UNITED NATIONS – Former UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali has died, Venezuelan UN Ambassador Rafael Dario Ramirez Carreno, president of the UN Security Council for February, said on Tuesday. He was 93.
An Egyptian, Boutros-Ghali served one five-year term as UN chief from 1992 to 1996.
The 15-member Security Council observed a minute’s silence. No further details on his death were immediately available.
As the United Nations’ first secretary-general from Africa, Boutros-Ghali associated himself with the famine in Somalia and organized the first massive UN relief operation in the Horn of Africa nation.
But success eluded him there and elsewhere as the United Nations tottered in an increasingly disorderly post-communist world, with the world body and the big Security Council powers underestimating the deep animosity behind many conflicts.
He was criticised for the UN’s failure to act during the 1994 Rwandan Genocide and for not pushing hard enough for UN intervention to end Angola’s civil war in the 1990s, which was at the time one of the longest running conflicts in the world.
Boutros-Ghali found himself jeered in Sarajevo, Mogadishu and Addis Ababa. His style was to wade into crowds and confront protesters when security guards permitted. “I am used to fundamentalists in Egypt arguing with me,” he told Reuters.
He shocked many in Sarajevo when he said he was not trying to belittle the horrors in Bosnia but that there were other countries where the “total dead was greater than here.”
In Ethiopia, he told Somali warlords and clan leaders to stop accusing the United Nations and him of colonialism, adding that Somalis should be worried that former colonial powers would ignore their plight if they continued to fight.
“The Cold War is finished,” he said. “Nobody is interested in the poor countries in Africa or anywhere in the world. They can easily forget Somalia in 24 hours.”
When commenting on the Rwanda genocide, he said “For us, genocide was the gas chamber – what happened in Germany. We were not able to realize that with the machete you can create a genocide.”