Tag Archives: Radio Netherlands

Johnson Sirleaf: I’ll not fire my sons

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the president of Liberia, is a beloved leader around the globe. She received the Nobel Peace Prize 2011. Yet, in her own country she’s been accused of nepotism. I was on hand for an exclusive interview.

Three of your sons have been appointed to high government positions. How do you explain this?

“We have a country that has a very low capacity. Some of our institutions – the ones that have to carry out the important reforms for the transformation of our country – simply do not have the capabilities. They also sometimes lack the sufficient integrity to be able to do what is right.”

“We have to place certain people close to us in positions to carry out our mandate of reform at the level of competence and honesty that is needed.”

“Nepotism is putting somebody who is a relative in a position for which they don’t have the qualifications, integrity or competence. There are times when you have to hire relatives, even when it’s a temporary measure, to achieve your objectives.”

You’ve accused former Liberian president William Tolbert of nepotism because he put his relatives in powerful positions. Do you think they were competent?

“Oh absolutely they were competent. Look, I’ve been criticized now too. But meeting your objectives at the end of the day is what counts most.”

So you will not fire your sons? To show that you are a hero of anti-corruption?

“No, I will not. There is a mandate and there’s a job to be done. When that job and mandate is done, perhaps they’ll move on to other things.”

Government officials in Liberia sometimes earn up to 10,000 dollars a month. Is there anything you can do about that?

“We have to recruit Liberians of certain professional skills and experience to certain strategic posts. If we do not pay them well, we will not be able to recruit them. We actually pay foreigners on our technical assistance programme much more than that.”

“If a Liberian is qualified and competitive and if we want to get them, we’ve got to do that. Those Liberians getting positions and getting high salaries are strong, experienced managers, recruited from corporations abroad. Their skills are desperately needed to build our country. Liberians should not criticise those who come home with the right skills to rebuild their country. We need them at home.”

How will you gain trust in Liberia?

“I have trust in Liberia. I’m not talking about the noisy minority – that’s just all part of transformation. I’m talking about a
satisfied majority who I meet in rural areas and who are pleased that their lives have changed, their incomes have increased and they’re getting better services.

“We accept the criticism and the comments. We also accept the adulation and the praise. That’s part of moving ahead in a democratic society where all rights are respected and protected. Liberia is making progress and the majority of the Liberians and the international community is quite aware and recognizes that.”

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf visited the Netherlands to receive an Honorary Doctorate Degree at Tilburg University on 9 November.

Senegal: Twitter, the anti-Wade platform?

The social network Twitter is mostly a medium for urban youth. I am wondering if Wade, the president of Senegal, is aware of all the severe criticisms expressed against him on Twitter? Does he actually have any friends on the network? Where are the pro-Wade bloggers in Dakar? #kebetu

I “tweet” my question and get immediate reponses. @thiareo: “There are none, the people are fed up with Wade.” @NattySeydi: “pro-Wade bloggers there is none on twitter, #justsaying Pro-Wade but they are rather silent @tafiscoo @claire29”.

One person, @Tafiscoo, reacts. “Yes it’s true I am pro-Wade. I’m here for any discussion, but I am rarely on-line.” And indeed, @Tafiscoo seems to have been offline ever since…

Tweetless politicians

Fortunately, @NattySeydi is ready to meet me in downtown Dakar. He is a 25-year-old web developer, blogger and internet enthusiast. “Since 2009 I am mainly active on Twitter. I had a lot to say and had no other way to express myself.”

There are not many Senegalese politicians on Twitter. According to @NattySeydi, “there is an account for President Abdoulaye Wade at @LeWadaillon but I don’t think it’s him. You are able to find Cheikh Tidiane Gadio, Macky Sall, Ousmane Tanor Dieng, Moustapha Niasse and the Minister of Communication Moustapha Guirassy. But they don’t really post often. And you cannot be sure if it’s actually them or their communications officers. With Barack Obama, you can be sure it’s him.”


According to @NattySeydi, it’s unfortunate that there’s an anti-Wade majority on Twitter. “I saw two pro-Wades on Twitter today. I tried to start a discussion with them to find out why they are pro-Wade. But there was no real interaction. If pro-Wade people do not defend the ideas of Wade, than that’s a shame because then the information is only one way. There can be no balance.”

“People tend to say that people on Twitter are anti-Wade. The president should be able to defend his candidacy, and answer all our questions! But we are not seeing him…”

Stromae: In Africa, I am considered white

My chat with the Belgo-Rwandan Stromae for Radio Netherlands Worldwide during Eurosonic Noorderslag 2011!

That’s « verlan » for maestro. Verlan is slang from Paris, but we use it in Brussels too. You take a word and flip it. Maestro becomes Stromae. I find it a bit more modest.

I don’t pretend I’m a maestro. I consider myself to be one just because I write songs behind my computer. My musicians are inside my computer. I’ll never compare myself to big composers like Mozart or Beethoven.


Since you’re Belgo-Rwandan. Are you well known in Africa?
The song Alors on danse worked well in Africa. Or at least in the French-speaking countries. The European French-speaking culture is influenced a lot by the African French-speaking culture. I know my single worked very well in countries like DR Congo. Also in West-African countries and in the north: Morocco, Tunisia. A little bit in Egypt, even if they don’t speak French. South Africa too. I’ve seen Gabonese people on my Facebook page. My hat off to all the African people who support me.

Let’s say you’ve been elected president of Rwanda. What would be your number one priority?
For Rwanda – I think, I’m not sure – we’ll have to focus on forgiving. I believe the actual president Paul Kagame is doing a great effort. After all, big crimes have taken place there. We will have to evaluate this genocide.

And your priority in Belgium?
In Belgium… there was no genocide, luckily. But people in Belgium are busy with similar stupidities – language stupidities. I believe people should come closer to each other. We are talking about human problems. As a president, I think you should take a step back. You should not think about your own interest, but about the interest of the people. But that’s an easy thing to say if you are not in power. I don’t want to pass easy judgements.

What is your personal relationship with Africa?

When I am in Africa, they consider me as white. Even a Black African who grew up in Africa, is seen as white. I don’t want to falsely get closer to an origin or another, without really knowing it. I don’t know much about my African roots. In fact, I never knew my father. But we danced a lot on music by Kofi, Papa Wemba and others. In Europe we danced too! In music, I think there is no more borders.

Thinking about the Netherlands, what’s the biggest cliché you can think of?
When I think of the Netherlands, I think of Gouda cheese. We eat a lot of Dutch cheese in Belgium. I think of beer too, but Belgium has a better reputation for beers. Weed, you’re very well known for marihuana. The Netherlands is one of the few countries that legalises weed.

Do you smoke any yourself?
Me? No. Never. Seriously. Seriously!

Being a role model yourself, who’s your personal role model?
Ibrahim Ferrer! He’s one of the singers in the collective Buena Vista Social Club. I’ve been listening to them for a long time. My mother introduced me to his music. It’s a good mix of all the music in the world. He’s inspired by the Congolese rumba, he uses the same congas. There are also Spanish and oriental influences in his music.

The Buena Vista Social Club has melancholy. It is full of modesty and simplicity. It is simply wonderful! But I believe there is a lot of melancholy in electronic music as well. Even the New Beat was very much inspired by Cuban music. These are the same kind of melodies I have been using in my music.