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Foreign ministry pulls plug on play's tour

David Valère (left) and Daniel Vouillamoz are the main actors.

(ndongo.free.fr)

The foreign ministry has withdrawn its support for the tour of a Swiss play in the West African state of Burkina Faso, apparently for fear of upsetting France.

The play – Comeback for N'Dongo - is a bitter satire on France's Africa policy. It has already been performed to critical acclaim in Paris.

Its author is Dominique Ziegler, whose father Jean is a former Social Democratic parliamentarian and now the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food.

According to the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper, flights had been booked and theatres rented for the play to go on tour at the end of this month.

Planned for more than a year, the theatrical tour was to have been supported with SFr56,000 ($36,200) of public funding.

But two weeks before the departure of the cast, the foreign ministry in Bern withdrew its sponsorship.

No tour

"I was told by telephone that the tour would not take place," said author Ziegler.

Jean-Philippe Jeannerat, a spokesman at the foreign ministry, confirmed that Bern was not keeping to the contract "for foreign-affairs reasons".

The ministry, which had previously praised the play, argues that the decision was taken because of the political situation in Ivory Coast, one of Burkina Faso's neighbours.

According to the newspaper, the Swiss ambassador in Paris and the ministry department responsible for France were against the tour because the play was considered insulting to French President Jacques Chirac.

The paper added that the foreign minister, Micheline Calmy-Rey, had been involved in the decision.

Bilateral relations

Jeannerat confirmed that bilateral relations with France "among other things played a role" in the ministry's decision.

He added that there had been no pressure from the French authorities on the issue.

The play recounts the visit of an African dictator, N'Dongo, to his main supporter in the West - the president of a major European power.

The actor's gestures and intonation clearly show the president in question to be Chirac.

Ziegler wrote the play on his return from Togo in 2001. "Behind N'Dongo hides Gnassingbe Eyadema who has been holding power in Togo for 35 years thanks to France," he told swissinfo in 2002.

"He's almost an illiterate whose dirty hands have been responsible for thousands of deaths," he added.

swissinfo

In brief

The foreign ministry has pulled out of funding a tour to Burkina Faso of Comeback for N'Dongo, a play by Swiss author Dominique Ziegler.

SFr56,000 of public funding had been earmarked for the tour.

Comeback for N'Dongo is to be shown at the Carouge Theatre in Geneva between April 29 and May 24 next year.

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