15 January 2008

Finally the disastrous amateur "Peacekeeper" Jean-Marie Guehenno will be leaving. What unforum predicted in January is, we are reliably told, happening in June. Having taken the reputation of one of the proudest U.N. activities to its lowest point, the man who gave us the most incompetent management will be plucked out of New York where most of the staff do not even know how he looks, despite seven years here!

His latest controversy was that note to the Controller in which he cynically used the plight of Darfur to saddle the U.N. with a $250 million no-bid contract to a Lockheed subsidiary, as exposed by The Washington Post and effectively pursued by Matthew Russell Lee of City Press (for more details go to www.innercitypress.com).

The question is whether another Frenchman will replace him or would the post be open for an announced competition like the new one proposed on Peacekeeping reform. The post had been offered to France by former Secretary General Kofi Annan in return for lifting the veto in the Security Counci on his election. Keeping it for France with a recycled occupant was most likely a Ban Ki-moon election promise. Diplomatic corridor talk in Paris circles around current Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr. Bernard Kouchner. Reportedly, the hyperactive co-founder of Medecins Sans Frontiers is likely to leave his post end March, after French Municipal elections. Having served under the U.N. flag as High Commissioner for Kosovo and other locations, the media addicted activist would love to launch himself into the world media capital while heading at U.N. Headquarters all the field operations in familiar world hotspots. In between he would enjoy firing surprising missiles to shake matters closer to his restless liking.

In a fair setup, Dr. Kouchner would be better off as Under-Secretary General for the Co-ordinator of Humanitarian Affairs while its current occupant Sir John Holms, former U.K. Ambassador to Paris, could easily take over Peacekeeping. Both men would be in their natural element. But then, that's easier said than done. If not Dr. Kouchner, our realistic hope would be that the Quai d'Orsay propose at least someone with solid international credentials, credible professional competence who would authentically reflect the elegant quality and gracious dignity of France.