bon jour! Francophone leaders gather for Tunisia summit

A summit of French-speaking nations is taking place in Tunisia this weekend, bringing together 30 leaders to focus on economic cooperation, in an event deemed a success for Tunisian President Kais Saied more than a year after he took power in a coup is scored.

While the two-day summit will officially focus on “digital as a vector of development,” it will also be an opportunity for Western and African leaders to discuss issues such as the Russian invasion of Ukraine, where there is a disagreement.

Many African countries have criticized what they perceive as a lack of international solidarity with the continent in the face of its own crises, noting that Europe has managed to mobilize quickly to come to Ukraine’s aid.

This 18th Summit of the International Organization of Francophonie (OIF) on the island of Djerba is also an opportunity to celebrate the belated 50th anniversary of an organization founded in 1970 with 88 members, not all of whom are French speakers, including Armenia, Egypt, Moldova, the United Arab Emirates and Serbia.

The summit coincides with the final stages of the COP27 on climate in Egypt and follows a G20 meeting in Indonesia that was dominated by the war in Ukraine, an observer country within the OIF.

A total of 89 delegations are present, seven international organizations and more than thirty heads of state and government, including French President Emmanuel Macron, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, European Council President Charles Michel and Senegalese leader Macky Sall.

The re-election of the Secretary General of the OIF – Louise Mushikiwabo from Rwanda was the only candidate – is also on the agenda of the two-day meetings between representatives of an area of ​​321 million French speakers, which will more than double to 750 million in 2050 thanks to African demographics .

Ahead of the summit, Ms Mushikiwabo told AFP she wanted to urge member states to “double their efforts” amid a decline in the use of French in international organizations.

Despite critical voices denouncing an “incomprehensible” Francophonie, Mushikiwabo deemed her organization “more relevant than ever” and able to “bring a little added value” to “most of the world’s problems,” citing COP27.

According to a Canadian official, a heavyweight in the francophone world, the organization “can be a positive force” when it comes to issues such as “peace, economic prosperity and the consolidation of democracy.”

This official pointed out that during the summit, Canada also wanted to express “concerns” about “democratic participation” in Tunisia since President Saied assumed full power in July 2021 and which is facing a severe socio-economic crisis.

Emmanuel Macron calls for more support for Ukraine

Emmanuel Macron will not be speaking at the Francophonie summit in Tunisia, but he plans to raise the Ukraine issue behind the scenes to try to garner support at the end of a long diplomatic trip.

After the G20 summit in Bali and the Apec meeting in Bangkok, the French president called on other countries to join the “growing consensus” against the war.

And several leaders of the French-speaking community had indicated they wanted to talk about the war in Ukraine.

Macron will have a number of bilateral meetings during his stay in Djerba, including with the Tunisian President and the Armenian Prime Minister.

The French President lamented that “less French is spoken in the Maghreb countries than 20 or 30 years ago”, citing “quasi-political forms of resistance”, the ease of using English and the difficulty of finding books in French accessible at affordable prices.

He continued that “we must have a project of reconquest” and called for the French language to be made “hospitable” again by showing that it was possible to speak a French that was “not necessarily academic”. , but a language that facilitates action.

For the African continent, “it is the true universal language”, “Francophonie is the language of Pan-Africanism”, he added.

Emmanuel Macron leaves Tunisia on Saturday night while the summit formally ends on Sunday.

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