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Quick Reads + International Relations

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Latest stories from Quick Reads + International Relations

A 80 Year-long Wait: Niger Gets its First Train Station

On April 7, Niger inaugurated in the capital Niamey its first train station ever [fr]. The authorities already projected the construction of the train station 80 years ago but the project never took off. The event will kick start the construction of railroads between Niger, Benin, Burkina Faso and Côte d'Ivoire. Twitter user Tanoussou in Niamey posted a photo of the train station :

 

The Kidnapping Industry Takes Hold in Cameroon

The Matango Club blog reflects upon the kidnapping of two italian priests and a canadian nun [fr] on April 4, 2014 in Northern Cameroon:

 Pour l’histoire, les kidnappings de ce genre ne datent pas d’aujourd’hui. Rappelons que  dernièrement, le rapt du prêtre français Georges Vandenbeusch, 42 ans, a fait beaucoup de bruit. Il avait été kidnappé un 14 novembre 2013 dans son monastère, la paroisse de Nguetchewe, près de Koza, dans le nord du pays, à 700 kilomètres de la capitale Yaoundé, une zone considérée comme très dangereuse. Avant lui, le 19 février 2013, la famille Moulin-Fournier avait elle aussi été enlevée. Ces deux derniers kidnapping avaient connu un tapage médiatique international à tel point que les soupçons qui pesaient sur le groupe islamique Boko Haram ont fini par être confirmés par le chef Abubakar Shekau, leader du groupuscule depuis 2009.

Tout juste après la libération de la famille Moulin-Fournier, la presse camerounaise et beaucoup d’opinion diverses soupçonnaient le gouvernement camerounais d’avoir donné une rançon au groupe islamique Boko Haram pour la libération des français. Ces soupçons se sont encore renforcés lorsque la même France a encore eu maille à partir avec le kidnapping du prêtre Georges qui a été libéré quelque semaines après. Ces séries de rapts et de libérations à n’en plus finir font penser que c’est devenu un marché tant du côté du Nigeria que du  Cameroun.

 Kidnapping of this kind is not new in Cameroon. The abduction of French priest Georges Vandenbeusch, 42, made ​​a lot of noise recently. He was kidnapped on November 14, 2013 in his monastery, in the parish Nguetchewe near Koza, 700 kilometers north of the capital city Yaoundé, an area that is considered very dangerous. Before him, on February 19 2013, the Moulin-Fournier family were also kidnapped. These last two kidnappings were covered to a certain extent in the international media with suspicions aimed at the Islamic group Boko Haram. These suspicions were eventually confirmed by Boko Haram's leader since 2009 Abubakar Shekau.  Just after the release of Moulin- Fournier family, the Cameroonian press suspected that the Cameroonian government paid a ransom to Boko Haram for the release of the French hostages. These suspicions were further strengthened when France seems involved in the release of priest Georges Vandenbeusch some weeks later. These series of kidnappings and releases suggest that the kidnapping industry has become a booming sector in Nigeria and now in Cameroon as well.

Video Shows How the U.S. Dropped 2.5 Million Tons of Bombs on Laos

Mother Jones uploaded a video which simulates the 600 bombing missions conducted by the United States in Laos between 1965 to 1973 during the Vietnam War era.

Why Rwanda Accuses France of Aiding 1994 Genocide

As Rwanda pays tribute to the victims of the genocide 20 years after the tragedy, President Kagame states again that France must “face up to the difficult truth” of its role in the 1994 genocide [fr]. As a result of this statement, France has pulled out of the commemorative events and former Foreign Affairs Minister of France demands that president Hollande defends the Honor of France and its army.  Rémi Noyon at French site Rue 89 lists the reasons why Rwanda accuses again France of aiding the genocide [fr] :

 1) La France va « de facto » prendre le commandement de l’armée rwandaise face au rebelles du Front patriotique rwandais (FPR).

2) La France craint alors que l’offensive tutsi ne soit télécommandée via l’Ouganda par les Anglo-saxons, et ne vise à enfoncer un coin dans l’influence de la France sur la région

3) La France ne semble pas s’intéresser outre mesure aux négociations de paix.

4) Les soldats n’embarquent pas le personnel tutsi présent à l’ambassade de France (sauf une personne). Ils seront tous massacrés.

5) Quant à l’opération Turquoise, elle continue à diviser : elle a certainement permis de sauver des vies tutsi, mais l’armée est accusée d’être restée passive – et donc complice – face aux atrocités.

1) France commanded some branches of the Rwandan army against the rebels of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF).

2) France feared that the Tutsi offensive was remotely piloted via Uganda by anglophone countries and was intended to drive a wedge into the influence of France in the region. 

3) France did not seem overly interested in peace negotiations before the conflict.

4) The soldiers did not evacuate any  of the Tutsi staff present at the Embassy of France (except for one person). They ended all being killed.

5) As for Operation Turquoise, it continues to divide: it certainly saved Tutsi lives, but the army is accused of having remained passive – and therefore was accomplice – to the atrocities.

