Annan returns to celebrate deal
Published on April 16, 2008, 12:00 am
By Edith Fortunate
The former international civil servant who negotiated the peace deal returns, today, to celebrate its implementation.
The former United Nations Secretary-General, rose through the ranks at the United Nations to become its seventh Secretary-General in 1997.
Dr Kofi Annan, a Ghanaian, took over from Egypt’s Boutros-Boutros Ghali and served at the helm of the global organisation between 1997 and 2006.
One of Annan’s key priorities as secretary-general was to reform the UN. He faced formidable challenges, including the organisation’s near bankruptcy.
He had to convince America to pay the UN the huge debts it owed.
Annan undertook a major initiative to reduce bureaucracy at the UN. At the headquarters in New York, he reduced the staff from 6,000 to 5,000.
A human rights, rule of law and the Millennium Development Goals’ advocate in Africa, Annan sought to bring the UN closer to the public by forging ties with civil society, the private sector and other partners.
Peacekeeping was strengthened and this made it possible for the UN to cope with increasing conflicts, especially in Africa and other parts of the Third World.
It was, therefore, not a surprise when the former UN chief was appointed to broker a peace deal in Kenya after the disputed presidential election.
After two months of unprecedented violence, which led to the killing of more than 1,000 people, Kenyans praised Annan for negotiating the National Reconciliation Accord.
He arrived in the country on January 22, after regional leaders under the African Union (AU) failed to find a solution. He hit the ground running and brought together a mediation team comprising members from the two opposing sides — PNU and ODM.
President Kibaki’s PNU insisted that the Head of State had won the elections fairly, while Raila’s ODM maintained that its victory had been stolen.
In his first address to the nation, Annan said: “We are dealing with an extraordinary situation, so we need extra ordinary measures.”
Initially, the talks were marred by chest thumping and the career diplomat had to take a walk in Uhuru Park, ostensibly to refresh his mind.
But Annan remained composed, insisting that he was optimistic of a solution.
“I will not leave until I find a solution. I will stay here as long as it takes,” he said when asked whether the pace of the mediated talks had frustrated him.
Annan marshalled the international community to put pressure on the political divide, saying failure to agree was not an option.
On February 28, Kenyans sighed with relief when President Kibaki and Raila signed the accord. Emerging from Harambee House, Annan told anxious journalists: “We have a deal.”
This sent wild celebrations across the country and they were sealed with a firm handshake between the two leaders. The deal ended the post-election crisis that had threatened to take the country to the brink, ushering in renewed optimism.
Former US Ambassador to the UN, Mr Richard Holbrooke, once described Annan as “the best Secretary-General in the history of the UN”.
In 2001, Annan and the UN received the Nobel Peace Prize. Awarding the global honour, the judges said: “The only negotiable road to global peace and co-operation goes by way of the United Nations. Annan has been pre-eminent in bringing new life to the organisation.”
For most Kenyans, this could not have been more apt after the man saved the country from a possible meltdown.