Could Kofi Annan be forced from his perch as United Nations secretary-general before his second term expires in 2006?
That’s the buzz around U.N. headquarters in New York as the global organization’s employees recorded a vote of no-confidence – citing “upper management” at the world body, but clearly aiming at Annan.
The U.N. staff revolt reached a peak when Annan gave a pass to official Dileep Nair, who had been accused of sexual harassment of employees and hiring favoritism. The U.N. staff had called for a formal probe of Nair’s behavior.
Annan is being called a “cover-up artist” by some sources within the U.N. after conducting what he called a “thorough review” of the charges and declaring he “had every confidence” in Nair.
The latest scandal comes on the heels of last month’s revelation that Annan aide Benon Savan, the man behind the Oil-for-Food program, previously ran a relief operation for war-torn Afghanistan in the 1980s and ’90s that was likewise riddled with waste, fraud and abuse.
In fact, only a last-minute switch of tactics by the U.N. employees caused them to make their no-confidence vote less personal. Originally, the plan was to record the vote against Annan himself, rather than upper management.
“Kofi Annan’s tenure as secretary-general is running on borrowed time,” said Tom Kilgannon of Freedom Alliance, a group that serves as a watchdog on the U.N. “He is presiding over a corrupt and failed institution and the professional bureaucrats at the U.N. understand that the best chance they have of saving their jobs and their beloved U.N. is to dump Mr. Annan overboard. Should they do so, Mr. Annan will join Kurt Waldheim and Boutros-Boutros Ghali in the annals of history as disgraced and failed U.N. leaders.”
There is talk within U.N. circles of replacing Annan with a more charismatic, high-profile figure before his second term lapses in 2008. One of the names frequently mentioned is former President Bill Clinton.
“Mr. Annan has been criticized by his own people for stonewalling independent investigations into the Oil-for-Food scandal; for failing to provide adequate security to U.N. staff in Iraq last year, and failing to hold accountable those who were in charge of Iraq security operations; and for pardoning Dileep Nair, the U.N.’s top oversight official, who U.N. employees accused of sexual harassment and violating U.N. rules governing employment practices,” said Kilgannon.
He continued: “Kofi Annan is in deep trouble. His leadership is tainted and his own people have lost faith in him. It will be difficult for him to remain secretary-general and be effective in the job. This is also an opportunity for the Bush administration “to rid themselves of Kofi Annan who has fostered anti-American sentiment and stymied U.S. plans to liberate Iraq. After all, if Kofi Annan’s own employees can’t trust him, why should the American people?”