12 October 2018

Cameroon: Francophonie - Louise Mushikiwabo Set to Become New SG

The two-day 17th summit of the International Organisation of the Francophonie opened in the Armenian capital, Yerevan on October 11, 2018.

It is all but certain that the gathering of mostly French-speaking countries, the International Organisation of the Francophonie, OIF, will have a new Secretary General for the next four years by the close of its two-day leaders' summit on October 12, 2018 in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia.

Rwanda's Foreign Minister, Louise Mushikiwabo, is set to take over from Canada's Michaëlle Jean who held the position for one term. Any remaining doubts as to Louise Mushikiwabo's probable election were cleared when her home country joined France in supporting the Rwandan candidate, Radio France Internationale, RFI, reported.

She is expected to sail through the selection process - by consensus - from representatives of the 84 member organisations. Some 40 Heads of State and Government are taking part in the summit, up from 17 at the last gathering in 2016 in Antanarivo, Madagascar. With 3,500 invited guests, Armenia, a former Soviet Republic of just three million people, is hosting its largest-ever international gathering.

A week to the Yerevan summit, Canadian authorities had continued to maintain their support for Michaëlle Jean until a day before the opening. Relations between Rwanda and the Francophonie have in the past been difficult, especially beginning in 2008 when Kigali replaced French with English as the country's sole language of instruction; and then joined the Commonwealth.

Speaking at the opening, Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou dwelt on the state of the environment. "We have to manage our planet with responsibility," he pleaded, insisting on the respect of the Paris Accord on Climate Change, RFI, said. He also talked about the migrant crisis, the G5 Sahel counter-terrorist taskforce, education, the girl child and early pregnancies and marriages.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau paid tribute to outgoing OIF Secretary General, Michaëlle Jean, "for her remarkable tenure, especially the defence of the cause of women." According to French President Emmanuel Macron, each nation has something to contribute to others.

He proposed a revision of the OIF Charter to adapt to current global stakes. Also present at the opening ceremony was Audrey Azoulay, Director General of UNICEF, who represented United Nations Secretary General, António Guterres. Meanwhile, Tunisia has taken over the OIF chair from Armenia as it prepares to host the next summit in two years in the capital, Tunis.

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