Global Policy Forum

Chronology of the Secretary General Election 1996



mid-1995: Secretary General Boutros Ghali floats the idea that he may be interested in a second term. Before his election in 1991, he had said that he would only serve for one term, but it seems increasingly clear that he will seek a second one. Many member states encourage him to do so.

late 1995 and early 1996: President Clinton and his top advisors discuss whether or not the administration should support the re-election of Secretary General Boutros-Ghali. Republican attacks on the UN and the Secretary-General are seen as a potential liability in the President's re-election campaign. The President's declining use of multilateral diplomacy is also a factor in the equation. The details of the discussion and the exact date it was taken are not known. The final decision may not have been reached until March or April.

11 January 1996: Tension flares between the Clinton Administration and the Secretary General. Boutros-Ghali, speaking in London, emphasizes the organization's severe financial crisis and says that "the effectiveness of the organization is being corroded from within, because it is being denied the means to do its job properly." "There is a certain dishonesty here," he says. "Those, who, by denying funding, make the United Nations ineffective, then say that they are withholding funding because the United Nations is ineffective. There is a need for greater frankness about the current situation." The reference to the United States is clear and the US Mission in New York reacts. Speaking to reporters, US representative Madeleine Albright says of the Secretary General: "He should be a little concerned with his choice of words." A US Mission spokesperson later says: "The Secretary General should concentrate on reform rather than casting blame on particular member states." A UN spokesperson replies later: "There is no reason for anyone to be thin-skinned when they are reminded of their treaty obligations."

late February 1996: In the March-April issue of Foreign Affairs, the leading establishment foreign policy journal in the United States, the Secretary General publishes an article entitled "Global Leadership After the Cold War." Towards the end he says: "If one word above all is to characterize the role of the secretary-general, it is independence. The holder of this office must never be seen as acting out of fear of, or in an attempt to curry favor with, one state or group of states. . . He must be prepared to resist pressure, criticism, and opposition in depending the charter's call for all member states to respect the "exclusively international character of the responsibilities of the Secretary-General and the staff and not to seek to influence them in the discharge of their responsibilities."

20 March 20 1996: A speech in Paris continues to express the Secretary General's preoccupation with the difficulties of his role. "The States want you to be both self-effacing yet enterprising, quiet yet dynamic, disciplined yet to have imagination. Clearly, anyone who accepts a role defined in such contradictory terms faces a challenging task." He goes on to say: "In recent years I have often witnessed or been subjected to harsh judgements, including by those very people who were the main obstacles to the efficiency of the United Nations. I have also seen the Secretary General take the blame for things that were due to the hesitations and contradictions of States -- and, strangely enough, the most powerful States."

April 1996: By early April, if not well before, the Clinton administration has made its decision to oppose the reelection of the SG. High US officials conduct preliminary discussions with the Secretary General, seeking to persuade him to step down. At this point, many report that the US offers the SG a one-year extension if he would agree to depart and not seek a full second term. He refuses, considering that he has strong support from other countries.

April 8, 1996: Risking further tension with the Clinton administration, Secretary General Boutros Ghali publishes an op ed piece in the New York Times, headlined "The U.S. Must Pay Its Dues."

April 30, 1996: In an article on the UN financial crisis, the New York Times opines that the UN budget disputes between Congress and the Administration "is likely to affect the maneuverability of the Clinton Administration in deciding whether to support a second term for Secretary General Boutros Boutros Ghali" and it states that U.S. officials making the decision "have been lukewarm to negative" about the SG.

7 May 1996: The Secretary General releases a report to the Security Council of a special investigation into an Israeli army shelling of a UN post at Qana in Southern Lebanon and the deaths of many refugees who had taken shelter there. The Israeli government had insisted that the incident, which took place on 18 April, was an accident. The report by respected military experts provides strong evidence for its conclusion that the shelling was done on purpose. Israel and the United States are both angry at the report. For the Clinton administration it is one more instance of a strong-willed SG that is difficult to control.

13 May 1996: US Secretary of State Warren Christopher meets Secretary General Boutros-Ghali at his official residence in New York to inform him of the definite US decision that it will veto his re-election. (The SG later says this was the first time he had any direct indication from the US that it was unhappy with him, though friends had warned him of trouble). Boutros-Ghali asks Christopher for the reasons the U.S. opposes him, but Christopher refuses, saying he does not wish to jeopardize their personal friendship. The SG tells Christopher that he hopes the US will change its mind and says: "You are a lawyer. Won't you represent my case to the President?" "I am the President's lawyer," replies Christopher stiffly.

