Canadian to head organisation of Francophone countries

Cole Burston, AFP file picture | Michaelle Jean, former and 27th Governor General of Canada, poses for a portrait at her office October 29, 2014 in Ottawa, Canada.

Canada's onetime governor-general Michaelle Jean, a former journalist born in Haiti, was chosen Sunday after intense debate as the new head of the international organisation of Francophone countries.


Jean, who served as governor-general from 2005 to 2010, is the first woman and first non-African to be named secretary general of the International Organisation of la Francophonie (OIF).

A former Radio-Canada journalist whose family fled Haiti when she was a child, Jean was chosen by leaders attending a two-day summit of the French-speaking nations in Dakar, Senegal, after what diplomats described as "intense discussions" between leaders.

'Many Africans disappointed'

The 57-year-old steps into the shoes of former Senegalese president Abdou Diouf, who held the job for 12 years, after taking over from Egypt's Boutros Boutros-Ghali.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a statement that he believed she "will embody the renewal and modernity that La Francophonie of the 21st century needs, and will listen to heads of state and government and their citizens."

The group has 57 members -- not all of them nations where French is the first language -- as well as 20 observers.

Jean, who will take up the post January 1, is currently UNESCO special envoy to Haiti.

Also running for the job were former Burundi president Pierre Buyoya, Congolese writer and diplomat Henri Lopes, former Mauritius premier Jean-Claude de l'Estrac and former Guinea Equatorial minister Agustin Nze Nfumu.


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