You might have wondered how Louise Mushikiwabo picked interest to run for the Secretary General of one of the most influential and powerful global institutions, the International Organization of la Francophonie (OIF).
Different questions lingered around her candidature at the time.
Why of all people? Who is she? Who is behind her? What is in it for her and for Rwanda? Suddenly, why was Rwanda interested in anything to do with the French to that extent? What will she have to overcome to win? Who should Rwanda engage in her support? What would be the tradeoffs? Is Rwanda ready to let her go, given that she was doing a good job? Who would replace her? What would be the likely outcomes between Rwanda and it’s Aglophone friends or other allies? What if she lost, what would be the effect?
When the news of her candidature was confirmed, questions were many. And assumptions were many too. It was an interesting take and mirthful on one hand, and yet uncomfortable on another.
There was that one big question, though. What was President Kagame’s position?
No one would speak for him, neither did he say a word regarding the issue, although there was one sensible and right assumption. That she could not dare undertaking such a task without his support.
During a glamorous farewell party at the Kigali Convention center to say goodbye to her, on Saturday night, President Kagame broke the ice.
He gave the genesis and a broader context.
After having congratulated her a few weeks ago at Parliament, while presiding over the swearing in of new cabinet members, President Kagame finally spoke about how he received Louise Mushikiwabo’s request to be a candidate and how he sought advice from her before he confirmed to those who had presented the idea to him.
He told hundreds of guests, including African foreign affairs ministers, representatives of their countries in Rwanda, and friends of Rwanda among others.
“They requested me to give them Louise for OIF Secretary General, because, as they told me, her chances to win were high. In fact, in the beginning I didn’t understand the reasons, and how it came about,” he said.
He told her about it and asked her to go and think about it and that he would later ask her to give him her position.
At first, he said that he even hesitated on whether he would give away Mushikiwabo “who was our minister, did her job well and let her go elsewhere”.
Moreover, he said, it would not immediately put her in the position because it had to go through the electoral process.
Kagame said that he was concerned about what could happen if Mushikiwabo didn’t win the election after all efforts have been deployed.
He said he then approached Mushikiwabo and asked her thoughts about it.
“There are those who told me that they see you as a good candidates for Francophonie. What do you think? I can’t accept until I had asked you about it. It surprised her… So, I gave her time to think about it,” he said.
Meanwhile, the President consulted Moussa Faki Mahamat, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, about it but he was surprised that he had also known about it.
‘Mussa reassured me of Africa’s support. I told him that I was still looking for the reason behind it while waiting for Louise’s response. Finally, we agreed about it and discussed how it should be done,” he said.
The conversation between the two ended with President Kagame being convinced about the benefits from the position in terms of deepening relations with other countries including France.
President Kagame accepted Mushikiwabo’s candidacy while he still needed her as a foreign affairs.
He said if Louise Mushikiwabo won the election, then they would achieve what they wanted. If she didn’t, he would still be happy to have her back.
“It was a win for me either ways,” he added.
The President spoke about the support from his African counterparts until the last minute.
Kagame revealed that the solidarity behind Mushikiwabo gave basis for other countries of the Francophonie to support her candidacy.
She won. And like they say, the rest is history.
President Kagame pledged his support: “The hard work begins now. We will support you not because you are Rwandan, we support you as the leader elected in your own right as Francophonie Secretary General.”
“I will not forget to call you as I used to do when you were still Foreign Affairs Minister,” he told Mushikiwabo.
Mushikiwabo was elected in OIF 17th summit in Yerevan, Armenia between 11-12 October 2018 after defeating Canadian, Michaëlle Jean.
In her speech, Mushikiwabo thanked President Paul Kagame who trusted her, and others who played a key role to her victory.
“I owe my present situation to the president. I thank you very much. Nothing unusual has changed about me in nine years since I worked with him as a foreign affairs minister. I was well trained. I will be thinking about it in my new responsibilities for inspiration,” she said.
She also thanked Moussa Faki for being close to her during her campaign.
The Tchadian, Faki, said that Mushikiwabo challenged him for approving her candidacy, but succeeded persuading her on how much Africa and Rwanda would benefit if she was elected.
“Mushikiwabo told me that I had put her into trouble. I explained to her that it was for a good reason, because OIF is comprised of 54 countries, including 29 African countries that make decisions,” he said.
He said that he also told her that OIF involved African critical issues such as peace, democracy, youth, women and environment among others.
Moussa thanked President Kagame for the trust he has for him by seeking his advice about Mushikiwabo, Rwanda and Africa’s candidate.
“That victory is ours. It indicates your leadership, your actions and vision. You have built a beautiful country in a short time not only because of the infrastructure but also its inhabitants,” he said.
Mushikiwabo will assume office in January 2019 at OIF Headquarters in Paris, France.
Dressed in a blue eye-striking gown, Mushikiwabo spent about ten minutes swiping through her emotions preparing the audience to receive both a vote of thanks and a painful, but cheerful goodbye.
Her body language spoke it all.
“On est ensemble (we are still together),” she said, and off she left the stage, leaving a memorable mark on the hearts of many who admire her as an outstanding, loving, hardworking, stateswoman, and outspoken defender of Rwanda’s most controversial positions on global matters.
And the party began.
They partied hard.