Former U.N. chief Kofi Annan died on Saturday. The following is a look back on his tumultuous ten years in office by Consortium News Editor-in-Chief Joe Lauria, writing for The Boston Globe on Dec. 29, 2006.
By Joe Lauria, for The Boston Globe | December 29, 2006
UNITED NATIONS — Kofi Annan, the first United Nations secretary general from sub-Saharan Africa, ends his 10-year term on Sunday, leaving behind a complex legacy during an era of genocide, terrorism, and US dominance.
The 2001 Nobel Peace Prize recipient charted a treacherous course between pleasing and antagonizing Washington while resisting persistent calls for his resignation over the worst corruption scandal in UN history.
Annan was a secretary general of many contradictions: the first UN staff member to rise to the top, he was later reviled by much of the staff. A champion of developing world causes against entrenched First World power, he was lambasted as a toady of the West. And while critics say his inactions contributed to genocide in Bosnia and Rwanda, he later became a leading advocate for military intervention to curb mass killings.
His career as the world’s top diplomat has evoked strong views from both supporters and detractors.
“It has been a decade of unmitigated failure,” said Nile Gardiner, a fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation. “He is probably the worst UN secretary general in history.”
“He will rank historically with Dag Hammarskjöld as one of the two most important secretaries general in the evolution of the organization,” said William Luers, president of the UN Association of the USA.
Annan’s relationship with Washington most pointedly shaped his tenure as secretary general. If he drew too close to the United States, such as on UN reform, developing nations blasted him; when he opposed the United States, such as on Iraq, trade, and development assistance, he was pilloried, especially in Congress.
Obsessed With Washington
Ed Luck, a UN specialist at Columbia University, thinks Annan was too focused on Washington for his own and the United Nations’s good. “The UN…