Kofi Annan

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Kofi Atta Annan
Kofi Atta Annan
Order: 7th Secretary-General
Term of office: January 1, 1997–present
Predecessor: Boutros Boutros-Ghali
Successor: incumbent
Born: April 8, 1938
Place of birth: Kumasi, Ghana

Kofi Atta Annan (born April 8, 1938) is a Ghanaian diplomat and the seventh and current Secretary-General of the United Nations.



Early years and family

Annan was born to Henry Reginald and Victoria Annan on April 8, 1938, in the Kofandros section of Kumasi, Ghana. As with most Akan names, his name indicates the day of the week he was born and place in his family: Kofi indicates a boy born on a Friday, and Annan denotes that he was the fourth child of his family. Annan was a twin, an occurrence that is regarded as special in Ghanaian culture; his twin sister Efua Atta died in 1991. Atta means twin in Fante.

Annan's family was part of the country's elite; both of his grandfathers and his uncle were tribal chiefs. His father was half Asante and half Fante; his mother was Fante. Annan's father worked for a long period as an export manager for the Lever Brothers cocoa company.

Annan is married to Nane Maria Annan, a Swedish lawyer and artist who is the half-niece of Raoul Wallenberg. Of their three children, Kojo Annan and Ama Annan are from Kofi Annan's previous marriage with Titi Alakija. They divorced in the late 1970s. Their third child, Nina Cronstedt de Groot, is from a previous marriage of Nane Annan. Kojo Annan was in the headlines in 2005 because of his involvement in the Oil for Food program scandal.


From 1954 to 1957, Annan attended the elite Mfantsipim School, a Methodist boarding school in Cape Coast founded in the 1870s. Annan has said that the school taught him "that suffering anywhere concerns people everywhere". In 1957, the year Annan graduated from Mfantsipim, Ghana became the first British colony in Sub-Saharan Africa to gain independence.

In 1958, Annan began studying for a degree in economics at the Kumasi College of Science and Technology, now the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology of Ghana. He received a Ford Foundation grant, enabling him to complete his undergraduate studies at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, United States in 1961. Annan then studied at the Graduate Institute of International Studies (Institut universitaire des hautes études internationales IUHEI) in Geneva, Switzerland, from 196162, later attending the MIT Sloan School of Management (197172) as a Sloan Fellow and receiving a Master of Science degree in management with a minor in poetry.

Annan is fluent in English, French, Fante and other dialects of Akan, and other African languages.

Early career

Annan started working for the World Health Organization, an agency of the United Nations, in 1962. From 1974 to 1976, Annan worked as the Director of Tourism in Ghana.

Following that, he returned to work for the United Nations as an Assistant Secretary-General in three consecutive positions: Human Resources Management and Security Coordinator from 1987 to 1990, Program Planning, Budget and Finance, and Controller from 1990 to 1992, and Peacekeeping Operations from March 1993 to February 1994.

In his book Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda, ex-General Roméo Dallaire claims that Annan was overly passive in his response to the 1994 Tutsi genocide in Rwanda. He says that Annan, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations at that time, held back UN troops from intervening to settle the conflict and from providing more logistic and material support.

Annan was then an Undersecretary-General until October 1995, when he was made a Special Representative of the Secretary-General to the former Yugoslavia, serving for five months in this capacity and returning to his duties as Undersecretary-General in April 1996.

Secretary-General of the United Nations

Annan addresses the press in Rome during a trip to Italy in February 2004.
Annan addresses the press in Rome during a trip to Italy in February 2004.

On December 13, 1996, Annan was selected by the UN Security Council to be Secretary-General and was confirmed four days later by the General Assembly. Annan took the oath of office without delay, starting his first term as Secretary-General on January 1, 1997. Annan replaced outgoing Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali of Egypt, becoming the first person from a black African nation to become Secretary-General.

Annan's Secretary-Generalship was renewed on January 1, 2002, an unusual deviation from informal policy. The office usually rotates around the continents, with two terms each; since Annan's predecessor Ghali was also an African, normally Annan would have only served one term. However, in this case Annan was able to secure reappointment.

In April 2001, the Secretary-General issued a five-point "Call to Action" to address the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Annan sees this pandemic as his "personal priority" as Secretary-General and in life in general. He proposed the establishment of a Global AIDS and Health Fund to stimulate increased spending needed to help developing countries confront the HIV/AIDS crisis.

On December 10, 2001, Annan and the United Nations jointly received the Nobel Peace Prize, "for their work for a better organized and more peaceful world".

Annan was Secretary-General during the 2003 invasion of Iraq and called for the United States and the United Kingdom not to invade without UN support. In 2004 Annan called the invasion and occupation illegal.

