Le Musée national de la soie de Chine organise le forum de la Journée internationale des musées autour d’une nouvelle vision du développement

HANGZHOU, Chine, 18 juin 2022 /PRNewswire/ — Le Musée national de la soie de Chine (National Silk Museum, NSM) a annoncé la réussite du forum de la Journée internationale des musées 2022, qui s’est tenu le 17 mai pour marquer le 30e anniversaire du musée sur le thème « Le pouvoir des musées : recherche, collaborations et communauté ».

Dr. Zhao Feng hosts the International Museum Day Forum

Yucai Gu, directeur adjoint de l’Administration nationale du patrimoine culturel chinois, Laishun An, vice-président du conseil international des musées (International Council of Museums, ICOM), Xudong Wang, directeur du musée du palais impérial, Heather Brown, directrice adjointe du Cleveland Museum of Art, Maxwell Hearn, Douglas Dillon, président du département d’art asiatique du Metropolitan Museum of Art, Sally Yerkovich, présidente du comité permanent de l’ICOM sur l’éthique, et de nombreux autres universitaires ont participé et sont intervenus.

Au terme de l’événement, Zhao Feng, directeur du NSM, a tenu un discours soulignant les progrès et les réalisations du musée au cours des 30 dernières années. Il a également présenté les trois principaux aspects du musée, à savoir la recherche et la numérisation, la collaboration internationale et l’intégration de la communauté, qui correspondent aux valeurs fondamentales du musée (« plus récent, plus vaste et plus complet »), et qui lui permettront de devenir l’un des plus importants musées de Chine.

La recherche et la numérisation dynamisent le NSM

Le NSM a élaboré et perfectionné sa plateforme muséale numérique « Silk Road Online Museum » (musée en ligne de la route de la soie) en collaboration avec plus de 40 musées dans le monde. Cette plateforme permet au grand public de participer à des expériences virtuelles comprenant des collections numériques, des expositions numériques, des connaissances numériques et la conservation en ligne.

Les collaborations internationales dynamisent le NSM

Le NSM a également participé à plusieurs collaborations transfrontalières, dans le but d’encourager les nouvelles idées qui suscitent l’innovation et aident le musée à sortir des sentiers battus. En 2020, le musée a collaboré avec des chercheurs et des universités à l’étranger pour créer une carte mondiale de la soie (« World Map of Silk »).

L’intégration de la communauté dynamise le NSM

Depuis plusieurs années, le NSM s’engage également auprès des communautés pour promouvoir et préserver l’artisanat traditionnel chinois. Le musée s’est associé à des passionnés de hanfu (un vêtement traditionnel porté par les Hans) pour organiser le festival du hanfu chaque année en avril.

Le forum était également une occasion unique pour les directeurs de musées du monde entier de se réunir pour échanger leurs idées et leur expertise sur le thème de la Journée internationale des musées de cette année, « Le pouvoir des musées », afin d’apporter des changements positifs au milieu des musées.

Pour visionner intégralement les vidéos du forum, veuillez consulter la chaîne Youtube du musée : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DjF4USuhmJs&list=PLGVlY9SCbAsNj_M4_KouZf6oDc8Ifbzy5

Photo – https://mma.prnewswire.com/media/1841299/Dr__Zhao_Feng_hosts_the_International_Museum_Day_Forum.jpg

In Ethiopia’s Civil War, Thousands of Jailed Tigrayans Endured Squalor and Disease

In a packed Ethiopian prison last November, charity worker Tesfaye Weldemaryam cried out in delirium for two weeks. To make space for Tesfaye to lie down, said a cellmate, other prisoners huddled together in the darkness, their legs aching from constant standing.

Tesfaye, 36, was one of nearly 3,000 ethnic Tigrayans who were crammed into 18 squalid cells in the southern town of Mizan Teferi. Across Ethiopia, Reuters has identified at least a dozen other locations where thousands more Tigrayans have been held without trial as the government battles a 19-month-old insurgency that began in the northern Tigray region.

The United Nations estimates that more than 15,000 Tigrayan civilians were arrested between November and February alone, when emergency laws were in force. Reuters reporting, including interviews with 17 current and former detainees and a review of satellite imagery, indicates that the total number of arrests is at least 3,000 higher than the U.N. estimate. A senior Tigrayan opposition figure, Hailu Kebede, told Reuters he estimates the figure is in the tens of thousands.

