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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

Man Dies After Seventh Round In Sex Competition

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A middle-aged man, simply known as Davy, has died in a popular hotel in Ikotun area of Lagos State Nigeria during a sex competition with a lady identified as Loveth.

It was gathered that the late Davy had argued with Loveth on who can last longer in a sex bout.

Both claimed they were stronger and refused to admit defeat.

During the argument, Davy staked N50,000 on the condition that if Loveth defeats him during the romp, she will take the money.

Loveth agreed, moved into the hotel and booked for a chalet.

It was gathered that while the marathon sex lasted, Davy pulled through to the sixth round but Loveth was unshaken till the seventh round when he collapsed and died on top of her.

She then raised the alarm and contacted the hotel management, who handed her over to the Ikotun Police Division while the body of the deceased was deposited at an undisclosed hospital for autopsy.

Loveth was later transferred to the SCIID Panti, Yaba, where she told investigators what transpired between her and the late Davy. Thefate of Loveth will depend on the outcome of the autopsy.

 

Source: Guardian Nigeria

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Rwanda Government Critic Diane Rwigara Acquitted

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Diane Rwigara is a prominent critic of Rwanda's President Paul Kagame

A Rwandan court in the capital, Kigali, has acquitted government critic Diane Rwigara and her mother of charges of inciting insurrection and forgery.

Ms Rwigara was imprisoned for over a year, after being barred from running in presidential elections against the long-standing incumbent Paul Kagame and the 37-year-old opposition leader faced up to 22 years in prison for charges she said were politically motivated.

A three-judge panel told a packed room all the charges were “baseless”. Since her arrest, Ms Rwigara’s family have been subject to interrogations and their family assets forcibly auctioned. “I am very happy with the verdict,” said Ms Rwigara,who has been out on bail since October. “I am continuing with my political journey because there’s still a lot that needs to be done in our country.”

During the hearings, the businesswoman asserted that Rwanda’s economy was mainly controlled by the governing party’s elite. “Everything I talked about in the past has not been resolved. There are still many political prisoners in the country,” she told journalists after the high court ruling.

Ms Rwigara has repeatedly accused President Kagame of stifling dissent and criticised his party’s unyielding grip on power since it assumed control after the country’s civil war and it’s a big win for the young opposition leader. Diane Rwigara always maintained that the accusations against her were politically motivated.US politicians and human rights advocates urged the court to drop the charges and it did, citing lack of evidence.

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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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