MONTREAL — Canadian Premier Stephen Harper defended his attendance at the Francophonie summit in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Sunday while slamming the country's failure to abide by "democratic standards."
The Canadian leader admitted he came to the Congolese capital "with some reluctance," but that he did not regret the decision.
"It was worthwhile, because it did give us an opportunity to meet with people who are trying to make real change here," Harper said on Canadian television from Kinshasa.
"I hope that in the future, la Francophonie and other major organizations will decide to hold a summit only in countries with democratic standards," he said of the host nation.
The decision of the 75-member Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie to hold its 14th summit in Kinshasa raised eyebrows, given the government's dismal democratic credentials and human rights record.
In that regard, the Canadian prime minister threatened that he might not attend the British Commonwealth conference in Sri Lanka in November 2013 if that country does not improve its democratic efforts.
Meanwhile, on the sidelines of the summit Sunday, Harper announced an aid package worth $20 million over four years for an international fund through the World Bank aimed at helping developing countries "manage their natural resource industries responsibly and transparently while fostering prosperity, job creation, poverty reduction and good governance."
The 2011 polls in the DRC that saw President Joseph Kabila win a new term and retain his control of parliament were widely criticised as fraudulent.
And this year's Francophonie summit came amid fresh fighting in eastern DR Congo.
The summit's 2010 edition was moved from Madagascar to Switzerland over democracy concerns.
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