With Mushikiwabo at the head of OIF, it won’t be business as usual

Louise Mushikiwabo will head Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie for the next four years. (Courtesy)

The dust has now settled. Passions have cooled. All the noise has died down and calm has returned. It is now time for work, and for the moment, reflection.

This is all following the meeting of the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF) in Armenia at which Louise Mushikiwabo was elected its Secretary General for the next four years. So, what can we learn from the election?

First, her election was expected. She had the record and proven ability to back her. But it was by no means taken for granted. In this country everything must be earned.

That is why she visited nearly every member state of La Francophonie, consulted widely and sold her vision of the future of their organisation. That required a high level of focus and preparation, the ability to convince others and rally them around a common position and action, all qualities that have come to define the new Rwanda.

Second, the whole country was solidly behind her. Everyone was behind her, even those who don’t know what the Francophonie is about or what they stand to gain from it. But it was not blind support.

There is a growing conviction in the country that Rwanda is qualified to take up positions of leadership in international organisations. This is the result of renewed confidence in the nation and the ability of its leaders to take on responsibilities beyond our borders.

That sort of self-belief, which has also found expression in a new-found patriotism, was glaringly lacking twenty five years ago.

President Paul Kagame has set the standard. He has accomplished much in the short time he has led the African Union.  The manner in which he has carried out tasks his peers have given him and the results so far point to the capability of the African Union if certain things are done. All this, of course, on top of how far he has brought Rwanda.

Dr Donald Kaberuka’s time at the helm of the African Development Bank (AfDB) has been hailed as one of the most significant in the history of the continental bank. He has since gone on to serve on very high profile positions globally.

Rwandan peacekeepers have distinguished themselves in various missions both at the leadership level and conduct of the rank and file.

This is only a small part of the list of stellar achievements by Rwandans on continental or global duty.

Third, Africa showed a rare sign of unity. Here was evidence that Africa can speak with one voice. We’ve been used to discordant voices coming from the continent and have even come to expect it as normal.

Here was also proof that Africa can come together to adopt a common position and support their own instead of competing or bickering among themselves. There is, after all, such a thing as common African interests and a readiness to defend them.

Some might say, and indeed they have, that African countries, especially the francophone, usually take the cue or even direct orders from France on many issues. And so, because French President Emmanuel Macron announced his support for Louise Mushikiwabo very early, they took the hint and did as expected.

It certainly used to be the case in the past. But in recent times there seems to be a growing independent streak among some leaders and their populations, especially the younger people.

This appears to have prompted French leaders to pay closer attention to Africa and perhaps even adopt a different approach in their relations with the continent.

Indeed President Kagame has said of his French counterpart that he has brought some freshness to his dealings with Africa and the rest of the world.

Fourth, the election of Mushikiwabo and the debate around it has raised the profile of the post of Secretary General of La Francophonie and even the relevance of the organisation itself.

The process of getting who heads it was rather dull and always a foregone conclusion. Now it has become competitive and the occupant of the post will be expected to bring a level of expertise and competence beyond simply previous official prominence.

Equally, following the nature of the just concluded filling of the post, the Secretary General as well as the OIF itself will be subjected to greater scrutiny. This can only be good for the OIF. It means that for the next four years it cannot be business as usual at the OIF.

Finally, the election was not without opposition. Many voices were raised against Mushikiwabo. But significantly none questioned her ability or personal suitability for the job. Most were the usual stuff levelled against Rwanda, without evidence, betraying ignorance and animosity, or rooted in a past from which we have since moved.

The fact that none of these accusations had any bearing on the outcome of the election demonstrates how far the world has moved and the place Rwanda occupies in it.

The views expressed in this article are of the author.