DJERBA: Facing calls to do more to resolve global crises, the world’s French-speaking leaders met in Tunisia on Sunday to discuss growing instability and popular discontent in Francophone Africa.

But tensions crept into the International Organisation of Francophonie (IOF) conference itself when the Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Jean-Michel Sama Lukonde, refused to pose for a photo next to Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda.

The DRC accuses Rwanda of supporting M23 rebels who have seized swathes of territory in its eastern region, displacing tens of thousands of people and igniting regional tensions.

The head of the 88-member IOF bloc, Louise Mushikiwabo, said it should strive to be a “link that can be used to prevent tensions from degenerating into conflicts”.

But Senegalese civil society figure Alioune Tine said the IOF has shown itself to be “totally powerless in the face of fraudulent elections, third mandates (of African leaders) and military coups” in Mali, Guinea, Chad and Burkina Faso.

On Sunday, delegates at the conference on the island of Djerba were to also attend workshops on the youth and women’s entrepreneurship before an economic forum starts.

Ahead of the summit, Mushikiwabo said that “the defiance that we’re seeing among young people in francophone Africa comes from political disillusionment” and frustrations over daily life.

The IOF, founded in 1970, aims to promote the French language, develop economic cooperation and help mediate international conflicts.

Many African leaders have expressed dismay at the West’s rapid response to the war in Ukraine, in contrast to wars in their own countries.

Published in Dawn, November 21st, 2022

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