PARIS -- French President Niocolas Sarkozy made a whistle-stop at the Congolese parliament yesterday, in the midst of his three-nation tour of Central Africa. Last January, he ruffled feathers in Kinshasha by suggesting that Congo needed to share its mineral wealth with Rwanda as a step towards bringing peace to the Kivu region.
This time around, he soothed Congolese egos by praising President Kabila's breakthrough peace initiative with Rwanda's President Paul Kagame, which has resulted in a significant decline in violence in the region. He also suggested that Congo, with all its mineral wealth, could play a regional the leadership role.
Lest we forget what the visit is all about, though, Sarko's retinue is comprised of several business leaders, including the head of Areva, one of France's largest uranium processors. A country that gets more than 80 percent of its electricity from nuclear power -- (18 percent of which it exports -- can hardly let all of Congo's uranium fall into foreign hands (China's for instance).
It's not clear whether Sarkozy will also seek to mend fences with Rwandan President Kagame in their feud of mutual recriminations over the causes of, and culpability, for the Rwandan genocide. French newspaper Le Monde certainly doesn't help things by continuing to refer to the Rwandan leader as "Tutsi President Paul Kagame."
Hopefully President Sarkozy was able to take in a concert at the Kinshasha Symphony Orchestra before he left town.
(First published in World Politics Review, March 27, 2009)