The United Nations system says that Mr. Kofi Annan’s years in office were an exciting time. He put forward new ideas. He brought new people into the United Nations family.
The United Nations (UN) means different things to different people depending on the perspective from which you are looking at it.
An observer in the Western developed society would certainly see the UN as a forum in which their beloved country plays a big brother role and is beyond reproach. But an African from whichever schools of thought would most likely see the United Nations as an organization that has played not too much of constructive roles to right the many self-inflicted wrongs afflicting much of Africa. These diametrically opposed worldviews are not withstanding the time tested fact that the United Nations has existed for nearly half of a century and more.
The following are the preambles to the United Nation’s charter: “Determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and to reaffirm in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom.”
Now that the historical context of the United Nations have all been highlighted, let me stress that my analysis of the United Nations which was once headed by the Ghanaian-born Mr. Kofi Annan, would be examined from the prism of a former British protected Child whose parents survived one of the most horrific genocides in human history which is the Nigerian-Biafran war of 1967 to 1970 in Nigeria.
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Growing up in the rusty town of Kafanchan, Kaduna State, deep in the North West of Nigeria, I had cause to embark on a trip to intellectually ascertain the place of the United Nations bearing in mind that this global body was very much in existence when that uncivil war happened in Nigeria but watched as nearly three million of mostly Igbo children, women and the aged were dispatched to their untimely death through a cocktail of policies by the federal forces which clearly can be adjudged as genocide.
In my earliest years in school in Kafanchan Teachers College, I tried in vain to find out why such a global body could be in existence and allowed such a callous warfare to happen and in fact did nothing to stop the big producers of weapons from flooding the scenes with their weapons of mass destruction.
These basic questions remained unanswered even when the black African nation of Ghana produced the United Nations first ever black Secretary-General in the person of Kofi Annan. The exit of Kofi Annan brought these basic questions back into reckoning. In a classical book titled: “Fragile Peace: State Failure, Violence and Development in Crisis Region”, edited jointly by Tobias Debiel and Axel Klein, so much of these raging conflicts are blamed on what is called the weakness of state structure. Using the erstwhile USSR, this is what the writers of the aforementioned text wrote about weakness of state structure which causes conflicts.
“The collapse of the USSR resulted first of all in a general loss of state authority and considerable fragility of the new nation-states…” Most often than not, the concept of sovereignty has contributed to the confusing place of the United Nations as an interventionist global peacekeeping Army. A Appodorai in his book titled; “The substance of politics” says this of the word sovereignty. “Sovereignty may be defined as the power of the state to make law and enforce the law with all the coercive power it cares to employ.” So how does the United Nations intervene if the people running a government in any part of the globe decide to use the instrumentalist of the national law to promote selfish interests? Amidst the incontrovertible evidence of inherent weakness of the United Nations, the current Secretary-General used the event of the demise of the former UN Secretary-General to remind the world that the forum is still as relevant now even much more than it has always been.
The Secretary-General of the UN, Antonio Guterres, and staff members, remembered former Secretary- General Kofi Annan on Wednesday, describing him as a leader who put people at the centre of the UN work. During a wreath-laying ceremony in New York, Mr. Guterres led staff members in paying respects to Mr. Annan, whom they described as the embodiment of the intergovernmental organization that worked to improve the lives of men and women worldwide.
Kofi Annan died on Saturday at the age of 80 in Switzerland.
The United Nations described Mr. Annan, as a mild-mannered diplomat from Ghana, who rose through the UN system to become its seventh leader in January 1997, serving two consecutive five-year terms till December 2006.
The United Nations system says that Mr. Kofi Annan’s years in office were an exciting time. He put forward new ideas. He brought new people into the United Nations family. He spoke passionately about our mission and role. The late UN scribe reportedly created a renewed sense of possibility both inside and outside our organization about what the UN could do and be for the world’s people.
“He put people at the centre of the work of the United Nations, and was able to turn compassion into action across the UN system,’’ Guterres said. He listed some of the actions Annan took to include uniting world leaders to agree global targets on poverty and child mortality – linchpins of the landmark Millennium Development Goals.
The former UN chief also joined with civil society and the healthcare injury to save lives from HIV and AIDS. As his successor noted, Annan also did not shy away from addressing challenging issues. Annan faced up to the grave errors made by the United Nations in the 1990s – in its response to the Rwanda genocide and the Srebrenica killings – by shining a light inside the UN. The reports he commissioned aimed to make sure such terrible mistakes are never repeated, and set the international community on a new course in its response to mass atrocities,” Mr. Guterres said. Mr. Guterres stated that the passing of his predecessor was “a personal loss’’ for many who worked in the UN system.
Jason Daley wrote that: “Annan, born in Ghana in 1938, was the first leader of the United Nations elected from the organization’s staff. Trained as an economist, he began his work at the U.N. in 1962 as a World Health Organization budget officer. In 1980, he moved to the U.N. refugee agency, reports James Doubek at NPR. In 1993, he was tapped to head peacekeeping operations.
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