Commonwealth candidate sells her agenda, Jamaica calls for change

Sunday May 15 2022
Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland.

Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland at a conference in Nairobi on April 27. PHOTO | FILE


Just as Jamaica’s Foreign minister Kamina Johnson-Smith was completing her tour of Africa this past week, during which she sought support to become the next Commonwealth Secretary-General, her country issued a statement to defend her candidature after the incumbent asked her to quit the race.

In a May 12 statement, the Jamaican government said the nomination was put forward “in a context where a change of leadership was clearly deemed desirable by member states across regions”.

“In fact, over time, two member states [Kenya and Tuvalu] announced their candidature for the post of Secretary-General, signalling the pursuit of change by two regions [Africa and the Pacific]. Kenya’s candidature was recently withdrawn, with an expressed hope that another candidate would come forward.”

Jamaica says it felt obliged to clarify its position as “in the process of wide engagement across the Commonwealth, several countries have asked about the existence of two Caribbean member countries candidates, as well as a new narrative regarding there being ‘no vacancy’ in the office”.

Call to quit

In a recent interview with ABSTV, incumbent Patricia Scotland suggested that Ms Johnson-Smith should quit the race.


“I would be incredibly pleased if Senator Kamina Johnson-Smith thought again and felt maybe this wasn’t the appropriate time to challenge ... for this post. I’ve done six years of my eight-year term. Africa anticipates that they will have an opportunity to put forward an African secretary-general in 2024 when I complete my second term,” Ms Scotland said.

On her tour, Ms Smith met heads of state and top government officials from member states of the Commonwealth, as well as Rwanda and Mozambique.

In Nairobi, Kenya’s Foreign Ministry Principal Secretary Macharia Kamau said the country agrees with Ms Smith to “see transformation in the Commonwealth”.

The Jamaican, a late entrant to the race, is the only competitor to Ms Scotland whose first term was supposed to end in 2020. However, the 54 member states agreed to retain her due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ms Johnson-Smith and Ms Scotland will face the voting members during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (Chogm) in Kigali next month.

- Additional reporting by Berna Namata