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Kofi Annan: I wish Nigeria action had come sooner

May 7th, 2014
02:10 PM ET

By Mick Krever, CNN

Action by the Nigerian government and international partners to go after the group that has held more than 200 girls captive in that country should have come sooner, former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Wednesday.

“I think the government should do all it can to get the girls free,” he said, “and I’m very happy that the U.S., the U.K., and other governments are teaming up with Nigeria to resolve this issue.”

“I wish this had happened earlier, but it is happening, and the Nigerian people are also demanding action.”

Boko Haram abducted 276 schoolgirls last month, and Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has come under fire after waiting three weeks to publicly acknowledge the kidnappings.

The Nigerian government also now accepted U.S. and British offers of assistance, officials with those governments said.

The kidnapping, Annan said, are “abominable.”

“It is something that should not be happening in modern-day Africa.”

Annan is uniquely placed to address the issue.

He is an elder statesman of sorts – a member of “The Elders,” in fact – and has spent his time since leaving the U.N. to push for democracy, conflict-resolution, and trying to raise up Africa’s poorest and most vulnerable.

Annan chairs the Africa Progress Panel, which is due to release its latest report soon.

“I think one of the areas we recommend in the report – and [the Nigerians] are beginning to do something about that – is really focus on expanding and working on agriculture,” Annan said.

Annan on Nigeria, South Africa, Syria

“Two-thirds of Africans earn their living from agriculture. Others are fishermen and they are on the beaches. And if you can take agriculture seriously, and fishing, you create lots of jobs. The people, if they can make a living in rural areas, are not going to rush the cities and end up in shanty towns.”

Change, he said, has to be “transformative.”

“We need to try and bridge the gap between the poor and the rich. And we need to ensure education for the young people, particularly girls.”

Change, in leadership at least, may not come to South Africa, where the African National Congress – in power since the end of apartheid – is expected to win elections currently under way.

But the participation for the first of a horde of so-called “born-frees” – South Africans young enough never to have experienced apartheid first-hand – is an exciting development to many.

“It’s a wonderful phrase, calling themselves ‘born-free,’ so they have no baggage,” Annan said. “They want good governance, they want democracy, they want to be able to exercise their rights. And I think if they vote in the right numbers, they will make [a] difference.”

“I think the young generation are getting organized, civil society is becoming more active and more robust – not just in South Africa, but around the continent. And they are going to put pressure on their leaders to do what is right.”

Annan’s most public recent role, in 2012, was as the special envoy on Syria for the U.N. and the Arab League.

A truce between the Syrian government and rebel forces in the strategic and symbolic city of Homs went into effect Wednesday, allowing opposition fighters and their families to leave – a rare agreement in the ongoing and bloody conflict.

Separating rebels and government forces may allow help to reach some of the civilian population there, Annan said, but fundamentally the deal is just a sign that “the war is still going on.”

“No comprehensive cease-fire is in the offing, and one is looking at these localized arrangements to offer some relief to the population who are trapped there.”

“And of course now the [Syrian] President [Bashar al-Assad] is talking of elections, which also complicates the process further. Here you're having peace talks in Geneva; and if while the peace talks is going on, a president is being elected, what does that do to the peace process?”

So, Amanpour asked, what does it do to the peace process?

“That's the challenge, yes,” he said.

Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour • Latest Episode • Nigeria • South Africa • Syria
soundoff (64 Responses)
  1. Rolf Wassmer

    I hope that Mr Obama US President will send the Military Troops to help the Nigerien
    Goverment to help them for these big problem

    May 7, 2014 at 4:30 pm | Reply
  2. Hugo Briggs

    Inasmuch as I strongly agree with the former sec.general to the United Nations that the Government of Nigeria did not react promptly ,I will advice that we now gather resources together and see that those girls are freed.
    It is our collective responsibility to fight terrorism wherever it raises its ugly head.

    May 7, 2014 at 5:49 pm | Reply
  3. elinsch

    Reblogged this on Elin Schiffer and commented:
    He's a great man!

    May 8, 2014 at 1:23 am | Reply
  4. Toppies Van Vuuren

    Can Boko Haram be rehabilitated? I reckon they are worse off than serpents!

    May 8, 2014 at 7:19 am | Reply
  5. Concerned Nigerian Citizen

    My President, Mr. Goodluck Jonathan.

    I wish I could really express how disappointed I am. What
    kind of security advisers do you have? This tragic situation could have be
    halted years back when it began but you failed to quench the Boko Haram.
    Please, It will be hard for me to follow a leader like you, a leader who cannot
    protect the people he sworn to protect. I blame you for all the lives that have
    been lost via Boko Haram. Tell me, who am I to blame? Tell me, Mr. dear
    president. You have failed to fulfill your presidential obligations. Take a
    good look at the country that you govern; I bet you are happy with it. Are you?
    Mr. President, are you happy? I wish you could answer me. I wish you could feel
    the pains of millions of Nigerians. I really wish you cared about your country.

    I know you cannot do it alone, I know you are not a super
    hero. However, an educated and intellectual human being would have made some
    necessary predictions during the initial Boko Haram uprising and would have
    taking actions to quench it immediately. It was sad to hear that BOKO haram
    out-gunned the Nigerian Military. You have failed in many ways. There is one
    thing left for you to do. Just one thing left for you to do. The question is,

    Have a Blessed day Mr. President.

    Yours Truly,

    Fellow Nigerian Citizen

    May 8, 2014 at 1:40 pm | Reply
    • doc

      It's a nigerian issue- considering western nations have been castigated for going after islamic terrorists elsewhere in the world, why should we get involved with is a local issue? Tell nigerian leaders and their corrupt moneyed cronies to forgo a shopping trip or two to Harrods and donate the money to pay for the rescue......

      May 10, 2014 at 9:25 am | Reply
  6. Etinge onga

    Education,social justices,empower the youthful population into some profitable ventures,bring development to these fiest of Boko Haram,reduction in taxes,these are some moves to reduce the scale of Boko Haram,I petty those young girls and victims of circustance.

    May 9, 2014 at 6:07 am | Reply
  7. Daniel okoroigbo

    President Jonathan isn't a weak person , i guess he was only being careful not to comit genocide. If he had used all the military knowhow , its still the amnesty int'l that would accused him of genocide in the end. Another is the dirty politics being played in nigeria , where the opposition sees the ruling government as enemy . However , my final take is that the U.S and BRITISH government must not go without resolving nigeria's problem in it entirety.

    May 10, 2014 at 3:26 am | Reply
  8. gtraj

    can kofi annan go for a second term UN job?

    May 10, 2014 at 7:33 am | Reply
  9. tifetemi

    It is seen that before development can occur a transformation has to be made. In Nigeria's situation, the issue of Boko Haram problem to security in Nigeria has posed an hindrance to development in the country. And so in Annan's opinion part of the transformation activity should include expanding more on the agricultural aspect which we seem to have abandoned for a while now. Another major thing is change in leadership, so many people are on the view of change of leadership. It is a great and important step in sourcing for development. ADEEKO BOLUWATIFE, CALEB UNIVERSITY, IMOTA, LAGOS STATE.

    May 11, 2014 at 4:16 pm | Reply
  10. Jonathan Onche Edeh

    Kofi Annan, I thought you made a similar statement on the Rwanda Genocide; or didn't you: there is more to Boko Haram and the abduction of those girls, and the CIA cannot tell me the neither do not have a hand or know nothing about it, at least considering their reputation......finally, the world powers have found another Justified reason to take "Iraq"- so to speak; so let's watch the politics and drive for world dominion....WELCOME TO AMERICA

    May 12, 2014 at 10:31 am | Reply
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