Monday, December 11, 2006

The case against Kofi Annan

As Kofi takes center stage before exiting, it might be well to review what has happened on his watch. A commenter on a previous post linked to this column from the London Times from a couple of months ago reviewing Annan's record.
Srebrenica is rarely mentioned nowadays in Annan’s offices on the 38th floor of the UN secretariat building in New York. He steps down in December after a decade as secretary-general. His retirement will be marked by plaudits. But behind the honorifics and the accolades lies a darker story: of incompetence, mismanagement and worse. Annan was the head of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) between March 1993 and December 1996. The Srebrenica massacre of up to 8,000 men and boys and the slaughter of 800,000 people in Rwanda happened on his watch. In Bosnia and Rwanda, UN officials directed peacekeepers to stand back from the killing, their concern apparently to guard the UN’s status as a neutral observer. This was a shock to those who believed the UN was there to help them.

Annan’s term has also been marked by scandal: from the sexual abuse of women and children in the Congo by UN peacekeepers to the greatest financial scam in history, the UN-administered oil-for-food programme. Arguably, a trial of the UN would be more apt than a leaving party.

The charge sheet would include guarding its own interests over those it supposedly protects; endemic opacity and lack of accountability; obstructing investigations, promoting the inept and marginalising the dedicated. Such accusations can be made against many organisations. But the UN is different. It has a moral mission.
It would be nice if Annan would retire and go back to Ghana for a well-deserved obscurity in retirement, but I somehow think that he will be back for the next 20 years, cropping up periodically to both deplore and excuse terrorism by others, yet blame Israel and the United States for reacting to protect themselves. He and Jimmy Carter will be able to go on tour together.