the Council sanctions regimes including South Sudan’s are outdated and need to be reviewed,” said Russia’s deputy UN ambassador Anna Evstigneeva.

It was unfortunate that Washington views such embargos as a “panacea for all of the country’s problems,” she said.

From 2013 to 2018, the country’s 12 million people were gripped by a bloody civil war between the followers of two rival leaders, Salva Kiir and Riek Machar, which claimed 380,000 lives.

Violence persists despite a peace deal signed in 2018 and nearly two million people are internally displaced, according to the UN.


Roland Garros 2024

Sinner cruises past Kotov to reach last-16 at French Open

Second seed Jannik Sinner moved into the last-16 at the French Open in Paris on Friday following a business-like 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 victory over the unseeded Russian Pavel Kotov.

The 22-year-old Italian wrapped up the first set in 50 minutes on Court Philippe Chatrier. 

He broke to take a 2-1 lead in the second set and confirmed for 3-1. He came through a slight wobble in his next service game as Kotov hit more freely but held to lead 4-2. A second ace gave him the second set 6-4 after one hour and 47 minutes.

A break in the fifth game of the third set effectively sealed Kotov’s doom and Sinner played well within his prodigious talents to conclude proceedings after two hours and 27 minutes.

Sinner’s less heralded compatriots Matteo Arnaldi and Elisabetta Cocciaretto pulled off shocks.

Arnaldi upset an out-of-sorts Andrey Rublev in straight sets.

The 23-year-old beat the sixth seed 7-6, 6-2, 6-4 on Court Suzanne Lenglen.

“I had a lot of opportunities,” Rublev lamented. “I had a lot of chances and I didn’t take them. Then in one moment, I completely lost it.

“I had so many chances to come back, to lead again and I didn’t make it, I didn’t make it, I didn’t make it.

“I was keeping it inside and when I lost my serve for a second time in the second set, I lost it completely.”

Performance

In the top half of the women’s draw, Elisabetta Cocciaretto saw off another Russian in straight sets. Cocciaretto dispatched the 17th seed Liudmila Samsonova 7-6, 6-2 to reach the last-16 at a Grand Slam tournament for the first time.

“I’m really, really happy about it,” said the 23-year-old. “And of course being for the first time in the second week of a Grand Slam, it’s unbelievable.

“But the thing is that I’m not thinking that I’m in a second week but trying to keep the focus on point by point, match by match. Just enjoying it and improve myself.

Third seed Coco Gauff dispatched the 30th seed Dayana Yastremska from Ukraine 6-2, 6-4 on Court Suzanne Lenglen to move into the fourth round for the fourth time in five visits.

“I was just trying to be solid,” said Gauff. “She’s a very aggressive player who can hit winners and also make mistakes so I was just trying to be solid and be aggressive when I could.”


PARIS OLYMPICS 2024

Foreign legion ‘proud’ to provide security at Paris Olympics

Canjuers (France) (AFP) – The elite French Foreign Legion is preparing for security duty in Paris during this summer’s Olympic Games, a far cry from the group’s previous deployments to places like the troubled Sahel region of Africa.

Members of the storied foreign-fighter unit huddle on a military base in southern France, located hundreds of kilometres from Paris’ cafe-lined streets where they will deploy in just a few weeks.

“There’s no Eiffel Tower, but we’re in Paris,” says Lieutenant Antoine to the troops gathered around him, who, like all legionnaires, had to change his name upon joining.

Metal barracks stand in today for the gleaming arenas these soldiers will soon be scouring for “suspicious objects” with the help of dogs and drones.

The Foreign Legion, a corps of some 10,000 soldiers founded nearly 195 years ago, is the only French army unit in which foreign nationals can enlist.

They can apply for French nationality after several years of service, or sooner if they distinguish themselves in battle in places like Niger, where they fought against an Islamist insurgency.

But this summer, they are heading to the French capital, where the soldiers will work alongside police as part of the country’s heightened security posture during the Games.

The Olympics are set to take place from July 26-August 11 followed by the Paralympics from August 28-September 8.

  • Seine still failing water tests two months from Paris Olympics

‘A lot of factors’

Before the search exercise can start, Lieutenant Antoine wants to ensure the legionnaires – whose French is often broken – understand how the operation will be carried out.

“What is a K-9 unit?” he asks in French.

One legionnaire has the correct answer – a police dog – but in his native Nepalese, not French.

The language barrier is nothing new for this unit, where some 30 nationalities work side-by-side, but joining forces with police and private security unaccustomed to the legion’s multicultural nature will pose a challenge.

