What do you do when the world gives you a gift? Do you kneel down and pray or ululate ceremoniously? How would you feel when the world demands of you your only treasured possession? Do you hold back in silence or embrace liberty through offering? Then why do we fail to honour our past-present legends when global leaders are now more than ever calling for singular and collective action?
Last year February, Africa's first son to the world (UN), was laid to rest in what should be noted as a historical event across the world. His Excellency, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, not only made history by becoming an Egyptian diplomat, but most importantly, he is the first African to become the secretary general of the United Nations from 1992-1996.
Remarkable as was, the Egyptian was controversial as a Christian in a Muslim region. Ghali, as he's fondly known, impacted the world through his speeches from his formative years as a peace-activist, before he became a global icon when he accepted the global role at the UN. His term in office included the Rwandan genocide, the international population development conference, and the US, French and British bombing of Iraq under President George HW Bush.
He was later in 1993 awarded the first Path to Peace award, presented annually by the Path to Peace Foundation which works in conjunction with the Holy See Observer Mission to the UN.
From his days as a veteran Egyptian diplomat, Ghali played a critical role in the United Nations reform proposals initiated during his tenure. The world citizen in me continues to remember him for the proposals he made in two major reports to the General Assembly – "An Agenda for Peace" and "An Agenda for Development".
At some point whilst with a global NGO, I was mandated to recruit him to endorse our ambitious program to which he said, "Marishane, do not attempt to solve global challenges by losing touch with the ground." My attempts to get his endorsement were unsuccessful though I felt great for having received his attention. In 2013 at the OYW Summit in SA, I was privileged to co-moderate a session with the former Irish President, then UN Secretary General's Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa, Ms. Mary Robinson during an almost hot debate on education for global transformation.
Ghali was "A distinguished servant leader of his country and the international community who valued education for global change."
Speaking to Ms. Robinson about Africa's leaders at the UN, she described Ghali as "A distinguished servant leader of his country and the international community who valued education for global change", Mary Robinson continued to say "Do not therefore, Koketso, undermine the tiny ripples of effect you have in your community, they go a very long way towards shaping the future we want".
During the same event, I had the honour to interact with his successor the Seventh former UN SG, Kofi Anan who worked under Ghali and he described him as "someone who made a lifelong commitment to peacekeeping operations, particularly in the Middle East, dating back to his role in securing the Camp David Accords. Ghali is a valuable voice in the world".
Fast forward to the year 2014, I was fortunate to be among the UNAOC fellowship, a program strengthened by Anan, when I closely interacted with the then Eighth UN SG Ban Ki Moon in Asia, asking him about his impression of his predecessor, he frankly said: "Ghali is a well-respected statesman whose 'formidable experience and intellectual power to the task of piloting the United Nations through one of the most tumultuous and challenging periods in its history, and guiding the Organisation of the Francophonie in subsequent years."
At or near the anniversary of his passing, as his family near and far across the globe remembers him and his well lived moments. I join them in remembrance through a poem delivered by the USA Inaugural Presidential Poet Laureate Dr. Elizabeth Alexander at the Inauguration of USA's first African American President, Barack Hussein Obama.
Love beyond marital, filial, national,
love that casts a widening pool of light,
love with no need to pre-empt grievance.
In today's sharp sparkle, this winter air,
anything can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,
praise song for walking forward in that light.
May God rest his soul in eternal peace. May his universal entourage continue protecting his territory. Farewell to thee, Dr. Boutros Ghali.