Kofi Annan, UN Secretary-General, at the inauguration of a war memorial in Zagreb, Croatia in 2002. (c) W. Gressmann
when he inaugurated a war memorial in Zagreb, Croatia in 2002. I was one of the invited guests to this ceremony at the airport of the Croatian capital. Framed by the salute of a soldier in my photograph of that event, I always tried to spot some sense of guilt in the General-Secretary’s face.
Genocide One: Rwanda
Kofi Annan directed UN Peacekeeping Operations when the Rwandan genocide took place in 1994. Canadian ex-General Roméo Dallaire, who was force commander of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda, claimed that Annan was overly passive in his response to the imminent genocide. In his book Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda, General Dallaire asserted that Annan held back UN troops from intervening to settle the conflict, and from providing more logistical and material support. In 2004, ten years after the genocide in which an estimated 800,000 people were killed, Annan said, "I could and should have done more to sound the alarm and rally support."
Genocide Two: Bosnia
Kofi Annan was also in charge in 1995 - when the massacre in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica happened. About 8,000 men and boys were killed in Europe’s biggest massacre since World War II. After the fact, the United Nations’ report in 1999 found inexcusable dereliction by the UN “peacekeepers.” In his report, Kofi Annan said the UN Security Council should have approved “more decisive and forceful action to prevent the unfolding horror.”
“Not since the horrors of World War II had Europe witnessed massacres on this scale,” Mr Annan added. “The tragedy of Srebrenica will haunt our history forever.”
“The cardinal lesson of Srebrenica is that a deliberate and systematic attempt to terrorise, expel or murder an entire people must be met decisively with all necessary means, and with the political will to carry the policy through to its logical conclusion,” Kofi Annan added.
Genocide Three: Syria
Today again, it is still unclear whether the UN plan for Syria, brokered by Kofi Annan, will have any impact. The destruction of Homs and the slaughter of civilians is reminiscent of the massacres in Rwanda and at Srebrenica, and yet another instance in which the “international community” left innocents to their own devices.
But there have been some changes since Srebrenica. “The Responsibility to Protect”, a resolution passed by the UN general assembly in 2005, requires states to stop mass atrocities. And it allows the international community to step in, if a state does not.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently described Syrian President Assad as “cynical” for hosting Kofi Annan, on his peacekeeping mission while launching a fresh assault on the town of Idleb. But maybe Annan was also cynical for visiting with Assad, without any adequate backup by the UN and especially the USA in in his bag.
Kofi Annan now risks a third genocidal massacre on his record.