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OIF: Mushikiwabo vs. Michaëlle, Macron “Africa best placed to lead OIF”

L-R: Louise Mushikiwabo, Michaelle Jean and Emmanuel Macron

 

Rwanda has planned to seize the opportunity of the next African Union summit, from 25 June to 2 July in Nouakchott, to convince African countries to support the candidacy of Rwanda’s Foreign Minister, Louise Mushikiwabo, for the head of the International Organization of La Francophonie, Jeunne Afrique reports

On the occasion of the next AU summit in Nouakchott (25 June-2 July), Rwanda plans to ask African countries to support the candidacy of its Foreign Minister, Louise Mushikiwabo, as Secretary-General of the OIF.

The AU Executive Council (composed of African Ministers of Foreign Affairs) has a tradition of supporting candidates from the continent seeking top positions in international organizations.

The Website reports that the candidature of Louise Mushikiwabo, backed by Paris and without a declared African rival, will give more trouble to the outgoing secretary general. Especially with the official support of the AU: more than half of the full members of the OIF (29 out of 54) are African.

However, Africa does not do this systematically for the OIF. Four Africans had thus presented themselves in dispersed order at the Francophonie summit in Dakar in 2014, which had largely contributed to the victory of the Canadian Michaëlle Jean.

The Star reported that the reign of former governor general Michaëlle Jean as head of la Francophonie, the global group of French-speaking states, appears to be coming to a rather inglorious ending, Canadian reported in this week

After fighting off what she has called a “smear campaign” that has raised questions over the last year about her spending habits and management of the organization, Jean published an op-ed this week saying “I am ready to spring to the saddle for a second mandate” when the 84 member states and governments gather for a summit this fall in Armenia.

The letter was timed to the arrival of French President Emmanuel Macron, who was attending the G7 summit in Quebec’s Charlevoix region. But the head of the country that wields the greatest influence in la Francophonie and pays the largest portion of its bills declared last month that France would throw its support behind Rwandan foreign minister Louise Mushikiwabo to replace Jean.

Macron said Thursday in Montreal that he has always believed a consensus candidate from one of the African member countries is best placed to lead the organization “because the epicentre of la Francophonie is in Africa.”

Jocelyn Coulon, a political scientist and foreign policy expert at Université de Montréal, has been watching the geopolitical machinations play out with a sense of disbelief that Jean might think she could still win enough support for a second term. He said it is clear to him that Macron would have received the blessing of other African nations, which make up a majority of the organization’s membership, before publicly backing the Rwandan candidate.

“Madame Jean is just a bureaucrat. She is there to serve the member states, and if there is a majority who have come out against her she will have to leave,” Coulon said. “But she should already understand that, and I’m surprised that she hasn’t understood.”

Jean’s position as secretary-general is part administrator, part diplomat. But detractors say the former Radio-Canada journalist has been conducting herself like the monarch that she was appointed to represent as Canada’s governor general from 2005 to 2010.

The charge against the Haitian-born Jean has been led by journalists from Quebecor who have been digging into her expenses and the finances of the organization that she has led since 2014.

That has produced a stream of headlines seizing on the $500,000 spent to renovate her Paris apartment, a $50,000 bill for four nights at Manhattan’s Waldorf Astoria hotel, the acquisition of a $20,000 piano and the $1-million price tag for a youth-engagement program carried out aboard the replica of a historic 18th century ship, the Hermione.

If that wasn’t enough fire for Jean’s many critics, there was also a published story about her husband, Jean-Daniel Lafond, a man with no official title, having access to a personal driver employed by la Francophonie.

“Michaëlle Jean should know that it is no longer possible today to conduct oneself like this. She is only feeding the cynicism that leads to populism,” Louise Beaudoin, a former Parti Québécois minister and Quebec’s representative to France in the 1980s, wrote recently in the opinion pages of Le Devoir.

Jean and her aides have made several attempts to lay out their version of events, including an explanation of her expenses that was published in Le Soleil, a Quebec City newspaper that competes with the Journal de Québec, a Quebecor title.

The hotel costs, for example, were for six people attending the United Nations General Assembly in 2015, a period during which Manhattan’s pricey hotels skyrocket. The piano was to decorate an official residence that is used for hosting visitors and events. And the apartment renovations have actually saved some $570,000 in recurring costs over four years.

In an interview from Paris this week with Agence France Presse, Jean said the attacks on her leadership are the result of “partisanship.”

“I am a symbol of Canadian federalism. A part of Quebec society is against this federalism and can rely on an extremely powerful network that controls a large part of the media,” she said.

 

 

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