May-June 1996: As the election campaign heats up, Republican candidates, including presidential candidate Bob Dole, step up their criticism of the United Nations and refer to the Secretary General as the embodiment of all that is said to be wrong with the UN.

19 June 1996: The Clinton administration decides to go public with its decision to veto the SG. US Secretary of State Warren Christopher phones the New York Times to inform them anonymously that the Clinton Administration will not support the re-election of the Secretary General. The Times phones Bonn, reaching the Secretary General with the news and he in turn announces that he will definitely seek another five-year term. His spokesman in New York later makes an official announcement to the press at UN headquarters.

20 June 1996: The New York Times runs a lead story, datelined 19 June, quoting "senior officials" that the United States government would oppose a second term for UN Secretary General Boutros-Ghali and that it would use the veto, if necessary, in the Security Council to block his candidacy. The officials are said to have described the decision as "irrevocable". A "senior official" was said to fault the Secretary General for "resisting" US-led initiatives to "reform the bureaucracy" of the UN. -- In statements to the press, the French government affirms its strong support for the Secretary General.

21 June 1996: The Times runs a follow-up story quoting White House spokesman Michael McCurry that "it is important to have leadership that is capable of reforming the UN bureaucracy and decreasing the cost of financing the United Nations." This and other background statements from government officials suggest that the Administration is expecting further budget cuts and radical structural changes at the UN in the future -- cuts that the rest of the membership do not support. By linking "reform," financing and the question of a second term for the Secretary General, the Clinton Administration has complicated and deepened the UN's financial crisis as well as the reform debate.

23 June 1996: In a lead editorial on Sunday, the New York Times insists that the Secretary General has failed to address "the organization's bloated bureaucracy and its history of carelessness and wasteful financial management" -- language mirroring the statements in Washington and supporting further downsizing.

late June 1996: Stories in the US press reveal that the "high official" mentioned in the Times articles was Secretary of State Warren Christopher, who himself phoned the times to "leak" the news. Many diplomats at the UN are stunned by the casual way in which the decision was leaked, rather than announced. They are also surprised that the Clinton administration made virtually no effort to engage in prior consultations. A number of envoys are quoted off the record as feeling "angry" and "resentful." Speculation turns to possible ways the US veto could be overridden and whether the US opposition to the Secretary General might change after the US presidential elections in early November

late June, early July: In the runup to the annual conference of the Organization for African Unity in Cameroon, which begins on July 6, US diplomats urge Africans to propose another name for the post of Secretary General. To increase the pressure, Africans are told that they must abandon Boutros Ghali otherwise the post will be opened up to persons from outside the region. This threat is circulated in the form of a United States Information Agency report, quoting an unnamed official as saying that African loyalty to Boutros Ghali would "destroy the chances of Africa to retain the Secretary General's post for a second term." The Africans refuse the bullying and decide to give the Secretary General an endorsement.

July 1996: Many names of potential candidates circulate, including several women's names -- Mary Robinson, President of Ireland, and Gro Harlan Brundtland, Prime Minister of Norway. But there is also a strong sense that -- since Secretaries General from other continents got two terms -- Africa has a special claim on the Secretary Generalship for the next five years. Most countries continue to support a second term for Boutros Ghali. In addition to France, China and Russia give him their support. Germany and Japan also are supportive, as are many European countries. A US diplomatic campaign is said to be in full swing, to persuade friendly governments to ditch Boutros Ghali.

22 July 1996: The Clinton Administration acts tough towards the UN and the Secretary General, threatening to take action against any UN employees found to be campaigning for the re-election of Secretary General Boutros-Ghali at the organization's expense. US Mission spokesman James Rubin states to the press "it is our intention to look into how U.N. personnel are being used by the Secretary General for this purpose." The Spokesman, Sylvana Foa, responds angrily, saying that unsubstantiated charges against the Secretary General are akin to "McCarthyism" in the US in the 1950's. Many see these charges as part of a very carefully-planned US campaign.

