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French-speaking nations summit ends in Tunisia as block seeks to step up leadership

Tunisian President, R, and the Secretary-General of the OIF, left, receive Canadian Prime Minister, on Nov 19, 2022, in Djerba, Tunisia.   -  
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Hassene Dridi/Copyright 2022 The AP. All rights reserved.


The world's French-speaking leaders gathered in Tunisia, ended Sunday (Nov 20) their two-day meeting.

The conference took place against the backdrop of growing instability in the Sahel, the Great Lakes regions and popular discontent in francophone Africa.

The secretary general of the International Organisation of La Francophonie (IOF) was elected for a second term. She promised to do more to resolve crises.

"We are headed towards a Francophonie of the future, modernised, much more relevant in the midst of change which is not easy", Louise Mushikiwabo said. 

"We feel an obligation to offer our fellow Francophones the fruits of the organisation's work. We feel an obligation to give more hope to Francophone youth."

The head of the 88-member IOF bloc, said Sunday that "all the conflict zones were the subject of long debates".

"The IOF is an organisation that can support and catalyse (efforts) to mediate between parties in conflict," she added.

But tensions crept into the International Organisation of La 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 IOF founded was 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 conflicts in their own countries.

The organisation, whose annual budget is under 100 million euros, has been accused of being "powerless" in the face of fraudulent elections, power grabs and coups in many of its member states.

French president Macron said the IOF should reclaim its diplomatic role, moments before Paris announced that it would seek to take on the organisation's rotating presidency from 2024.

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