Jean, who served as Canada’s Governor General from 2005 to 2010, was handed the post by the group’s leaders in a last-minute flare of diplomatic brinksmanship which might have rescued the body from a bitter crisis.
In a post Summit press conference held in the sparkling Abdou Diouf International Conference Center in Djiamnadjio outside Dakar, Senegalese President Macky Sall explained that Michaelle Jean was designated as a consensus choice of the 35 heads of state and government.
Consensus was the last option left on the table of the Francophonie leaders, after four African candidates vying for the top job turned down appeals from organisers to pull out. Congolese President Sassou Nguesso insisted he was standing by his man, Henri Lopès, Brazzaville’s long-serving ambassador to France and UNESCO. This while fellow contestants Jean-Claude de l’Estrac of Mauritius and Burundi’s ex-military leader Pierre Buyoya dug in for a fight to the finish in the ballot box.
The early departures from the Summit by leaders such as Idris Deby of Chad and Obiang Nguema Mbazogo of Equatorial Guinea fuelled rumours at the summit village about a West-African conspiracy to thwart Central Africa's claims to the prestigious position.
French President François Hollande addressed the malaise at the closing press conference pointing to Michaelle Jean’s Haitian roots as guarantees that he will always have the interests of Africa’s people at heart, the continent making up the vast majority of the world’s 274 million French-speakers.
Hollande also expressed his gratitude to the sponsors of the losing candidates for their high sense of duty in sacrificing their countries’ interests to preserve the unity of the Organisation. He noted that France would lobby Francophonie to hand the powerful position of the Organisation’s Administrator General to an African, urging them to move quickly to make their choice.
Michaëlle Jean, who has pledged to lead the Francophonie into a modern, promising future begins her mission on 1 January 2015. In her acceptance speech, Jean said she was fully conscious of the tasks awaiting her, to give a new impulsion to the work of the Francophonie while taking great care of President Abdou Diouf’s legacy.
She takes over the Francophonie at a time of expansion, following the admission of Mexico, Costa Rica and Kosovo, taking the number of fully-fledged members to 80 countries.