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US Organizes the Second Ministerial to Advance International Religious Freedom. By Lambert Mbom.

Washington D.C. – Over one thousand religious leaders and civil society delegates are gathering at the U.S. State department for the second Ministerial to advance Religious Freedom from Tuesday July 16th through Thursday July 18th, 2019. This is coming on the heels of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom’s Report released last May and the State department’s annual report last June which highlight “the continuing and complex challenges to religious freedom.”

“This year’s event will be the biggest religious freedom event ever held in the world, said Ambassador Brownback. “We hope that this will stir actions. That’s what we’re after is to stir action.”

Banking on the success of the inaugural event that took place last year, Brownback is hoping that this year’s event will galvanize grassroots mobilization. And this is not unprecedented given a similar feat had been attained with the fight against human trafficking.

“Ultimately, we’re after a grassroots movement. We want one in the religious freedom space as well, and that the religious actors would stand up for each other,” declared Ambassador Brownback in a telephonic presser last Friday. “It’s a big deal to this administration. It is a big deal to the people of the world. The world has not paid enough attention to what’s taking place here and the plight of so many people that have been injured, and over 70 percent of the world lives in a religious-restrictive environment and many cases, unfortunately a deadly environment. So, we hope to really push back and start this grassroots movement seriously to push back against it,” added Brownback.

The weeklong event is divided into three parts with the first day focusing on “Expanding the Conversation on Religious Freedom” where discussions will focus on “opportunities and challenges for promoting and defending religious freedom globally.” Then there will be a shift on how to forge a partnership between international freedom, international development and humanitarian aid to advance mutual interests.

After the broad strokes laid down on day one participants will take a deep dive into the issues raised. These sessions shall focus on three thematic tracks namely Building Blocks for Advancing Religious Freedom, Emerging Trends in Religious Freedom, Religious Freedom in Development and Humanitarian Assistance best practices for religious freedom advocacy;

On the third day, sessions will focus on governments’ role with a keynote address and call to action by Secretary of State Pompeo, Vice President Michael Pence and Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney. Participants will take part in plenary sessions focused on “identifying global challenges to religious freedom; developing innovative responses to persecution on the basis of religion; and sharing new commitments to protect religious freedom for all.”

The international gathering kicked off Monday with a solemn event at the Holocaust Museum and will conclude Thursday at the National Museum for African American History and Culture.

Given the enormous interest this topic has garnered, a “Second Stage” has been set up with 80 parallel events taking place at the Marvin Center on the campus of George Washington University.

French Hegemony over Africa – The Case of African Nations’ Cup 2019. By Lambert Mbom.

There is an unmistakable “Africanness” with the French Soccer team and Trevor Noah, the South African comedian loudly proclaimed this after the French team won the 2018 World Cup. After France conquered parts of Africa since the Scramble for Africa in 1884, they have never left Africa. With the dawn of independence in the 1960’s, they moved to the background and simply propped up dictators to do their bidding.

There is no France without Africa. France continues to maintain a stranglehold over her former colonies politically and economically. There is an increasing backlash over the French imperialistic and anachronistic colonial pact that continues to impoverish 14 African countries. One other area the French have maintained this hegemony over Africa is in soccer. Africans love soccer and it is the most famous sports on the continent. It is a useful distraction.

The 32nd edition of the African Nations’ Cup is currently taking place in Egypt, the land of the Pharaohs and a distinctively African nation. Yet the soccer bonanza carries an unvarnished French flavor in particular and a European accent in general.

The main sponsor of the event is the French Oil and gas magnate, Total. This company is present in 42 countries in Africa, 21 of which are taking part in the 2019 African Nations’ Cup.  No wonder they are the main sponsors of the event.

Anyone who doubts the nefarious influence of France and its French companies, it suffices to listen to the Former Senegalese Minister of energy, Thierno Allasane Sall who resigned in protest over an oil deal with Total. In an interview he gave last January he remarked that:

“France is pressuring Senegal to obtain oil and gas exploitation. I cannot sign a document where the French company Total which was in 5th position to acquire the market according to the experts, suddenly becomes number 1 after pressure on President Macky Sall. What happens there is happening everywhere in Africa. ”

He described the French machinations as coup plotters and nation destabilizers when they don’t get their way. Thierno affirmed that “France is ready to wage war on you, a coup d’etat, or to raise a whole rebellion to impose a contract. They impose their deal and if you do not want you clear.” Oil has rightly been described as the resource curse of Africa.

Then we have the French Multinational telecommunications network: Orange also sponsoring the event. This giant is present across 20 countries of Africa 11 of which are currently taking part in the soccer jamboree. How about the South African behemoth, MTN with the largest number of mobile phone users in Africa?

Beyond sponsorship, we also find French domination with the technical staff of the different teams. Seven of the 24 coaches managing African teams at this competition are white French citizens namely Sebastien Desabre (Uganda), Nicholas Dupuis (Madagascar), Sebastien Magne (Kenya), Corentin Martins (Mauritania), Alain Giresse (Tunisia), Herve Renard (Morocco), Michel Dussuyer (Benin).

Five other teams are managed by Europeans German Gernot Rohr (Nigeria), Belgian Paul Put (Guinea), Serbian Srdjan Vasiljevic(Angola), Englishman Stuart Baxter (South Africa) and Dutchman Clarence Seedorf (Cameroon) and one by Mexican Javier Aguirre (Egypt).

We have 11 African coaches with Nigerian Emmanuel Amuneke the only one coaching a country other than his.

France has always been a favorite destination for African soccer players. According to Karim Farouk of Ahram Online,  “France is a second home for African players…Out of the 552 players who will feature in the tournament, 95 are playing in France — mostly in Ligue 1 and other lower divisions.”

Vestiges of European colonial domination loom large with the outfits of the different teams. The German giant PUMA has the highest number of contracts. It is supplier to Egypt, Senegal, Angola, Cote D’Ivoire and Ghana. Meanwhile, the other German competitor Adidas has Algeria and Morocco.

The British outfit Umbro supplies Zimbabwe and the Irish O’Neills is supplying to the DRC while Italian Kappa is responsible for Tunisia and Macron, the other Italian Sportswear company is responsible for Guinea and Kenya. The French brand Airness is responsible for Mali while Le Coq Sportif is responsible for Cameroon’s outfits.

The non-European companies supplying are the American superstar Nike which is serving Nigeria, Burundi and South Africa whereas the Australian Gazman is supplying Madagascar.

The lone African company on this dais is Moroccan AB Sport availed of by Mauritania. Africans must learn to consume African products especially with the launch of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement.

Last February, the African Development Bank launched the Pan African Fashion Initiative to promote African textiles and garments. During the launch, Ethiopian President noted that “Globally, Africa’s cultural colours and clothing are increasingly being embraced.”

The biennial soccer event provides a great and unique opportunity for African countries especially the textile giants Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mauritius, Morocco, South African and Tunisia to showcase their worth. If nothing else at least they should be able to take advantage during competitions like these to make the textile industry bloom.

Unless African nations shrug off their sentimental attachment to France, she will remain to paraphrase Shakespeare “Like flies to wanton boys are…They kill us for their sport.” Wake up Africa.

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