NEW YORK. — Boutros Boutros-Ghali, who served as the United Nations secretary-general between 1992 and 1996, has died at the age of 93, the UN Security Council announced yesterday.
Venezuela’s UN Ambassador Rafael Ramirez, the current UN Security Council president, made the announcement at the start of a meeting on Yemen’s humanitarian crisis and asked members to rise for a moment of silence. The 15 council members stood in silent tribute. No other details on his death were immediately available.
Boutros-Ghali, an Egyptian politician and diplomat, was the sixth secretary-general of the UN, serving from January 1992 to December 1996.
The first secretary-general from Africa, he organised the first massive UN relief operation in Somalia when the country was struck by famine.
But success eluded him there and elsewhere as the UN 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, but his style was to wade into crowds and confront protesters whenever 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 said 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 UN and him of colonialism, adding that Somalis should be more 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.” — Agencies.