Friday, June 17, 2005 at 11:01 AM

The United Nations: Corrupt from Head to Toe?

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

The leadership of U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan was severely compromised earlier this year, when reports revealed that he did little to prevent U.N. foot soldiers from inflicting widespread abuses upon those they were deployed to protect. That many of these abuses occurred in refugee camps in Africa, where rape and molestation rivaled the horrors of war and starvation these refugees were trying to escape, made his failure all the more shameful.

Then came the scandal of the UN’s oil-for-food programme which prompted US officials – led by Senator Norm Coleman (R-MN) – to accuse Annan not only of dereliction of duty but also of turning a blind eye to his son Kojo’s abuse of their relationship for illicit gain. The programme was designed to allow Iraq to sell controlled amounts of its oil to pay for food and medicine for its people who were suffering under UN imposed sanctions. Senator Coleman charges, however, that Kojo used Annan’s good offices in 1998 to procure a multimillion dollar contract ($10m per year) with the UN for his company Cotecna to monitor goods coming into Iraq during the term of these sanctions. But Annan denied any knowledge of his son’s activities and said that he was “exasperated by Kojo’s behaviour”. Indeed.

Kofi Annan addresses the press on his UN scandals: I heard nothing, I saw nothing and I did nothing. I am not a crook!

But now comes evidence that Annan not only had knowledge of his son’s flagrantly nepotistic dealings but that he himself facilitated this abuse of his office by insisting that he personally approve the Cotecna contract. This evidence was discovered only 3 weeks ago and is especially damaging because it comes in the form of inter-office memos written by Cotecna’s vice president Michael Wilson – a fellow Ghanaian and Kojo’s longtime friend who calls Annan uncle.

In these memos to his Cotecna associates, Wilson refers to meetings with Annan during which they discussed the company’s efforts to procure the UN contract and he expresses confidence that their bid would be successful because of “effective but quiet lobbying within diplomatic circles in New York”. Clearly, as smoking guns go, this one is smoldering!

To his credit, however, as soon as the story broke, Wilson volunteered to fall on his sword for his uncle. His gallantry was undermined, however, by the fact that it appears Annan provided the sword: namely, a statement issued yesterday, suspiciously, by the same law firm – Shillings of London – that is representing Annan’s son in this matter.

It reads in part:

Mr Wilson never met or had any discussion with the United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, on the issue of the bid for the UN contract by Cotecna at the Francophone Summit, during the bidding process, or at any time prior to the award of the contract.

Now that’s shilling for a fee. Unfortunately, it’s about as credible as Michael Jackson’s lawyer declaring that Michael has never had an inappropriate relationship with little boys.

But the context of these insider dealings should not be overlooked. After all, they occurred under UN sanctions against Sadaam Hussein’s Iraq before George W. Bush was even a household name in America. Indeed, it seems Annan, his son and Cotecna were enjoying a very lucrative enterprise before Bush cut their easy money pipeline by invading Iraq; which begs this very unsettling question:

Given what we already know about the involvement of close associates of French president Jacque Chirac (including his Interior Minister) in this oil-for-food scandal, can it be that the motives of Chirac and Annan for opposing the Iraq war (with Annan declaring it illegal despite a UN Resolution (1441) granting authority to prosecute the war) were as mercurial as the motives ascribed to Bush and Blair for waging it?

An obviously distressed Annan conspiring with his political godfather Jacque Chirac on Tuesday (when the story about the Wilson memos broke) about how to finesse these very compromising revelations.

Alas, no matter how his lawyers and PR flacks spin this tangled web of relationships, contacts and contracts, or how much he cloaks himself with the moral authority of the United Nations, it seems only a matter of time before Annan becomes irretrievably ensnared in this infernal scandal. Therefore, he should do the honorable thing and resign now before the final Volker report on this matter makes his continued leadership of the UN untenable even for the politically compromised Chirac.


  1. Anonymous June 17, 2005 at 3:13 pm

    Why don’t you call for Bush to resign given all his lies? jerk!

  2. Anonymous June 19, 2005 at 6:55 pm

    As a white liberal, I think it’s refreshing to have a black man who challenges white liberal presumptions and monolithic black thinking the way you do. I have no doubt that if Kofi Annan was white he’d be history by now; and primarily because white liberals and blacks would have been accusing him not only of corruption but also of gross neglect of Africa.

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