Ghana-born Kofi Annan, who died Saturday aged 80, was the first UN chief from sub-Saharan Africa, and it was on this continent that he experienced both the most difficult moment of his career, as well as some of his biggest diplomatic successes.
Like a whole generation of officials, diplomats and foreign ministers, Annan was forever scarred by the failure of the international community to foresee and prevent the 1994 Rwandan genocide, where, according to UN figures, 800,000 people died, largely Tutsi.
Kofi Annan was 56 and just one year into his term as deputy secretary general in charge of peacekeeping operations when the deadly machetes rained down on Rwanda’s Tutsi and moderate Hutus.
Under the military command of Canadian general Romeo Daillaire, the UN’s MINUAR peacekeeping mission was deployed in Rwanda when the genocide began. But it failed to prevent the massacre, as a result of a lack of reinforcements, the deployment of which needed a Security Council vote.