The Clinton administration’s campaign to block Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali from re-election and replace him with another African picked up momentum Friday as African countries formally nominated four other candidates for the top U.N. job. At least four other nominees are expected to be proposed shortly.
The rush by African governments to push their citizens for the post broke the solidarity of the Organization of African Unity, which had endorsed Boutros-Ghali, an Egyptian, as the continent’s sole candidate.
The candidates officially nominated Friday are Kofi Annan of Ghana, the U.N. undersecretary general in charge of peacekeeping; Foreign Minister Amara Essy of the Ivory Coast; Ahmedou Ould Abdallah of Mauritania, a former U.N. special envoy for Burundi; and Hamid Algabid of Niger, secretary general of the Islamic Conference.
Security Council sources said Friday night they have been advised that nominations are likely within the next day or two for Salim A. Salim of Tanzania, secretary general of the OAU; Foreign Minister Moustapha Niasse of Senegal; Wally N’Dow of Gambia, who directed the U.N. Habitat Conference on world shelter needs held in Istanbul earlier this year; and Olara Otunno, a Uganda native who now is a citizen of the Ivory Coast and heads the New York-based World Peace Academy.
How the new candidates will fare won’t become evident until Monday, when the council plans to begin a series of unofficial straw polls to gauge the relative strength of the candidates. But the preliminary indications are that each has some major weakness.
The three regarded as starting off with the potentially strongest chances are Annan, Essy and Salim. The thinking here is that Annan enjoys the quiet backing of the United States, Essy of France and Salim of South Africa.
When the council took its first poll on Nov. 19, 14 of the 15 members voted to give Boutros-Ghali a second, five-year term. But his re-election was blocked by the United States, which considers him insufficiently committed to reform of the world body and which has the power to veto any council decision.
That put the Africans on notice that they would have to offer additional candidates if they want to keep the secretary general position in African hands when Boutros-Ghali’s term expires on Dec. 31. The United States has agreed to give preferential attention to African candidates, but also warned that the field could be opened to candidates from other regions if Africa insisted on sticking with Boutros-Ghali.
On Tuesday, Boutros-Ghali suspended his embattled candidacy for now while he waits to see how much strength other Africans can muster within the 15-nation council, which effectively chooses the secretary general. He stressed that he was not withdrawing his bid for re-election, but his move was interpreted by diplomats here as a sign that he will be unable to induce the United States to remove its veto.
The entry of so many candidates into the field makes it unlikely that African countries will be able to unite behind one, as they did when they voted in the OAU for Boutros-Ghali. That could mean that none will be able to win the nine votes in the council required for election.