To get them ready, one soldier plays the role of an uncommunicative security guard, but even so the legionnaires quickly find a bottle filled with a suspicious substance, and a dog sniffs out a 500-gram plastic object hidden under the floorboards.

Pleased with the “fairly rapid detection”, Captain Aymeric told AFP his men are ready to join the some 20,000 military personnel deployed for the Olympics.

But Lieutenant Hugo, who like all soldiers can give only his first name, says Paris presents different challenges, including the “complexity and density of the urban environment”.

During previous deployments to the Sahel, soldiers might have had an entire day to search a village but in Paris they will be searching huge venues with a time limit.

In late January, the French government slashed the crowd size for the opening ceremony this July in half from 600,000 to around 300,000, amid security and organisational concerns.

There are “a lot of factors, a lot of players,” the lieutenant said.

  • France seeks help from allies to bolster security during Paris Olympics

‘Makes me proud’

Originally from Nepal and enlisted in the FFL in 2018, Sergeant “Ganesh” says he is aware of how important the legion’s role is this summer.

“The Olympics motivate me even more,” said the former student from Luxembourg, adding, “working for France makes me proud”.

Patriotism is not a requirement for the legion, whose motto, “Honour and Fidelity”, puts solidarity between brothers-in-arms over national feeling.

There are very few conditions for those looking to join: applicants must not have convictions for serious crimes like murder or paedophilia, be combat-ready, willing to serve for five years, and learn French.

Since the start of the war in Ukraine, Belarusians and Russians can no longer join.

As for the rest, the French army gives leeway for the sometimes chequered pasts’ of its legionnaires.

For many, the decision to join the foreign legion is made by those looking to start a “second or third life”, said Captain Aymeric.

“What interests me is not what they did before,” he said, “but what they’re ready to do for us”.


France

Europe’s biggest honey producer stung by accusations of ‘Frenchwashing’

Europe’s leading honey producer, Famille Michaud Apiculteurs, has been accused of “Frenchwashing” by giving its customers the false impression that its honey is wholly French when in reality it comes from other countries.

The Famille Michaud produces brands such as Lune de Miel, Miel l’Apiculteur and La Ruche aux Délices, which are sold in supermarkets. 

A complaint to the Paris Court of Justice by UFC-Que Choisir, a powerful consumer rights group, argued the honey’s origin was not clearly enough indicated on the labels of certain jars.

France’s biggest honey producer was “affixing labels that lead consumers to believe that the product was harvested in France when this is not the case”, the group said in a press release on Wednesday.

UFC-Que Choisir said mentions of the company’s French origin as well as the Pyrenees location where the honey is put into jars was “over-emphasised” on the packaging and lids of honey that was actually imported from abroad.

Some jars even use the reference “miel de nos terroirs”, meaning “honey from our land”.

  • French honey harvest halved in ‘worst year ever’ for beekeepers

Small print

Every hour some 40,000 pots of honey leave the company’s factory in Gan, southern France.

The honey is not always 100 percent French. Sometimes it’s predominantly Hungarian, Ukrainian, Bulgarian, Spanish, Argentinian or even Vietnamese.

“The exact origin of the products is often relegated to a small print on the back of the jars, or even on the cap, using abbreviations that are sometimes difficult to understand,” UFC-Que Choisir said.

Its president, Marie-Amandine Stévenin, told FranceInfo radio the average consumer would likely be misled because they were not receiving fair information. 

Stévenin is calling for the introduction of labels that would “tell consumers, easily and clearly, the origin of the products that make up what they are buying”.

  • Imported honey lands French beekeepers in sticky situation

‘Slanderous denunciation’

The CEO of Famille Michaud Apiculteurs said the company “firmly” disputed the allegations.

Marie Michaud told the French news agency AFP that Famille Michaud Apiculteurs was preparing to take legal action against UFC-Que Choisir for “slanderous denunciation”.

The company said the origins of all honeys contained in its jars were indicated on labels in accordance with regulations.

Since spring 2022, companies selling honey in France have been obliged to indicate the country of origin of honey blends when they are packaged in France.

France produces an average of 20,000 tonnes of honey a year, while the French consume an average of 45,000 tonnes a year, according to the Confédération Paysanne, France’s third-largest farmers’ union.

(with newswires)


EU – Russia

EU agrees ‘prohibitive’ tariffs on Russia, Belarus grain imports

European Union states on Thursday agreed to hike tariffs on grain imports from Russia and Belarus in a bid to cut off revenues to Moscow for its war on Ukraine.

