In this issue, link to the News:Friday March 11, 2016

SG Kofi Annan

Uneasy the post of the Secretary General
A review of the book “Interventions” by the former Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr. Kofi Annan
E. Ablorh-Odjidja


Reading biographies of world leaders without knowing who they are as persons is always an abstract endeavor. But knowing the real men behind the words is an exercise that can prove very rewarding.

Such was my view as I read Interventions, by Mr. Kofi Annan, the former Secretary General of the UN. In the process, the complexity of the job he held at the UN became real.

In 1997, Mr. Annan became the first sub-Saharan African to occupy the office and also the first to rise from within the UN ranks to this top post.

The ideal qualification notwithstanding, the headaches that every Secretary General met while overseeing the huge UN organization remained.

As he noted, the challenges at the UN were huge internally and externally - in structure and composition; made more complex by the inherent national interests of representative governments. These challenges, as backdrop, often impeded the exalted vision of the UN for advancing “collective security” for the world.

The UN Security Council, for example, had a structure and composition that were not in consonance with the modern era, Mr. Annan observed. He offered proposals, intending to change the makeup of the Council. He was later to observe, “The policy of a good number of countries appeared to support Council expansion in theory but to oppose any specific proposal in practice.”

Many critical decisions to save lives were, therefore, compromised as a result of the cumbersome nature of the relations between member states on the UN Security Council and their client nations.

However, as brutalities unfolded in places like Kosovo, Rwanda, East Timor, and later Iraq, a debate on "intervention and sovereignty" in consonant with "the rights of peoples and the responsibilities of states" resulted at the UN.

Mr. Annan responded to the situation, as soon as he assumed the office, with a philosophy of preventive intervention; “The Responsibility to Protect doctrine,” which should appropriately be called the Annan doctrine, a very humanitarian concept indeed in this writer's view.

It was, perhaps, in pursuit of this doctrine that brought Mr. Annan one of the most controversial challenges of his career.

He met with Saddam Hussein, then president of Iraq, in an effort to stop the build up to the Iraq war and found him as “cool and polite and friendly …often the way with those responsible for massive bloodshed.”

The war happened and Mr. Annan would write in his book, “If 9/11 changed the world, the consequences of the Iraq War were of similar magnitude.”

UN actions or inactions in some critical situations could test a reader’s faith in the organization. However, Mr. Annan’s interventions in places like East Timor made the doctrine “Responsibility to protect” useful. The purpose was to save lives and it did.

But Africa was where the UN was really tested.

Mr. Kofi Annan, as African and the chief executive in charge of the world’s premiere organization, was tested most.

Mr. Annan never complained about racism in his book. But it would be fair for a reader to note that as African, a failure on his part would have dimmed chances for future African leadership at the UN. That he succeeded and was awarded a Nobel Prize (December 2001) should cause all Africa to rejoice.

By the time Mr. Annan settled in office, intractable problems from Africa were already pilling up at his desk.

Somalia and Rwanda had happened. Both events would resonate throughout his time in office as attempts were made at the UN to arrive at definition for a word like genocide. Was ethnic cleansing genocide when it happened in Bosnia and different when the same happened in Rwanda?

From a practical point, Africa had the most problems; HIV/AIDS, malaria and the like. Mr. Annan saw these diseases as threat to world security. His effort in the formation of the UN Global Fund, together with help from U.S President George Bush’s PEPFAR, slowed the epidemic.

The other epidemic was a bit nebulous; getting some African leaders to own up to their failings.

Mr. Annan wanted African leaders to take responsibility for the bad jobs done so far on the continent. Passing blame unto the colonial experience wouldn’t do. And that the mindset “African solution to African problems” though necessary, help from outside, if it produced the right result, was also essential.

His dealings with political players revealed a side of Mr. Annan’s sense of humor and skill at deploying the personal touch to check political problems. The creation of the UN Human Rights Council brought such opportunity.

Mr. Annan had observed “a curious coalition” between the US, Cuba and Pakistan against the idea. The US Ambassador at the time, Dr. John Bolton, though deeply opposed, was “hoping to hide behind Cuba and Pakistan.”

In a private call to Cuba, Mr. Annan managed to get President Castro to shift his country’s opposition to the idea and quickly informed the Pakistani Ambassador about the news.

Mr. Akram, the Ambassador, who for long had maintained strict opposition, hesitated when he heard that Mr. Annan was planning to call his president also. The ambassador asked for a 15-minute respite and came back within time with a change of mind and to give full support for the creation of the council.

