Cut adrift by Canada, Michaelle Jean continues bid for Francophonie post

Rwanda Foreign Affairs Minister Louise Mushikiwabo.
LUDOVIC MARIN  AFP  Getty Images

Rwanda's Foreign Affairs Minister Louise Mushikiwabo has been unanonimously elected the Secretary General of Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF), an 84-member body that was created in 1970 to promote the French language, peace, and sustainable development.

The news was confirmed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's office.

The summit at Yerevan's Karen Demirchian sports and concert complex will be chaired by Armenian President Armen Sarkisian and the country's government, which has declared October 11-12 nonworking days in the South Caucasus country.

Delegations from Canada and Quebec arrived in Armenia Wednesday ahead of the summit of la Francophonie, intent on putting the controversy over the election of a secretary general behind them.

On Tuesday, the Canadian and Quebec governments announced they were pulling support for Jean to remain the head of the global organization of French-speaking nations, electing to support the "consensus" candidate instead.

"At a moment when we march toward the 50th anniversary of la Francophonie, let's ask ourselves here in Yerevan, in all conscience and in all responsibility, on which side of history do we want to be", Jean said. "That's why I intend to support a candidacy from this continent", he said.

Jean has been dogged by accusations of excessive spending during her time as head of la Francophonie after Quebecor media outlets reported she spent $500,000 renovating her rented Paris residence and as well as $20,000 on a piano.

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"With respect to the choice of the next Secretary General, Canada will join the consensus view as is the organization's custom". Sources said the Canadian government tried unsuccessfully to convince Jean that re-election was improbable.

Late last night came word that Canada will in fact no longer support Jean's bid but will join the "consensus view" backing the Rwandan candidate.

France is seen as wanting to support the Rwandan candidate to gain favour in Africa where its influence is waning to the advantage of China and others.

Mushikiwabo had the support of France and several African Union countries going into the summit.

Rwanda's human rights record and a decision to replace French with English as the official language in 2008, were pointed out as issues that dent its leadership credentials.

- with files from Sidhartha Banerjee in Montreal.

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