Foreign affairs

Tony Barber

Since a cabinet reshuffle in August instigated by President François Hollande and Prime Minister Manuel Valls, France has had its most reform-minded government in 20 years. A new broom is doubtless a good thing – but is every break with past practice deserving of applause?

Take Fleur Pellerin, who was appointed culture minister in August. She revealed this week that she hadn’t read a book in two years. This is like a British health minister saying he or she can’t be bothered to visit a National Health Service hospital, or a Russian defence minister saying he has no interest in tanks and guided missiles. Read more

Senzo Meyiwa, the captain of South Africa’s national football team, was clearly a popular and talented player whose star was on the rise.

So when South Africans woke up to the news that the 27-year-old goalkeeper had been shot and killed in what appears to be an attempted robbery at his girlfriend’s house on Sunday evening, it is little surprise that there was an explosion of grief.

Television stations provided blanket coverage. The presidency quickly offered its condolences, with President Jacob Zuma saying “the law enforcement authorities must leave no stone unturned in finding his killers.”

At a hastily arranged press conference, Riah Phiyega, the national police chief, announced there was a R250,000 reward for information leading to the capture of the killers. Ephraim “Shakes” Mashaba, the national football coach, broke down in tears as he recalled a young man who was “was a team player, he was everything.”

The sad truth is that fast on the back of the Oscar Pistorius trial, a promising, young life has been lost in tragic circumstances, while South Africa once again draws international attention for all the wrong reasons. Read more

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Gideon Rachman

Nobody ever said that reforming Italy would be easy. But Matteo Renzi, the Italian prime minister, is going through a series of brutal tests this month – as he fights on two fronts, in Brussels and in Rome. Read more

Geoff Dyer

The shooting spree inside Canada’s parliament building on Wednesday poses an important political test of the Edward Snowden revelations about government surveillance.

By killing a Canadian soldier and then getting perilously close to the country’s prime minister, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau is sparking a debate in Canada that will have reverberations well beyond the country’s borders. Read more

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Woe betide any nation that offends Rwanda’s dignity. The tiny, tech-savvy east African country abhors what it views as the west’s control of aid for political gain, the double standards it sees operating at the International Criminal Court and any hint of patronising, anti-African or racist sentiment. This sensitivity stems from an anguished past: Rwanda regularly berates the west for abandoning it during the 1994 genocide that killed an estimated 800,000 people within a hundred days.

So who better to fight Africa’s corner when it comes to EbolaRead more

  • Nigeria has risked its credibility by announcing a deal to free 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram before they are released safely
  • Poland’s lossmaking coal industry, once seen as a bulwark against reliance on Russian energy resources, is in dire need of reform
  • A severe drought in São Paulo is not just affecting Brazil’s coffee and sugar crops, it could also play out in Sunday’s presidential election run-off
  • A weakening currency should mean a boost to exports and inflation, but that theory will be put to the test in the eurozone
  • South Korea’s professional video game competitions, known as ‘e-sports’, are so popular they fill stadiums with 40,000 fans cheering on players

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The rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has thrust the plight of the Kurdish people into the spotlight. But who exactly are the Kurds and how will their responses to increasing instability define the future of the Middle Eastern region?

Who are the Kurds? Read more