The Star (Nairobi)

10 December 2012

Kenya: Kofi Annan Takes the Hot Seat

interview

Dr Kofi Annan is a former Secretary-General of the UN and Nobel Peace Prize laureate. Last week he appeared on the newly launched KissTV primetime news JSO @ 7 hosted by Anchor John Sibi Okumu. Here is the transcribed interview by reporter Agatha Ngotho.

Dr Kofi Annan sir, I am holding in my hand a copy of your book In War and Peace... As a Kenyan with two presidential candidates up for a court case with the ICC we are living in some sort of anxiety as to the future, we are wondering whether you could not bring more influence to bear to sort of dispone things unless there is greater clarity on the issue?

I am afraid I don't have such influence, and as you know the only body that can defer a case before the ICC is the security council,and earlier attempts have been made by the Kenya government not only with the security council but some delegations around the world and that did not lead to the desired results.

I don't think it will work again this time if it went to trial and also the prosecutor herself was in Kenya and made it clear that she is sticking to her calender and that the Kenyan political calender will not interfere with the work of the court so I am afraid the train has left the station.

But sir, in terms of your experience is there not an issue where we can see the potentiality for a bloodbath so to speak, and you are saying that nothing can happen from the international community to let things run their course simply because they are these little niceties as it were...

I hope we are not heading towards a blood bath, I must say you surprised me when you raised the issue of a blood bath related to a court case that is intended to deal with the alleged impunity, alleged crimes against humanity, a court case that is designed to give justice to the victims.

It would be really tragic if that were to lead to a blood bath. I think what is important is we should all think through this very carefully before we act and that was the advise I offered the last time I was here.

The last time you were here, there are some in our community who are saying perhaps you should never come back. You have done your bit you are now meddling in our affairs, you are a tourist. Koffi Annan go home. How do you respond to that?

I do have a home and I have lots of things to do but what is happening here and what I am doing is also quite important I believe. I came here with my two other colleagues President Benjamin Mkwapa and Mrs Gracia Marshal the wife of President Mandela after the 2007 elections and the explosion of violence that followed and we were grateful to the Kenyan people that they worked together and pulled themselves from the brink.

All could have been lost. if we were able to save this,its a credit to the Kenyan people who were shocked by the events and were determined to protect themselves and pull back.

There was also an agenda agreed to by all the parties, the four item agenda included major reforms and the reforms are going on and we have been working with the parties towards implementation of that reforms and we have an understanding with them that we will work on the process through the elections of next year and I think if Kenya can get it right and have a free-fair election five years after that conflict, it will be such a credit to the Kenyan people.

They will set an incredible example for the continent and for the rest of the whole world. In fact you have already achieved so much through the hard work and dedication of the Kenyan civil society, religious leaders, businessmen all stakeholders, we today have perhaps the one of the most progressive constitutions in the world, we have to give the constitution meaning we have to give it life we should not let it flamber.

Sir I do believe you have a home and that home might have something to do with Ghana because you are Ghanaian and the Ghanaians are going to have elections in the very near future.

Are there any lessons to be learned from the Ghanaian experience which seems to have a historical backdrop of violence itself with people sort of being shot naked on the Sunday beaches and now what is the way to learn from that experience in Kenya?

I hope Ghana has learnt from that experience, these things happened in the past and for the past decade or two, they have held peaceful elections and have accepted that elections is a normal way of democratic rotation of leadership.

I hope the elections on Friday goes well I did an opinion piece for the Graphic in Accra urging them to respect the rules of the game, accept the results of the election and stay away from any whiff of violence and I hope it goes that way.

And in fact recently, I chaired a global commission on integrity of elections, security and democracy identifying some of the weaknesses in the electoral system globally.

And the importance of elections with integrity which confess legitimacy and the winner but also protects the interest of the loser and this is something we need to understand on my continent, on your continent and our continent.

Perhaps I would ask on this continent in you experience, your backing down from Syria, is there a leading intervention this whole idea of having lived in the United States and spending you childhood within the civil rights sort of thing? Have you been conscious of responses to you as an African has race played an influence in the way people have responded to you? Or once one wins a Nobel Prize all doors are open and respect is given?

I had a long life before I worn the Nobel Prize. But let me say that on the whole people have been correct, they have been fair. I will not say that I haven't run into racial issues particularly earlier in my career and life, but it has not been an issue.

When I have a job to do, I focus on what needs to be done and argue and reason simply and sincerely with those across the table from me and try and move them to where I think they ought to be

So maybe I have been lucky or I have been able to manage the relationships but I have not allowed race to be an issue in my dealings around the world.

One last question sir, time is of the essence, I again reading this book, this idea of poverty being at the source of all tensions on the African continent and your interest now in agriculture and the idea that the continent should feed itself. Should we go away from politics and talk about sustaining our development on the world?

Absolutely, I mean we are a young continent, this is the youngest continent in the world today. we have lots of young people who are unemployed in my country in your country and in other countries, we need to think about them.

We need to think of the future, lots of African countries are making lots of money from mining gold, diamond, from oil from gas, those revenues should be transformed into service for the people and should be used to look after the welfare of the people.

Take agriculture, we have perhaps the largest track of cultivable agricultural land in the world today, 60 per cent of the uncultivated land in Africa.

If we can improve our agricultural processes and help our small scale farmers we can do a lot. The organisation I chair, the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) which is headquartered here in Nairobi, we are doing whatever we can to help the small scale farmers by making sure they get the right seeds, teaching them how to handle fertliser in micro-doses and flooding the land with fertliser.

Working with them to gain access to finance and marketing. Trying to move them from subsistence to small businesses where they can feed their families and sell the supplies and honestly if we handle agriculture properly, Africa can become an essential part of the global food security system we can export food to the rest of the world, we used to export food to the rest of the world.

And we should get away from producing what we do not eat and import at exorbitant prices what we eat. It doesn't make sense and Agriculture can also create lots of employment for the young people who are unemployed and I would hope that if we are to make life meaningful, livable and more comfortable in the rural areas, not everybody would want to rush to our cities and end up in slums, so let's give agriculture a chance, let's invest in agriculture, let's support the women.

Most of our farmers are women who are feeding us and putting food on the table, today they are doing it alone, without support from governments, without access to money or management, we owe them that support and if we use that army of women farmers, Africa will do extremely well.

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