The Atlantic

The World’s Failure in Rwanda Changed Kofi Annan’s Worldview

The former UN secretary-general became a proponent of diplomatic interventions to alleviate human suffering. Annan died Saturday at the age of 80.
Source: Mike Hutchings / Reuters

Kofi Annan, who died Saturday at the age of 80 in Bern, Switzerland, will be remembered as the United Nation’s first secretary-general from sub-Saharan Africa, a courtly figure who oversaw the global organization during a period of tumult, and as the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. But in many ways, Annan’s legacy will be defined as much by his failures, and what he did with them, as by his many successes.

Prime among those failures was his perceived inaction to stop the genocide of 800,000 Rwandans in 1994 when he ran the UN’s peacekeeping operations, and, a year later, the Srebrenica massacre in which 8,000 Bosnian Muslims were in , her biography of Sergio Vieira de Mello, the UN diplomat who was killed in Iraq, Annan’s “name would appear in the history books beside the two defining genocidal crimes of the second half of the twentieth century.”

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