Next time, let’s do this in a democratic country: Stephen Harper after Francophonie summit in D.R. Congo
KINSHASA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper says he’s glad he attended the summit of French speaking nations but hopes the next one is held in a country that promotes democratic values.
Harper admitted Sunday that he had definite reservations about taking part in this weekend’s international gathering of la Francophonie in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The African country has been widely criticized for abusing human rights and allowing widespread sexual violence against women.
President Joseph Kabila was returned to power last year amid allegations of electoral fraud, something Harper described as “completely unacceptable.”
But Harper said his visit allowed him to meet people who are changing things in the country — and that made the trip worthwhile.
I hope that in the future, la Francophonie and other major organizations will decide to hold a summit only in countries with democratic standards
“What struck me most was not what they said in particular, but the courage these people have demonstrated in promoting their cause, and expressing their opposition in a place where this is obviously not easy to do,” Harper said at a news conference as the summit wrapped up.
Harper, though, expressed hope that future summits would be hosted in countries with a better track record on human rights.
“I hope that in the future, la Francophonie and other major organizations will decide to hold a summit only in countries with democratic standards,” he said.
Harper has already threatened to skip the upcoming Commonwealth conference in Sri Lanka unless the country improves its human rights record.
The decision to hold the 14th summit of la Francophonie in the Democratic Republic of the Congo was made before the country’s controversial election last December, in which Kabila was declared the winner.
The Harper government used the summit’s backdrop on Sunday to announce $ 20 million over four years toward an international fund that helps developing countries manage their natural resource industries in “a responsible and transparent manner.”
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