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September 22, 2017

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Francophone summit opens in DRC, focuses on human rights

KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of Congo -- Leaders of French-speaking nations met in troubled Democratic Republic of Congo Saturday for their 14th summit, with France's President Francois Hollande laying stress on the importance of human rights.

Only some 15 heads of state of the Francophone organization's 75 member countries were present in the parliament building in Kinshasa alongside their host, DR Congo's President Joseph Kabila.

Kabila, who had talks with Hollande earlier Saturday, was greeted with tumultuous applause as he arrived in the chamber, but elsewhere in the city police clashed with dozens of opposition demonstrators defying a ban on protests, witnesses said.

Hollande, who had earlier angered Kinshasa by saying that the situation in DR Congo was unacceptable with regard to rights, democracy and recognition of the opposition, rubbed the point home just before the summit opened.

"Talking French also means talking human rights, because the rights of man were written in French," he said after a meeting with opposition representatives and NGOs, referring to the Universal Declaration drafted by French revolutionaries.

The situation in DR Congo, whose eastern regions are a theater of violent rebellions and ethnic conflict, and in Mali were expected to dominate the weekend summit.

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