KINSHASA – Leaders of French-speaking nations ended a summit Sunday by calling for an overhaul of the UN Security Council to give Africa better representation, while host country Democratic Republic of Congo was forced to defend its rights record.
Speaking at the end of the 14th Francophonie summit, held in the Congolese capital Kinshasa, participants said Africa – with its one billion people – needed a stronger voice in international dialogue.
“We reiterate our support for the continuation of the reform of global governance for a balanced, multilateral system guaranteeing a permanent and fair representation for Africa in decision-making bodies,” summit heads said in their closing statement. “The needed reform of the United Nations Security Council should give all African nations their place.”
Summit leaders did not elaborate on exactly what kind of representation they sought for African nations. The Security Council has five permanent members – the United States, China, Russia, Britain and France. DR Congo was a contentious choice to host the Francophonie summit and has come under fire over human rights abuses in the east of the country, where a rebel movement is embroiled in clashes with the army.
Ahead of the summit, French President Francois Hollande denounced the political situation, forcing President Joseph Kabila to defend his country’s record. DR Congo “is proud of the democracy exercised in this country.
The DRC is not at all worried about the level of democracy, freedom and the human rights situation,” Kabila told reporters after the summit.
But Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said future summits should be held “only in democratic countries”.
Harper admitted he had made the trip to Kinshasa “with some reluctance”, but added: “I think it was worth it because this gives us a chance to meet people who are actively working for change here.”
Dozens of African nations use French as an official language and, according to estimates, Africans will by 2050 represent some 85 percent of the world’s projected 715 million French speakers. Some countries oppose Africa securing a permanent place on the Security Council with veto rights, including Canada. Delegates also issued several resolutions addressing crises gripping French-speaking Africa, including a resolution calling for strengthened dialogue to find a political solution to the chaos in Mali, where Islamist rebels have seized the country’s north and imposed sharia law.
Additionally, the French-speaking nations issued a non-binding resolution calling for the UN Security Council to adopt sanctions targeting those responsible for abuses in the east of DR Congo. Eastern DR Congo has been rocked by a rebellion made up of army defectors who formed a group called the M23, whose members are former fighters in an ethnic Tutsi rebel movement integrated into the military under a 2009 peace deal.
The resolution condemned “massive violations of human rights” including “murders of civilians, displacement of local populations, recruitment of child soldiers and sexual violence” in eastern DR Congo. Rwanda, which in June was accused in a UN report of backing the rebels, “issued a reservation” on the resolution.
The UN report caused a surge in tensions between Rwanda and neighbouring DR Congo. Kigali denies the charge and has been in talks with Kinshasa to set up a neutral force to tackle the unrest.
The summit also called on leaders in Madagascar, which has been locked in a political crisis since the March 2009 ouster of president Marc Ravalomanana, to “resolutely” implement a roadmap to restore constitutional rule negotiated by regional mediators.
The roadmap calls for a power-sharing government to steer the country to new elections, and would allow Ravalomanana to return from exile in South Africa – a homecoming the country’s current strongman, Andry Rajoelina, has so far fought to stop.
In its non-binding resolution, the leaders at the summit said Madagascar had descended into “serious economic and social deterioration”, and urged a return to normality.
The next Francophonie summit will be held in Senegalese capital Dakar in 2014.