Jean loses bid to re­tain Fran­co­phonie lead­er­ship

The Globe and Mail Metro (Ontario Edition) - - NEWS -

With­out even her home coun­try sup­port­ing her, Michaëlle Jean failed in her bid for a sec­ond term as sec­re­tary-gen­eral of la Fran­co­phonie on Fri­day as the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s mem­bers in­stead chose Rwan­dan For­eign Af­fairs Min­is­ter Louise Mushiki­wabo.

Three days af­ter his gov­ern­ment with­drew its sup­port for Ms. Jean, Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau in­sisted the move was not part of a deal to ad­vance Canada’s bid for a seat on the United Na­tions Se­cu­rity Coun­cil in 2020.

“We sup­ported the Rwan­dan can­di­date when it was clear that there was a con­sen­sus on the part of the African coun­tries, and there­fore of la Fran­co­phonie,” Mr. Trudeau told a news con­fer­ence as the two-day Fran­co­phonie sum­mit closed in the Ar­me­nian cap­i­tal.

He praised Ms. Jean for her “ex- cel­lent work” as sec­re­tary-gen­eral. He ac­knowl­edged, how­ever, that Canada’s sup­port for Ms. Mushiki­wabo could prove ben­e­fi­cial at the UN.

“We have worked with Africa for a long time, and we con­tinue to work with Africa on many is­sues, in­clud­ing this re­quest that we have been mak­ing for sev­eral years for sup­port for the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil,” he said. While the Fran­co­phonie and UN cam­paigns co­in­cided, “they are not di­rectly con­nected,” he added.

Ms. Mushiki­wabo had the back­ing of France and many African Union coun­tries go­ing into the sum­mit. But in a fi­nal at­tempt to sway the 54 vot­ing mem­bers on Thurs­day, Ms. Jean warned that rights and democ­racy shouldn’t take a back seat to par­ti­san am­bi­tions.

“Are we ready to ac­cept that in­ter­na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tions are used for par­ti­san pur­poses?” Ms. Jean asked. “Are we ready to ac- cept that democ­racy, rights and free­doms are re­duced to mere words, that we make them mean­ing­less in the name of re­alpoli­tik?”

It was a veiled crit­i­cism of her only op­po­nent for the job, whose gov­ern­ment has been ac­cused of abus­ing demo­cratic rights and free­dom of the press. Rwanda’s Pres­i­dent, Paul Kagame, was elected with nearly 99 per cent of the votes in 2017.

Mr. Trudeau said he had a “frank and di­rect” dis­cus­sion about hu­man rights when he met with Mr. Kagame at the sum­mit on Thurs­day. He said the coun­tries of la Fran­co­phonie have “dif­fer­ent lev­els of democ­racy and dif­fer­ent lev­els of suc­cess in the de­fence of their cit­i­zens’ rights.”

Named to the post in 2014, Ms. Jean was the first sec­re­tary-gen­eral not to come from Africa since the po­si­tion was cre­ated in 1997.

SEAN KIL­PATRICK/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Michaëlle Jean re­acts to ap­plause dur­ing the clos­ing ses­sion of the Fran­co­phonie sum­mit in Yere­van, dur­ing which she lost a bid to re­turn as sec­re­tary-gen­eral.

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