The reporting also reveals that some 9,000 Tigrayans are still in detention, contradicting government assertions that most have now been released.

They were crowded into makeshift facilities, including an old cinema, university campuses, a former chicken factory, an industrial park, a construction site and an unfinished prison that was intended to hold convicted criminals, the news agency’s reporting demonstrates. The detainees included women and children.

Most facilities were crowded and dirty, said current and former detainees of a dozen different centers, lawyers and family members. Beatings were common. Some sick prisoners were denied medical treatment for weeks, these people said, while others were forced to bribe guards to get medicines. Reuters confirmed many aspects of the accounts of jail conditions with priests, medical workers, local officials and through satellite imagery. Some of the people interviewed declined to be identified for fear of retribution.

At least 17 Tigrayan detainees have died, Reuters reporting shows. Tesfaye is one of them. By the time he received treatment for malaria and meningitis in December he was too ill to respond, said a medic who cared for Tesfaye in hospital.

Reuters sent detailed questions about the number of prisoners, conditions, and deaths to the federal police, the justice ministry, the prime minister’s office and other national and regional government officials. The justice ministry referred questions to the police, which did not respond. Nor did the others.

The detentions of Tigrayans came in waves. The first began in November 2020 after the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), a guerilla movement turned political party, seized military bases in Tigray. The second started in July 2021, when Tigrayan forces forced Ethiopia’s army to withdraw from Tigray. The most recent came last November after Tigrayan forces invaded two neighboring regions and advanced towards the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

The findings from this first detailed account of the detentions show that the treatment of Tigrayan civilian detainees has fallen far short of international norms. They also raise questions over the government’s use of emergency powers during its war with the TPLF, according to some international observers. Some analysts say the arrests have tarnished the image of Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, whose commitment to democracy when he came to power in 2018 won him international praise and offered a break with decades of iron-fisted rule by the TPLF.

Tigrayans make up only 6% of Ethiopia’s population of 120 million – one of more than 90 ethnicities and nationalities. But for nearly three decades, until 2018, the TPLF dominated a government that also detained tens of thousands of people without charge.

Last November, as TPLF forces neared the capital, Abiy declared a state of emergency, allowing suspects to be held without trial. Emergency rule stayed in force until mid-February.

Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, has said most of the detentions appeared to be ordinary Tigrayans. In November, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission expressed concern that people were being arrested because of their ethnicity.

Many Tigrayans say they were held by police after speaking their native language or showing an identity card with a Tigrayan name, as Reuters previously reported. In a town called Abala in Afar region, which borders Tigray, three residents said the Tigrayan population was arrested en masse and loaded onto trucks. Two witnesses put the number of people arrested at around 12,000. Reuters couldn’t independently verify the figure.

Ethiopia’s government and police insist they only target suspected supporters of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. Hailu, the foreign affairs head of opposition party Salsay Weyane Tigray, accused the government of “rounding up Tigrayans solely based on their ethnicity,” a view shared by the TPLF.

Malaria and squalor

Tesfaye was an office worker for Catholic charity the Salesians of Don Bosco in Addis Ababa before his arrest on Nov. 5, his family said. Around a dozen Tigrayan employees of the charity were detained at work that day, two of those held said. No reason was given, and Tesfaye’s colleagues were released a few months later without charge. The charity declined to comment for this article.

Ten days after his arrest, Tesfaye was a passenger on a snaking convoy of between 60-80 large buses that ferried prisoners from an overcrowded five-block jail in Addis Ababa to an unfinished prison in the town of Mizan Teferi, 560 km to the southwest. It took nearly the whole night to get there, said five prisoners who traveled with Tesfaye.

The prison in Mizan Teferi had freshly painted yellow walls and newly mown grass – and a watchtower and barbed wire perimeter. It stood empty, waiting for its first transfer of convicted criminals, said the prison’s acting head Getnet Befekadu. Instead, it received busloads of Tigrayans, former prisoners said.

The interior wasn’t yet finished; there was no plumbing, so river water was treated with purification tablets. Water was so scarce, detainees said, they were often frantic with thirst. Prisoners were given two 15-minute bathroom breaks a day, but often the queues were so long or prisoners so sick that inmates would soil themselves while waiting.