The European Union has hit Russia with multiple rounds of sanctions to inflict damage on Russia’s war chest following its all-out invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

The latest measure will notably “tackle illegal Russian exports of stolen Ukraine grain into EU markets”, the EU’s trade commissioner, Valdis Dombrovskis, said on X.



The tariffs will also be applied to products from Belarus, which served as a staging ground for Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

But the tariffs will not apply to Russian grain transiting through the EU to countries outside the bloc. This is to ensure that food supplies for elsewhere, notably Africa and Asia, are not impacted. Russian fertiliser supplies were not targeted.

  • EU strikes deal capping Ukrainian poultry and grains to appease farmers

Cereal imports

The European Commission proposed the measure in March. Under World Trade Organisation rules, virtually all Russian grain has until now been exempt from EU import duties.

From 1 July, the EU will increase “duties on cereals, oilseeds and derived products from Russia and Belarus to a point that will in practice halt imports of these products”, the council representing the EU’s 27 member states said.

The EU set this at a level of either around 90 euros per tonne for most cereals, or 50 percent of the value for other products.

“These measures will therefore prevent the destabilisation of the EU’s grain market (and) halt Russian exports of illegally appropriated grain produced in the territories of Ukraine,” said Vincent Van Peteghem, Belgian minister for finance.

“This is yet another way in which the EU is showing steady support to Ukraine.”

Food security

The EU has approached punitive action against Russia’s agricultural or fertiliser sector with great caution, fearing any moves that could hurt the global cereal market as well as food security in Africa and Asia.

But Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky complained to EU leaders earlier this year, arguing it was unfair Russian grain maintained unrestricted access to their markets while Ukrainian imports faced limits.

Russia at the time warned against the tariffs. “Consumers in Europe would definitely suffer,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in March.

(with AFP)


Roland Garros 2024

Tennis chiefs crack down on hooligan element at French Open matches

Organisers of the French Open tennis tournament on Thursday banned fans from drinking alcohol while watching matches as part of a hastily arranged package of measures to combat loutish behaviour as the world’s top players battle to lift one of the circuit’s most coveted prizes.

Security agents have been told to identify and remove persistently rowdy fan and match umpires have also been instructed to be less indulgent and impose a disciplined tone for the games.

The move follows complaints from the former top 10 player David Goffin and the world number one Iga Swiatek.

During his first round match on Sunday against the Frenchman Giovanni Mpetshi Perricard, Goffin said he was continually abused by the crowd on Court 14 during a match that lasted nearly four hours.

“This is becoming football,” said the 33-year-old Belgian after the five-set victory. “And soon there’ll be smoke bombs and hooligans and fighting in the stands.”

His comments were initially downplayed. But on Wednesday night, after fending off a match point during a three-hour, three-set struggle with the former world number one Naomi Osaka, a visibly upset Swiatek used her post-match on-court interview with the former player Alex Corretja to plead for fans to control themselves.

“When you scream something during the rally or right before the return, it’s really, really hard to be focused,” said the 22-year-old Pole.

“This is serious for us, we are fighting our whole lives to be better and better. Sometimes it’s hard to accept that.”

An hour or so away from the white heat of competition, Swiatek told reporters that she hoped her reprimand would not turn the crowds against her.

But less than 18 hours after her objections, French Open tournament director Amélie Mauresmo stepped in and threw the weight of one of the world’s most prestigious tennis institutions behind one of the sport’s biggest stars.

“We’re happy to see there’s an atmosphere, emotions and that the spectators are there,” said Mauresmo.

“However, we will be uncompromising with respect to the players and the game.

“If there’s the slightest behaviour that oversteps the mark, it will be the exit,” she added.

Mauresmo, a former world number one and two-time Grand Slam tournament champion, added: “Throwing something at a player, you’re out. Expressing yourself during a point is a no-no. We’re going to try and limit that as much as possible.”

Standards of leniency vary at the tournament. Some umpires keep a lid on the rowdiness while others appear to fear fans intent on enjoying themseves and performing Mexican waves as a player prepares to serve to consolidate a break of serve or even serve for the set.

“The umpires have tighter, even more precise instructions on keeping the audience under control,” added Mauresmo. “It’s part of the role of the umpire to manage that too.”

International report

Turkey’s Saturday Mothers keep up vigil for lost relatives

Issued on:

Turkey’s longest-running peaceful protest has entered its thousandth week. For decades, the “Saturday Mothers” have been holding silent vigils to demand justice for relatives who disappeared while being held by security forces.

