About 20 head of state of the Francophonie nations are to begin its 14th summit in the capital city of Democratic Republic of Congo, Kinshasa on Friday.
The Francophonie’s International Organization decision to hold its 14th summit in Kinshasa has raised a lot of eyebrows given the government’s poor democratic reports and human rights record. The summit, whose 2010 edition was moved from Madagascar to Switzerland due to democracy concern, comes in the midst of new hostility in the eastern DRC. The main focus at the summit in DRC will be the future of an organization that has fought for relevancy since its creation in 1970. DRC is the most populated country in French-speaking Africa with 70 million inhabitants and about 20 heads of state are expected for the summit.
Francophony secretary general Abdou Diouf stressed that the summit is out to celebrate the Congolese leader but rather an opportunity to emphasize on regional issues. He told AFP in an interview ahead of the summit that they are not here to celebrate one individual but to celebrate DRC and the peoples of central Africa, one of the largest international events Kinshasa has ever hosted. Hundreds of workers have been sweeping and painting the streets while major infrastructure projects are being carried out by China in exchange for mining concessions under a multi-billion-dollar 2007 deal moved into overdrive in recent weeks.
The organization’s first summit was due to have been held in Kinshasa in 1991 but was later moved to Paris due to a protest over the abuses committed by Mobutu Sese Seko. The French President Francois Hollande in a statement has reproached his Congolese counterpart Joseph Kabila, setting a tense political atmosphere for the three-day meeting. Hollande this week described the political and human rights situation in DRC as “unacceptable”. The government spokesperson has rebuke his statement by saying it was up to the Congolese not the president of France to decide what was acceptable. The 2011 polls that saw Kabila win a new term and retain his control of the parliament were broadly criticized as fraudulent. The main opposition movement has vowed to stage protests the elections during the summit to denounce last year’s electoral embarrassment.
However the Francophone has long been perceived as a hopeless attempt by France to maintain a post-colonial zone of international influence. Moreover, French has been steadily losing ground to English across the world, including in French-speaking Africa, and there have been calls for the Francophone and its limited budget to revise its ambitions as an international player on rights and governance issues to focus on language and education.