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Adieu, Boutros Ghali, Africa’s first UN Chief

AFIRCA lost one of its pre-eminent pioneering sons on Tuesday,  February 16, 2016 when the death of Dr Boutros Boutros Ghali at the ripe OLD age of 93 was announced. What most people know about this great man was that he was the first African to mount the exalted seat of Secretary General of the United Nations in 1992.

Boutros Ghali
Boutros Ghali

What a lot of people probably do not know was that, as Egypt’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs between 1977 and 1991, he played a leading role in the Camp David negotiations and Accords that eventually ended the state of war between Israel and Egypt. It was an epochal accomplishment between Prime Minister Menachem Begin and President Anwar Sadat under the watchful eyes of President Jimmy Carter in 1978, for which both statesmen jointly won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979.

When he took over as the UN Chief, Ghali was faced with the complicated task of managing the critical moment in world history in when the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union was ending; the Berlin Wall had fallen and the USA had emerged as the sole world superpower. Also, Yugoslavia was breaking apart, and the United Nations faced more pressure to supply military peacekeepers around the world.

Under him, the UN faced a financial crunch as a result of Ghali’s insistence on its independence from the USA; America being the foremost financier of the Organisation. This cat-and-mouse game eventually led to Ghali’s failure to secure a second term in office in 1997 and opened the door for his replacement by Dr Kofi Annan from Ghana.

After a moment’s silence was observed for Dr Ghali, the Secretary General of the UN, Mr Ban Ki Moon, remarked that he left indelible marks on the Organisation. “He brought formidable experience and intellectual power to the task of piloting the United Nations through one of the most tumultuous periods in its history,” he remarked.

Ghali’s major failing (which he publicly regretted) was the role he played, as an Egyptian diplomat, in unwittingly arming the Hutus of Rwanda and being unable to do much to stop the massacres of 1994, which took place under his watch.

Boutros Boutros Ghali, a scion of a renowned state official and member of a prominent Egyptian Christian Coptic family, opened the door for Africans and individuals in the Third World to head the umbrella body of world nations and break the monopoly of the developed countries.

We join the rest of the world to cherish his contributions though we also hope his failings in Rwanda will be a lesson to ensure such horrific events do not occur ever again.

May he rest in peace.


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