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No Time To Mince Words

No Time To Mince WordsDuring a recent trip to Africa, Financial Times reporter and Tufts graduate Carola Hoyos reports that Kofi Annan has perfected the diplomatic power of words. Santa Maria, Azores Islands.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [07.22.02] There is no shortage of issues on the diplomatic agenda of United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan. But, as Tufts graduate and Financial Times reporter Carola Hoyos reports in her latest column, Annan has relatively few tools at his disposal to tackle them. Relying on words, she writes, has become his most important - and effective - tactic in achieving change.

"Though talk is often cheap and has proven unsuccessful plenty of times before, particularly in Africa, it is one of the only weapons in the limited arsenal of a UN secretary-general," Hoyos - who majored in economics and international relations at Tufts - reported in her Financial Times column.

For Annan - who is viewed as a "native son done good" across Africa - well crafted words have allowed him, more so than others, to deliver messages that some African leaders would rather not hear.

"On a continent still grappling with the after-effects of colonialism, Mr. Annan may have an easier time than his predecessors broaching such subjects as good governance, democracy and putting a halt to the conflicts that enrich corrupt leaders but undermine development and outside investment," Hoyos wrote in the Times.

For example, the Tufts graduate reported, "Annan was the only leader at the launch of the African Union to criticize Robert Mugabe" - the president of Zimbabwe, who is accused of undermining his country's democracy.

Without ever singling out Mugabe, Annan warned that the misuse of democracy has consequences. Though the messages are delivered loud and clear, Annan is careful not to brandish his sword too broadly.

In an interview with the UN leader, Hoyos asked Annan how he cautioned Nigeria's president not to let the power afforded to him by his country's democracy turn him into a dictator.

"If I ever gave all the details of what I discussed with each head of state, next time I meet them, they will only talk to me about their grandchildren and the weather," Annan told the Tufts graduate.

And with issues like AIDS, poverty and the need for reconciliation looming over the continent, Annan can't afford to waste precious time with small talk.

Hoyos image courtesy the Financial Times.


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