Coincidences can be unnerving. Two men, representing conflicting interests, rubbed shoulders at the United Nations. Kofi Annan, UN Secretary General, and John Robert Bolton, United States ambassador to the UN (2005-2006), disliked each other.
Mr Bolton was sneaked into the UN ambassadorship because there were doubts whether the Senate would confirm his appointment due to his hostile views on the UN. Mr Annan was a champion of the newly-created and Clinton-endorsed International Criminal Court. Bolton was a critic and wanted to destroy it. He pushed the US to ‘unsign’ from the ICC and masterminded the 2002 “Invasion of Hague Act”.
Bolton loves playing rough in the international field, and all he needed was an appropriate political environment. He has found his space in Donald Trump’s administration as National Security Advisor, a position once held by Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzenziski.
As Trump likes to imagine he is Andrew Jackson in confronting and drawing the wrath of the establishment of the day, Bolton is Trump’s Martin Van Buren; the fixer of people and institutions. Bolton shares with Trump a dislike for Kofi Annan and Barack Obama.
As a plane carried Annan’s body from Switzerland to join his Akan ancestors in Ghana, Bolton fired another shot at one of Annan’s main projects, the ICC. He considers it a waste of American taxpayers’ money and warned it against attempts to indict any Americans for any crimes anywhere. The timing of the attack, not necessarily the attack itself, is what attracted attention. Seemingly, it was timed to cloud Annan’s final trip.
In his 80 years, most of them spent in the US and Switzerland, Annan had acquired symbolic value among two groups – the Euros and the Africans.
He was, like with the appointment of Eliud Mathu in Kenya’s Legislative Council in 1944 and the election of Barack Obama as President of the United States in 2008, the acceptable African, one who could be trusted with responsibility to do the right thing without rocking the boat.
He was proof that Euro liberals were not “racist”. He was also the man to send to troubleshoot in Africa, as an “eminent” person who would be acceptable to Africans. He was, in that respect, like another Gold Coast man, James Aggrey, who was included in the Phelps Stokes Commission of the 1920s following the Harry Thuku anti-colonial commotions to convince Africans to accept their allotted colonial education slots. The two Gold Coasters played their roles well.
To most Africans, Annan was a source of pride that at least one of their own was ‘up there’ – where the ‘mzungu’ (white man) made decisions. The expectations were high and so were the disappointments when some of them, mainly Obama and Annan, did not appear to ‘deliver’ to ‘their’ people.
African Americans, disappointed in Obama’s presidency, wondered “what happened to Brother Barack”. Africans on the continent wondered why Annan failed to respond to the cries for help from dying Rwandese in 1994.
This failure was a big burden on Annan’s self, which then explains his subsequent enthusiasm for ICC and Responsibility to Protect (R2P). Both backfired in appearing to target Africans while exonerating the Euros.
While Africans worried about their two ‘sons’ being caught in the Euro liberal web, other Euros were hostile to the very notion of blacks holding high office. Obama and Annan appeared like implementers of ‘world government’, which is anathema to ‘American firsters’ who believe that the UN and its multilateral organs should be instruments for American unilateralism or be labelled threats to perceived American interests.
Subsequently, questioning anything American becomes an excuse for destroying those institutions. Bolton, for instance, was instrumental in the 2002 Invasion of Hague Act to stop the ICC from investigating Americans.
Trump and Bolton, leading unilateralists, disliked Annan for being the image of a possible ‘world government’ that might dare to question Euro bad behaviour. Instead of sending messages of condolences when Annan died, Bolton stressed that Trump’s views on ICC were different from those of Obama. He dismissed the ICC as “fundamentally illegitimate” and “already dead to us”.
It was thus time to bury both the idea of ICC and the man behind it.