Mushikiwabo optimistic ahead of Francophonie vote

Mushikiwabo gestures during a past interview. Sam Ngendahimana.

Foreign Affairs Minister Louise Mushikiwabo is confident of securing the position of Secretary General of Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF) during this week’s elections after months on the campaign trail.

Mushikiwabo is competing against incumbent Michaëlle Jean, a Canadian of Haitian origin, who has held the post for the past four years.

The elections are scheduled for Thursday and Friday this week in Yerevan, Armenia, with campaigns having officially ended as the ministerial meeting kicked off yesterday.

Mushikiwabo’s team is confident of victory following months of campaigning, which has seen them visit over 22 countries as well as feature in international summits.

The campaign has seen them visit Madagascar, Chad, Congo-Brazzaville, DR Congo, Senegal, Cameroon, Mauritania (during AU Summit), Guinea, Gabon, Côte d’Ivoire, Niger, Burkina Faso, Vietnam, Lao, Cambodia, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Romania, Armenia, Lebanon and Tunisia.

Oria Kije Vande Weghe, the Communication Director for Mushikiwabo’s campaign team, said they have noted massive support from African and non-African countries.

“The support is very high, whether in Africa or from non-African countries. Almost all have expressed very strong support. We are very confident,” she said from Yerevan.

The optimism is buoyed by the African Union’s unanimous decision to back Mushikiwabo’s candidature, which would guarantee her 29 votes from the bloc.

“Africa has decided unanimously to support her candidature, which is already 29 countries…But she also has large support from non-African member states, especially among Asian countries and in Europe,” she said.

Her campaign agenda, among other things, includes a promise to improve the relevance of the organisation to make it more visible and relevant on the global stage.

Mushikiwabo is also promising to play a role in addressing youth unemployment in the Francophone countries, a challenge which has in part been blamed for mass migration of Africans, terrorism and radicalisation.

Her agenda also includes increasing exchange of good practices within the Francophone members.

The candidate is also seeking to increase the influence of the French language to make French-speaking countries more relevant and the organisation more visible and active during major world meetings.

Political observers say that, so far, only two countries have openly voiced their support for the incumbent, Canada and Haiti.

Mushikiwabo in July submitted her official candidature for the position to Madagascar President Harley Rajaonarimampianina, who is the President In Office of the organisation.

Out of the 84 member states of the organisation, 54 have voting rights. 30 African nations have voting rights.

Among leaders who have expressed support for Mushikiwabo include French President Emmanuel Macron who said that she meets all qualities required to hold the position.

OIF is an international organisation representing countries and regions where French is a customary language and a significant proportion of the population are French speakers or with notable affiliation with French culture.

The Summit is the highest authority, and is held every two years and gathers Heads of State and Government of all member countries of the International Organisation of the Francophonie.