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.
â€œDemocracy is not a lesson. Democracy is a right, and for those in power it is a responsibility,â€ French President Francois Hollande told reporters after a meeting with civil society group leaders in Kinshasa.
Hollande is the star invitee to this yearâ€™s Francophonie summit - the first to be held in central Africa - but cast a pall over preparations last week by calling Congoâ€™s rights record â€œtotally unacceptableâ€.
Representatives from more than 70 French-speaking countries arrived in Kinshasa for the 14th Francophonie summit which runs until October 14, with Congoâ€™s M23 rebellion and the Islamist takeover of northern Mali topping the agenda.
At the summitâ€™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 Hollandeâ€™s entourage said Hollande had earlier met privately with Kabila for a â€œfrank and directâ€ discussion about human rights that lasted 30 minutes. He also held a meeting with Congoâ€™s top opposition figure.â€”Reuters