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Annan memoir treads cautiously on Rwanda genocide, ICC cases

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Kofi Annan has a diplomat’s way of being economical with what he reveals, and a politician’s knack of self-serving storytelling. Photo/FILE

Kofi Annan has a diplomat’s way of being economical with what he reveals, and a politician’s knack of self-serving storytelling. Photo/FILE 

By Gitau Warigi Special Correspondent

Posted  Saturday, October 13   2012 at  18:32

In Summary

  • Interventions – A Life in War and Peace is his recently published memoir of his career in the UN, and after.
  • As UN secretary-general, the job put him at the centre of key global events of our time, from the crises in the Middle East and Bosnia, to East Timor, Darfur, Kosovo, Iraq, Somalia and, most tragically, Rwanda.
  • Annan describes his Kenyan assignment as “the hardest, most intensive and enduring of all my interventions in the affairs of another country.”
  • The Rwanda chapter as told by Mr Annan in his memoir is a long narrative of self-justification. He blames everybody but himself.
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Kofi Annan has a diplomat’s way of being economical with what he reveals, and a politician’s knack of self-serving storytelling.

Interventions – A Life in War and Peace is his recently published memoir of his career in the UN, and after.

It was a journey that started 50 years ago as a recruit for the World Health Organisation in Geneva, from where he gradually rose to become the first career UN staffer to be named secretary-general in 1996.

The job put him at the centre of key global events of our time, from the crises in the Middle East and Bosnia, to East Timor, Darfur, Kosovo, Iraq, Somalia and, most tragically, Rwanda.

Though Annan had already left the UN when Kenya imploded in 2007, his successor Ban Ki-moon was only too ready to turn the problem over to him. Already, Mr Annan’s compatriot and AU chairman, Ghana’s president John Kufuor, had tagged him to lead the mediation.

Mr Annan describes his Kenyan assignment as “the hardest, most intensive and enduring of all my interventions in the affairs of another country.”

From the start, he makes it clear it was the PNU that was the intransigent side, because it was opposed to power-sharing. That drove him to call up some powerful friends, primarily then US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, who did the critical arm-twisting.

To close on the deal, Annan brought President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania to Nairobi to convince Mwai Kibaki that power could be shared with a prime minister, as in Tanzania, without eroding the authority of the president.

Mr Annan doesn’t dwell much on the single act that has since shaped Kenya’s politics irrevocably — the handing over of the names of the alleged perpetrators of the 2008 post-election violence to the International Criminal Court.

It was he who turned over the famous Waki envelope to the ICC. It was a first. Procedurally, cases are either referred to the court by state parties — as in the case of Cote d’Ivoire’s Laurent Gbagbo — or by the UN Security Council — as in Omar al-Bashir’s case.

Mr Annan’s continued engagement and pronouncements on Kenya have become a contentious issue. One side believes he still has a role to play.

But Annan is seemingly becoming an unwelcome visitor for President Kibaki’s group. During his latest visit to Nairobi, the president did not meet him.

Reading the memoir, it is clear that the one topic that will forever haunt his conscience is Rwanda. He was the head of UN peacekeeping operations at the time of the 1994 genocide and his actions, or rather his inaction, have since been the subject of savage criticism.

The criticism is not so much that he and the UN failed to intervene to prevent the genocide happening. The anger is more for the fact that they actually withdrew the UN military contingent from Rwanda once the genocide started.

Too little, too late

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