The jail’s 18 cells, each about 5 meters by 6 meters, were packed: One prisoner told Reuters there were 183 men in his windowless cell; another said there were 176 in his. A guard at Mizan Teferi told Reuters each cell was originally designed to hold between 70 and 80 people.

The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment sets a minimum standard of four square meters per prisoner in a multiple-occupancy cell. The cells at Mizan Teferi held more than 20 people per four square meters.

Getnet, the acting head, said the facility housed 2,900 prisoners and that two additional office rooms were eventually used for prisoners with tuberculosis and hepatitis.

Prisoners were tormented by lice, pests and disease, inmates said. Getnet said authorities did their best to care for inmates, providing “conducive conditions.” He didn’t elaborate.

A Tigrayan public employee, who was arrested on Nov. 4, described life in the jail. “It was very crowded; we could not sleep on our backs. We slept head to toe like sardines. We had no mattress, no blanket,” he said.

Tesfaye was desperately ill in jail for two weeks, a fellow prisoner said. When staff finally took him – feverish and unconscious – to Mizan Tepi University Teaching Hospital, he could not be saved from the malaria and meningitis that sickened him, said Dr Gizaw Wodajo, the hospital’s medical director.

Reuters identified at least four people who died after falling sick in Mizan Teferi. Getnet, the acting head of the prison, referred Reuters to the hospital for information on deaths.

A former detainee, a medical worker who was freed in late January, said each time prisoners perished their cellmates would cry out. “We usually heard cries at night. We heard them shouting, ‘my brother, my brother’.” In the morning, word of who had died would spread when prisoners were allowed out of their cells to collect water.

Malaria is endemic in the area where the prison lies, Gizaw said. But to his knowledge, the facility hadn’t been sprayed with insecticide to kill the mosquitoes that spread the disease. Nor did inmates have mosquito nets. Prison authorities didn’t comment.

Hagos Belay, a bank security guard, was admitted to hospital on Dec. 25. Two weeks later, he died of malaria and meningitis – diseases that can be treated with drugs if caught early. Prisoners said there were no medicines for many sick inmates. Gizaw said local officials and the International Committee of the Red Cross did eventually find money to pay for treatment for some prisoners. The Red Cross declined to comment, saying their global access to prisoners depends on their confidentiality. Getnet said that prisoners were given all assistance possible.

A third prisoner, 17-year-old Anwar Siraj, died before he reached the hospital, said Gizaw, adding that the cause of death was unclear. Anwar wasn’t Tigrayan but Oromo, said a fellow prisoner. Oromos were also caught up in the government crackdown after an Oromo rebel group announced an alliance with the TPLF last August.

A fourth man, 24-year-old Gebregziabher Gebremeskel, died within weeks of his release from Mizan Teferi. A relative described him as a quiet young man who used to sell mobile phones on the streets of the capital. Gebregziabher became ill with malaria while he was in jail, but did not receive medical treatment, the relative said.

Reuters spoke to a doctor who cared for Gebregziabher at a hospital in Addis Ababa. The doctor said the young man was seriously ill with cerebral malaria when he arrived at the hospital two weeks after his release from jail. He died 10 days later. The doctor, who asked not to be named, said Gebregziabher must have been infected in prison since the disease isn’t present in the capital and takes between a week and a month to incubate.

The doctor said he treated three other prisoners from Mizan Teferi for the same disease. All three told the doctor the only way to get hold of medicines in the jail was by paying for them.

Imad Abdulfetah, a director at the state-appointed Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, told Reuters the commission repeatedly tried and failed to get access to the prison in Mizan Teferi. Asked about this, Getnet did not respond.

Makeshift prisons

Mizan Teferi was not the only facility where prisoners died. Nor was it the only facility that was ill-prepared to receive crowds of Tigrayan detainees.

For around eight months, Tigrayans were held at an agricultural facility at Wachemo University, in the town of Shone, 220 km south of the capital. A spokesman for Shone district, Alemayehu Bakera, told Reuters there were 1,200 Tigrayans at the campus. He denied they were detained, describing the facility as “more of a shelter for them to stay.”

All the Tigrayans were migrants who’d been repatriated from Saudi Arabia in 2021, Alemayehu said, under a bilateral agreement between the countries. Saudi Arabia did not respond to requests for comment about the detentions. The Tigrayans held at the university were transferred from Shone to Addis Ababa in early April and released, according to Alemayehu.