August, 1996:: Many governments and UN delegates continue to hope that the Clinton administration position is determined only temporarily by the November presidential elections and that the administration will change its mind later. Facing isolation and anger on the issue, the Clinton administration does not propose any alternative names.

September 1, 1996: A book by Erskine Childers and Brian Urquhart on the method of selecting the Secretary General is released with considerable press attention. A revised version of a book the two authors issued in 1990, the study argues for a single seven-year term for SGs and a well-organized and rational search process. An article in the New York Times quotes US Delegate Madeleine Albright criticizing the report. "What concerns us is a bureaucratic process," she is quoted as having said. Ms. Albright goes on to affirm that the United States opposes any change in the method of selection.

September 1996: US officials reaffirm the plan to veto the Secretary General's second term. In the Security Council, however, it is decided that the formal discussions and voting on the matter -- which usually in the past have taken place in mid-October, after the General Debate in the General Assembly, will not begin until after the US presidential elections.

18 September 1996: US Ambassador Madeleine Albright says that the job description of the Secretary General has varied from administrative officer, to diplomat to statesman. She makes it clear that what is needed at present is an administrative officer, in charge of reform.

24 September 1996: US President Bill Clinton speaks at the UN as part of the annual General Debate. He declines to attend a luncheon by the Secretary General and refuses to meet with Boutros-Ghali to discuss the US position on the upcoming SG election.

24 October 1996 (UN Day): US Ambassador to the UN Madeleine Albright spoke at Columbia University in New York. She said, among other things that the ideal profile of the next SG. She said that the next SG should concentrate on the reform of the Secretariat, be a good administrator and not aspire to be a world leader or a prominent diplomat like Boutros-Ghali.

1 November 1996: In the November issue of Le Monde Diplomatique, an article by Eric Rouleau sharply criticizes the United States for its position on the SG election, saying "the world's only superpower has declared war on the man who enjoys the sympathy of the great majority of member states of the UN."

5 November 1996: In US elections, President Clinton is reelected by a large margin. Republicans retain control of the Congress, but talk about cooperation with the President in post-election statements. From the vantage point of the SG election, the reelection of Clinton is a positive sign for the current Secretary General, as is the conclusion of the electoral campaign, but the continuing Republican majority does not bode well for a reversal of administration policy. -- In the days immediately after the election, a number of European heads of government write to Pres. Clinton to suggest a renewal for Boutros Ghali, but the President does not even reply -- an ominous sign.

8 November 1996 The United States loses a three-way contest for two seats on the influential Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions. Most observers take this as an indicator of loss of influence resulting from Washington's non-payment of dues. The US position on the Secretary General issue is thought to be a factor.

11 November 1996: In a letter to the President of the Security Council, Egypt formally puts forward the name of Boutros Boutros Ghali for a second term. -- The conservative Washington Times newspaper publishes a lengthy interview by editor Arnaud de Borchgrave with Secretary General Boutros-Ghali. When asked why he thinks he will be vetoed by the United States, he says he doesn't know and has not been told. "If there was a trigger," he says, "it was probably that I was too independent as Secretary General," he says. He indicates he learned that the US decision on the matter was taken in late 1995. [This need not be taken as definitive, eds.] When asked what he considers his greatest accomplishments, he answers: "getting the global community to focus on how to cope with the awesome problems of globalization" in the great global conferences. His greatest failure: "that I was unable to convince the U.S. administration about the importance of the United Nations, to which the U.S. now owes $1.7 billion." This major interview is very friendly towards the SG and allows him to set forward his ideas on many subjects. Observers wonder: does it indicate some surprising new conservative support for the SG in opposition to the President?

12 November 1996: Security Council members meet informally at the elegant La Grenouille restaurant and agree to procedures for the selection of the Secretary General, including a first consideration on 18 November, at which the name only of Boutros-Ghali will be presented. The Council adopts an elaborate set of rules for the process, including several novel features, such as a stipulation that nominations of other names can be submitted secretly. But the meeting serves as a sad remainder that there are no standard procedures for the selection process. Further, the procedures adopted say nothing about the qualifications being sought or means to find the most qualified candidate. -- The day after the de Borchgrave interview, a column by conservative New York Times writer M.L. Rosenthal, takes the United States government to task for not supporting Boutros Ghali for a second term. Rosenthal speaks of "the anger of most U.N. members at the decision to mug the Secretary General" and asserts that "only Dag Hammarskjold of Sweden earned as much respect as this Secretary General." Calling for a compromise of a two-year renewal for Boutros-Ghali, Rosenthal says that in this way President Clinton "would show that the U.S. had not taken leave of common sense, self-interest or a decent respect of the rights and opinions of friends."

