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Rwanda campaigns for leadership of ‘Francophonie’ group

Rwanda’s foreign minister has launched a campaign to support her bid to lead the International Organisation of La Francophonie, officials said Friday, despite her country’s decision to prioritise English as an official language a decade ago.

Louise Mushikiwabo, 57, is touring Africa to seek backing for her goal of becoming secretary-general of the world association of French-speaking nations.
The current holder’s mandate expires in October.

“Rwanda considers this to be very important for the promotion of the development agenda of all member states, particularly promotion of the francophone youth, as well as peace and security in the bloc,” said Rwanda’s state minister for foreign affairs, Olivier Nduhungirehe.

“Minister Mushikiwabo has started campaigning among the member states. She will start by seeking an endorsement from the African Union,” he added.

The current AU chairperson, Rwandan President Paul Kagame, has written to heads of state urging support for his minister’s candidacy, Nduhungirehe said.

Education and government business education in Rwanda is conducted in English, which was made an official language in 2008, a year before it joined the British Commonwealth organisation, but French is still spoken.

Rwanda is expected to push for the endorsement of Mushikiwabo, a long-standing Kagame loyalist, at an AU summit in Mauritania early July.

Rwanda was part of German East Africa from 1894 to 1918.

After World War I, it was administered by Belgium, becoming a republic in 1961, and has a long association with the international francophone community.

But in 2009, it joined the English-speaking Commonwealth after Mozambique, the only other member of that organisation not to have historic ties to Britain.

The OIF comprises 84 states and observers. Its current secretary-general is Michaelle Jean, 60, a Haitian-born Canadian, whose term expires in mid-October. Ottawa is backing her for a second term.

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