A former detainee at Wachemo University told Reuters the facility had enough food and water, and people could move around freely. But prisoners had to buy their own medicines, often pooling money to do so.

At least two prisoners died there this year – a man and a woman – said four people with direct knowledge. These sources included a university official and Melak Mihret Aba Teklemichael, head of nearby St. George’s Church, where they were buried.

Alemayehu, the Shone district spokesman said, “We don’t know about reports of death.”

A lawyer who was working to try to free detainees told Reuters that, based on his conversations with people in the facility, 100 women and 10 babies were among those held there. Reuters couldn’t independently confirm the lawyer’s figures. Melak, the church head, said several women had given birth at the facility.

Thousands of Tigrayans from Abala, the town on the border between the Tigray and Afar regions, were rounded up by an Afar regional force in December, loaded onto trucks and driven to Soloda College in the nearby town of Semera, witnesses said.

A source briefed on the matter said 7,000 to 12,000 people are still detained at the college. The Red Cross tweeted last month that it provided aid to 9,000 displaced people in Semera. It declined to give further details when contacted by Reuters. Two prisoners confirmed to Reuters that they received aid from the agency.

Jean Bosco Ngomoni from the UN refugee agency’s Semera office, told Reuters that “limited service provision coupled with overpopulation do not allow decent living conditions.”

The men were beaten when they were first detained, three prisoners said. Men and women are separated by a fence, and many families are living under tarpaulin in the yard.

One prisoner told Reuters that 63 detainees at the college had died, including 11 infants. He shared with Reuters a list of those who had perished, compiled by inmates. In interviews, other prisoners confirmed three of the names.

Where names were missing on the list, the inmates entered whatever other details they had – such as “worked at the mill,” or “twin infants.”

A priest at nearby Afar Semera St. John’s church said he had participated in burials of seven or eight people from the camp. Reuters could not determine if those deaths were included in the list.

Satellite pictures of the facility appear to show its compound crowded with blue and white plastic rectangles consistent with prisoners’ descriptions of living under plastic tarpaulins.

The Afar regional government didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Maximum security

Many Tigrayans who were arrested in Addis Ababa were held for days or weeks in the capital’s Aba Samuel maximum security prison before being bussed south to other facilities.

One Tigrayan inmate estimated there were around 1,500 Tigrayan civilians there when he was held in the early days of November.

The numbers then grew, said four other prisoners.

One of them, a 28-year-old man, said he was held with 36 other Tigrayans in a 70-square-meter cell – twice the number of prisoners allowed under the Council of Europe’s minimum standard. He said the number of detainees had reached about 3,100 at the facility when he arrived on Nov. 27. He shared hand-written notes with Reuters tabulating the numbers, which he said he recorded based on conversations with other prisoners.

A week after he arrived, he said, 140 more Tigrayans arrived from a detention facility in the town of Awash Arba, in the Afar region, so thin they “looked like famine victims.” By that time they had already been held in Awash Arba for five months, he said.

Beatings from guards were frequent, this man said. When his cellmates thought guards might come, they piled on any extra clothes to try to cushion the blows.

He shared a video with Reuters that showed a crowded courtyard in Aba Samuel in January. Satellite imagery provided by Maxar Technologies and reviewed by Reuters matched the prison’s layout, stairwell configuration, a drain and markings on the concrete floor.

He and another man – interviewed separately – both said they witnessed an incident in which a guard beat prisoners with a piece of scaffolding so hard that it broke in half.

Another former prisoner, a businessman, provided pictures of himself before imprisonment looking fit and healthy and thin and haggard after release. Food was scarce – sometimes one piece of bread per day – he said.

Two other prisoners held there in January told Reuters that later Oromo prisoners were also detained in Aba Samuel.

Elsewhere in the capital, other Tigrayans were held at packed police stations or makeshift sites for months. One lawyer who visited six detention centers said he saw people held in overcrowded police stations, two private storehouses and a former chicken factory, where he said the stench was unbearable.

One 34-year-old said he was held for 38 days at a detention center with a watchtower called Gotera Condominium complex in Addis Ababa – previously used to house drug addicts and the homeless. Numbers fluctuated between 800 and 2,000 people, he and another prisoner said.

