KINSHASA, Congo (AFP) — France's President Francois Hollande stressed human rights and the need to end the conflict in eastern part of the country as leaders of French-speaking nations met for a summit yesterday.
Only some 15 heads of state of the Francophonie organisation's 75-member countries were present in the parliament building in Kinshasa alongside their host, DR Congo's President Joseph Kabila.
Hollande, who has angered Kinshasa by saying the situation in DR Congo was unacceptable with regard to rights, democracy and recognition of the opposition, drove the point home in "frank and direct" talks with Kabila just before the summit opened.
"Francophonie is not just the French language. Speaking French also means speaking about human rights, because the rights of man were written in French," he said after other meetings with representatives of the opposition and NGOs, referring to the Universal Declaration drafted by French revolutionaries.
A member of Hollande's entourage said it was "indispensable" that the French leader met privately with Kabila "to deliver a message on human rights".
The situation in DR Congo, where the eastern regions are the theatre of violent rebellions and ethnic conflict, as well as in Mali, where radical Islamists have seized control of the north of the country, were expected to dominate the weekend summit.
At the opening of the event, Kabila was greeted with tumultuous applause as he arrived in the chamber, but elsewhere in Kinshasa police clashed with dozens of demonstrators opposed to his regime defying a ban on protests.
Kabila spoke about "an unjust war imposed" by outsiders in the east of the country, without specifically mentioning Rwanda, accused by Kinshasa and the United Nations of backing rebels there.
"While our people are sparing no effort to improve their lives, negative forces beholden to outside interests have for several months worked to destablise our country in North Kivu province", on the eastern border with Rwanda, Kabila said to the summit.
Hollande had earlier also condemned the "outside attacks" in eastern DR Congo where the Congolese army is combatting several militia groups in the mineral-rich region. He called for renewing and if necessary re-enforcing the UN mission to the country (MONUSCO).
Rwandan President Paul Kagame was notably absent from the summit. His country has denied the charges of giving military support to the rebels.
The summit also heard a rallying cry from the secretary general of the Francophonie group for the continent of Africa to "take its rightful place" in the leadership of world organisations, especially the UN Security Council.
The 77-year-old former Senegalese president Abdou Diouf called it "a lack of democracy in international relations" that the richest countries decide the future of all, especially the least fortunate. He said in this way "we put the stability and security of the world in danger".
Earlier yesterday, police used tear gas on some stone-throwing protesters who claim Kabila's 2011 re-election was riddled with fraud.
Hollande, was expected to meet with the leader of the opposition UPDS party, Etienne Tshisekedi, in the capital later in the day.
The 14th Francophonie summit which runs through today will also likely focus on the future of an organisation that has struggled for relevancy since its creation in 1970.