October 13, 2012
Harper slams Congo's human rights record at summit
By Daniel Proussalidis, Parliamentary Bureau
KINSHASA, Dem. Rep. Congo -- Prime Minister Stephen Harper briefly addressed human rights in front of democratic and dictatorial leaders at the Francophonie summit.
"All governments, without exception, must guarantee for their citizens good governance, the rule of law and respect for human rights," Harper said Saturday.
He had little else to say on the subject in his short public speech that touched on the improvement of economic development in Africa and the promotion of French around the world.
During his speech, the prime minister greeted New Brunswick Premier David Alward, before lauding separatist Quebec Premier Pauline Marois for writing "a page of history" by becoming the first woman to lead Quebec.
Later, while meeting with Congolese opposition, human rights and religious leaders, Harper laid into the central African nation.
"We're concerned about many things in the Democratic Republic of Congo, including ... violations of human rights, difficulties, problems (and) unfairness in some of the electoral process, but also we're particularly concerned about the worsening situation in the eastern part of country," he said. "Canada will be supporting additional initiatives to combat the barbarous acts of sexual violence against women that are occurring all too frequently in the eastern part of this country."
That additional help amounts to $18.5 million over four years for programs meant to bring rapists to justice and help the victims.
One of the opposition members Harper met with says she's convinced Canada can help Congo govern itself better.
"Because Canada respects human rights and you respect democracy," said Eve Bazaiba Masudi.
The PM has also held meetings with world leaders on the margins of the summit.
He sat down briefly with French President Francois Hollande to chat about Canada-EU free trade, Syria and Islamists operating in Mali and the wider Sahel region.
Harper also met with the president of Benin, Boni Yayi, who also chairs the African Union, and Prime Minister Najib Mikati of Lebanon.
The prime minister will spend most of Sunday in Kinshasa before hopping on his grey, 30-year-old Airbus jet to fly back to Ottawa.