Reuters journalists witnessed hundreds of family members lining up outside the facility in December, waiting to take in food to loved ones. By mid-February, the complex was deserted. Street vendors said the prisoners had all been recently released. Reuters spoke to three prisoners who had been held there and said they had been freed.

Across Ethiopia, most Tigrayans were quietly released in January or February, after the Tigrayan forces retreated back into their region. Others were freed in March or April. But thousands remain in detention in Afar.

Following a ceasefire declared in March, the war has reached a stalemate. The military is unable to hold Tigray; Tigrayan forces cannot hold territory they seized outside it. Abiy said this week his government is considering talks with the TPLF.

Source: Voice of America

Rights Observers, Lawyers Press Tanzania to Halt Plan to Evict Maasai

Human rights observers and lawyers for the Maasai people are pressing Tanzania’s government to halt plans to forcibly evict tens of thousands of the Indigenous nomads from their ancestral land at the eastern edge of the Serengeti National Park.

Last week, a violent clash broke out after government surveyors and security forces began to demarcate 1,500 square kilometers of land that Tanzania reportedly would turn over to a United Arab Emirates-based firm to manage as a game reserve for commercial hunting. The area encompasses migratory routes for wildebeest, zebra and other wildlife.

The confrontation June 10 took place in Loliondo, part of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, where video footage circulating on social media suggests at least scores of Maasai had clustered to protest the new boundary. Tanzanian security forces used tear gas and live bullets to disperse the Maasai, who as herders routinely carry spears, bows and arrows.

The Tanzanian government said a police officer was killed. At least 31 Maasai – 18 men and 13 women – were treated for bullet wounds at the Narok County Referral Hospital just across the border in Kenya, Dr. Catherine Nyambura told VOA.

The office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights warned that the demarcation could bring more violence. Cordoning off the area for a game reserve “would imply evictions from Ololosokwan, Oloirien, Kirtalo and Arash villages, which could displace up to 70,000 Indigenous Maasai,” it said in a press release following the clash.

It said its rights experts were “deeply alarmed” by the reported use of live ammunition and have “grave concerns about continuous encroachment on traditional Maasai lands and housing, accompanied by a lack of transparency in, and consultation with the Maasai Indigenous Peoples, during decision making and planning.”

The U.N. account noted the government actions followed a closed-door meeting at which the Arusha Regional Commissioner announced its plan to impose the new boundary.

The confrontation also comes as the East African Court of Justice is expected to make its final ruling June 22 on the Tanzanian government’s decadeslong efforts to move the Maasai. In 2018, the regional court issued an injunction against eviction.

Onesmo Olengurumwa, head of the Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition, said the evictions are intended to make way for the Otterlo Business Corp. The UAE-based company is expected to offer trophy hunting and safari tourism.

“The government made an error in the beginning,” Olengurumwa said. It should have reached “an agreement with locals and in writing that ‘we carry out demarcation, but we are not taking your land, only setting boundaries.’ If that had happened, the community would not have worried and demonstrated.”

Government defends actions

Tanzania’s government has said it believes the area is overpopulated with humans and livestock, creating stress on the wildlife that serves as a tourism magnet. In 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic, tourism was the country’s largest source of foreign exchange, the second-largest contributor to the gross domestic product and a major source of jobs, according to the World Bank.

Chief government spokesman Gerson Msigwa told VOA’s Swahili Service he was not aware of a court order against evicting the Maasai, “but there is nothing else the government has done except conserving the environment.”

“I want to make it clear that what we are doing in Loliondo is one of our responsibilities to conserve the environment,” Msigwa said. “And it’s not only being done in Loliondo but all over the country, to show people where to stop in their human activities and where it’s designated for wild animals. The area under contention, 1,500 square kilometers, is very important to the nation. It’s a water catchment area. As a country, we must protect [the] interests of the nation.”

Following last Friday’s clash, local people and the rights group Survival International have reported police going to Maasai villages and questioning people believed to either have been involved in the demonstration or who shared images of the confrontation. Survival International said in a news release that police allegedly beat a 90-year-old man whose son recorded video.

Asked about the allegation, Msigwa said, “The government is very much annoyed with information circulating that there are people who were injured.” He brushed off the notion of injuries and said the government was looking to arrest and prosecute “groups of people pushing the community to resist government plans to conserve the area and cause mayhem.”

