Jean fails to keep Fran­co­phonie post

Run for sec­ond term as sec­re­tary gen­eral un­suc­cess­ful as mem­bers choose Rwan­dan for­eign min­is­ter

Winnipeg Free Press - - NEWS I CANADA - ME­LANIE MAR­QUIS

EREVAN, Ar­me­nia — With­out even her home coun­try sup­port­ing her, Michaëlle Jean failed in her bid for a sec­ond term as sec­re­tary gen­eral of la Fran­co­phonie Fri­day as mem­bers chose Rwan­dan For­eign Min­is­ter Louise Mushiki­wabo.

Three days af­ter his gov­ern­ment with­drew its sup­port for Jean, Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau in­sisted the move was not part of a deal to ad­vance Canada’s bid for a United Na­tions Se­cu­rity Coun­cil seat 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,” Trudeau told a news con­fer­ence as the two-day Fran­co­phonie sum­mit closed in the Ar­me­nian cap­i­tal. He praised Jean for her “ex­cel­lent work” as sec­re­tary gen­eral.

YHe ac­knowl­edged, how­ever, that Canada’s sup­port for 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.

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 Thurs­day, 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?” Jean asked. “Are we ready to ac­cept 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.

Trudeau said he had a “frank and di­rect” dis­cus­sion about hu­man rights when he met Kagame at the sum­mit 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, Jean was the first sec­re­tary gen­eral not to come from Africa since the po­si­tion was cre­ated in 1997.

Mushiki­wabo hailed the re­turn of an African to the of­fice. She said she does 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 “each bill spent is im­por­tant” and no ex­pense should be taken lightly.

Jean spoke briefly Fri­day, say­ing she was happy to have ad­vanced the or­ga­ni­za­tion of French-speak­ing na­tions on the in­ter­na­tional stage dur­ing her time.

Af­ter a four-year term marked by con­tro­versy, the for­mer gov­er­nor gen­eral was seen as a long shot for a sec­ond stint, but she re­fused to with­draw her can­di­dacy even as sup­port dwin­dled.

In an in­ter­view with The Cana­dian Press Fri­day, Kagame pushed back against Jean’s crit­i­cism of his coun­try. He said Jean came across as bit­ter and an­gry, con­sid­er­ing a con­sen­sus had formed back­ing Mushiki­wabo.

“I think it was out­right wrong,” Kagame said. “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.”

For Univer­sité de Mon­tréal re­searcher Jo­ce­lyn Coulon, the tense bat­tle over the sec­re­tary gen­eral post should serve as a les­son to the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

“The process of se­lec­tion and ap­point­ment of the sec­re­tary gen­eral is in cri­sis, as demon­strated by the psy­chodrama the or­ga­ni­za­tion was plunged into for a week,” said Coulon, who was an ad­viser to for­mer global af­fairs min­is­ter Stéphane Dion.

“It must be re­formed to make it more trans­par­ent, which will give more cred­i­bil­ity to the per­son elected.”

SEAN KIL­PATRICK / THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Michaëlle Jean, out­go­ing sec­re­tary gen­eral of the Fran­co­phonie, re­acts to ap­plause dur­ing the clos­ing ses­sion of the Fran­co­phonie Sum­mit in Yere­van, Ar­me­nia, on Fri­day. Jean’s run for a sec­ond term was un­suc­cess­ful.

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