* French president says Congo rights record "unacceptable"
* Summit to address Congo rebellion, Mali crisis
By Jonny Hogg and John Irish
KINSHASA/PARIS, Oct 10 President Francois
Hollande looks set to make African leaders sweat at a gathering
of French-speaking nations in Democratic Republic of Congo this
week, when he attempts to cut murky ties with France's former
More than 70 French-speaking countries, many of them
African, will arrive in Kinshasa for the 14th annual
Francophonie summit Oct. 12-14, with Congo's eastern rebellion
and the Islamist takeover of Mali's north to top the agenda.
Hollande has vowed to promote democracy in a continent known
for flawed elections and 'sit-tight' leaders, and, unlike his
predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy, he will travel to Africa without
any company executives, something that would "muddy the waters",
one adviser said.
In a sign he means business, he put pressure on the summit's
host by saying democracy in Congo, a former Belgian colony, and
its rights record is "totally unacceptable", an apparent swipe
at 2011 polls that won President Joseph Kabila a second term.
"I will address those within French-speaking countries to
tell them that this is their language, but there is also the
language of values and principles. Among those values and these
principles is democracy, good governance and the fight against
corruption," Hollande said in Paris late on Tuesday.
Yamina Benguigui, France's Minister for the Francophonie
said the summit would be an opportunity to set Hollande apart
from Sarkozy, who caused outrage in 2007 in Dakar in a speech
laced with allusions to colonialism and the suggestion that
Africa had failed to embrace progress.
The shift in French-African relations is arguably due to
France's changing economic priorities - away from Africa and
toward the burgeoning markets of China and Latin America.
Still, France remains a top investor in Africa. Foreign
direct investment in the continent hit $5.5 billion in 2008, up
from $75 million in 2003, and was $1.4 billion in 2009 as the
global crisis slowed investment worldwide, U.N. trade body
While its economic influence has waned, France remains a
major player in military terms, with troops stationed in several
African states from the tiny nation of Djibouti to bases in
Senegal, Chad and Ivory Coast.
Congo's government was hoping the arrival of dozens of heads
of state would help an international reputation tarnished by an
out-of-control insurgency and a dire human rights record.
Government spokesman Lambert Mende said the summit was a
chance for Congo to close the book on its turbulent past, marked
by a war that killed millions and decades of state-level graft
that has left most of its people in poverty.
"For many years we were seen as a failed state. But people
will come here and see we are not failed, we are a state like
any other," Mende said.
Kabila's government has deployed gangs of street sweepers to
clean up the dusty capital, decorated lampposts with colourful
flags, and opened a new lavishly lit five-star hotel and a fake
African village of grass huts in preparation.
But in a sign the government is also aware of the risk of
trouble, police water cannon trucks this week were filling up in
plain view of the public, metres from a central roundabout
festooned with Congolese national flags.
A top official for Congo's UDPS opposition party said it was
planning protests around summit venues and was hoping to arrange
for a meeting between Hollande and Congo's veteran opposition
leader Etienne Tshisekedi, who says he was cheated of victory in
last November's polls.
"The Congolese, we're split in two. In the east there's a
war and every minute someone is being killed or a woman is being
raped," said student Patrick Tumba Malumba, standing near
Kinshasa's squalid and chaotic scrap metals market. "I don't
think the Francophonie is going to solve that."
Human rights group Amnesty International said it called on
the Francophonie to condemn human rights violations and engage
Congolese authorities to stop the raging eastern rebellion,
which has forced hundreds of thousands to flee their homes.
Congo, Africa's second-largest copper producer, is on track
for 7.2 percent growth this year according to the IMF, but the
country is ranked 6th worst in the World Bank's ease of doing
business survey. Investors say social unrest, political turmoil,
corruption and worries over contract sanctity after a mining
sector review are the main concerns.
"The bad business climate unfortunately stems currently from
inside the administration, so we cannot claim to improve the
business climate if you don't work on the administration," said
Bob Tumba, the president of the new technologies committee for
the Congolese Federation of Enterprises.
He said the Francophonie summit could help the world to
recognise Congo's problems. "It's important that outside eyes
are watching what happens here."
The organisers of the Francophonie see the conference - the
first to be held in central Africa - as an opportunity, at
least, to get closer to a solution to the ongoing rebellion in
Congo's eastern hills.
Congo has accused neighbouring Rwanda of backing the rebels
in order to maintain control of a blackmarket trade in Congo's
rich minerals deposits - a claim vehemently denied by Kigali.