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Francophonie summit

Hollande meets Kabila as Francophone summit opens

Reuters/Noor Khamis

Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) President Joseph Kabila was warmly applauded by at the opening of the Francophonie summit, which brings together French-speaking countries in Kinshasa this weekend, despite criticism by French President François Hollande of the human rights situation in his country.

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Hollande, who has fended off criticism that he was legitimising the DRC president during his visit, met Kabila on Saturday morning before the summit opened and went on to meet opposition leaders.

He told reporters that “speaking French also means speaking of human rights, since the human rights were written in French” after meeting Kabila’s opponents.

Before leaving for Africa, he told RFI that the conditions of Kabila’s reelection in November 2011 “had not been considered completely satisfactory”, having already declared that the situation of “human rights, democracy and recognition of the opposition” in DRC was “completely unacceptable”.

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Quebec Prime Minister Pauline Marois, who is also attending the summit, earlier said that she would not be meeting Kabila in private because of the rights situation in his country.

Police in Kinshasa dispersed a small rally of supporters of UDPS leader Etienne Tshisekedi, who had hoped to accompany on his way to meet Hollande, on Saturday, according to opposition sources.

Opening the summit, Kabila declared that “an unjust war has been forced on us”, in a reference to the conflict in Nord Kivu province, where Rwanda is accused of backing insurgents.

Hollande backed Kabila on that question in his RFI interview, declaring, “I don’t accept that the borders of great countries can be called into question by attacks from outside.”

The Kivu question and the crisis in Mali were expected to dominate closed-door discussions at the summit, although its official title is “Environmental and economic challenges faced with good governance”.

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