Saturday 4 August 2012

Syria: Exit Annan, enter Lakhdar Brahimi?

Lakhdar Brahimi

I nominate former Algerian foreign minister and ambassador Lakhdar Brahimi to succeed Kofi Annan as troubleshooter for Syria.
Before giving my reasons for making the nomination, I solemnly declare that I have no inside information or tipoff from anybody and that no one asked for my opinion.
In fact, putting my unsolicited nomination in print is at odds with what I was taught by my three mass media mentors – namely, James Batal, an Amherst College graduate and a Neiman Fellow in Journalism from Harvard University; Tom Masterson, Beirut Bureau chief of The Associated Press; and Kamel Mroue, uncontested pioneer of the modern-day Lebanese press.
In initiating the saga of my journalism and publishing journey, all three used to focus on such classics as “dog bites man versus man bites dog,” the Five Ws in newsgathering and – above all -- the difference between objective news and personal opinion.
My excuse for putting forward in print Lakhdar Brahimi’s name to succeed Kofi Annan is that I am doing so as a blogger entitled to his personal opinion, and not as a journalist.
Annan, after tendering his resignation this week, would not speculate on who might replace him but sought to counter suggestions that with his departure, the peace effort was over.
“Let me say that the world is full of crazy people like me, so don’t be surprised if someone else decides to take it on,” Annan told reporters in Geneva.
Brahimi is not exactly one of the world’s crazy people and I don’t even know if UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby will throw his name into the hat.
What I know is that he has all the credentials as a peacemaker to take over where Annan left.
He has served as UN and Arab League diplomat, is a veteran conflict mediator and an expert in post-conflict reconstruction, brokered Lebanon’s 1989 Taef Agreement that involve Syria and is fluent in English, French and -- obviously but most importantly -- Arabic.
Like Annan, he is one of The Elders.
Chaired by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, The Elders is an independent group of global leaders who work together for peace and human rights. Nelson Mandela, who is not an active member of the group but remains an Honorary Elder, brought the group together in 2007.
The Elders are Martti Ahtisaari, Ela Bhatt, Lakhdar Brahim, Gro Brundtland, Fernando H. Cardoso, Jimmy Carter, Graça Machel, Mary Robinson, Desmond Tutu and Kofi Annan.
The Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi was also an Honorary Elder, until her election to the Burmese parliament last April.
You can read biographies for Lakhdar Brahimi on Wikipedia and The Fondation Chirac or the U.S./Middle East Project, Inc. websites.
I chose this but from The Fondation Chirac:
Born in Algeria in 1934, he studied law and political science in Algeria and France. During the Algerian War of Independence (1956-1962), he was a representative of the Front de Liberation Nationale (FLN) in Southeast Asia. At twenty-two, he represented the Algerian revolution in Jakarta. At the time, Indonesia’s President was Sukarno, one of the fathers of non-alignment and the struggle against colonialism.
From 1963 to 1970, Lakhdar Brahimi was the Permanent Representative to the League of Arab States in Cairo. Ambassador to the United Kingdom from 1971 to 1979, he then became the Diplomatic Advisor to the President of Algeria from 1982 to 1984 in Egypt and Sudan. Afterwards, he became Assistant Secretary General of the Arab League between 1984 and 1991.
In 1989 as Special Envoy of the Tripartite Committee of the Arab League in Lebanon, Brahimi successful negotiated the agreement that ended seventeen years of civil war: the Taef Agreement.
Algeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1991 to 1993, he was the UN Conference Rapporteur on Environment and Development in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro.
In 1993, Lakhdar Brahimi embarked upon his second career in the UN, following Boutros Boutros Ghali’s proposal to make him his “special representative”. He was sent first to South Africa, where he led the United Nations’ Observer Mission from 1993 until Nelson Mandela’s election to power in 1994. Then he was sent to Haiti from 1994 to 1996. The last year, he was sent on UN missions for open or latent conflicts in Nigeria, Cameroon, Burundi, and Sudan. Finally, he was sent to Afghanistan from 1997 to 1999 and again in 2001. He led the panel that wrote the “Brahimi Report” on UN peacekeeping operations in 2000.
He is one of “The Elders”, a group of international leaders established in the early 21st century to promote the peaceful resolution of conflicts around the world.