By Kofi Annan with Nader Mousavizadeh
Penguin, 383 pp., $36.00
I was not looking for much of a difference bearing in mind Kofi Annan’s diplomatic career throughout his adult life from the prospects of dabbling into Ghanaian politics which turned out a hopeless situation when the military juntas in Ghana interrupted his ideal of democracy by the stages of coups after coups which had made the possibilities of a stable democracy in Ghana far fetched.
The uncertainties of a stable Ghanaian democracy began to develop the moment Kwame Nkrumah’s presidency was questioned when a group of military juntas and some of Ghana’s high ranking police officers struck and overthrew Nkrumah’s government on February 24, 1966.
But a lot had been behind that, upon Annan identifying with himself what he’d wanted when he took the shot at the United Nation’s job which would catapult him to the top from his years of endurance, perseverance, commitment and the awareness of an unbecoming Ghana, what’s at stake and dangers the job posed, coupled with the significant role of his tolerance and abiding by the rules to keep his dignity, and to accomplish, on a variety of problems seemingly to have overshadowed the effectiveness of the United Nations, and what he must do under his watch to get things done.
Annan had been caught in-between a web of conflicts centered on the Middle east, precisely, the moment the United States, in particular, had figured Annan would be a good listener and would take decisions to do stuff in the United States’ interest, from strategic points in partnering with other organizations and national leaders.
The sudden disapproval of Boutros Boutros Ghali; the prospects of Annan succeeding him; and Annan, African, born in Ghana of a father who was well connected with the British and European corporations where he rose up the ladders becoming influential and aloof in Ghanaian politics while the quest for independence gained momentum during the constitutional conferences when Nkrumah was piecing together his cabinet as of July 1954, with the Conventional Peoples Party. Annan’s father, Henry Reginald Annan, supported Nkruma’s-led struggle for a Ghanaian national state and total liberation from colonial rule; but at the same time, was very careful about taking sides in Nkrumah’s revolution and, what would probably follow, henceforth.
As it had happened, the young Annan (Kofi) had second guessed a Ghanaian stable government when he had looked to a Ghana sound democratic fabric, in his boyhood, seeing the prospects of belonging to Ghana’s ruling elite class and setting the pace for Africa by way of respecting the rule of law and upholding democracy.
In 1954, Annan was 16 years old, born on April 8, 1938, in Kumasi, the Ashanti region, in Ghana, from a traditional royal family; and attended the prestigious Mfantsipim boarding school in Cape Coast, graduating in 1957, the time Nkrumah’s CPP cabinet had already set the stage to assume responsibilities of its own affairs of state which would lead to the midnight, March 5, 1957, at a huge meeting on the fields just opposite the Parliament Building where the Union Jack was lowered and, a red, yellow and green flag, printed with a black star on the yellow mark was hoisted; marking the end of Ghana’s struggle for independence. A new nation-state was born under the banner of Nkrumah and his CPP.
While Nkrumah, A.E. Inksumah, Kojo Botsio, K.A. Gbedemah, A. Casely-Hayford, A.E. Ofori-Atta, N.A. Welbeck, B. Yeboa-Afari, J.H. Alhasani, J.B. erzuah, L.R. Abavana, Ako Adjei, Krobo Edusei wrote the platforms to the nation’s affairs of state which would eventually not be likened by the opposing factions to what was becoming a tyrannical one-party state, including Gbedemah who had to disappear suddenly, finding himself in exile as a fugitive, and within the process, Annan pursued his post-secondary education at the Kumasi College of Science and Technology, and in 1961 would graduate from Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, on the goodwill of a Ford Foundation grant.
Annan, groomed to become a Ghana elite class by all accounts would shun that and head to a branch of the United Nations, World Health Organization, as a budget officer. Returning to Ghana to work briefly in tourism, a government gone bad disrupted his chances which opened up another opportunity.
The United Nations popped up; calling.
But a United Nations under Annan from years of service on a variety of platforms with the organization was not going to be easy for a man who had initially thought of doing things differently, in order to build his legacy and deserve the respect he wanted for a career he gave up everything. It worked partially, for the fact that his stewardship in seeking peace for his credibility and as a middleman, made him a good negotiator with his diplomatic folks in the Arab League and a bullying United States that wanted all things their way, shovelling him around, or it would cost Annan the stewardship he had cherished and labored for his entire career.
