The release this
week of a memorandum written by a high-ranking official with the
Oil-for-Food contractor Cotecna is deeply embarrassing to U.N.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan and may herald the end of his tenure
of office. The memorandum calls into question Annan's central claim
that he was unaware of Cotecna's bid for a lucrative U.N.
Oil-for-Food contract in 1998. The memo indicates not
only that Annan was personally aware of Cotecna's bid, but also
that he actively intervened on behalf of the company, which
employed his son Kojo from 1995 to 1998.
This new, highly
damaging evidence in the Oil-for-Food scandal reinforces the need
for change in the leadership of the United Nations. Annan's position as Secretary-General has
become increasingly untenable, and these latest revelations further
undermine both his own credibility as well as that of the
memorandum is now being reviewed by the U.N.-appointed Independent
Inquiry Committee (IIC) headed by Paul Volcker, whose investigators
are reportedly "urgently reviewing fresh evidence." The Volcker Committee
will have to reassess its earlier conclusion that it found "no
evidence that the selection of Cotecna in 1998 was subject to any
affirmative or improper influence of the Secretary General in the
bidding or selection process."
conveyed by email, is written by Michael Wilson, Cotecna's Vice
President for Marketing Operations in Africa, and is addressed to
senior Cotecna executives Elie Georges Massey (Chairman), Robert M.
Massey (Chief Executive Officer), and Andre Pruniaux (Senior Vice
President, Africa and Middle East Operations). It is dated December
4, 1998, and describes a meeting between Kofi Annan, his aides, and
Mr. Wilson at the 20th French-African summit in Paris, which took
place on November 25 to 27, 1998. In a section entitled
"United Nations - Iraq Programme," Wilson states,
We had brief
discussions with the SG and his entourage. Their collective advice
was that we should respond as best as we could to the Q&A
session of the 1-12-98 (December 1, 1998) and that we could count
on their support.
This email clearly
gives the impression that Kofi Annan ("SG") and his staff
personally provided assurances to Mr. Wilson that Cotecna's bid
would receive their backing. It ties Annan to the awarding of the
Cotecna contract-a role that he has, until now, vociferously
was immediately followed by a second email, marked "Confidential"
and sent just two minutes later, that details the December 1
meeting. According to the second email, Cotecna had been invited to
a "Q&A session" in New York as one of three short-listed
candidates in the bidding process for the U.N. contract to oversee
the import of humanitarian goods into Iraq under the Oil-for-Food
represented by "RMM, AEP, JAB and MRW" (presumably Robert M.
Massey, Andre Pruniaux, John Broadhurst, and Michael Wilson.) The
United Nations was represented at the meeting by several officials,
including the Director, Office of the Iraq Program ("Ms. Shear"),
the Legal Counsel for the Iraq Programme ("Mr. Armstrong"), and the
Procurement Officer for the UN Procurement Division (Alexander
In this second
memorandum, Wilson wrote,
of getting the contracts are very good. We presented a sound
technical tender competitively priced. With the active backing of
the Swiss Mission in New York and effective but quite (sic)
lobbying within the diplomatic circles in New York, we can expect a
positive outcome to our efforts.
Ten days after the
meeting at U.N. headquarters, Cotecna was awarded the Oil-for-Food
Kofi Annan and
memorandum sheds new light on the relationship between Kofi Annan
and Cotecna officials, a subject that received extensive though
incomplete scrutiny in the Independent Inquiry Committee'sSecond Interim Report.
The IIC report
revealed that Kofi Annan met twice with Elie Massey, the owner of
Cotecna, before the U.N. awarded it the Iraq inspection contract.
Their first meeting was in February 1997 at the World Economic
Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and the second was in September 1998,
arranged by his son Kojo.
Significantly, when Kofi Annan was first
interviewed by the Independent Inquiry Committee in November
2004, he denied meeting with Mr. Massey before the awarding of the
Cotecna contract. He retracted that statement when he was
re-interviewed in January 2005, after "a review of the
computer of the Secretary-General's assistant, (where) the
Committee found information reflecting that the Secretary-General
had met with Elie Massey on two occasions prior to the award of the
inspection contract to Cotecna." In addition, Annan met
with Elie Massey once in Geneva in 1999, after Cotecna had been
awarded the U.N. contract.
The relationship between Kofi Annan and
Michael Wilson was close. The IIC investigation reveals that the
Secretary-General was "a long-standing friend of Mr. Wilson's
father, who had been Ghana's ambassador to Switzerland." The
Mr. Wilson also knows the Secretary-General
well and, in the Ghanaian tradition, considers him like an "uncle."
Shortly after Kojo Annan graduated from university, the
Secretary-General and Mr. Wilson spoke about the possibility of
Kojo Annan working at Cotecna.
interim report gives details of a meeting between Kofi Annan and
Wilson in Geneva in January 1999, as well as a possible meeting in
Paris between the two in November 1998.
In addition to his contacts with Michael
Wilson and Elie Massey, the IIC also notes:
Annan] already was familiar with Cotecna and its prior interest in
doing business with the United Nations. In 1991, while he served as
the United Nations Controller and Assistant Secretary-General for
Programme Planning, Budget and Finance, he had been involved in
negotiations with Iraq about initial proposals for an Oil-for-Food
arrangement, and Cotecna had written to him, at that time, about
its interests in the inspection services contract. He had passed
the information on to the United Nations Development Programme
(UNDP), the department then in charge of the Iraq Programme.
memorandum may prove to be the 'smoking gun' that forces the
resignation of the Secretary-General. If the assertions made in
Wilson's memo are confirmed by either the Independent Inquiry
Committee or by congressional investigators, the memorandum will
demonstrate that Kofi Annan was not only aware of Cotecna's bid for
the Oil-for-Food contract, but that he and his aides actively
intervened in the bidding process. This would represent a massive
abuse of power at the heart of the U.N. system. It would also show
that Kofi Annan consistently lied to a U.N.-appointed
investigation, as well as to every U.N. member state.
The Cotecna memo
will undoubtedly also result in fresh scrutiny of Annan's glaring
failure to order a comprehensive, independent inquiry in 1999 by
the U.N.'s Office of Internal Oversight Services into allegations
of conflict of interest arising from Cotecna's employment of his
son Kojo. In addition, further questions will arise regarding the
extraordinary decision by Annan's former Chief of Staff to shred
thousands of documents, many of which related to the Oil-for-Food
Program. This gives the impression of a major cover-up on the part
of the leadership of the United Nations.
revelations cast another cloud over the Secretary-General's
credibility. They undermine public confidence in his much
ballyhooed but so far empty promises to make the U.N. accountable
and transparent. It is difficult to see how a U.N. leader whose own
integrity is in doubt could pursue fundamental reform of a rapidly
declining institution. Kofi Annan himself has become a symbol of
the U.N.'s disdainful, arrogant ancien regime, resistant to
reform while clinging desperately to power. It is time for new
leadership at the U.N. and for the U.N.'s culture of impunity to be
brought to an end.
Nile Gardiner, Ph.D., is Fellow
in Anglo-American Security Policy in the Douglas and Sarah
Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies, a division of the
Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International
Studies, at The Heritage Foundation. The author is grateful to
James Dean, Deputy Director, Foreign and Defense Policy, in
the Government Relations Department at The Heritage Foundation, for
his advice and suggestions.
The Office of the Secretary General
continues to maintain this position. In response to the Cotecna
memorandum, Annan's spokesman Fred Eckhard stated that