United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan has expressed regret at being unable to bring an end to conflict in Africa. Mr. Annan, who will step down on December 31st, was speaking following his final visit to the continent as UN chief.
Despite prioritizing Africa during his 10 years in office, Kofi Annan admits failing to bring peace to places like Sudan and Ivory Coast. Steve Mort accompanied the Secretary General on a recent African tour and filed this report from the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.
Kofi Annan, arriving in Kenya at the start of his farewell tour of Africa, said, "I did not realize how large my Nairobi family is until now.”
Whether it was saying goodbye to UN staff, or receiving Kenya's top honor from President Mwai Kibaki, this was an emotional trip for the 68-year-old Ghanaian, and a chance for the UN's longest-serving African Secretary General to reflect.
"I thought we could have done much more and been much more successful in containing conflicts in Africa. We've resolved some, but as I leave office we have Darfur, which has broken out, we have Cote d'Ivoire. Congo, we've had elections, the first one in 40 years, and I hope everyone will respect the results. But I wished we could have pacified the continent and to get the people and the leaders to exploit the natural resources and the riches of Africa for the population and fight the poverty that has settled on the continent."
And nowhere is that poverty more evident than in Ethiopia where Kofi Annan began his UN career 40 years ago. Addis Ababa Mayor presented Annan with a ceremonial key. "It's my honor and pleasure to present you with the key to Addis Ababa."
Mr. Annan took part in a tree planting ceremony in his honor in the capital, Addis Ababa, and held talks with Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. "We remain indebted for all that he has done," said the prime minister.
Zenawi won reelection in 2005 in his country's first-ever multi-party polls.
But Annan says too many African leaders have failed to embrace democracy, and have rewritten constitutions to protect themselves.
In his speech Annan said, "Constitutions should not be changed by the whim of an individual or to favor the career of an individual. It's a document that is intended to protect the people and the nation and should stand the test of time".
Indeed, Annan's relationship with African leaders has been rocky. While publicly praising him, many politicians on the continent are much more critical in private.
James Traub, author of a book on Kofi Annan's time as UN chief, says African governments were dismayed by his UN reform plans. "He accomplished little. I don't think Africans consider him African. I think that, of course, the official rhetoric is pride on the part of the continent that one of theirs has Secretary General and so on. But for example, I remember at the time of the reform package in 2005, you heard a lot from African and other third world diplomats that the language of it was the kind of language that only would have been written by someone whose orientation was Western -- it was so much about issues of freedom and liberty and so little about the kind of social and economic rights that people in Africa care for."
But Annan touts his successes in Africa, like establishing the Millenium Development Goals -- an ambitious set of poverty reduction targets -- and tackling disease.
And he says, when he steps down, he will help promote sustainable agriculture on the continent. However, as he retires, Annan admits conflict and insecurity in Africa have left many countries in worse shape now than before he took office.