16 November 1996: Prominent obituaries of Alger Hiss appear in the US press. Hiss, who died on 15 November, was an important government figure in the Roosevelt Administration and had a significant role in the founding of the United Nations. He was later accused of espionage and eventually jailed in the early 1950s for perjury during the "McCarthy Period." A bete noir for conservatives and a martyr for progressives, Hiss was a symbol of the early debate over the UN in American politics. Obituaries and editorial comments made it clear that the debate is still very much alive and profoundly influences US-UN relations, including the dispute over the Secretary General.

17 November 1996: The New York Times runs an editorial arguing that a new Secretary General is inevitable, due to the impending US veto. The editorial claims that in spite of some strengths, Boutros-Ghali has "shown little interest in human rights" and it argues that a new SG "needs to move more forcefully than Mr. Boutros-Ghali has to streamline the U.N. staff." -- In the evening, Amb. Madeleine Albright dines at the residence of the Secretary General. According to reliable reports that emerge later, Albright tells the SG that if he withdraws from the race, he would be given a Geneva-based foundation to run and a new title of "Secretary General Emeritus." Boutros-Ghali, a wealthy man, dismisses the offer, saying he is not looking for another job. Privately, he considers it offensive. Other diplomats later describe the offer in such terms as as "ludicrous." Among other things, it is not clear where the money for this "foundation" could have come from.

18 November 1996: The Security Council holds a consultation in the morning on the question of the election of the Secretary General and decides to hold a formal meeting the next day at 10:00 AM to vote on the sole candidate -- Boutros Boutros Ghali. US Secretary of State Warren Christopher has released a letter instructing Amb. Madeleine Albright to cast a veto in that vote. It appears that all other fourteen members express support for Boutros Ghali.

19 November 1996: The New York Times runs a story "U.S. Stands Alone Against U.N. Chief" in which it quotes an unnamed U.S. official as saying that Congress will not agree to pay the US assessments to the UN if Boutros Ghali remains Secretary General. US delegate Albright is quoted as "ruling out" a compromise of two or three additional years for Boutros-Ghali. The article says that various heads of state have lobbied on his behalf with the Clinton administration, including Jacques Chirac of France, Helmut Kohl of Germany and Prime Minister Jean Chretien of Canada. The US is said to have requested a secret ballot on Boutros Ghali, rather than the usual show of hands -- presumably in an effort to encourage (deniable) negative votes. -- At the UN, the Security Council meets as scheduled at 10:00 AM in a "formal private session." Only permanent representatives and two aides are allowed in the room. The Council votes on a draft resolution co-sponsored by ten members, including Russia, France and China, but not including Britain, Italy, Poland, Republic of Korea and the United States. The vote is 14-1, with the United States casting the sole negative vote, a veto. The United States persuaded no other state to vote negatively or even to abstain, in spite of the secret ballot. Council President, Amb. Wisnumurti of Indonesia says after the vote: "Now it is the turn again of the African countries to come up with the name of a candidate or candidates." Amb. Albright announces that the United States has no candidate "We are waiting for the African countries to come forward with a list of viable candidates," she says. -- Later, the SG does not withdraw after the first US veto, as some thought possible. The African Group meets in the afternoon to consider its next step. There are intense consultations with capitals. Some delegate speculate that the confrontation over the Secretary General is really a confrontation over the future of the UN. Everyone is fed up with the high-handed way the United States has been acting and many hope to force the US into a more cooperative approach.

20 November 1996: The New York Times runs a front page story that reports on the Security Council vote and provides material from a weekend interview the Secretary General gave to Times reporter Barbara Crossette. "The United States, he suggested, has developed an attitude not unlike that of the Roman Empire. 'Like in Roman times, they have no diplomacy,' he said of Washington in its current mode. 'You don't need diplomacy if you are so powerful.'" Crossette also notes that administration officials are "fond of saying" that the Secretary General has "such a negative, arrogant image that he had become 'radioactive' in Washington." But overall, the tone of the article is supportive of the SG, like many other articles in recent days.

