Lebanon News

Mikati in DR Congo for Francophone meet, Mali crisis tops agenda

Mikati in Kinshasa. (The Daily Star/NNA/HO)

BEIRUT: Prime Minister Najib Mikati arrived in the Democratic Republic of Congo Friday to head Lebanon’s delegation to the Francophone summit scheduled to begin Saturday.

Mikati led a delegation that included deputy premier Samir Mouqbel, Interior Minister Marwan Charbel, Health Minister Ali Hasan Khalil, Economy Minister Nicholas Nahhas and Culture Minister Gaby Layyoun.

The prime minister met Friday with Lebanese expatriates in the Congo, the state-run National News Agency said.

Lebanon hosted a summit of French-speaking nations in 2002.

Leaders from the 75-nation Francophonie were to begin their biennial summit Friday in the Congo, a country that encapsulates Africa’s many woes but also its growing stake in a body searching for a raison d’etre.

The Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie’s decision to hold its 14th summit in Kinshasa raised eyebrows given the government’s poor democratic credentials and human rights record.

During the three-day meeting, heads of state are expected to discuss the crisis in member state Mali, where France and several of the region’s countries want a military intervention to oust the Al-Qaeda-linked Islamists who took over the north in March.

Another main focus at the summit in the Congo, the most populated country in French-speaking Africa with 70 million inhabitants, will be the future of an organization that has battled for relevancy since its creation in 1970.

Meanwhile, Mikati said Friday he had no role in the management of a telecommunication company in which he is a shareholder that was reported to be providing help for the Syrian regime in its crackdown against rebels.

“Mikati does own many shares in MTN Group, South Africa, however [he] has nothing to do with the company’s management or the business of the company’s branches,” said a statement issued by Mikati’s press office.

The statement warned that “any other reports fall in the category of media misleading.”

MTN Group, a South Africa-based multinational mobile telecommunications company, is based in Johannesburg and operates in many African and Middle Eastern countries.

Al-Mustaqbal newspaper said in a report published Friday that the group was providing the Syrian regime with devices to block the Internet service and mobile communication in an attempt to obstruct contacts among the Syrian opposition.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 13, 2012, on page 2.




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