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Hollande slams DRC lack of democracy

Africa

French President Francois Hollande on Tuesday slammed the lack of democracy and basic rights in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which he is set to visit for a summit of French-speaking nations.

“The situation in this country is absolutely unacceptable as far as rights, democracy and the recognition of the opposition are concerned,” Hollande said, addressing a press conference in Paris with visiting UN chief Ban Ki-moon.

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France's President Francois Hollande (R) welcomes United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as he arrives for a meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris.

He said the other area of concern in the sprawling mineral-rich central African nation were rebel attacks on its territory from outside, “especially in Kivu,” a region in the country's volatile east.

Eastern DR Congo has been hit hard by a rebellion by army defectors who have 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.

Bosco Ntaganda, wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on war crimes charges, is accused of leading the M23, which has been fighting government troops since April thereby forcing about 470 000 out of their homes.

A UN report in June accused Rwanda of backing the rebels, causing a surge in tensions with neighbouring DR Congo. Kigali denies the charge and has been in talks with Kinshasa to set up a neutral force to tackle the unrest.

Rwanda meanwhile accuses Kinshasa of renewing co-operation with Rwandan rebels based in eastern DRC.

Conflict-prone DR Congo stretches over territory two-thirds the size of western Europe and is ranked the world's least developed state by the United Nations.

Joseph Kabila was named head of state in 2001 after the assassination of his father Laurent-Desire.

He was re-elected for a second term in November last year in elections that were marred by fraud allegations and whose results were disputed. Veteran politician and opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi claimed victory was stolen from him.

Hollande will this weekend visit the country for a summit of French-speaking nations to be attended by some 20 heads of state and government. - AFP

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