Jean’s message ‘outright wrong’
YEREVAN, ARMENIA • Michaëlle Jean gambled and lost in her bid for a second term as secretary general of la Francophonie when member nations chose Rwanda’s foreign minister Friday.
In a closed session at the organization’s biennial summit in Armenia, the organization of French-speaking nations chose Louise Mushikiwabo to replace her.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame said Jean’s final pitch to retain the post came across as bitter and angry considering a consensus had formed backing Mushikiwabo. On Thursday, Jean warned member nations that rights and democracy shouldn’t take a back seat to partisan ambitions.
“I think it was outright wrong,” Kagame said of Jean’s message. “To tell people who’ve made a choice that they are wrong — that it should be her and not everyone else — in that way, I think it displays the problem.”
Mushikiwabo had the support of France and many African Union countries going into the summit. Both Canada and Quebec withdrew their support for Jean this week, saying they would back the “consensus candidate.”
Some observers have said Canada made a geopolitical calculation, hoping it would help its bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council in 2020.
African countries make up the bulk of the 54 states and member governments that voted Friday.
At the UN, they represent more than a quarter of the member countries.
But Trudeau denied that Canada abandoned Jean in exchange for African or French support for the Security Council bid, saying the government had wanted a second term for Jean.
“But at the same time we recognized — and it’s a question of simple math — that if there’s an African consensus around a particular candidate, we would respect that consensus,” Trudeau said.
“That is simply the way things unfolded.”
Named to the post in 2014, Jean was the first secretary general not to come from Africa since the position was created in 1997.
The Rwandan politician said she did not intend to make major changes to the direction of the organization, but she promised more transparency in Francophonie spending.
Jean had been dogged by stories of excessive spending and questionable expenses during her mandate.
Mushikiwabo did not name Jean in her acceptance speech, but she said that “each bill spent is important” and that no expense should be taken lightly.
Jean spoke briefly, saying she was happy to have advanced the organization’s standing on the international stage during her time.
After a four-year term marked by controversy, the former governor general was considered a long shot for a second stint, but she refused to withdraw.
Michaëlle Jean, outgoing secretary general of la Francophonie, salutes colleagues at the 17th Francophone countries summit in Yerevan on Friday. She will be replaced by Louise Mushikiwabo, Rwanda’s foreign minister.