Interventions: A Life in War and Peace
by Kofi Annan with Nader Mousavizadeh
The Penguin Press, New York, NY, USA, 2012; 512 pp; hb $36
Kofi Annan is best known not only for his 10-year tenure as the Secretary-General of the United Nations and for receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001, but also for a number of notable achievements around the world in defending human rights, providing humanitarian assistance and promoting the Millennium Development Goals. It’s been seven years since he left the UN, but his recognition worldwide is still evident and his influence on global affairs still palpable. Kofi Annan the man is not so different from Kofi Annan the world leader. In his memoir, Interventions: A Life in War and Peace, Mr. Annan shares his journey as one of the world’s most influential personalities, his struggles and his regrets during his time at the head of the UN.
Mr. Annan, a Ghanaian, who served as the first sub-Saharan African to hold the office of UN Secretary-General, is widely respected by his peers and the public. A charismatic but quietly spoken figure, Mr. Annan, as UN Secretary-General, knew how to use his charm and “celebrity” status to pursue his mandate, and brought greater visibility to the organization and the issues close to his heart. With his remarkable account of the most significant events during his tenure, Mr. Annan delves into each one with eloquent intensity.
From the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 against the United States to the American-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, from the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon to the wars in Bosnia and Somalia and the genocide in Rwanda, Mr. Annan delivers a raw but honest account of his sentiments as the events unfolded.
On Iraq, Mr. Annan’s message in the book is clear: the war was “without global legitimacy or foresight.” He goes on to say, “By behaving in the way that it did, the United States invited the perception among many in the world—including long-term allies—that it was becoming a greater threat to global security than anything Saddam [Hussein] could muster. This was a self-inflicted wound of historic proportions.…”
On the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, which happened on his watch and ranks as one of his darkest moments, Mr. Annan writes, “We spent days frantically lobbying more than 100 governments.… I called dozens myself.… We did not receive a single serious offer. It was one of the most shocking and deeply formative experiences of my entire career.” The consequence was the brutal killing of 800,000 people in 100 days.
Mr. Annan’s honesty in describing the organization’s missed opportunities and ongoing challenges comes across as riveting and genuine. His account of what happens behind closed doors during negotiations on global issues gives the reader an exclusive insight into history in the making.
The book is divided into themes, including Africa, HIV/AIDS, peacekeeping and UN reforms. Mr. Annan’s delivery is effortless and concise. For each situation he provides just enough detail without overwhelming the reader. This book provides a great opportunity to better understand international affairs and the issues at stake.
— Rebecca Moudio
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