Michaëlle Jean loses bid to stay head of Fran­co­phonie

The Hamilton Spectator - - Canada & World - ME­LANIE MAR­QUIS

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 Jean.

The ap­point­ment was con­firmed by Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau’s of­fice, which said there was “con­sen­sus” for the Rwan­dan law­maker, some­thing con­firmed by sev­eral sources.

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.”

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. 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.

Some ob­servers have said Canada made a geopo­lit­i­cal cal­cu­la­tion in aban­don­ing Jean in favour of the African can­di­date, 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 recog- nized — 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.”

On Thurs­day, Jean made a fi­nal plea to mem­ber na­tions to hold onto the post, warn­ing them 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?”

The Rwan­dan gov­ern­ment has been ac­cused of flout­ing demo­cratic rights and press free­doms. It also did not en­dear it­self to the French-speak­ing world when it re­placed French with English as the pri­mary lan­guage of in­struc­tion in schools in 2008.

Rwan­dan Pres­i­dent Paul Kagame pushed back against Jean’s veiled crit­i­cism in an in­ter­view Fri­day, say­ing that Jean’s 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.”

SEAN KIL­PATRICK THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Out­go­ing sec­re­tary-gen­eral of the Fran­co­phonie, Michaëlle Jean, at the Fran­co­phonie sum­mit Fri­day.

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