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Regular Column

Letters to the Editors

Volume 16, Issue 3  | 
Published 03/03/2020
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A critique (last of three) by Karim Hirji of articles in AwaaZ Volume 15, Issue 2 2018.

Kofi Annan

In the year prior to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, there were tell-tale signs that something terrible was about to unfold. Hate radio programs were gathering momentum, and the political atmosphere was getting bleak. As RPF mounted attacks, the state authorities began to prepare for the worst. But the nations of the West who made many personnel on the ground did not do anything. France continued to arm and give full backing to the government and the US supported both the sides. The UN Peace Keeping forces, under Kofi Anan, remained lethargic.

Within a couple of days from the start, it was abundantly clear to the rest of the world that civilians, young and old, were being massacred in their thousands. Bodies were floating in the rivers. Something had to be done immediately to stop the carnage.

According to the UN Charter the invasion of or military attacks on one nation by another without explicit authorization from the UN Security Council is `a supreme war crime.’ Though there is one exception provided to this rule. In the case of an unfolding genocide, the member states of the UN are in fact obligated to intervene in that nation to stop it.

Yet, in the UN Security Council meetings convened to discuss this issue, the US (represented by Madeline Albright) was hard at work to ensure that no such intervention was authorized. The US argued that the ongoing killings in Rwanda were ‘acts of genocide` and not a genocide. It was the most horrific display of diplomatic verbiage yet, at the end of the day, it did the job. At the same time, instead of being deployed to halt the slaughter, the UN Peace Keepers were withdrawn from the country. Other nations of Africa, and especially those in the neighborhood, also did not do anything. France went on supplying arms to a regime was clearly implicated in the genocide. It was a shameful episode all the way around.

A UN intervention was authorized only after nearly 800,000 people had been massacred. It led by France, whose forces ensured that the genocidal militias obtained a safe passage into neighboring Congo, leading to decades of instability and violence in the region.

These actions were documented in the official OAU commission set up to investigate the genocide and by other human rights organizations. Madeline Albright and Kofi Anan were implicated as key players in the inhumane saga. But they were not sanctioned in any way. Instead of being tried for crimes against humanity, Albright was promoted to be the first woman US Secretary of State and Anan became the Secretary General of the UN. Both were rewarded for having well served the interests of US imperialism.

As the UN Secretary General, Kofi Anan generally toed the US line, and did not accomplish anything of lasting to value to Africa. In that post, he also became an accomplice to the second major genocide of the 1990s. I refer to the draconian sanctions imposed on Iraq. The Middle Eastern nation was ringed by the US military. Nothing could move in or out without its approval. Even pencils were withheld. Food and medicines were scarce. The so-called Oli for Food Program could not, despite efficient management by the Iraqi government, provide adequate nutrition for the people. A once prosperous people were reduced to abject poverty. As documented in epidemiologic studies by UNICEF and other health bodies, nearly a million Iraqi deaths, a third of them children, were attributable to the sanctions. Iraq was continually under bombardment. The rationale for all that was Iraq was producing weapons of mass destruction. After the 2003 invasion of Iraq, it was seen beyond doubt that the case for WMD was based on a decade long deception perpetrated by the US and UK. The sanctions were overseen the Security Council. In addition to the US and UK leaders, Kofi Anan was a party to this crime against humanity.

Anan’s opposition to the 2003 invasion of Iraq was a tepid one; and his diplomatic moves provided a reason for the US to claim that diplomacy had been given a chance and did not work. It is clear that no matter the outcome, the US was going to invade that nation. And when the invasion was launched without formal approval by the UN Security Council, Anan did not declare that the act constituted a supreme was crime.   

Anan has been credited as one of the prime movers in the adoption the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) principle by the UN. It is commonly regarded as a milestone in the prevention of major crimes against humanity and for the attainment of global peace and justice. But this is a simplistic view that disregards the historic and current realities of the behavior of imperial powers.

First, when invading weaker nations, powerful nations often declare that they are doing so in order to protect their people from some calamity. European nations colonized Africa to `civilize the Africans.’ Almost all the US wars in the past one hundred years have had such a rationale. Yet, the truth always is to the contrary.

As the examples of Libya and Syria indicate, conduct of this sort by the major powers did not abate after the adoption of R2P principle. In a way, it gained an additional boost, and has led to a fall in the trust of the UN by other nations.

While Kofi Anan has some achievements, like negotiating the post-election peace in Kenya, overall his record is tarnished with numerous episodes of disgraceful conduct. An accurate obituary has to mention his actions in an unbiased fashion. In my view, a progressive magazine like Awaaz need not carry superficial and one-sided obituaries of the type found in the mainstream media.

Samir Amin

An additional descriptive obituary of Samir Amin was needed here. While many obituaries of this giant exist in the progressive outlets, few explain clearly the basic pillars of his ideas and why his orientation remains relevance for the liberation of Africa. But that is what the youth of today need. For, he generally wrote in a dense style that is not easy to fathom.

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