About Kofi Annan: Personal Life

About Kofi Annan: Personal Life

  • 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.
  • 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 Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

 

Career

  • His first appointment with a United Nations agency was in 1962, at the World Health Organization in Geneva.
  • Annan returned briefly to Ghana to promote tourism and worked in Ethiopia with the U.N. Economic Commission for Africa before returning to the health organization’s European headquarters.
  • In New York, he worked in senior human resources and budgetary positions until, in the early 1990s, the secretary general at the time, Boutros BoutrosGhali of Egypt, appointed him first as deputy and then as head of peacekeeping operations.
  • The appointment plunged Mr. Annan into a maelstrom of conflicts in which United Nations forces were deployed.
  • During the Rwanda genocide in 1994, he refused the permission to raid an arms cache that was believed to be used in massacres.
  • On behalf of the United Nations, he acknowledged this failure and expressed his deep remorse.
  • In Bosnia, too, the United Nations was accused of being overcautious.
  • Critics said it had been restricted by a 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, Mr. Annan seemed to adopt a tougher line, approving the NATO bombing campaign that forced Serbia to the negotiating table to sign the 1995 Dayton peace accords.
  • 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 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 stained his record as a peacekeeper.
  • 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 in Syria as civil war there tightened its grip.
  • But he resigned in frustration that August, citing the intransigence of both sides in a conflict that had convulsed and reshaped the region and claimed hundreds of thousands of lives.

 

Achievements

  • Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001, Mr. Annan was the first black African to head the United Nations, doing so for two successive five-year terms beginning in 1997 — a decade of turmoil that challenged that sprawling body and redefined its place in a changing world.
  • Annan was the first secretary general to be chosen from among the international civil servants who make up the organization’s bureaucracy.
  • Annan was credited with revitalizing the United Nations’ institutions, shaping what he called a new “norm of humanitarian intervention,”particularly in places where there was no peace for traditional peacekeepers to keep.
  • He was lauded for persuading Washington to unblock arrears that had been withheld because of the profound misgivings about the United Nations voiced by American conservatives.
  • 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.

 

A charismatic personality

  • Despite the serial setbacks, Mr. Annan commanded the world stage with ease in his impeccably tailored suits, goatee and slight, graceful physique.
  • He seemed to radiate an aura of probity and authority.
  • 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.

 

Some flaws

  • While his admirers praised his courtly, charismatic and measured approach, Mr. Annan 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.
  • 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 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 had looked to United Nations soldiers for protection.

 

Section : Miscellaneous

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