Bosses Old & New


Green Planet Monitor Podcast

GPM # 25

Senegal, on the western edge of Africa, has long been considered an anchor of stability. Today, tension fills the air.

Senegalese opposition leader Ousmane Sonko, a would-be presidential candidate, is on life support following a three-week hunger strike, protesting his house arrest. Sonko supporters say he’s been targeted because he wants to change Senegal’s relationship with France, which many see as neocolonial.

It’s a common theme across West Africa today, where the economic legacy of colonialism is a daily reality. Over a century ago, France banned the use of the cowrie shell as an exchange currency, imposing its own – the CFA . The meaning of the term has changed over the years. Between 1945 and 1958, CFA stood for Colonies Françaises d’Afrique — French colonies of Africa. Then French Community of Africa.

Since the early 1960s, when Senegal and France’s other North African colonies became independent, the CFA has been taken to mean African Financial Community. Backed by the French treasury, the CFA is pegged to the Euro, and France enjoys a huge trade advantage. Inflation – and the dependency of France’s former colonies on imported commodities – fuel staggering poverty.

Also violent extremism. Most of the coups in the Sahel over the past decade have been in former French colonies.

Berlin-based journalist and correspondent Alexa Dvorson has lived and worked in Senegal. During her most recent trip, in 2022, Senegal won the Africa Cup of Nations football tournament for the first time, defeating Egypt on penalties. Euphoria – and hope for the future – filled the air. It didn’t last long.

Here is her report from that trip to the Senegalese capital Dakar, on the Atlantic Ocean, Africa’s western tip.

Listen to Alexa’s story. Click on the podcast button above, or go here.

Dakar market (Alexa Dvorson)

For those who don’t know a whole lot about global politics and international affairs, Canada is seen as a kinder, gentler, more enlightened country than its neighbor to the south – with a young, photogenic leader always talking about human rights, justice and international law.

Yves Engler sees things very differently. Engler is a Montreal-based writer and political activist. His 2009 book, The Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy, was short-listed for the Quebec Writers Federation’s Mavis Gallant Prize for Nonfiction. His most recent work, Stand on Guard For Whom? A People’s History of the Canadian Military, was co-published last year by Black Rose Books and Red Publishing.

Listen to our conversation with Yves Engler. Click on the podcast button above, or go here.

Yves Engler

Last week, one of the world’s longest ruling strongmen finally stepped aside — handing power to his son.

Hun Sen has had a long and colourful career. During the Cambodian civil war, between 1975 and 1979, he served as a commander for the Khmer Rouge. Following his defection to Vietnam in 1977, and the downfall of the Khmer Rouge, he became Cambodia’s Foreign Minister in the Vietnamese occupation government, then Prime Minister in 1983.

On August 22, Hun Sen finally stepped aside, handing the Prime Minister post to his 45 year-old son, Hun Manet. The move was rubber-stamped by the Cambodian Parliament, controlled by the Cambodian People’s Party, that Hun Sen continues to lead.

Not much is known about Hun Manet, other than his military pedigree. Since graduating from West Point, he’s been Cambodia’s counter-terrorism chief and a deputy military commander. Western observers wonder if he’ll govern with a more liberal touch than his father, and whether Cambodian relations with China will continue to prosper. Washington is reportedly upset by Chinese plans to help develop Cambodia’s naval base in Ream, on the Gulf of Thailand.

Cambodia mangrove forest (David Kattenburg)

The fate of mangrove forests up the coast from Ream is likely not on the Biden Administration’s radar.

Coastal mangroves are threatened all around the world. In Cambodia, they’ve been cut down for charcoal and replaced by shrimp farms. Government figures, military chiefs and their rich clients have had a hand in this for years. Their involvement in mangrove destruction, coastal sand dredging and the harvesting of upland timber species, for sale in Thailand, Vietnam and China, is well documented. Read this and this.

Here’s a story I produced about this, back in 2008. Click on the podcast button on top, or go here.

Cambodian village in the middle of the mangroves (David Kattenburg)

Thanks to Dan Weisenberger for his guitar instrumentals.