Ouagadougou summit sees 'unique' participants

Ouagadougou- Burkina Faso (PANA) -- Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, his Congolese counterpart Joseph Kabila and Rwanda's Paul Kagame will be among distinct participants expected at the 10th Summit of the International Organisation of the Francophonie (OIF).
Bouteflika will Friday attend the Ouagadougou summit "upon invitation of his Burkinabe counterpart Blaise Compaore" just as he did at the Beirut summit in 2002 at the invitation of Lebanese president Emile Lahoud.
Algeria, before the Beirut summit, had always stayed aloof of the Francophone movement since becoming independent in 1962, could take advantage of the summit to officially bid to join the organisation, one source opined.
Rwanda's Kagame, who began Tuesday a three-day official visit to Senegal, is expected here Thursday for the summit, his first since assuming leadership of the Central African nation in April 2000.
Though Rwanda is a French-speaking country and a member of OIF since 1970, its leader Kagame, surprising as it may seem, is an Anglophone who does not speak French.
Born in 1957 to a central Rwandan Tutsi family, the young Kagame fled with his parents to escape persecution at the hands of Hutus to find refuge in Uganda where he grew up and served in the army of the Ugandan leader Yoweri Museveni.
He only returned home in the 1990s and was appointed deputy president and defence minister in the government of national union before leading the Rwandan Patriotic Front (FPR).
He was elected president of Rwanda in 2000 on the party's ticket and reconfirmed by the Rwandan people through the ballot box in 2003.
For his part, DR Congo president Joseph Kabila, who was announced to attend by reliable sources in the Burkinabe capital, is reportedly new in the business.
The last participation of a Congolese president at a Francophonie summit is way back September 1999 in Moncton, Canada when Laurent Desire Kabila was at the helm of the country.
Other outstanding personalities include UN secretary general Kofi Annan, who arrived here Wednesday afternoon but left early Thursday, missing the customary address he would have delivered at the opening ceremony early Friday.
Also scheduled to attend is African Union (AU) chairman Alpha Oumar Konare, the former Malian president, who will make a presentation during the summit.
And the presence of Sudanese president Omar Hassan El-Bechir, whose country has no connections with the Francophonie body, will no doubt be a source of attraction, with observers saying the situation in his restive country, especially the western region of Darfur plagued by a grave humanitarian crisis, is expected to feature at the summit.
Olusegun Obasanjo, who leads Africa's most populous and English- speaking nation of Nigeria, and chairs the African Union and the Commonwealth, will obviously be a noteworthy guest also at the summit.

25 november 2004 15:39:00




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