The world organisation of French-speaking nations on Friday elected Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo as its new head.
Mushikiwabo, 57, was elected in a suspense-free vote on the last day of the 17th International Organisation of La Francophonie (OIF) summit in the Armenian capital Yerevan. She will replace Canadian politician Michaelle Jean.
Pashinyan praised Michaelle Jean, the former Secretary General, for her successful leadership and efforts.
“As secretary-general, I intend to give importance to French in an increasingly multilingual world because I am convinced that French has its place among other languages and for the good of the world,” Mushikiwabo told an OIF summit in Armenia.
Her election is a victory for both Rwandan strongman Paul Kagame and French President Emmanuel Macron, who have sought to improve relations between their two nations, long fraught due to Kigali’s accusations of French complicity in the 1994 genocide that killed at least 800,000, mostly Tutsis.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hailed her election as a “reflection of the importance of Africa for the Francophonie.”
“Seeking the leadership of the Francophonie is clearly part of Rwanda’s goal for a greater continental and global role,” said Elissa Jobson who researches the African Union (AU) for the International Crisis Group think tank.
“It’s a significant move given Rwanda’s frosty relations with France, its adoption of English as the country’s main language and its admission to the Commonwealth.”
Established in 1970, the OIF unites the world’s French-speaking countries. The OIF has 58 members and 26 observers which together account for a population of over 900 million people, including 274 million French speakers.
French is currently the world’s fifth most spoken language after Mandarin Chinese, English, Spanish and Arabic, according to official French estimates.