21 November 1996: The Security Council meets and decides to take up the matter of the Secretary General again on Monday 25 November. There is expectation that someone will call for another vote and a possibility that the 14-1 count will not stand. Britain is reported ready to back away from the confrontation and return to its usual partnership with Washington. Others are said to consider following suit. -- An emissary from the White House meets with the Secretary General and makes the "foundation" offer again, but is again rebuffed. -- The conservative New York Post runs an editorial charging that in vetoing Boutros-Ghali the Clinton administration "indulged an obsession" and "demonstrated extraordinary diplomatic isolation," going on to say that "the notion that Boutros Boutros-Ghali did a poor job remains unproven" and concluding "this has been a sorry show."

22 November 1996: While African delegations agonize over whether or not to propose alternate names to that of Boutros-Ghali, the corridors of the UN are abuzz with rumor as the selection process inches forward. Meanwhile, at a conference on the global impact of television held at UN headquarters, CNN founder Ted Turner criticizes the United States for vetoing the Secretary General. "Who is the United States to stand alone against the re-election of this good man here" Turner said, continuing: "We believe in democracy. That means the majority rules and the majority voted 14 to one." "Even England voted to elect this man," he went on, "And England always does what the United States asks them to do."

25 November 1996: The Security Council meets to consider again the question of Secretary General, but takes no vote. Reportedly, the United States does not want a vote because it wants to avoid another humiliation and the supporters of the Secretary General do not want a vote either, because it might show diminishing support. The Council agrees to meet for another discussion on the 29th. Amb. Legwaila Legwaila of Botswana, a member of the Security Council, announces that the African countries refuse to propose other candidates for Secretary General. "We have a list composed of one person, Dr. Boutros-Ghali," he announces to the press at UN headquarters. The United States had hoped that the Africans would propose other names and so open up discussions leading to the election of another candidate. In the absence of another name, further discussions are stalled and the possibilities of a renewed term for Boutros-Ghali seem to increase. Rumors of a compromise abound. Italian Foreign Minister Lamerto Dini is said to have proposed the re-election of Boutros Ghali, but only for a 2-years term, with a subsequent (early) election of another Secretary General, still from the African continent. Dini has said that this diplomatic compromise could unlock the present stalemate. -- A commentary on the SG election appears in the influential New Yorker magazine. -- The 52-member Organization for African Unity begins consultations at the level of heads of state or government, concerning whether other African candidates will be put forward. Pressure to do so is intense from the United States.

26 November 1996: A story in the New York Times announces that Africans are backing another term for the Secretary General. "The United States has refused to name its own candidate, knowing that in the current mood here, that person would be rejected," writes Times correspondent Barbara Crossette. She indicates that for the moment, Security Council members have not moved from where they stood at the time of the 14-1 vote on 19 November. "We will see what the Africans do," German ambassador Tono Eitel is quoted as saying. "If they are still behind him, I don't see much reason for many countries to change their positions." -- On the same day, US Secretary of State Warren Christopher appears on a television news program. When asked whether there has been any change in administration policy, he speaks of the "firmness of our conviction that new leadership is necessary" and says that the US is looking for "sound,wise, prudent reform leadership at the UN." Christopher goes on to say that he hopes "that the African countries and others will come forward with some new candidates who could be considered . . ."

29 November 1996: The Council meets for an hour in consultations about the Secretary General elections. Many still hope that the Clinton administration will bend, but US delegate Madeleine Albright tells members privately that there will be no compromise and that Boutros Ghali must go. On leaving the Council chamber, she talks to the press. "We are waiting for the OAU to come back to us," she says, "and we are looking forward to receiving those soon." She tells the press that the US position remains unchanged "We have said we need a new Secretary General and it is our position that no compromise formula is acceptable." -- Meanwhile, in Africa, the OAU consultations continue.

2 December 1996: A letter from the current Chairman of the OAU, Paul Biya of Cameroon, is made public. Dated 29 November, it says that Africans must add to the list of candidates and tells governments to make their nominations known to the Security Council. "The logjam is broken," says an elated Madeleine Albright, "President Biya's letter is a very important step forward." Other African names circulate -- Kofi Anan, Olara Otunnu, Salim Salim, Amara Essy.

