In Summary
  • The major global powers had full confidence in his negotiating positions, which was critical to his and Kenya’s success.
  • He retired with his exceptional reputation intact and was in fact chosen to lead global efforts to defuse some of the toughest crises.

The three most globally admired leaders of the last quarter century had Africa in common — Kofi Annan, Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama.

A year has gone by since Annan left us, but those who worked under him at the United Nations still miss him. We loved him dearly.

In fact if you got to know him, he took your breath away — it didn’t seem possible that a leader could be so genuinely caring and supportive of everyone who worked for him, at any level.

And that is how he got the best from everyone, and that is how he was able to redefine the UN in a way no other Secretary-General had done before or since.

In the process he redefined himself too. It is safe to say that until he became Secretary-General, many of us who admired him did not realise how he would soar as the world’s foremost peacekeeper and what astonishing achievements he would be capable of.

It is worth noting that despite his remarkable global achievements, the one country he helped more than any other was Kenya, where his intervention was instrumental in preventing the country from spiralling into full blown civil war.

LOVED

Annan had exceptional peace-making skills, and he also had the full support of the African Union leadership, which appointed him mediator along with former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa and Graça Machel, the former Mozambican Cabinet minister and First Lady to President Nelson Mandela.

The major global powers had full confidence in his negotiating positions, which was critical to his and Kenya’s success.

I think it is safe to say that Mandela apart, the world has not in recent decades produced a more loved and respected global leader than Annan, as was evidenced by the instant and genuinely-felt praise that poured in from virtually every corner of the globe at his death.

He maintained — and indeed hid — his astonishing array of achievements in the world's toughest job beneath the gentlest, most caring and self-effacing humanity imaginable.

But Annan was for sure human, and made significant mistakes. The Rwanda genocide occurred on his watch as Under Secretary-General for Peacekeeping.

Page 1 of 2