Maasai resistance

Many of the Maasai had fled on foot into nearby Kenya, where at least part of the border features a series of waist-high markers set amid the grasslands, allowing easy movement by humans and wildlife.

Patrick Ole Ntutu, a Maasai leader, said his people did not recognize boundaries in their ancestral lands. “The boundary between Kenya and Tanzania was erected by colonialists. We don’t consider that a boundary,” he told VOA.

Meanwhile, Martin Ole Kamwaro, lead attorney for the Maasai, said the legal team was considering filing a case against Tanzania with the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

“We will certainly move, as directed by our leader, to file and institute legal action against the Tanzanian regime for violation of human rights,” Kamwaro said. “We will not tolerate that kind of abuse.”

The U.S. ambassador to Tanzania, Donald J. Wright, tweeted that tensions over Loliondo were part of a discussion Thursday with Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa. “… I asked the PM to work with stakeholders to peacefully and equitably resolve the situation,” Wright wrote.

Multiple rights groups, including the Indigenous Peoples Rights International and Survival International, have condemned the Tanzanian government’s eviction plan and called for its immediate halt. Amnesty International issued a statement this week denouncing what it called an “unlawful, forced eviction” that is “shocking in both its scale and brutality.”

Source: Voice of America

Former Hotel Housekeeper Aims to Give French Workers a Voice

A former hotel housekeeper who fought for the rights of her coworkers has become a symbol of the recent revival of France’s left, which is expected to emerge as the main opposition force in the French Parliament to President Emmanuel Macron’s government.

Rachel Kéké, 48, is poised to win election as a lawmaker when France holds the decisive second round of parliamentary elections Sunday. She placed first in her district with more than 37% of the vote in the election’s first round. Her nearest rival, Macron’s former sports minister, Roxana Maracineanu, received less than 24%.

Macron’s centrist alliance is projected to win the most number of seats in the National Assembly, but it could fall short of securing an absolute majority. In that case, a new coalition composed of the hard left, the Socialists and the Greens could make Macron’s political life harder since the National Assembly is key to voting in laws.

Kéké, a Black mother of five who is from the Ivory Coast and settled in France 20 years ago, appeared confident this week while visiting Fresnes, a suburb southeast of Paris, to hand out flyers near a primary school and encourage people to vote for her Sunday.

Kéké, who acquired French citizenship in 2015, knows she represents more than the face of her own campaign. If she wins a place in a Parliament dominated by white men, many of them holding jobs in senior management, it could represent a turning point in the National Assembly reflecting a more diverse cross-section of the French population.

“I am proud to tell Black women that anything is possible,” she told the Associated Press.

Kéké worked as a hotel chambermaid for more than 15 years and eventually climbed the ladder to next job grade, becoming a governess who managed teams of cleaners. But after she started working for a hotel in northwest Paris, she noticed how the demands of cleaning hotel rooms threatened the physical and mental health of the people she supervised.

She thinks “it’s time” for essential workers to have a voice in Parliament. “Most of the deputies don’t know the worth of essential workers who are suffering,” said the candidate, who has repetitive motion tendonitis in her arm because of her cleaning work and still manages hotel housekeepers.

In 2019, along with around 20 chambermaids who were mostly migrant women from sub-Saharan Africa, Kéké fought French hotel giant Accor to obtain better work and pay conditions. She led a 22-month, crowdfunded strike that ended with a salary increase.

The hotel workers’ grueling but successful battle inspired many. Drafted by hard-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s party, Kéké agreed to run in the parliamentary race “to be the voice of the voiceless.”

“People who take public transportation at 4 a.m. are mostly migrants. I stand for them, too,” she said.

She joined Melechon’s party, France Unbowed, during the presidential campaign that resulted in Macron’s reelection in May and then became part of the New Popular Ecological and Social Union, the left-wing coalition trying to curb the president’s power in Parliament.

If elected, Kéké would be in position to support one of the key items on the coalition’s platform: increasing France’s monthly minimum wage from about 1,300 ($1,361) to 1,500 euros ($1,570).

She claimed her rival “doesn’t stand a chance.” That’s not what Maracineanu, 47, the former swimming world champion who served in Macron’s government, thinks.

Campaigning Thursday in Thiais, a farmer’s market town in the Paris suburbs, she energetically tried to convince often skeptical residents of the importance of Sunday’s vote. According to opinion polls, voters from the traditional right are expected to widely support Macron’s candidates in places where their own party didn’t qualify for the second round.

