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French minister 'received death threats' over Hollande DRC visit

media Yamina Benguigui in Kinshasa in July AFP/Junior D Kannah

A French government minister told RFI on Tuesday that she had received death threats after President François Hollande’s announcement that he will go to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for an international meeting.

Rights groups and opposition parties have accused DRC President Joseph Kabila’s government of dictatorial tendencies and claimed that his reelection last year was the result of fraud.

Dossier: DRC elects a president

But Yamina Benguigui, who is responsible for relations with the French-speaking world, declared that “isolating the regime is pointless”, adding that the country is “on the road to democratisation”.

Hollande on Monday told France’s ambassadors that he would attend the 20th Francophone summit – the French equivalent of the Commonwealth – in Kinshasa on 12-14 October.

He added that he will meet NGOs and opposition figures, although Benguigui refused to say whether he would meet Etienne Tshisekedi, who stood against Kabila and declared himself the winner.

The announcement has been poorly received by some of Kabila’s critics.

"We have a duty to go, even if we are perhaps going to be attacked for it," Benguigui told Radio France RFI. "Myself I've had death threats, by email, but I think it is important that
this summit takes place."

An aide to the minister later said she had been sent death threats via her Facebook account and email.

"The opponents of the summit in Congo are ferocious," he added.

Benguigui pointed out that the meeting is not a bilateral one with the DRC government and that heads of state from several African countries will be present.

But both she and Hollande presented the decision as the result of a changed French attitude to Africa, breaking with the Françafrique policy which was accused of neo-colonial ties to sometimes dubious regimes.

“I think we have to forget the stance of coming and saying ‘I want that, I want that, I want that’,” she said, pointing to plans to reform the DRC’s election law and set up a human rights commission as “important”s signs.

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