The Government of Canada has announced it will send a small delegation of athletes and artists to the Games of La Francophonie which begin next week in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), after raising doubts over security concerns.
“As a founding country and an active and committed member of La Francophonie, Canada will send a Canadian delegation to the Games of La Francophonie in Kinshasa. I wish good luck to Team Canada and I would like to thank the Democratic Republic of the Congo for its considerable efforts in preparing and hosting this event,” Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly said in a statement on Thursday.
The duty reported that Canada was reluctant to give the green light to its participation to the event, which will take place from July 28 to August 6, due to security risks in Kinshasa. The Government of Quebec has for its part renounced to send its artists and athletes. The Wallonia-Brussels Federation of Belgium announced last Friday that it would also send a reduced delegation.
Ottawa will only send about sixty people to the DRC, including about fifteen athletes to compete in only two disciplines, judo and wrestling, in the women’s and men’s sections. In addition to the sports delegates, there will be around fifteen artists; in song, storytelling, painting, creative dance and hip-hop dance.
Diplomats and security personnel will also travel, but no ministers. Canada and New Brunswick will be represented in the delegation, but not Quebec, which only sends diplomats.
The federal government, which long hesitated to participate in these games, hired a private security firm to protect the members of its delegation. They will be entitled to a SIM card for their smart phone, and an application will allow them to be geolocated and to ask for help if needed.
It was the Department of Canadian Heritage that announced the decision to participate in the Games of La Francophonie on Thursday morning, eight days before their launch. On Wednesday evening, the ministry affirmed to the Duty not being able to confirm the sending of a delegation to Kinshasa, referring the question instead to Global Affairs Canada, which did not provide an answer.
The Government of Canada recommends in its travel advice to avoid all non-essential travel to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, due to the current political and security contexts.
The DRC government recently announced that it has taken measures to combat urban banditry and to curb cases of kidnapping. In 2017, some 3,500 participants were received in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, for the last edition of the Games of La Francophonie. The IXsare Games of La Francophonie focus on equity, solidarity, excellence, responsibility and diversity.