At Galatasaray Square, in the heart of Istanbul, a mother calls out for justice for a child who’s not been seen for decades – since being apprehended by police.

The Saturday Mothers, named after a similar campaign in Argentina, gather in this square to demand answers. They want to know what happened to their missing relatives, and to hold those responsible to account.

On display are hundreds of photos of those who disappeared while being held by security forces. Among the youngest is a 13-year-old shepherd called Davut.

Denials

Ikbal Eren has been campaigning for decades to find the truth behind her brother Hayrettin’s enforced disappearance.

“Hayrettin Eren was detained at the Saraçhane crossing in Istanbul and taken to the Gayrettepe police headquarters, where he disappeared,” Eren says.

“Although we have five witnesses confirming his detention, they always deny he was held. We also saw his car in the yard of the Security Directorate.”

Even if 44 more years pass, Eren says he will not give up seeking justice for his brother and the others who are missing.

Hayrettin vanished during military rule in the 1980s, but most of the hundreds of enforced disappearances happened in the 1990s at the height of the Turkish state’s war against the Kurdish rebel group, the PKK.

“Especially in the early ’90s – ’92 to ’94 mostly – an enormous number of mainly men were arrested and never seen again,” says Emma Sinclair Webb of Human Rights Watch.

  • Armenian genocide remembered as Assyrians fight for acknowledgement of their plight

Justice eluded

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan promised justice in 2011, when he was prime minister, after meeting with some of the Saturday Mothers.

There were criminal investigations into those accused of being behind the disappearances, and even court cases, but all ended in acquittal.

The state has cracked down on the mothers in recent years, deeming their protest to be subversive. Galatasaray Square is now permanently sealed off, and usually only a weekly token of 10 or so people are allowed in.

“Those in power cannot bear to have these women and the relatives of the disappeared meeting every Saturday and presenting them with the crimes the state committed,” said Sinclair Webb.

“For years the authorities have done everything in their power to criminalise this vigil and those who have been involved in it.”

The thousandth week anniversary of Saturday Mothers, held in May, saw an outpouring of support across social media – and even a pop music video commemorating their struggle.

Rock star Teoman recorded the song “Saturday Mothers”, recalling the fight for justice in the face of intimidation and adversity. The song’s video went viral across social media.

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

Ongoing struggle

With the Saturday Mothers campaign passing the thousand-week threshold, they’re vowing to continue until they find justice for their lost relatives.

“We are trying to explain that our disappeared are not abandoned; they are not orphans. We are trying to learn about their fate,” says Birsen Karakoc, who’s been searching for her brother Ridvan since the 1990s.

“We are trying to understand why they were tortured to death. We want justice; that is why we are here every week.

“For 30 years we have been here since the first week, and we will continue to be here.”

At the end of the 1,000th-week ceremony in Galatasaray Square, Birsen’s brother Hasan places flowers on a sculpture celebrating the Turkish Republic.

He calls out to onlookers to say: “Until all our disappeared are found and those responsible are brought to justice, we will never give up.”

The Sound Kitchen

Plundered art and artefacts

Issued on:

This week on The Sound Kitchen you’ll hear the answer to the question about plundered art in French museums. There’s a quick trip to Switzerland, “The Listener’s Corner” with Paul Myers, Ollia’s “Happy Moment”, and “Music from Erwan”. All that and the new quiz and bonus questions too, so click on the “Play” button above and enjoy! 

Hello everyone! Welcome to The Sound Kitchen weekly podcast, published every Saturday – here on our website, or wherever you get your podcasts. You’ll hear the winner’s names announced and the week’s quiz question, along with all the other ingredients you’ve grown accustomed to: your letters and essays, “On This Day”, quirky facts and news, interviews, and great music … so be sure and listen every week.

Erwan and I are busy cooking up special shows with your music requests, so get them in! Send your music requests to thesoundkitchen@rfi.fr  Tell us why you like the piece of music, too – it makes it more interesting for us all!

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 27 April, I asked you a question about our article “’Titanic’ task of finding plundered African art in French museums”, about an ongoing and very real problem in Western museums whose collections contain art and artifacts that were most probably stolen during the colonial era.

However, discovering the actual provenance of many of the works is a long and painstaking process. It’s investigative work, like tracking a murderer or a bank robber – except this is a brand-new type of investigation, with often little to offer in terms of clues, sources, and the like.

Because so many museums are now trying to find how a work ended up in their collections, two French universities are now offering courses in this new field of “artistic detective work”. And that was your question: What are the names of the two French universities that now offer courses in Art Provenance Research?

