Heads of government are expected to decide on the next substantive secretary-general of the Commonwealth Secretariat this week in Kigali.
Although the decision will be unanimous, leaders should decide, not the incumbent A vote will be held to reappoint Baroness Patricia Scotland – who has served her first term in six years instead of four. The pandemic forced an election to be postponed in 2020.
A Commonwealth Secretary-General can serve a maximum of two terms of four years each.
“The election of the new SG is one of the most important items on the agenda . The issue was already controversial because the current SG is seeking re-election but many members are against it,” a diplomat told The EastAfrican.
The incumbent faces opposition Jamaica’s Abroad to Secretary of State for Affairs and Foreign Trade Kamina Johnson, already backed by two influential members of the bloc, Britain and India.
Read:Commonwealth candidate sells her agenda , Jamaica calls for change
Ms Scotland was elected to office at the 2015 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Malta and took office on 1 April 2016, becoming the second Secretary-General of the Caribbean became the first woman to hold the post.
Her first term was scheduled to end in 2020. However, the 54 member states agreed to keep them as the pandemic disrupted the CHOGM schedule and the subsequent election of a general secretary.
Ms Scotland, who is part of the opposition Labor party in the UK, however not the support of the current Conserva government of Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The UK, the current chair of CHOGM, is said to have led the campaign to oust her, insisting that a leadership change in the Secretariat was needed.
The UK initially backed Kenya’s Energy Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma, who eventually dropped out withdrew from the race, citing insufficient Commonwealth support. Nairobi has since publicly supported Jamaica’s wife Johnson.
Ms Scotland has come under external scrutiny from the Secretariat’s main donors – Britain, Canada, New Zealand and Australia – according to The Auditors KPMG reported the Secretariat’s disregard for procurement procedures, including challenging a lucrative consultancy contract awarded to a company run by her close friend.
Ms Scotland has claimed the contract was in order.
p>< p>In February 2020, the UK withheld its voluntary annual contribution of £4.7 million ($5.76 million) and asked the Secretariat to improve financial management. New Zealand and Australia also suspended their funding and requested implementation of the external auditors’ recommendations.
The United Kingdom and New Zealand restored funding in March 2020 and June 2020 respectively, following a procurement review at the It concluded that “Processes have improved and are now generally well designed, with some further scope for development.”
However, since then there have been persistent calls for a change in leadership of the Secretariat.
Although It was Africa’s turn to head the Commonwealth, since Caribbean candidates had already served twice, it is not clear why Africa decided against a candidate.
In a May 12, 2022 statement, Jamaica said the Ms Johnson’s nomination was proposed “in a context where a leadership change was clearly deemed desirable by Member States in all regions”.
“Indeed, im Lau Fe of the time two member states [Kenya and Tuvalu] their candidacy for posts of Secretary-General, signaling the pursuit of change by two regions [Africa and Pacific]. Kenya’s candidacy was recently withdrawn with the express hope that another candidate would come forward.”
Ms Johnson’s candidacy has now left Caricom’s Caribbean member countries, which had previously backed Ms Scotland, sharply divided .
In a May 17 statement, Belize Prime Minister John Briceno, who also chairs the 15-member regional grouping, said “Community member states will vote for the candidate of their Vote.”
Observers say that given the division of the Caribbean, it was Africa’s turn to influence the outcome of the election.
Baroness Patricia Scotland is a British barrister and has held many ministerial posts within the UK government, notably Advocate General for England and Wales and Advocate General for Northern Ireland.
At the 2015 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting Elected the sixth Secretary-General of the Commonwealth of Nations. She is the first woman to hold the post.
Kamina Johnson-Smith became Jamaica’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade in 2016. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in French and a Bachelor of Laws from the University of the West Indies. She also has a master’s degree in commercial law from the London School of Economics and Political Science.
Read:UK backs Jamaica’s Johnson-Smith for Commonwealth job