Sunday, October 14, 2012

Canada, France in the DR Congo

Reuters reports

France, Canada focus attention on Congo rights record

                                                                Harper Kabila

(Reuters) - France and Canada urged leaders from the French-speaking world to reinforce democracy and human rights during a summit in Democratic Republic of Congo on Saturday, in comments that focused attention squarely on the host.

Congo has been widely criticised for a flawed election last year that won President Joseph Kabila a second term, and for killings, rapes and other abuses committed by fighters in the rebel-plagued eastern province of North Kivu.

"Democracy is not a lesson. Democracy is a right, and for those in power it is a responsibility," French President Francois Hollande told reporters after a meeting with civil society group leaders in Kinshasa.

Well I asked for it but somehow I get the feeling this all just window dressing, France and Canada doing the French version of the " Anglo Saxon fist ", the Francophone foot in the mouth. My real problem is that I doubt the sincerity of the French and the French commitment to democracy. I will grant it is just possible that a the latest president of France has altered centuries of French indifference to the rights of the so called " French Empire " of which the DR Congo was never part of. But how likely is that ? 

Hollande is the star invitee to this year's Francophonie summit - the first to be held in central Africa - but cast a pall over preparations last week by calling Congo's rights record "totally unacceptable".

He is right but why assign the blame solely to DR Congo, it is simplistic and unhelpful. The problem is complex and the world refuses to act. France would do far better to point the finger
at all of us. We the world are as much to blame, we let the Congo slip out of control. 

Representatives from more than 70 French-speaking countries arrived in Kinshasa for the 14th Francophonie summit which runs until Oct 14, with Congo's M23 rebellion and the Islamist takeover of northern Mali topping the agenda.

                                                               Pauline Marois Kabila
Now that is interesting, Pauline Marois Quebec Premier hardly a head of state. Why on earth didn't they ask Alex Salmond who wants to be the next King of Scotland. Why on earth would you ask a secessionist to the DR Congo ? 

At the summit's opening ceremony Hollande greeted Kabila with the briefest of handshakes but warmly embraced Abdou Diouf, the former Senegalese president and current secretary general of the Francophonie.

Members of Hollande's entourage said Hollande had earlier met privately with Kabila for a "frank and direct" discussion about human rights that lasted 30 minutes. He also held a meeting with Congo's top opposition figure.

Well that sort of explains things. 30 minutes of mutual abuse between Kabila and Hollande's probably makes a hug and kiss fairly unlikely . Given the choice I think I would rather be in Kabila's shoes than Diouf's the idea of Hollande's sticking his tongue  down my throat " French " style is not appealing. 

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, whose government had also indicated concern about Congo's rights record, gave a speech to delegates underscoring the value of democracy in a region notorious for troubled elections and sit-tight leaders.

"All governments, without exception, must guarantee to their citizens good governance, the rule of law and the respect of individual rights," Harper said. "For the first time the great francophone family is meeting here in central Africa, it's an opportunity to respect individual liberties, to reinforce democracy and to speak of peace," he said.

Harper, Harper, Harper.... what were you thinking. You should have just kicked the whole talkfest into Pauline's court and let her screw up on behalf of Canada.

Canadian government officials have said Harper has "serious concerns" about Congo's rights record and that he would be meeting with civil society groups during his visit.

After decades of corruption and conflict, Africa's second-largest copper producer, Congo lies at the bottom of the U.N.'s development index, a measure of wealth, health and education.

"Africa's second-largest copper producer,..." ? How about largest death toll since WWII 5 million and climbing.

The streets of Congo's crumbling riverside capital, Kinshasa, were mostly quiet on Saturday despite opposition calls for protests around summit venues.

Riot police were deployed near the residence of veteran opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi, who claims he was cheated of victory in last November's polls, but he was permitted to travel to the French ambassador's residence for a meeting with Hollande later in the day.

Tshisekedi told journalists that Hollande had been "very receptive" during the 20 minute meeting.

Well that might please Pierre-Jacques Chalupa but I doubt it. Excuse me France, Canada are you so bloody blind you ignore what you could change. Give Chalupa recognition a title of some sort in the Francophone world. Embarrass the shit out of Kinshasa.   
"They've talked about the internal issues, including the rights of the opposition, media and also the situation in the east and the territorial integrity of the country," according to a member of Hollande's entourage.

Hollande's criticism of Congo's rights record last week was seen as a major boost for the opposition, but was also used by Congo's rebels to justify their uprising, which has forced hundreds of thousands to flee their homes.

Supporting the rebels would be an insanity even France, famous for insane foreign policy would probably struggle with. Supporting a legal constitutionally loyal opposition is quite different.

                                                           Hollande Kabila

Congo has accused neighbouring Rwanda of backing the eastern rebellion in order to maintain control of a blackmarket trade in Congo's rich mineral deposits - a claim vehemently denied by Kigali.

It will be interesting to see what France and Canada have to say about this issue.

A Congo government spokesman said Hollande's comments were 'unfair' and said the summit was a chance for Congo to bolster its legitimacy and close the book on a turbulent past marked by a war that killed millions and decades of officials plundering the state leaving most of its people in poverty.

If only.

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