Commonwealths join forces

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The Independent Online
IN A POSSIBLE harbinger of greater co- operation to come, especially in Africa, the Commonwealth and its French- speaking equivalent, La Francophonie, are joining forces for the first time to send a combined team to monitor the forthcoming elections in the Seychelles, writes Rupert Cornwell.

Of itself, this is merely a response to the request from the Seychelles government for both bodies to observe the vote, from 20-22 March. But it reflects realities pushing the two towards co-operation, rather than competition.

Chief Emeka Anyaoku, the Commonwealth Secretary-General, yesterday called the move a "very significant development", which should scotch talk that the Commonwealth and La Francophonie were trying to divide Africa into two camps. He denied that there was any institutional rivalry between his 54-nation and the 49-member Francophonie. Even so, there is likely to be some concern over the ambitions of Boutros Boutros Ghali, the former United Nations secretary-general who was elected as the first head of La Francophonie last November after being forced from his UN job by the United States.

But logic dictates further co-operation. Most members of the two bodies are already linked through the ACP (African, Caribbean and Pacific) group of countries which negotiate with the European Union.