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Hollande discusses Central Africa troop presence with DRC’s Kabila in Paris

media François Hollande (R) and Joseph Kabila in Kinshasa in 2012 Reuters/Noor Khamis

French President François Hollande was expected to urge Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) leader Joseph Kabila to keep troops in the strife-torn Central African Republic (CAR) at a meeting in Paris on Wednesday.

The meeting with Hollande, also attended by foreign affairs ministers Laurent Fabius and Raymond Tshibanda, was the only item on Kabila’s agenda on a brief visit to the French capital.

Top of the agenda, according to diplomats, was the CAR, where 850 DRC soldiers and 150 police make up a major part of the international force, Misca, that followed French troops in an intervention to try to restore peace.

Sending the troops stirred controversy in the DRC, where the army is fighting about 40 armed groups, and some African countries have proved reluctant to take part in the operation, while Chad withdrew its soldiers last month.

Two Congolese soldiers have been killed and France and the African Union have paid tribute to the contingent’s professionalism.

The DRC and the CAR share a 1,500-kilometre border, so there is a risk of the instability spilling over, and the intervention allows Kabila’s government to present itself as an important force in the region, according to RFI’s website in French.

French companies’ bids for business in the DRC was also likely to come up during the meeting.

The Bolloré group is interested in managing a huge river port at Matadi, while Total has its eye on petrol reserves in the east of the country.

Diplomats said that Hollande would also raise the question as to whether Kabila hopes to amend his country’s constitution so that he can stand for a third term as president, although perhaps not as bluntly as US Secretary of State John Kerry earlier this month.

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