The answer is: The University of Paris-Nanterre and the Louvre School of Art.

In addition to the quiz question, there was the bonus question, “Which is stronger: money or the pen, and how?”, which was suggested by Rafiq Khondaker from Naogaon, Bangladesh.

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

The winners are: RFI Listeners Club member Sharifa Akter Panna from Kishoreganj, Bangladesh. Sharifa is also the winner of the week’s bonus question. Congratulations, Sharifa!

Also on the list of lucky winners this week are Saleem Akhtar Chadhar, the president of the RFI Seven Stars Radio Listeners Club in District Chiniot, Pakistan; Nafisa Khatun, the president of the RFI Mahila Shrota Sangha Club in West Bengal, India, and Ferhat Bezazel, the president of the RFI Ain Kechera Butterflies Club in West Skikda, Algeria.

Rounding out the list is RFI Listeners Club member Abdul Mannan Teacher from Sirajganj, Bangladesh, and last but not least, RFI English listener Shihabur Rahaman Khan from Bogura, Bangladesh.

Here’s the music you heard on this week’s program: A traditional Swiss folksong, sung by the Swiss Laddies; “Funk No 1” by Juna Serita, performed by Tokyo Groove Jyoshi; “The Flight of the Bumblebee” by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov; “The Cakewalk” from Children’s Corner by Claude Debussy, performed by the composer; “Happy” by Pharrell Williams, and “Misemo” by Balthazar Naturel, arranged and played by Monsieur MÂLÂ.

Do you have a music request? Send it to thesoundkitchen@rfi.fr

This week’s question … you must listen to the show to participate. After you’ve listened to the show, re-read Paul’s article “Zverev sees off Nadal to advance to second round at French Open”, which will help you with the answer.

You have until 24 June to enter this week’s quiz. The winners will be announced on the 29 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 ANC on the brink of losing majority, coalition government looms

Issued on:

In this episode of Spotlight on Africa, Melissa Chemam discusses the recent elections in South Africa and the possibility of the ruling ANC losing its overall majority, potentially forcing it into a coalition government.

On  29 May, South Africans participated in parliamentary and provincial elections in the most fiercely contested vote since the end of apartheid in 1994.

After 30 years in power, the African National Congress, once led by Nelson Mandela, could lose its majority.

With Tchepo Moloi, a lecturer at the University of Johannesburg, Gareth Stevens, vice-chancellor of the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, and William Gumede, political analyst, also at the University of Witwatersrand, we examine how the past 30 years have led to this pivotal moment and how a coalition government could transform South Africa’s political landscape.

We will also hear from curator Aude Leveau Mac Elhone, who has organised the exhibition Brazil and Africa, a Shared History in Gorée, Dakar, Senegal, along with the artist Aline Motta. 

 


Episode mixed by Vincent Pora.

Spotlight on Africa is a podcast from Radio France Internationale. 

International report

President Raisi’s death casts shadow over diplomatic tensions with Turkey

Issued on:

Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi was laid to rest on Thursday, concluding days of funeral rites attended by thousands of mourners after his death in a helicopter crash last week. Experts say the tragedy may well increase tensions between Iran and Turkey, both vying for influence in the Middle East.

Hundreds of thousands marched in Raisi’s home town Mashhad to bid farewell ahead of his burial following processions in the cities of Tabriz, Qom, Tehran and Birjand.

The 63-year-old died on Sunday alongside his Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian and six others after their helicopter went down in the country’s mountainous northwest while returning from a dam inauguration on the border with Azerbaijan.

A huge search and rescue operation was launched, involving help from the European Union, Russia and Turkey before the crash site was located early on Monday.

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

The Iranian military said that a drone dispatched by Turkey had failed to locate the crash site “despite having night-vison equipment”.

“Finally, in the early hours of Monday morning, the exact spot of the helicopter crash was discovered by the ground rescue forces and Iranian drones of the armed forces,” the military said in a statement carried by the official IRNA news agency.

Meanwhile, on Thursday Iran’s army said it has so far found no evidence of criminal activity related to the crash.

Simmering tensions

The high profile deaths come as rivalry continues to intensify between Iran and Turkey.  

“For Turkey, the future of South Caucasia, Iraq and Syria are critical for its national security. And here in these areas of Turkey, all face Iranian opposition against Turkey’s interests,” explained Bilgehan Alagoz, a professor of international relations at Istanbul’s Marmara University

For example, the Turkish military is poised to launch a major offensive in Iraq and Syria against the bases of the Kurdish rebel group PKK, which is fighting the Turkish state.

