Feature Article of Sunday, 28 October 2007

Columnist: Sikanku, Etse

Annan and the UN

Last week I took the huge risk of presenting another side of Kofi Annan’s term. While some agreed with the piece it wasn’t all hearts and flowers. I thank those with whom I had a healthy and educated exchange of emails-including those who dissented. Ghana has a future.

Let me state that my motivation to write that piece was not to slander Kofi Annan’s character but to bring to fore some mistakes made and the challenge of dealing with hapless intervention from domineering regimes. I believe Annan’s triumphs are well known and appreciated by all and there was no need for repetition. I have taken a second look at the column and although nothing that I wrote is an untruth I admit that perhaps I was too harsh in some of my conclusions. This shouldn’t have been the case and I apologize to Kofi Annan, the nation and to all those who may have been hurt by the piece. I’m sorry. I therefore retract the strong and uncomplimentary language used in the write up. Maybe the issues that I was so much concerned about will not have been glossed over had I not engaged in some early conclusions. Annan is not a failed diplomat. Quite a solid one, I must say.

But accept this: he had his faults.

I believe in the unilateralist and supra existentiality of the United Nations. No nation should be made to feel bigger than this global body and it is the responsibility of all the ‘people’s of the world’ to ensure this. In fact during his departure speech Annan was spot on when he said “All civilization is at stake, and we can save it only if all peoples join together in the task." The United Nations must not, cannot and should not fail. The so called super powers do not give a snug who they offend or trample so far as they achieve their agenda and it is in our hands to push the developing world’s agenda.

Let’s set the records straight: Kofi Annan did his best as UN Secretary General. The majority view has been that Annan did a brilliant job. I agree. The setting up of the peace building commission and the human rights commission were his initiative. He won the Nobel Peace Prize, consistently advocated for the rule of law, human rights and the eradication of poverty through the Millennium Development Goals. The Global Fund, which he created, helped address health problems such as AIDS, Malaria and tuberculosis. He also introduced far-reaching measures to inject efficiency into the UN’s managerial and other internal structures. The fact that Annan stated his opposition to the war after all indicates his independence and preparedness to confront the world’s superpowers. Considering the peculiar changes of the organization Annan did a yeoman’s job. But there is also another view, which must not be shoved. It should be discussed, debated and decided. That is the lesson history teaches us. But in diplomacy as in life, some things are always hard.

An inability to confront these challenges presents grave dangers especially for those of us in the developing world. Should we accede to the status quo saying “That’s the way the system works” and then resign to fate? That’s old fashioned. The international system faces novel challenges in the 21st century. New trends are transforming the world order and as the focus shifts more and more to combating terrorism, the reality is that Africa’s concerns will be subjugated. Undoubtedly this raises the specter of continued marginalization. The failure to confront the emerging neo conservative propaganda of global dominance will lead even further to the erosion of national sovereignty and collapse current progress if any at all.

Perhaps the most troubling factor in this fall out is the lack of tolerance for diverse views. We like to think of ourselves as the best democracy in Africa. I’m sure some will even want me to say we are the best democracy in the world. Here’s news: we’re simply not. In part accountability from the various structures of governance, the executive, legislature and the judiciary is at an all time low. But this will be a subject for another day.

For now what I’ll like to say is that the independent media is one of the strongest pillars of any enduring democracy. It is a structure that must be protected at all times. That the freedom of speech is crucial to a liberal constitutional form of government cannot be overemphasized. “Our Republic and its press will rise or fall together," Pulitzer wrote. "An able, disinterested, public-spirited press, with trained intelligence to know the right and courage to do it, can preserve that public virtue without which popular government is a sham and a mockery. A cynical, mercenary, demagogic press will produce in time a people as base as itself. The power to mould the future of the Republic will be in the hands of the journalists of future generations."

To be sure journalism’s position in our quest to enshrine democracy must be protected and safe guarded. Implicit in this is the media’s responsibility to strive for legitimate and accurate reportage.

The UN’s unilateralism may not be achieved in this generation but it is not impossible.

Etse Sikanku
Iowa State University

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.