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Opinions of Sunday, 19 July 2020

Columnist: Frank Annoh-Dompreh

A call to AU and UN to institute annual peacekeeping lectures in honour of Kofi Annan

Late Kofi Annan Late Kofi Annan

Kofi Annan has and will always be a great beacon of hope to Ghana and Africa as a whole. His activism was a driving force in implementing and developing the concept of Responsibility to Protect (R2P), an international principle that carefully incorporates contemporary ideologies necessitated by the new age of international relations. Recognising the flaw of the Westphalian notion that state sovereignty should be an absolute conception, Kofi Annan was able to steer the UN towards a more suitable approach, where the ability of a state to protect the lives of its people became a determinant of its sovereignty, for which obligation to protect would either remain with the state or will be ceded to the international system. In 2005 at the General Assembly, the R2P was unanimously endorsed by the UN and it has been useful in Côte d’Ivoire, South Sudan, Yemen and Syria, although the aftermath of NATO intervention in Libya stands as an exception.

Mr Speaker, Kofi Annan who has left an indelible impression in the history of peace building, is a man we cannot cease to celebrate, particularly because we experience the benefits of his contributions frequently. Indeed, though a significant part of his achievements occurred outside the physical boundaries of our dear nation Ghana, this country has not been left behind in enjoying the perks associated with peace and stability that Kofi Annan held so dear. Kofi Annan was a diplomat who served as the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations from January 1997 to December 2006 after rising through the ranks in the international organisation.

Mr. Speaker, I find it necessary to clarify the motive behind this recognition given to Kofi Annan partly because we do not want to be biased as Ghanaians in recounting the events in his lifetime, but more so because we are very certain the elements of his character that we wish to instil in the generations after him, to give hope to all who aspire to positively impact society in the manner that he did, and do it even better. Throughout the past and present Kofi Annan has been a great torch bearer of Ghana who amplified Ghana’s act of Peacebuilding and conflict resolution before, during and after his position as a UN Secretary General.

Mr Speaker, I also find that one of the thematic principles which guided his operation especially during his tenure as UN Secretary General, was drawn from an old saying that reads “you cannot direct the winds but you can direct the sails…” and he quoted this at a dialogue held at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in 2012. Adopting this principle, Kofi Annan did not give room for the development of an impasse in the strive for world peace, and he encouraged others to adopt same.

Mr Speaker, Ghana has for many decades been actively involved in global issues since independence and our commitment and contributions to international institutions speaks to this assertion. In the same vein, Ghana’s leading role in the promotion of pan Africanism since the time of Kwame Nkrumah has placed spotlight on the country in international affairs. It cannot be termed as a surprise that Kofi Annan was also a strong advocate for such endeavours. Kofi Annan was a noble man who believed in conflict resolution, peacebuilding and interventions as a means to curb global crisis, this was a card Kwame Nkrumah used to help amass support from African States. This is to say that development, peace and stability should not be the selfish interest of a state but as such as one to which all states should collectively participate to enjoy perpetual peace.

For many who followed closely the developments of the United Nations in peacebuilding, coupled with the leadership of Kofi Annan, there is agreement that those achievements did not come easily. This gives credence to the kind of acclamation attributed to the UN and Kofi Annan, justifying the award of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001.

In his memoir, Kofi Annan reflected on his roles at the UN on the Rwandan genocide in 1994 though he was not Secretary General at the time, one of the significant events that dented the UN’s peacekeeping reputation. Kofi Annan reported on how he lobbied about 100 governments – and made personal calls to others – to assist with the passage of the Security Council Resolution (918) where page 2 of the resolution sought to enable the UN dispatch about 5,500 troops to the country. Subsequently, the 1999 independent investigation into what had happened categorically concluded that the UN had failed to prevent, and stop, the genocide in Rwanda and as Secretary-General during the investigation, Kofi Annan most importantly accepted responsibility for the turn of events and poised himself to ensure the prevention of such a dreadful occurrence.

He sought to do this by reforming the UN to be mandated and equipped for the kind of forceful action needed to prevent a genocide. In his words, he said “…I realised after the genocide that there was more that I could and should have done to sound the alarm and rally support. This painful memory, along with that of Bosnia and Herzegovina, has influenced much of my thinking, and many of my actions, as secretary-general”. His support and validation of Responsibility to Protect (R2P) was a key act which one could say Kofi Annan had his root at heart. The R2P was an interventionist protocol out of which a clarion call for peace and conflict resolution is made to help protect war and conflict prone regions and states, chiefly to protect the people and the state before they went into total destruction and turmoil.