 

 

Taiwan's Sunflower Movement on Reddit

Four Taiwanese students joining the Sunflower Movement opened an Ask Me Anything on Reddit to answer questions regarding their protest against the closed-door trade deal with China.

Should Africa Learn From the Crimea Referendum?

“Is Crimea referendum a good model for Africa?” asks Richard Dowden:

Africa’s arbitrary borders, mostly drawn by people who had never set foot in the continent, have always been an obvious target for renegotiation. But Africa’s first rulers, who foresaw chaos and disintegration if the nation states were reconfigured, ruled it out. “Respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of each State” was one of the founding principles of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), the forerunner of the African Union. Despite all the wars, internal and external, this principle has been pretty much adhered to by both presidents and people.

Loyalty to an African state is not always related to the ability of that state to make the lives of its people better. Patriotism, an emotional thing, does not take these benefits into account, even in countries where the majority of citizens are marginalised or oppressed by the government. Even in the catastrophic recent meltdown of South Sudan after just two years of independence, no one is advocating return to rule from Khartoum. In the dying days of Mobutu’s Zaire (now the DRC) I was astonished to find that people felt it to be a great country. I asked why Katanga, the rich south east province, didn’t secede – as it had in 1960. My suggestion was greeted with shocked surprise.

Creator of Quirky Movement Defends Kremlin Propagandist

A “Monstration” demonstrator in Novosibirsk, in 2011.

Artyom Loskutov, creator of the popular counter-culture art movement “Monstration” [see Global Voices report], made waves on RuNet by signing a letter in support of Dmitry Kiselyov, a journalist who many consider to be Putin's chief propagandist. Loskutov was one of several dozen Russian journalists who signed the letter [ru], which asks pointed questions about recent EU sanctions imposed against Kiselyov, and whether such sanctions constitute an attack on free speech.

Loskutov works for TV Rain, an opposition TV station currently facing financial difficulties because of censorship, and so seems like an odd candidate to voice support for Kiselyov. Popular photo-blogger Rustem Adagamov even tweeted [ru] that he wants to cancel his subscription to TV Rain and get his money back because of Loskutov's position. Loskutov defended himself in a Facebook post [ru], saying that his signature was not in support of Kiselyov, but rather in support of the principle of free speech and the rights of journalists. Many of his readers argued that free speech should not apply to “propagandists” like Kiselyov, launching personal attacks against Loskutov and continuing a long tradition of Russian liberal intelligentsia seeking out fifth columnists in their own ranks.

Why Filipinos Became Early Adopters of Western Music

Le Minh Khai refers to the book of D. R. M. Irving in explaining the long history of Filipino musicians playing Western music:

…there was a rich experience of musical contact and exchange between Spaniards and Filipinos that began not long after the Spaniards established their control over the Philippines in the sixteenth century.

Filipinos therefore learned Western musical forms long before many other peoples in Asia, and that to some extent can explain why they started to be sought after in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries when aspects of Western culture started to take hold in other Asian societies.

Ukrainians Desperate to Flip the Script on Fascism

On March 25, 2014 designer and one of the most popular RuNet bloggers, Tema Lebedev, announced on his blog that his design studio, ArtLevedev created the logo for the “2014, a Year of Culture” project, commissioned by the Russian government:

ArtLebedev's constructivist logo. Screenshot.

ArtLebedev's constructivist logo. Screenshot.

Shortly after, one of his readers posted a comment [ru] to his blog, with the logo jokingly photoshoped to look like a swastika:

Screenshot.

Screenshot.

This image was in picked up by Ukrainian Twitter user Katya Avramchuk, who posted it saying that this was the actual logo designed by Lebedev's studio:

Artemiy Lebedev's studio (Erken Kagarov) designed the logo for Russia's year of culture.

From here, the Tweet was re-posted [ru] by popular Russian-language Ukrainian Twitter @euromaidan, which tweeted it without attribution. This post has been re-tweeted 389 times. No trace of the original (funny or not) joke remains, just another entry into a name-calling “Who is the bigger Nazi” contest between Russians and Ukrainians.

750 Million People Expected to Speak French by 2050

Bangui, Central African Republic. The French language retains some of its former influence in the former French colonies in Africa.

Bangui, Central African Republic. The French language retains some of its former influence in the former French colonies in Africa. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Countering the assertion by John McWhorter at the New republic that learning French is pointless, Pascal Emmanuel Gobry  writes on his Forbes blog that French might just be the language of the future:

French isn’t mostly spoken by French people, and hasn’t been for a long time now. The language is growing fast, and growing in the fastest-growing areas of the world, particularly sub-Saharan Africa. The latest projection is that French will be spoken by 750 million people by 2050. A study by investment bank Natixis even suggests that by that time, French could be the most-spoken language in the world, ahead of English and even Mandarin.

Global Voices translators weighed in a month ago on the challenges and the benefits of learning French.   

 

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