Remembering Kofi Annan

After a year, Mr. Boutros-Ghali offered him a promotion if he agreed to stay in the Spokesman’s Office.

“So, I saw Boutros on one hand, I saw Kofi on the other, and I said, ‘I’m going with this guy,’” indicating Mr. Annan.

If Boutros been reelected, Mr. Eckhard said his UN career would have been finished.

“But, as it turned out, no one expected it, Kofi was elected, and he made me his Spokesman,” Mr. Eckhard stated, kicking off a long relationship of trust.

He began briefing Mr. Annan each morning as he entered the building, walking together from the basement, taking the elevator up to the 38th floor, down the corridor and into his office, discussing the morning news reports and the day’s issues.

“And, believe it or not, in eight and half years, he never once told me what to say to the press,” Mr. Eckhard maintained.

And he trusted others as well.

The former spokesperson recalled when Shashi Tharoor, now a politician back home in India, was the UN Communications Director, how he would send cables to the field signing for Kofi Annan, “because Kofi trusted him to make the judgement, and Shashi said he grew so much with this freedom.”

“And I think everyone felt that way who worked for him,” he continued. “Kieran Prendergast, who was his Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, told me that Kofi trusted people before, or until, they prove themselves unworthy of that trust. Which, in the UN, is unusual. It’s usually the other way around.”

Mr. Eckhard felt that his former boss endeared himself to many by the way he did business.

“Other Secretaries-General tended to have this little insider circle of people of their own nationality,” he said. “Kofi had a broad circle of people he consulted, and he picked people whom he got to know, he thought were interesting – thought brought something to the table, as a part of his staff.

And on a more personal note, the former spokesperson said the Mr. Annan was “secure, confident, serene, comfortable in his skin,” and when he talked “he didn’t just talk to you about work. He always asked about your spouse, about your kids, and very often remembered their names”.

“He was fun to work for as well as inspiring,” Mr. Eckhard concluded.

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