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Rory Stewart Reviews Interventions: A Life in War and Peace by Kofi Annan and Nader Mousavizadeh

Interventions: A Life in War and PeaceVerdict: carrot

Kofi Annan has published a memoir, four years after stepping down as secretary general of the UN. It is difficult to think of anyone in public policy who has been more celebrated. He has already been given awards for “courage” (the JFK Memorial Museum), for “freedom” (the University of St Gallen), and for “international justice” (the MacArthur Foundation); prizes for “security, and development”, for “culture, science and education”, and even for the “protection of human rights, the defence of pluralist democracy and north-south partnership and solidarity”. The governments of Germany, Britain, Portugal, Austria, the Netherlands, Romania and Ghana have pinned medals on his chest. And he has won the Nobel peace prize.

This brings the temptation to be snide. Does his assiduous attendance at more than 70 award and honorary doctorate ceremonies not imply a certain vanity? His membership of so many grand international boards a measure of self-importance? Are there not things even more troubling in his career: the scandal of his son’s involvement in the UN’s oil-for-food programme? Or the catastrophes that happened on his various watches at the UN: Srebenica, Somalia, Darfur – and above all, Rwanda?

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