Mr. Speaker, Kofi Annan did not only advocate for peace in the times of conflict but supported and spearheaded many humanitarian initiatives including the establishment of two intergovernmental bodies; the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) and the Human Rights Council of the United Nations in 2005.

The PBC was jointly established by the General Assembly and the Security Council in 2005 as a new intergovernmental advisory body of the United Nations to support peace efforts in countries emerging from conflict and to marshal resources from combined contributions enabling states to invest in the building of each other.

Nonetheless, the events in international security studies places a timestamp on the development of the concept “human security” that was also increasingly becoming popular in global governance in the 1990s. This encouraged Kofi Annan to formulate the basis for his advocacy as a humanitarian through combining human rights, the rule of law, and human security as necessary components of global development by the time he was general secretary of the international organisation—the UN. These dynamics are relevant in shaping the ideologies of students the broader spectrum of international actors here in Ghana and they ought to be promoted.

Mr. Speaker, this call to institute such a relevant activity is supported by the far reaching legacy of Kofi Annan, and to support the case for such a proposal, I wish to throw light on the material legacy attributed to him, especially during his service as Secretary General of the UN. Kofi Annan submitted the first ever comprehensive report by a Secretary General on the topic Prevention of Armed Conflict in 2001, geared towards addressing the root causes of conflicts and proactively positioning the UN for conflict prevention rather than reaction. Kofi Annan was also very instrumental in the adoption of the UN Counter-Terrorism Strategy (A/RES/60/288) in 2006 in the wake of the September 2001 terrorist attack in the United States. In Ghana, he established a model peace tertiary school and ICT centre to build the capacity of people which is also expected to enhance their contributory role in world peace.

Mr Speaker, the rationale for the memorial lectures border on the need to immortalise the peaceful approach and diplomatic skills of Kofi Annan while at the same time encouraging peaceful coexistence in international relations among nations. Again, given the rich content of the activities in conflict resolution engineered by Kofi Annan, the lectures will package those experiences for assimilation by younger diplomats and international actors in today’s global politics. Furthermore, the identification of some distinct elements which make up the peace model of Kofi Annan are being proposed to be incorporated into the annual lectures, and they are fashioned in Kofi Annan’s inherent traits to;

*See a possibility where one may not be apparent;

*Directly involve oneself in peace negotiations to mediate and bring about amicable compromises whiles taking responsibility for one’s own role in working towards world peace and stability.

Mr. Speaker, specifically, the importance of leadership cannot be overemphasised in characterizing Kofi Annan’s approach. It is also apparent that the Kofi Annan’s peace model recognises the fact that institutions are made up of people and whichever systems or practices have come out as a result of the operation of an institution, or group of institutions still cedes the possibility of change to be dependent on decisions of the people. This is also why Kofi Annan had a style of directly interacting with heads-of-state, to bring about peaceful resolutions as opposed to interacting with the institutions they find themselves in. These are some of the elements of his peace model that create the distinction and resulting success and many of such idiosyncratic approaches are bound to be realised in these memorial lectures.

Mr Speaker, Peace Talks, is a similar peace instituted initiative that showcases the inspirational stories of people who are making extraordinary contributions to peace and co-founded by the United Nations Office at Geneva, The Geneva Peacebuilding Platform, and Inter-peace, has progressed the work envisioned by Kofi Annan since its commencement in 2013. Though this specifically expands the dialogue on peace building and conflict resolution, an annual memorial lecture has the potential to be fashioned into the academic curricular of students for which credits will be obtained to further encourage the utility of Kofi Annan’s peace model.

Finally, Mr Speaker, this endeavour will follow a well-defined organisational plan with relevant local actors and specified target audiences in academia, corporate institutions, public servants and government officials. It will include a host of activities that ensure the impartation of knowledge and the birth and promotion of individual ideas to support the peace model that will live on in the heart of the African continent from which it originated in Kofi Annan. I therefore make this call to all from this honourable House, to take steps to institute memorial lectures on the peace model of Kofi Annan.

In this modern era, the dynamics of interstate and intrastate conflicts have greatly evolved into the cyberspace and at no point can we sit back and fold arms on conflict prevention. We all have a role to play in peacebuilding and we must teach ourselves and our generations the principles to follow. Many of which are found in the study of Kofi Annan’s peace model.

I am grateful for the opportunity given Mr Speaker.

The writer is the MP for Nsawan-Adoagri and the Chairman of Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee.