The Organisation of French-Speaking Countries, the OIF, is holding a summit in Bucharest on the 28th and 29th of September. Ahead of the conference EuroNews spoke to the group’s Secretary General, Abdul Diouf, about the status of the French language in international relations, and other world affairs.
EuroNews: Monsieur Abdou Diouf, Secretary General of the Organisation of French-Speaking Countries, former President of Senegal, welcome to EuroNews. Is the use of French is diminishing.
Diouf: “I wouldn’t say that. I would say French is developing, but not as quickly as English. English is evidently the main language in global communication. But after English French is the most important language, well behind English, of course. But, you know, the most important thing is to safeguard as many languages as possible in the world, to ensure a real linguistic diversity in the context of the largest cultural diversity.”
EuroNews: The OIF is a cultural movement and also a political one. But how can it have any credibility if, among its members, are countries seen as not respecting human rights, with governments regarded as corrupt – to quote the group Transparency International. It recently cited Equatorial Guinea, Chad, Ivory Coast and Haiti also as among the most corrupt in the world.
Diouf: “We in the OIF are striving to help develop good governance in each of our member states. In the most serious cases we’ve called for strict sanctions, these are cases of coup d’etats, seizing power by force, and our organisation imposes sanctions. But in other cases we respect the sovereignty of each state while trying to help. We try to create awareness, to persuade… and we try to join our efforts with those of the international community to arrive at a normal situation.
EuroNews: You’re the former President of Senegal, and of course, your country is at the forefront of illegal immigration from Africa to Europe. Thousands dies trying to make the dangerous journey to Europe. Is not it time Africa took responsibility for these young people and prevented this mass emigration from happening.
Diouf: The problem of immigration… if we look at it only in terms of oppression and from the angle of security we’re not going to solve anything. We have to look at the underling problems. Africa is a continent of severe poverty. So, in the face of this poverty there has to be significant developments. It’s for that reason that in the face of repressive measures that there should be positive measures which are capable of keeping young people at home, of giving them hope.
EuroNews: African governments sometimes cite colonialism as the cause of poverty in Africa. Would that be your view?
Diouf: Colonialism had some good effects and some bad effects. We don’t want to be considered as an ‘assisted state’. We want to be considered as partners in our own right, so let’s look to the future and see what it is the African states can offer and what the developed world can do to help.
EuroNews: The OIF brings together Christian and Muslim countries – can it play a role in bridging the divide between the Muslim world and the West?
Diouf: I don’t know if we can really talk about a split between the Muslim world and the West. I believe that there are Muslim extremists who want to want to impose a kind of clash of civilisations on us. And if each one of us says “I am what I am and here I stay” we will be cut off from each other and everyone will be fired up. There has to be interaction, there has to be mutual enrichment.
EuroNews: Islamophobia in Europe is growing, it’s… (Diouf interrupts)
Diouf: I would hope it’s not against Islam – I hope that if there are people in Europe who don’t like Islamists, fundamentalists, fanatics, that they don’t hate moderate Muslims like me.
EuroNews: But there is a fear of Islam.
Diouf: “Yes, I know, I know. It’s because we confuse the two. It’s lack of knowledge of Islam. There have to be voices to make Islam better understood. It’s not for me. I can say what I think, being a man of politics, being in the public eye, as a believer. Muslim leaders who think like me and who have the theological arguments to express this point of view should express it more often and continuously. We can’t let those who take us hostage have a voice.”