Former UN Secretary-General and Nobel Peace Prize laureate passed away on Saturday

Former United Nations Secretary-General and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Kofi Annan, who died on Saturday, will be remembered as a dedicated humanitarian whose career was tarnished by ugly conflicts that spun out of control.

Mr. Annan was unable to bring peace to Syria and bring to rest the failures of diplomacy in Rwanda, Bosnia, Darfur, Cyprus, Somalia and Iraq, which are likely to drown out the plaudits for his softly spoken mediation and efforts to eradicate poverty and AIDS that won him the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize.

Mr. Annan was brought up in an ethnically divided culture in his native Ghana, but one where dialogue was prized and outright conflict rare.

“He’s driven by the idea of ‘don’t think no’; always looking for the best outcome,” Fred Eckhard, Mr. Annan’s spokesman during his time as Secretary-General, once told Reuters.

His reputation as a mediator was burnished by his success in halting a spiralling conflict in Kenya in 2007, when rival claims to the presidency caused ethnic massacres in which more than 1,200 died. Mr. Annan put the rivals in a room and told them: “There is only one Kenya”.

He then persuaded one of them to accept the post of prime minister in a joint government. The violence ended.

Rwanda massacre

But earlier in his career, Mr. Annan’s record was less successful. He was head of U.N. peacekeeping in 1994, when he acknowledges he should have done more to help prevent the slaughter of 8,00,000 Rwandan Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

The greatest reproach was that Mr. Annan failed to act on a telegram from the U.N. peacekeeper commander, General Romeo Dallaire, urging a move against arms caches being built up by Hutu extremists.

In a book scathing about the world’s failure to act, Gen. Dallaire however, had only praise for Mr. Annan, describing his “humanism and dedication to the plight of others”.

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