3 December 1996: A New York Times article headlines "African Officials Shift Allegiance," announcing the shift in the OAU position. Correspondent Barbara Crossette writes that Boutros Ghali's friends and advisors are urging him to withdraw. But, curiously, she says nothing about those who must also be urging him to stay in the race, or why they may be doing so. The geopolitical struggle at the heart of the contest remains hidden. But in an interesting "OpEd" piece in the Times, author William Shawcross praises Boutros-Ghali, doubts the wisdom of the US veto, but castigates France as having "gleefully and irresponsibly" used the issue "to embarrass the United States" and having "made it as hard as possible for any other good African candidate to emerge." -- On the same day, news reports say that the leaders of France, Germany and Italy have joined to urge President Clinton to give Boutros Ghali a two-year extension.  - Meanwhile, Council President Paolo Fulci of Italy is officially infomed by an African diplomat that African states are preparing several nominations. He then telephones the Secretary General to inform him that new African names will be forthcoming and that it will be necessary to put them on the ballot.  Butros Ghali says he does not want his name to appear on the ballot with the new names and asks that his candidacy be "suspended" but not withdrawn.

4 December 1996: The Council has not yet heard officially from African states and none, apparently, want to be the first the submit a name while Boutros Ghali formally remains a candidate.  Amb. Fulci informs the Council in the morning consultations of the Secretary General's decision. After the consultation, he announces to the press that the Secretary General has decided "to suspend his candidature for the time being." The spokesman's office later affirms that BBG is still in the race but has only "suspended" his candidacy. This clears the way for African names to be put forward. As added pressure, Madeleine Albright again threatens that if African names are not forthcoming, names from other continents will be considered. She continues to rule out a second term for Boutros Ghali, even an abbreviated one. [In Washington, Albright's name is mentioned as the most likely successor to Secretary of State Warren Christopher.] Fulci tells the press that the Council will take up the matter on Friday (the 6th) and Monday (the 9th).

5 December 1996: The New York Times runs a story by correspondent Barbara Crossette reporting on the Secretary General's move to suspend his candidacy. The story reveals for the first time the unusual US offer of a foundation job and emeritus title to the Secretary General if he would step aside, an offer first made on 17 November. The article cites officials and diplomats as saying "it was never clear where the money to finance another foundation would be found, especially one with a headquarters in Geneva, one of the world's more expensive cities." A US official is quoted as saying: "We do expect to have a new Secretary General by January 1." -- Madeleine Albright is named by Pres. Clinton as the new Secretary of State. Rep. Bill Richardson (D, NM) is mentioned as a likely successor to the UN post. The Albright nomination is seen by many around the UN as a further setback in the bid of Boutros Ghali for a second term. Some see it as a positive development for the UN, while others -- recalling her negative qualities -- wonder whether a UN that scarcely flourished with her as US representative can do better with her in Foggy Bottom.

6 December 1996: The Security Council meets. Four African states have submitted names for its consideration. Cote d'Ivoire has submitted the name of Amara Essy, its Foreign Minister, who was President of the General Assembly at the 49th Session (1994-95). Ghana has submitted the name of Under Secretary General Kofi Annan who is in charge of UN peacekeeping. Niger has submitted the name of Hamid Algabid, Secretary General of the Islamic Conference Organization. Mauretania has submitted the name of a fourth candidate, Ahmedou Ould Abdallah. According to reliable reports, the Council decides not to vote on these four names, since other names are said to be on the way, including Salim Salim, Secretary General of the Organization for African Unity. Further discussion is scheduled for Monday. But time is running out. General Assembly President Razali Ismail has announced that the GA will adjourn on December 17, come what may -- allowing only seven working days for the Council to make its decision and the General Assembly to act on it. -- Given the large number of candidates, and the lack of a clear favorite, meeting the deadline could be a serious problem. Handicappers point out that Kofi Annan is not enough of a Francophone to gain the support of France (though he speaks French fluently); Essy may not speak English well enough to get the nod; Hamid Algabid is too much of an Islamic fundamentalist.

9 December 1996: Monday arrives and additional names do not surface, contrary to expectations. Salim Salim, Secretary-General of the OAU, is one important name that does not reach nomination. South Africa does not nominate him because France threatens a certain veto, since Salim does not speak French. Security Council president Paolo Fulci announces that straw polls will begin again on Tuesday the10th at 3:00 PM.

