Boutros-Ghali was born in Cairo, Egypt as a Coptic Christian. Boutros-Ghali graduated from Cairo University in 1946 and earned a PhD in international law from Paris University in 1949. The same year, he was appointed professor of International Law and International Relations at Cairo University, a position which he held until 1977. He became president of the Centre of Political and Strategic Studies in 1975 and president of the African Society of Political Studies in 1980. He was a Fulbright Research Scholar at Columbia University from 1954 to 1955, Director of the Centre of Research of The Hague Academy of International Law from 1963 to 1964, and Visiting Professor at the Faculty of Law at Paris University from 1967 to 1968.
He had served as Egypt's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs from 1977 until early 1991. He then took the post of Deputy Prime Minister for Foreign Affairs for several months before moving to the UN. During Boutros-Ghali's term in office as Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, he played a part in the peace agreements between Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin.
Elected to the top post of the UN in 1992, Boutros-Ghali's term in office remains controversial.
He was criticized for the UN's failure to act during the 1994 Rwandan civil war and genocide, which ultimately killed about 400,000 people. However, this was primarily due to the lack of support by US. The Clinton administration, reeling from the recent debacle in Somalia. announced that not only that it would no longer participate in peacekeeping but also that no other nation would be permitted to do so either. Under the 1949 Genocide Convention, UN action to avert genocide and deliver humanitarian aid was legally required in Rwanda, but with the State Department's public directives, the 1949 Genocide Convention was ignored. The US's ambassador to the UN, Madeline Albright, studiously avoided any use of the word "genocide." Albright dismissed Boutros-Ghali's requests to jam Rwandan radio broadcasts, which were every day inciting the population to kill Tutsis, saying it was "too expensive." The US rejected support even for the small existing UN military observation force that was already there, having been sent to Rwanda in August 1993, following a peace agreement made at Yirusha, Rwanda after the initial Kigali violence. Later that year, elected transitional President Juvenal Habiyarimana of Rwanda and the President of Burundi, both Hutus, were killed in a plane crash. Enflamed, Hutu unleashed genocide throughout Rwanda, slaughtering the Tutsi minority.
Boutros-Ghali's term also saw the end of apartheid in South Africa with the election of Nelson Mandela in 1994. Elections also took place in Angola the same year he took office. However, the civil war continued there, and Boutros-Ghali appeared unable to stop it.
Ten security council members, led by three African members (Egypt, Guinea-Bissau and Botswana) sponsored a resolution backing Boutros-Ghali to serve a second five-year-term, until the year 2001. However, the United States vetoed a second term for Boutros-Ghali. In addition to the United States, United Kingdom, Poland, South Korea, and Italy did not sponsor the resolution for a second term, although all four of those nations voted in support of Boutros-Ghali (after the US had firmly declared its intention to veto). Boutros-Ghali was the first UN secretary-general to not be elected to a second term in office (although not the first vetoed).
Boutros-Ghali was succeeded at the UN by Kofi Annan. Since Boutros-Ghali was not given a second term, a successor was chosen from his region, Africa.
Boutros-Ghali has published two memoirs:
- Egypt's road to Jerusalem (1997), about the Israel-Egypt peace settlement
- Unvanquished: A U.S.-U.N. Saga (1991), about his time as Secretary-General at the UN
Javier Pérez de Cuéllar
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