Ankara has repeatedly criticised Tehran for failing to support its efforts, while  Iran is concerned about Turkey encroaching in areas it considers to be in its sphere of influence. 

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

The death of Raisi has brought to the fore bitter memories of the killing by the United States four years ago of Qasim Soleimani, the veteran head of the international operations of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp.

“These two important personalities had been increasing Iranian influence in the Middle East very strongly,” observed Professor of International Relations Huseyin Bagci at Ankara’s Middle East Technical University

Bagci says Turkey’s diplomatic advantage will no doubt be stronger as Iran heads into presidential elections on 28 June.

“I don’t know if the new foreign minister and President will somehow get the same level of this influence because they will be mostly inexperienced people,” he says.

Internal fight for power

Bagci suggests that a real internal fight for power will be problematic for the country because “Iranian society is much more dynamic and progressive than the regime.

“There is a partnership between the clerics and the military. But these two institutions are also fighting amongst each other.”

However, if Iran’s Revolutionary Guard increases its power, experts warn that it could also result in a more assertive use of Iranian proxies controlled by the IRGC in Iraq and Syria, which are often as odds with Turkish interests.

Alagoz says that the IRGC’s view of the region is very problematic because the Iran proxies are a problem for the future of the Middle East.

“The overconfidence of the IRGC combined with political power will be a destabilising factor in the Middle East, and so Turkey will always be concerned by this issue.”

With Ankara and Tehran competing for power from Syria and Iraq to Sudan, analysts say the outcome of Iran’s transition of power could have significant implications across the region and for Turkish-Iranian relations.

The Sound Kitchen

A best friend as a hero

Issued on:

Feast your ears on listener Rodrigo Hunriche’s “My Ordinary Hero” essay. All it takes is a little click on the “Play” button above!

Hello everyone!

This week on The Sound Kitchen, you’ll hear a “My Ordinary Hero” essay by listener Rodrigo Hunrichse from Chile. I hope you’ll be inspired to write an essay for us, too!

If your essay goes on the air, you’ll find a package in the mail from The Sound Kitchen. Write in about your “ordinary” heroes – the people in your community who are doing extraordinarily good work, quietly striving to make the world a better place, in whatever way they can. As listener Pramod Maheshwari said: “Just as small drops of water can fill a pitcher, small drops of kindness can change the world.”

I am still looking for your “This I Believe” essays too. Tell us about the principles that guide your life … what you have found to be true from your very own personal experience. Or write in with your most memorable moment, and/or your proudest achievement. If your essay is chosen to go on the air – read by youyou’ll win a special prize!

Send in your musical requests, your secret “guilty” pleasure (mine’s chocolate!), your tricks for remembering things, your favourite quotations and proverbs, descriptions of the local festivals you participate in, your weirdest dream, the book you are reading and what you think about it, or just your general all-around thoughts to thesoundkitchen@rfi.fr

Or by postal mail, to:

Susan Owensby

RFI – The Sound Kitchen

80, rue Camille Desmoulins

92130 Issy-les-Moulineaux

France

I look forward to hearing from you soon!

Here’s Rodrigo Hunrichse’s essay: 

“My friend Jorge “Tito” Vargas Rocha is my ordinary hero, because he’s been accepting me (I’m hard to handle) for counseling/ following my advice for 15 years (he’s a little stubborn as well), but after my perseverance he’s been delivering now as senior. We are examples and we help each other: I even took him in for nine months after a fire burnt his home. I consider him my brother. In his youth, he was a good athlete (rowing, weightlifting, skiing, etc) and student (three careers at the University), reader, and builder… and the reason I’m learning French in my middle age: he attended Alliance Française in his childhood, was referred to as a “bonne homme”, was an exchange student in Michigan, USA, where he certified in High School too! My Hero!

His French is better than his Spanish but his English is good too (mine are better excepting my so-far-poor French). I’ve been insisting he practices his French by talking/ listening to the radio/ watching TV5 Monde and affiliates, and by buying him books. A trip to France is out of our pockets, but I drive him to the countryside, to museums, beaches, as well as long bus rides to his childhood home of Port of Lebu, which is three hours away. He deserves better, but lately lacks effort as a senior, although he is staying in good shape. My Hero!”

The music chosen by Rodrigo is “Father and Son” by Cat Stevens, performed by the composer. 

The quiz will be back next week, 1 June 2024. Talk to you then!

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.

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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.