10 December 1996: At its afternoon session, the Council takes "staw polls" on the four African candidates already on the table. In these polls, members vote secretly either to "encourage" or "discourage" a candidacy. Polls are taken with colored paper (red for Permanent Members, white for Non-Permanent Members) to indicate where vetoes may lie. The polls last for only 45 minutes and soon the results of these secret deliberations are widely known. In the first round, Under Secretary General Kofi Annan attracts the most support, with twelve "encourage" and only two "discourage," one of which is red. Under the circumstances, this is considered surprisingly strong support. Amara Essy receives eleven favorable votes and four unfavorable, including two red. The two other candidates trail with 7 positive votes each and two vetoes. On a second round, Annan attracts ten positive votes but three "discourage" including one red slip, while Essy sinks to seven positive votes and two red slips. Hamid Algabid gets just five positives and Ould Abdallah only three, putting these two well out of the running. Well-informed observers say that France is blocking Annan, who is seen as the US candidate, while the US and Britain are blocking all the Francophone candidates. The Council, stalemated for the time being, decides to resume its discussions on the SG on Wednesday. -- On emerging from the closed deliberations, Council President Paolo Fulci jests that the secretive and drawn-out process is like choosing a Pope, except that the Security Council consultations room could hardly match the Sistine Chapel. "If you stare at the ceiling, there are no frescoes by Michelangelo to inspire you," he says.

11 December 1996: The New York Times publishes an article on the SG election emphasizing the "split" or "confrontation" between the US and France and the possibility of a "prolonged stalemate." The article concludes: "several other potential candidates, and Mr. Boutros-Ghali, are in the wings waiting to see if the Council will have to look for other names." -- Other candidate names float around the corridors -- There is Moustapha Niasse, Foreign Minister of Senegal, Wally N'Dow of Gambia who heads the UN Centre for Human Settlements in Nairobi, Burundi's UN ambassador Nsanze Terence, Lansanne Outtara, a World Bank Deputy Executive Director who is a former Prime Minister of Ivory Coast, Lakhdar Brahimi a former Algerian Foreign Minister. And Olara Otunnu, President of the New York-based International Peace Academy, who is from Uganda. -- A second round of polling takes place in the Council at 11:30. There are three polls. Annan gets 12 positive votes on the first and 11 in the second and third, with a single red slip. Essy gets 7 positives on the first two and then drops to 6, with two red "discourages" each time. Ould Abdallah draws just 4 supporters on the first round and 3 on the next two, while Algabid gets 4-2-2 -- both draw two red. -- After the results become known, the African Group meets amid concern that candidates from other regions might be invited to come forward. Pressure on France mounts.

12 December 1996: The Security Council again has a poll. Annan gets 13 positive votes on the first and 14 on the second, with even Egypt voting in his favor. France alone blocks his candidacy. Essy has only 7 positive votes. Speculation hinges on the strength of the French position. If France insists on continuing with its veto, perhaps another candidate will emerge. There are rumors that US representative Albright has met with her French counterpart.

13 December 1996: On a rainy Friday the 13th, the Security Council consults again. The French have decided to change position and not to veto Annan. The other candidates withdraw and the Council in an informal vote unanimously endorses Annan. An announcement is then made by Council President Fulci and Secretary General Boutros Ghali makes a statement that "warmly congratulates" Annan though his spokesman Sylvana Foa. Later in the afternoon, the Council holds its formal vote and unanimously elects Under Secretary General Kofi Annan as the UN's seventh Secretary General.

17 December 1996:The General Assembly holds a routine vote shortly before adjourning. Kofi Annan is sworn in. The long struggle over the SG is over.

Postscript: 1 January 1997: The New York Times runs a story by correspondent Barbara Crossette which reports on a final interview with Boutros-Ghali. The issues of the election campaign are discussed. "He remains persuaded that he was sacrificed for domestic political gain," she writes and quotes his comment on Madeleine Albright and Congressional Republicans: "'She was trying to promote herself,' he said. 'If you are attacking the United Nations, you are with the others.'"


More Information on the 1996 Secretary General Election
More Information on Past Secretary Generals

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FAIR USE NOTICE: This page contains copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Global Policy Forum distributes this material without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C § 107. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.