Times are changing for young Congolese
Mustapha Mulonda

GOMA – Young Muslim men in the Democratic Republic of Congo are less interested in having several wives than their fathers were. Facing rising prices and feuds over inheritance, the new generation doesn't see how the benefits outweigh the costs of having multiple spouses in the same household.

As for the women of the current generation coming of age, they see that wives are often the victims of polygamous customs, and reject this form of marriage. It's also worth noting that it is no longer legal under Congolese law.

“If you want to end up like me, embrace polygamy...” This is how 70-year-old El Hadji H.E warns his grandchildren. In the middle of his large parcel in Magendo, the popular neighborhood of the eastern city of Goma, a large, old house occupies much land. In the garden are two wrecked Volvo trucks, the latest symbols of yesterday’s prosperity for this family of 40 children and eight wives.

It’s impossible to get everyone through school, but El Hadji adds thhat “22 of my girls and boys who couldn’t go to school went to Koranic school.” Still, such religious teachings are not enough to help them find a job and cope with what life has planned for them. One of his sons, Amadi Rubani, just got fired from his job at a security company, which prefers hiring people with high school diplomas.

Even the Muslim authorities dissuade the population from taking multiple wives. After the noon prayer, Imam Shabani Kiboko often explains that polygamy isn’t compatible with the Congolese lifestyle. The multiple dowry gifts are prohibitive. “In the eighties, All my father had to do was read a passage from the Koran ... and the father-in-law would give him his daughter to marry,” remembers Salumu Idi.

And so young Muslims, more and more, are rejecting polygamy. They remember from their own childhoods the small rations and the need to share with numerous siblings, the fights it leads to. The patriarch’s death is also a factor of conflicts: very often, he leaves no will behind.

Financial questions

Ali Moussa, the family elder, found himself in a prickly situation. He can’t marry several women for he’s not allowed to: His father left him the responsibility of two of his spouses as well as the children whom he must put through school. “Here’s what my father left for me: his wives and my brothers.”

Women’s associations are getting involved. They tell each other that a household with one husband is a good thing. Also, whenever they consider getting engaged with a married man, it’s better to check his finances. This recommendation even finds a religious echo for it is specified in the Koran's An-Nisaa Sura.

Some of these women also note the benefits of a more intimate couple without any rivalry: “I choose monogamy, for it’s the best way to share secrets with your husband without taking the risk of them being divulged,” claims Yasmin.

Too often, women growing up in polygamous families suffer from injustice, especially the second, third or fourth ones. In case their husbands die, they get harassed by the in-laws who are not restrained by any legal acts. “After my husband’s death, his family came and took everything in my house, children included, arguing about how I wasn’t their brother’s wife,” regrets a young widow with four children who sued her in-laws to guarantee her kids would get their share of the inheritance. Now a member of the Union of the Muslim women, she takes advantage of her misfortune to dissuade people from choosing polygamy.

As a reminder, according to Anne-Marie Furaha, jurist and project leader for the human rights association Social Action for Peace and Development, the Family Code (art. 330-333) stipulates that marriage is the "civil, public, solemn bond through which a man and a women not engaged in a previous registered marriage, can enjoy legal union.” Such a marital union cannot be ordained by a Church or other sectarian group alone, in order to be legally recognized by the state.

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Boris Johnson tells France — not so eloquently — to prenez un grip

Bertrand Hauger


-Essay-

PARIS — I'll admit it straight away: As a bilingual journalist, the growing use of Franglais by French politicians makes my skin crawl.

Not because I think this blend of French and English is a bad thing in and of itself (it is!), or because the purity of the French language should be preserved at all costs (it should!) — but because in a serious context, it is — at best — a distraction from the substance at hand. And at worst, well …

But in France, where more and more people speak decent English, Anglo-Saxon terms are creeping in everywhere, and increasingly in the mouths of politicians who think they're being cool or smart.

Not that long ago, Emmanuel Macron was dubbed "the Franglais president" after tweeting "La démocratie est le système le plus bottom up de la terre" ...

Oh mon dieu

They call it Frenglish

It is much rarer when the linguistic invasion goes in the other direction, with far fewer English-speaking elected officials, or their electors, knowing more than a couple of words of French. (The few Brits who use it call it Frenglish)

Imagine then my horror last night watching British Prime Minister Boris Johnson berating France over the recent diplomatic clash surrounding the AUKUS submarine deal, cheekily telling UK media from Washington: "I just think it's time for some of our dearest friends around the world to prenez un grip about this and donnez-moi un break."

Cringe. Eye roll. Facepalm.
Here's the clip, in case you haven't had your morning cup of awkward.
Grincement de dents. Yeux au ciel. Tête entre les mains.

First, let me offer a quick French lesson: Sorry, BoJo, you needed the "infinitif" form here: "It's time for [us] to prendre un grip about this and me donner un break."

But that, of course (bien sûr), is not the point in this particular moment. Instead, this would-be bon mot is not just sloppy and silly, it is incredibly patronizing, particularly when discussing a multi-billion deal that sparked a deep diplomatic crisis in the Western alliance.

The colorful British politician is, alas, no stranger to verbal miscalculations and linguistic gaffes. He's also (Brexit, anyone?) not necessarily one who cares about preserving relationships with longstanding partners. This time, combining the two, even for such a shameless figure as Mr. Johnson, only one word came to my bilingual brain: Vraiment?

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