It failed on many grounds; his attempt toward the realization of making deals to avert wars or conflicts between nations, sort of, did not materialize, thus frustrating all his efforts.
The cases of Rwanda, which he shares the blame with his colleagues after prior knowledge to the Rwandan genocide in 1994; the Balkans (Bosnia, Serbia, Croatia, Kosovo), Somalia, the Congo, the Baltic states, the Middle East ( Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq), Israel and the Far East/Central Asia (Pakistan, India, kashmir, Afghanistan) and, so on, comes to mind; all ending up incomplete despite the efforts he had made soldiering for a peaceful world without wars.
Annan could only do as much within the powers bestowed him as Secretary General which of course, was dictated, first, by the Bill Clinton administration with direct orders from Secretary of State Madeleine Albright who instructed him on what to do and how the United States wanted it done under Clinton, to a more dramatic, bullying George Bush administration where he had been left with no choices at all, considering the fact his diplomatic friend, Secretary of State, Colin Powell, had been cornered by the Bush gang to fabricate stories of weapons of mass destruction, for presentation to the United Nations Security Council which left the Annan-led United Nations observing team over Iraq, politically impotent and permanently disfigured in the area of dialogue and compromise from suspicion bent on Saddam Hussein's accumulation of weapons to eliminate his neighbors which includes Israel. At the same time, Annan over the cause of his long haul of trips to Baghdad to urge Hussein allow United Nations inspectors in for their investigations, Annan still did not believe such was in existence, pleading with Hussein for approval in order to clear his conscience.
Even though Powell as the world was made to believe did not know about all the fabrications by the Bush gang, which was hard to believe, Powell did all with his diplomatic and friendly positions to persuade Annan and his team with the assurance Hussein's stockpile of weapons had been found by the invading forces of the United States military commands and, so convinced that he’d been vindicated through the findings on which Powell’s mind reflected his dignity and free from guilt with regards to the invasion by the United States, in what would be an eventual capitulation and the ultimate end of Hussein's regime.
Annan and his team of United Nations investigators did not buy all that Powell had sold to the security council, and did not believe in any of powell’s made-up stories given to him for presentation to the United Nations Security Council by the Bush gang. Powell would lose his personal bearing and dignity, and of all the trumped-up cases to convince and compel the United Nations that invasion of Iraq was inevitable with the probable cause of an alleged findings of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The findings was a hoax, fabricated and intentionally manipulated for one purpose - to get rid of Hussein and his brutal regime.
Powell’s reputation would never be the same again. He had fallen cheaply to the Bush gang as errand boy to keep his relationship “intact and viable” with the House of Bush without bearing in mind what had counted was his dedication to service for the United States and the world in general; and, not the Bush gang he, in an about face, failed to thoroughly investigate in what would destroy his career at a time the entire world had seen him as the globe’s top notch diplomat.
But again, despite the fact Annan stood ground not taking into accounts all that was fabricated and presented by Powell as precedent to the invasion of Iraq when the United States ignored due process by following procedures of the security council in what necessitates invasion, Annan was desperately isolated by a Bush gang, using a concocted paperwork as evidence to invade Iraq, removing Hussein at a terrible cost in casualties, and resources on global and Iraqi perspective.
One thing that should be borne in Annan’s stewardship to use a United Nations conduit in bringing about peace of a troubled universe and stopping the “unnecessary wars,” was that, his one-on-one negotiations to avert war in any event like the Allied air strikes in Iraq, the war in Bosnia, Kosovo, Serbia, conflicting issues in Albania, an unstable African continent with mountains of problems remains the fact that a lot of unfulfilled, troubling issues will be haunting him the rest of his life.
Despite an incomplete mission and the quest for global peace, Annan leaves himself haunted by the scandals of his son, Kojo Annan’s involvement in the Iraq Oil For Food program which was launched to help Iraqi women and children from dying of starvation and other related diseases, following the scandals of kickbacks and diverting money meant for the program in which several companies engaged in the contract that had hired his son embezzled staggering amounts of cash, and a revelation of funny bookkeeping.
Annan, honest in his encounters, fully committed for positive results and revelations in “Interventions,” is still fighting to sustain his dignity as he keeps negotiating for global peace outside of his expired assignment as United Nations Secretary General.