Posted by Mary Madigan
Before I met him in Liberia, that CAO, Krishna Gowandan, had been knocking around West Africa for years in various UN jobs, always mired in corruption, never disciplined, always promoted and reassigned – a pattern all too familiar at the UN – during which time the head of personnel was Kofi Annan. (Gowandan was eventually indicted by US federal prosecutors in New York for $1.5 million worth of fraudulent kickbacks on UN construction jobs. He has since died.)
What kind of leadership would tolerate this conduct 10 years ago? The answer is: precisely the same leadership that, 10 years later, permitted the oil-for-food scandal and the sex-for-food scandal. Why did it take everyone 10 years to figure this out?
The second searing irony for me is that the American neoconservative right has occupied the moral high ground in critique of Annan, outflanking the left, which sits on indefensible territory in his support. But if prevention of genocide and protection of the vulnerable are not core priorities on the left, then what is?..
I guess only the Left can answer that question. What are their core priorities?
Cain, co-author of the book “Emergency Sex (and Other Desperate Measures): A True Story from Hell on Earth describes the contrast between Annan and the people who work for him.
Our book is often criticised by fellow travellers on the left because we hold Annan and the UN accountable. As head of peacekeeping then, and as secretary-general now, Annan’s power to effect any change on the ground, our critics remind us, is constrained by the interests of the Security Council (the US and France didn’t want to intervene in Rwanda, the French again in Bosnia, and China and Russia now in Darfur). Therefore it’s unrealistic to argue that Annan should risk his job by exhorting his Security Council bosses to do the right thing in the face of genocide.
Our response? Annan asks – no, orders – unarmed civilians to risk their lives every day as election observers, human rights monitors, drivers and secretaries in the most dangerous conditions all over the world. They do it, heroically, every day. And, in the service of peace, some pay with their lives; others with their sanity. How can he then not ask of himself the courage to risk his job in the cause of preventing genocide? At the very least, he could go down trying to save lives, as opposed to going down trying to explain why he didn’t.
The question is, what are the core priorities of the UN? Cain believes that saving lives and preventing genocides are core priorities, but if that were true, Annan would have been fired a long time ago. In fact, preserving peace and stability is the UN’s goal. The tolerance of genocidal regimes and the massive casualties that result is in line with that goal.
If ensuring worldwide stability and preventing or avoiding involvement in any military action against a sovereign nation requires a passive capitulation to evil, Kofi Annan is more than willing to passively capitulate. He’s doing the job he’s being paid to do – as will the person who replaces him.