“There are some (voters) who are interested in the election from a national point of view. They want Emmanuel Macron and the majority to be able to govern,” Maracineanu said. “Some others are against Jean-Luc Mélenchon, clearly.”

Born in Romania, Maracineanu arrived in France with her family in 1984 and was naturalized French seven years later at the age of 16. She became the first world champion in French swimming history and silver medalist at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

“I won’t be heading to the National Assembly as a world champion, and Mrs. Kéké won’t go as a cleaning lady,” she said. “You go to the National Assembly to be an MP. Personal trajectories are of course interesting and they’re worth talking about but … the election is about an agenda.”

Only one of them will be elected Sunday.

The first round of the election gave a big boost to the left-wing coalition, which finished neck-in-neck with Macron’s alliance at the national level. The French president needs a clear, if not absolute majority to enact his agenda, which includes tax cuts and raising the retirement age.

One unpredictable factor for both camps: the expected low turnout.

In the first round, less than half of voters went to the polls, echoing disillusion with Macron, the establishment and everyday politics expressed by many.

“I come from a country where you couldn’t vote or when you did, it was useless, and it was always the same candidate who was elected under Romania’s dictatorship before 1989. I know how important a democratic ritual it is and that’s what I try and remind people,” Maracineanu said.

Source: Voice of America

Protests Erupt in Senegal as Government Stymies Opposition

Tensions in Senegal reached a tipping point Friday over the government’s decision to keep the opposition off the ballot in planned legislative elections. Thousands took to the streets to show support for opposition leader Ousmane Sonko and to demand President Macky Sall allow his opponents to run.

Plumes of smoke billowed into the air throughout Dakar’s southern neighborhoods Friday as demonstrators set fire to tires and plastic bins. Tear gas canisters rained down from the sky, causing protesters to scatter. As they reemerged, they chanted: “Macky Sall is a dictator!” and hurled rocks at police officers.

Graduate student Maimina Aidara was among them.

“What Macky Sall is doing to Senegal is an injustice. What he’s trying to do is not right,” he said. “We, the people here in Senegal, are suffering. We’re suffering. We’re really suffering. We want Macky Sall to leave office. The protests will continue every day, God willing, until the elections. Macky Sall will step down.”

Anger has mounted since Senegal’s constitutional council invalidated the opposition’s list of candidates for the July 31 legislative elections, preventing opposition leader Sonko and other opponents from running.

The result of the elections will determine the makeup of Senegal’s 165-member National Assembly, currently dominated by the president’s coalition.

On Friday, police were seen barricading Sonko’s house, preventing him from attending Friday prayers and from the demonstration.

Sonko came in third in the 2019 presidential election and is a candidate for 2024.

Sonko was arrested last year on what many believe were dubious accusations of rape. The incident ignited a week of rioting that led to the deaths of 14 people.

Two deaths were reported at Friday’s demonstration, according to Agence France-Presse, and three opposition members were arrested.

West Africa has suffered a string of coups in recent years and any indication of instability in Senegal could have ramifications for the entire region.

Hawa Ba is head of the Senegal office at the Open Society Initiative for West Africa.

“We are in a very volatile subregion. Democracy is at risk, and Senegal is supposed to be a beacon of democracy,” said Ba. “It’s supposed to be a country that’s pulling the region and the continent upwards. And what we are witnessing is Senegal’s democracy sliding back since a few years now.”

Ba called on international bodies such as the Economic Community of West African States and the African Union to pressure Senegal to abide by democratic norms. The African Union is led by Macky Sall.

Though many protesters at Friday’s demonstration said they attended in support of Sonko, others had more general motives.

Seydina Halifa Ababacar said his main concern was inflation. The price of items such as rice and cattle have increased, he said, and with Eid al-Adha around the corner, he is worried the price of sheep will, too.

“They’ve increased prices on everything. Our families are suffering,” he said. “I came here to fight for my future and for that of my children. I’m not here for Ousmane Sonko – all politicians are the same. If we don’t [throw rocks at police officers] there will be no solution. Protesting is a right.”

The protest took place despite a government ban. A June 8 protest had also been banned but was ultimately allowed to proceed.

Protests are expected to continue throughout the weekend, with or without authorization.

Source: Voice of America