Jean loses bid to retain Francophonie leadership
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.
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.