Of this encounter, Mr. Annan concluded, “This was typical of some ambassadors who routinely claimed to have ‘very strong instructions’ but could then change those instruction if needed.”

This masterful handling left the U.S position exposed and further opposition from Dr. Bolton became unnecessary.

Again, in Kenya, December 2007, as tragedy loomed during the constitutional crisis and political violence erupted in the streets, there was Mr. Annan and his personal touch.

Mr. Annan had retired as the SG when President Kufuor of Ghana, then chair of the AU, called on him to help. The issue was an alleged stolen presidential election and the need to stop the ensuing mass killings.

Mr. Annan conveyed an emergency meeting in Kenya with the rival political parties. However, a problem arose when the positioning of the special presidential chair became the issue.

President Kibaki’s team had insisted that the president sat in the chair as the head, between Mr. Raila Odinga and Mr. Annan. They forgot for the moment that the very occupancy of that chair was the subject in question and the purpose for the meeting!

Deftly, Mr. Annan allowed the chair into the meeting, but not at the head. The negotiation was concluded successfully and thus exposed with humor a flaw in modern African governance; the big man mentality that puts ego above all exigencies!

He was to remark, “the lack of urgency and childish nature of these obstacles were something to behold”!

Other political players had a taste of the same skill. President Musaveni of Uganda, who came to maneuver for President Kibaki during the same crisis, was outmaneuvered and had to leave before the meeting started.

The book, Interventions, would leave one with the obvious: Mr. Annan believed in the UN’s purpose and did his best to uphold and improve on it. He used critical failings of the UN and member states as teaching moments in his book.

However, there were achievements. The negotiations in Kenya and the settlements at East Timor, Bosnia, the Bakassi Peninsula and Mr. Annan’s support for HIV/AIDS cure must be crowning achievements. He was a force for good and a champion for peace.

Hopefully, the reader would understand the good in Mr. Annan’s doctrine of "Responsibility to Protect" and in his pursuit of “developing international norm in favor of intervention in cases of a wholesale slaughter of a people.” And that intervention “is testimony to a humanity that cares more, not less, about the sufferings in its midst, and a humanity that will do more, and not less, to end it.”

There could not be a better and nobler doctrine in the drive for peace. Mr. Annan’s explanation should be etched in the hearts and minds of statesmen.

E. Ablorh-Odjidja,Publisher, Washington, DC, November 19, 2012.
Permission to publish: Please feel free to publish or reproduce, with credits, unedited. If posted at a website, email a copy of the web page to . Or don't publish at all.


Uneasy the post of the Secretary General

Review, Nov 19, Ghanadot - Hopefully, the reader would understand the good in Mr. Annan’s doctrine of "Responsibility to Protect" and his pursuit of “developing international norm in favor of intervention in cases of a wholesale slaughter of a people.” ...More

Ban in Cairo to push Gaza truce efforts

TheNation, Nov 20, Ghanadot - UN leader Ban Ki-moon arrived in Cairo on Monday to bolster Egypt-mediated efforts for a ceasefire in Gaza which officials said could end the conflict before it worsens with a possible Israeli ground invasion.....More



G, Finance Ministry commended on Ghana’s removal from money-laundering blacklist

GBN, Nov 20, Ghanadot - The Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a global body, blacklisted Ghana for almost a year for failing to institute adequate measures in its financial services sector to check money-laundering and identify funding of terrorist activities.....More

We don’t want a Laurent Gbagbo in Ghana'- Nana Addo

Joy, Nov 15, Ghanadot - The flagbearer of the New Patriotic Party Nana Akufo-Addo says Ghana has an enviable record of incumbents handing over power to opposition parties even in close elections and urged President John Mahama to do same if he loses the December elections. ...More

  ABC, Australia
The EastAfrican, Kenya
African News Dimensions
Chicago Sun Times
The Economist
Reuters World - World News
All Africa Newswire
Google News
The Guardian, UK
Africa Daily
IRIN Africa
The UN News
Daily Telegraph, UK
Daily Nation, East Africa
BBC Africa News, UK
Legal Brief Africa
The Washington Post
Mail & Guardian, S. Africa
The Washington Times
Voice of America
New York Times
Vanguard, Nigeria
Christian Science Monitor
Yahoo/Agence France Presse
Ghanaian Papers
Market Place
Official Sites
Pan-African Page
Social Scene
    Currency Converter
Educational Opportunities
Job Opening

Send This Page To A Friend: