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First Black African UN Secretary General Koffi Annan Dies At 80

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Koffi Annan during his days as the UN-Secretary General

Kofi Annan, the first black African to become UN secretary-general, has died aged 80 in Switzerland, his aides say. He “passed away peacefully on Saturday after a short illness”, the foundation named after him said on Saturday.

Mr. Annan served two terms as UN chief from 1997 to 2006, and was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for humanitarian work for his efforts. He later served as the UN special envoy for Syria, leading efforts to find a peaceful solution to the conflict.

In a statement announcing his death, the Kofi Annan Foundation described him as a “global statesman and deeply committed internationalist who fought throughout his life for a fairer and more peaceful world”. The diplomat, who was originally from Ghana, had been living in Geneva for several years before his death.

Kofi Annan, Diplomat Who Redefined The U.N

Kofi Annan, a soft-spoken and patrician diplomat from Ghana, who became the seventh secretary general of the United Nations, projecting himself and his organization as the world’s conscience and moral arbiter despite bloody debacles that left indelible stains on his record as a peacekeeper, died on Saturday. He was 80.

His death, after a short illness, was confirmed by his family in a statement from the Kofi Annan Foundation, which is based in Switzerland.

Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001, he was the first black African to head the United Nations, and led the organization for two successive five-year terms beginning in 1997 — a decade of turmoil that challenged the sprawling body and redefined its place in a changing world.

On his watch as what the Nobel committee called Africa’s foremost diplomat, Al Qaeda struck New York and Washington, the United States invaded Iraq, and Western policymakers turned their sights from the Cold War to globalization and the struggle with Islamic militancy

An emblem as much of the body’s most ingrained flaws as of its grandest aspirations, Mr. Annan was the first secretary general to be chosen from the international civil servants who make up the United Nations’ bureaucracy.

He was credited with revitalizing its institutions, crafting what he called a new “norm of humanitarian intervention,” particularly in places where there was no peace for traditional peacekeepers to keep, and, not least, in persuading Washington to unblock arrears withheld because of the profound misgivings about the body voiced by American conservatives.

His tenure was rarely free of debate, and he was likened in stature to Dag Hammarskjold, the second secretary general, who died in a mysterious plane crash in Africa in 1961.

In 1998, Mr. Annan traveled to Baghdad to negotiate directly with Saddam Hussein over the status of United Nations weapons inspections, winning a temporary respite in the long battle of wills with the West but raising questions about his decision to shake hands — and even smoke cigars — with the dictator.

In fact, Mr. Annan called the 2003 invasion of Iraq illegal and suffered an acute personal loss when a trusted and close associate, the Brazilian official Sérgio Vieira de Mello, his representative in Baghdad, died in a suicide truck bombing in August 2003 that struck the United Nations office there, killing many civilians.

The attack prompted complaints that Mr. Annan had not grasped the perils facing his subordinates after the ouster of Mr. Hussein. While his admirers praised his courtly, charismatic and measured approach, he was hamstrung by the inherent flaw of his position as what many people called a “secular pope” — a figure of moral authority bereft of the means other than persuasion to enforce the high standards he articulated.

As secretary general, Mr. Annan, like all his predecessor and successors, commanded no divisions of troops or independent sources of income. Ultimately, his writ extended only as far as the usually squabbling powers making up the Security Council — the highest U.N. executive body — allowed it to run.

In his time, those divisions deepened, reaching a nadir in the invasion of Iraq. Over his objections, the campaign went ahead on the American and British premise that it was meant to disarm the Iraqi regime of chemical weapons, which it did not have — or, at least, were never found.

Iraq also brought embarrassment closer to home when reports began to surface in 2004 that Mr. Annan’s son, Kojo Annan, worked for Cotecna Inspection Services, a Geneva-based company that had won a lucrative contract in a vast humanitarian program supervised by the United Nations in Iraq and known as oil for food.

A commission led by Paul A. Volcker concluded that the secretary general had not influenced the awarding of the contract, but had not investigated aggressively once questions were raised.

The secretary general said he took the commission’s findings as exoneration, but his reputation suffered, particularly in the eyes of adversaries in Washington.

In assessing his broader record, moreover, many critics singled out Mr. Annan’s personal role as head of the United Nations peacekeeping operations from 1993 to 1997 — a period that saw the killing of 18 American service personnel in Somalia in October 1993, the deaths of more than 800,000 Rwandans in the genocide of 1994, and the bloody massacre of 8,000 Bosnian Muslims by Bosnian Serb forces at Srebrenica in 1995.

In Rwanda and Bosnia, United Nations forces drawn from across the organization’s member states were outgunned and showed little resolve. In both cases, troops from Europe were quick to abandon their missions. And in both cases, Mr. Annan was accused of failing to safeguard those who looked to United Nations soldiers for protection.

“Annan felt that the very countries that had turned their backs on the Rwandans and Bosnians were the ones making him their scapegoat,” Samantha Power, an author who later became ambassador at the United Nations during the Obama administration, wrote in 2008. “But he knew that his name would appear in the history books beside the two defining genocidal crimes of the second half of the 20th century.”

Despite the serial setbacks, Mr. Annan commanded the world stage with ease in his impeccably tailored suits, goatee beard and slight, graceful physique — attributes that made him and his second wife, Nane Lagergren, a global power couple.

He seemed to radiate an aura of probity and authority. “How do we explain Kofi Annan’s enduring moral prestige,” the Canadian author, politician and academic Michael Ignatieff wrote in a review of Mr. Annan’s 2012 memoir, “Interventions.”

“Personal charisma is only part of the story,” Mr. Ignatieff wrote. “In addition to his charm, of which there is plenty, there is the authority that comes from experience. Few people have spent so much time around negotiating tables with thugs, warlords and dictators. He has made himself the world’s emissary to the dark side.”

The desire to burnish his legacy seemed to motivate Mr. Annan long after Ban Ki-moon replaced him as secretary general, and he set up a nonprofit foundation to promote higher standards of global governance. In 2008, he headed a commission of eminent Africans that persuaded rival factions in Kenya to reconcile a year after more than 1,000 people were killed during and after disputed elections.

In February 2012, Mr. Annan was appointed as the joint envoy of the Arab League and the United Nations to seek a settlement as civil war tightened its grip on Syria. But he resigned in frustration in August of that year, citing the intransigence of both sides in a conflict that convulsed and reshaped the region and claimed hundreds of thousands of lives.

Kofi Atta Annan was born on April 8, 1938, in the city of Kumasi in what was then Gold Coast and which, in 1957, became Ghana, the first African state to achieve independence from British colonialism. Born into an aristocratic family, he had three sisters, two of them older. The third, Efua, was a twin who died in the 1990s.

After a spell at the elite Mfantsipim boarding school founded by Methodists, he went on to higher education as an economist in Ghana, at Macalester College in St. Paul, in Geneva, and at the M.I.T. Sloan School of Management.

In 1965, he married Titi Alakija, a woman from a prosperous Nigerian family. The couple had two children, a daughter, Ama, and a son, Kojo. The marriage foundered in the late 1970s.

In 1984, Mr. Annan married Ms. Lagergren, a divorced lawyer working at the United Nations. She, too, was a scion of a prominent family, a niece of Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who protected thousands of Hungarian Jews during World War II but disappeared after being captured by Soviet forces. Ms. Lagergren had a daughter, Nina, from her first marriage.

He is survived by Ms. Lagergren, along with Ama, Kojo and Nina.

Most of Mr. Annan’s working life was spent in the corridors and conference rooms of the United Nations, but, he told the author Philip Gourevitch in 2003, “I feel profoundly African, my roots are deeply African, and the things I was taught as a child are very important to me.”

His first appointment with a United Nations agency was in 1962, at the World Health Organization in Geneva. Mr. Annan returned briefly to Ghana to promote tourism and worked in Ethiopia with the U.N. Economic Commission for Africa before returning to the body’s European headquarters.

Later, in New York, he worked at first in senior human resources and budgetary positions, and, in the early 1990s, the former secretary general, Boutros Boutros Ghali of Egypt, appointed him first as deputy, then as head of peacekeeping operations.

The appointment plunged Mr. Annan into a maelstrom of conflicts where United Nations forces were deployed. As genocide approached Rwanda in 1994 — months after the downing of a Black Hawk helicopter in Mogadishu, Somalia, and the killing of American service personnel — the Clinton administration in Washington had little appetite for intervention.

But on the ground, the Canadian commander, Lt. Gen. Roméo Dallaire, heading a modest force of 2,500 United Nations troops, sought permission from Mr. Annan’s office to raid an arms cache that he believed would be used in massacres. Permission was refused. Only years later, after the release of a critical report in 1999, did Mr. Annan declare that “all of us must bitterly regret that we did not do more to prevent it. On behalf of the United Nations, I acknowledge this failure and express my deep remorse.”

In Bosnia, too, the United Nations was accused of being overcautious and restricted by the mandate approved by the Security Council for the establishment of so-called safe havens under United Nations protection that proved, in Srebrenica, to be illusory. European powers opposed airstrikes to halt the advancing Bosnian Serbs, who overran Srebrenica despite the presence of peacekeeping troops from the Netherlands.

Later that year, Mr. Annan seemed to adopt a tougher line, approving the NATO bombing campaign that forced Serbia to the negotiating table for the Daytona peace accords. At that time, airstrikes required a so-called dual key approval of the NATO command and the United Nations.

“When Kofi turned it,” Richard Holbrooke, the former American envoy, told Mr. Gourevitch, “he became secretary general in waiting.” With Washington pressing for the ouster of Mr. Boutros Ghali, Mr. Annan took office as secretary general with American approval on Jan. 1, 1997.

He was, Ms. Power wrote, “the primary guardian of the U.N. rule book,” which insisted on the paramountcy of the Security Council as what Mr. Annan called “the sole source of legitimacy” in approving overseas interventions. Those rules were openly flouted by NATO in March 1999, with its bombing of the former Yugoslavia, forcing Mr. Annan to seek some kind of middle ground.

 

Additional reporting from Ney York Times

 

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AFRICA FOCUS

War Is Wasteful, You Can’t Develop – Museveni Lectures Kiir And Machar On New Peace Agreement

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President Museveni has thanked South Sudan president Salva Kiir and his colleague Riek Machar for leading the people of South Sudan into a new journey of peace by signing a peace deal.

The President, through his Facebook page this morning said that the grinding stone that the people of south Sudan carried for over five years has now been put down.

“Attended the Peace day celebrations in Juba, South Sudan yesterday and like to thank you very much for attending to logic in the end and signing. The grinding stone that the people of South Sudan have been carrying has now been put down. I am sure this is the end of the conflict in South Sudan. War is wasteful. South Sudan has lost a lot of development time. In 2005 during the interim period, Juba was a very small town near the river. Now it has grown wide. If we had not had this war between 2013 – 2015, there would have been even greater development.

Make covenant like the one Israel made with God. War should never be used again to solve political arguments between brothers and sisters. Political arguments can be solved by discussions or free and fair elections. It is ideologically incorrect to use war for an argument. Also make sure state institutions are national to build people’s confidence,” the President said.

He added, “Uganda will continue to support South Sudan as we look forward to the concretization of the truly powerful ceremony as witnessed in Juba yesterday and want on to thank President Bashir who took the last initiative in peace making. I am glad we have done it. I am happy you shunned foreigners who want to establish hegemony over Africa by using weak enemies to divide us. Foreigners wanted South Sudan to become a vacuum like Libya and Somalia. Somalia is now coming up.”

By Remmy Atugonza

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Return Home And Rebuild Your Country – Museveni Tells South Sudanese

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President Museveni has urged South Sudanese in Uganda and abroad to return to their country and embark on the process of rebuilding it.
Mr. Museveni arrived in South Sudan Capital-Juba, ahead of the peace day celebrations following a new peace deal signed between former Vice President Riek Machar and President Salva Kiir last month to end conflict. Immediately after landing at the Juba international airport, Mr. Museveni told media that he believes with this peace process, the refugees can return home and participate in rebuilding their country.
“The long South Sudan conflict has had a huge effect on trade and people at large, for our country specifically, export revenue to South Sudan reduced by $500m, while more than a million South Sudanese have sought refuge in Uganda,” he said.

Riek Machar after stepping on South Sudan soil

South Sudan rebel leader Riek Machar returned to the capital Juba today after more than two years after he fled to the neighbouring Congo when the 2016 peace deal collapsed and invoked fierce fighting that left hundreds of people dead.

He later traveled to South Africa until September this year when him and President Salva Kiir signed a new peace deal in the latest attempt to end the five-year war. Machar is set to be reinstated as vice president under the terms of a recently signed peace agreement.

This will be the first time President Salva Kiir meets former ally turned bitter enemy.

President Museveni being welcomed by South Sudan president Salva Kiir

The two South Sudanese leaders were set to join regional leaders for the ceremony, including the presidents of Sudan and Ethiopia who helped bring about the peace agreement and it was not clear how long Machar would remain in Juba following the peace ceremony as his aides are worried about his safety in the city.

South Sudan’s civil war began in December 2013 when Kiir accused Machar then his deputy of plotting a coup and the conflict has split the country along ethnic lines and seen mass rape, the forced recruitment of child soldiers and attacks on civilians. It has caused one of the world’s deepest humanitarian crises.Several ceasefires and peace agreements have so far failed to end the fighting that has killed an estimated 380,000 people, uprooted a third of the population, forced nearly two-and-a-half million into exile as refugees and triggered bouts of deadly famine.

By Remmy Atugonza

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Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta Says ‘NO’ To Seeking For A Third Term

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As some African presidents struggle to give themselves extra terms in office, Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta has revealed that he is not going to seek for a third term.

In an interview with CNN’s Richard Quest, on Quest Means Business, Uhuru emphatically stated, he is not going to appear on the ballot after his second term of office.

President Kenyatta flatly denied that the proposed referendum to change the constitution was meant to create a position for him in 2022, stating that it was only intended to reduce the cost of the current system of government.

Pushed further on whether he would run if the constitution was changed, Kenyatta gave an affirmative “no” response.

“I am not interested in a third term…People are talking about constitutional change not necessarily because they are desirous of me taking a third term, but because of issues relating to the costs of running the current constitution,” Kenyatta said.

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