In June 2004, Annan was given a copy of the OIOS report on the complaint of sexual harassment, abuse of authority and retaliation against Ruud Lubbers, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, and sexual harassment and misconduct as well against Werner Blatter, Director of UNHCR Personnel by a long-serving staff member. The investigation report found Ruud Lubbers guilty of sexual harassment and no mention was made publicly of the other charge against a senior official or the two subsequent complaints she filed later that year. In the course of the official investigation, Lubbers wrote a letter that some speculate was a threat to the female worker who had brought the charges of misconduct. [1] However, on July 15, 2004, Lubbers was declared innocent by Kofi Annan. His decision to white-wash Lubbers (and cover up the facts) only lasted until November when OIOS issued its annual report to the UN General Assembly noting it has found Lubbers guilty. Widely reported in the media, these events served to weaken Annan further.

Finally, in February 2005, the UK Independent ran a cover story on the scandal excerpting portions of the OIOS investigation. Unrepentant and claiming his innocence to reporters even after as he exited from his meeting with Annan and Malloch Brown in New York, Ruud Lubbers was forced to resign his post on 21 February, ten months short of the end of his tenure.

On November 17, 2004, Annan accepted a report clearing UN Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services Dileep Nair of graft and sexual harassment charges, some viewed as retaliation against Nair for supporting the complainant in the Lubbers affair. Still, clearance was not viewed favorably by some UN staff in NY, leading to extensive debate on November 19.

In December 2004, United States Republican Senator Norm Coleman called for Annan's resignation after reports surfaced that his son received payments from the Swiss company Cotecna Inspection SA that won a lucrative contract under the UN Oil for Food program. Annan called for an investigation into this matter. The commission, led by Paul Volcker, made no specific allegations in its March 2005 interim report. The final report, Independent Inquiry Committee into The United Nations Oil-for-Food Programme, was issued on September 7. It exonerated both Annans of any illegal actions, but found fault with the UN management structure and the Security Council oversight. It strongly recommended a new position of Chief Operating Officer to handle the fiscal and administrative responsibilities which currently fall to the Secretary General's office. The report listing the companies, both Western and Middle Eastern, who illegally benefited from the Program will be released in October.

On March 21, 2005, Annan presented a progress report, In Larger Freedom, to the UN General Assembly. Annan recommended Security Council expansion and a host of other UN reforms[2].

Outside the United States, Annan has few opponents; he has the unanimous support of the UN Security Council. [3] Mark Malloch Brown has served as Chef de Cabinet to the Secretary-General since January 2005. Louise Fréchette is his Deputy Secretary-General.


Quotations of Kofi Annan

Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to:
  • "More than ever before in human history, we share a common destiny. We can master it only if we face it together. And that, my friends, is why we have the United Nations." - December 31, 1999, message for the new millennium [4]
  • "You can do a lot with diplomacy, but with diplomacy backed up by force you can get a lot more done." - February 24, 1998, regarding the use of force to gain compliance from Saddam Hussein [5]
  • "Well, the issue of a standing UN army has been raised by many because, quite frankly, the way we operate today is like telling Ottawa that I know you need a fire station but we will build one when the fire breaks. We have no army. When the crisis breaks then we begin to put an army together. We go around to governments and begin asking for troops. The question with a standing UN army is that it raises issues of budget issues, legal issues, where do you place it, under what jurisdiction? And the big boys, big countries don't want it. The smaller countries are also nervous." [6]
  • "He is very calm - very, very calm. Never raises his voice. Well-informed, contrary to the sense outside that he is ill-informed and isolated. And decisive." (February 24, 1998 press conference regarding Saddam Hussein - [7])
  • "The greatest moment of the race is not the touch of the wall, or when one swimmer begins to pull ahead of the pack. The greatest moment takes place before the pistol even fires; when for a brief time, no nation is greater or smaller, stronger or weaker than any other. For me, that is the Olympic moment." Olympics 2004 - Celebrate Humanity 2004 campaign.

Quotations about Kofi Annan

  • We not only have confidence in him, we support him fully. He is in a very difficult job under very difficult circumstances, but we continue to have hope that he is doing his best. We only want his senior management to exhibit the transparency and accountability that he has proscribed for the organization. [8]
Rosemarie Waters, president of the United Nations Staff Union
  • We in Europe hold Kofi Annan in high esteem and recognise his unstinting efforts in the cause of peace and democracy.
Jacques Chirac
  • We are not suggesting or pushing for the resignation of the secretary-general. We have worked well with him in the past and look forward to working with him for some time in the future. [9]
United States ambassador John Danforth


See also

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Preceded by:
Boutros Boutros-Ghali
UN Secretary-General
Succeeded by:
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