Australian-backed candidate fails to topple Commonwealth boss Patricia Scotland

Kigali: The Australia-backed challenger for the Commonwealth Secretariat top job, Jamaica’s Kamina Johnson Smith, has failed in her bid to oust Baroness Patricia Scotland from the plum London-based role.

Baroness Patricia Scotland attending the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting shortly before the vote.Credit:Getty

Scotland prevailed 27 to 24 votes, according to sources and Johnson Smith conceded.

“Thanking all the countries and people who supported me in this journey!” the Jamaican foreign minister said shortly after the vote.

“As I said to many of you, if I didn’t pull through, God wasn’t ready for me to leave Jamaica yet!

“Much love always, I continue to serve, and of course, sincere congratulations to Baroness Scotland,” she said, adding in the tweet the hashtag “One Love”.

Johnson Smith launched a late and shock bid to be the next Commonwealth Secretary-General, saying the incumbent, Scotland, a Labour peer, had divided the family of 54 nations.

Jamaica’s Foreign Minister Kamina Johnson Smith at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kigali, Rwanda.Credit:Latika Bourke

Johnson Smith’s audacious bid, along with the UK who was widely seen to have engineered the showdown, culminated behind closed doors at Friday’s meeting of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kigali.

She strongly denied this.

While her bid failed, the vote exposes a deeply divided Commonwealth under Scotland’s leadership which has been marred by questions over her financial management, personal style and accusations of playing favourites among the group of nations.

Australia, the UK and New Zealand, at one stage, withdrew funding from the Commonwealth-Secretariat.

The Baroness, in a last-ditch effort to save her career, had to promise that she would only seek two more years in the job instead of a full second term.

This was significant as it would have swayed African countries to her side.

Under convention, the Secretary-General role is rotated around the four geographical blocs that make up the Commonwealth: the Pacific, Asia, Europe and Africa.

Scotland’s term was extended two years because of the the pandemic and the inability to host this year’s summit which was originally scheduled for 2020.

A rift opened up over whether the 2022 election should constitute a new full four year term or two more years.

Johnson Smith sought a full second term which would have denied the Africans the chance at taking up the role for two more years as had been expected before the pandemic.

“When the role of Secretary-General rotates to Africa two years from now, I will hand on the baton with a stronger, more effective, more powerful Commonwealth than ever before,” she told Heads of Government shortly before they voted.

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