It is the sad duty, on behalf of the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs (ECFA) as well as my own behalf, to participate in paying tribute to late Dr.Botrous Botrous-Ghali, and to express our deepest heartfelt condolences to his respectful widow,Mrs. Leah Boutros-Ghali, and to his respectable family and to his loved ones and students.
With the departure of Dr. Botrous-Ghali, Egypt has lost its one of its honest, well-known scholars, who had taught generations as a guru of professors. He had was an outstanding figure in many domains, be it culture, information,or diplomacy, at various levels: nationally and regionally, Pan-Arab and Pan-African, as well as internationally.
The deceased has been a Member at ECFA since 2002, whereby ECFA has benefited a great deal from his experience; in its lectures and meetings as well as its annual conferences, the most recent of which was the opening speech at ECFA Annual International Conference, held in January 2015, to celebrate ECFA’s Fifteenth Anniversary, under the slogan “Egypt and the World .. a New Era”.
I came to know Dr. Botrous-Ghali after graduating from Faculty of Law at Cairo University in 1956. I learned a lot from him in the School of Life, and our relationship was strengthened over the years until I moved to France to study for my Ph.D. Dgree at the Paris Institute of Political Science (INSTITUT SAINT GUILLAUME) in the beginnings of the 1960s, and later at the Hague Academy of International Law.
Dr. Botrous-Ghali was an old handconnoisseur diplomat,and was the only Arab to reach the top executive position (Secretary-General) of the UN for a five-year term. His steady supportive stance for the Question of Palestine and the rights of Palestinian refugees, together with his decision to publish the “Report on the Massacre at Qana”, were the reasons behind US objection to him being mandatd for a second term in office as Secretary-General. Dr. Botrous-Ghali was, per se, an honest man and Secretary-General.
Dr. Botrous-Ghali was well-respected and highly regarded by all of those whom I communicated with, and who knew and dealt with him.He was also admired for his valuable contributions in the domains of International Law and Political Science.He enjoyed the same level of respect and degree of appreciation, as I sensed, from Professors, Scholars and Students at the Institute of High International Studies (L’Institut des Hautes Etudes Internationales), in Geneva, as well as from the Members of the International Law Commission, the International Labor Organization (ILO), and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Botrous-Ghali’s personality was characterized by moral and ethical principles, supreme politeness, simplicity, and humbleness.He was sensitive to others’ feelings, in particular the poor. It is very well known that he used to drive his small Volkswagen himself when he went to teach at Cairo University, although he owned a luxury car. He used to park his modest small car on a side street, away from the University’s main gate,out of his extreme considerateness and sensitivity towards the feelings of students who are not so well-off.
I recall that after his appointment as Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and acting Foreign Minister in late 1977, I received him in the Ministry with the late Ambassador Osama Al-Baz, and I noticed that he was dedicated to carrying out his duty, working day and night, He bravely accompanied President Sadat in his visit to AL-QUDS ‘Jerusalem’, and our relations in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs continued over the years. Each and every time I was summoned to his office for attending interviews or participating in talks in the Ministry’s premisesat Tahrir Square, he used to accompany me to the door of his office at the end of every meeting.
Out of his keenness to maintain the institutional history and memory of Egyptian diplomacy, he was interested in recording all events, talks and meetings. He took the initiative and proactively supervised the writing and publication of white books that were issued by Foreign Ministry, starting with the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty. When my mission in Brussels was ended in 1982, he asked me to write a white book on “Egypt’s Relations with the European Economic Community (EEC)“, which Botrous-Ghali himself reviewed.
I participated in the delegation of Egypt, headed by Dr. Botrous-Ghali at the Summit of France and Africa in Casablanca in 1988,Chaired by late King Hassan II, and I was impressed by his personal relations with the Conference Chairman, His Majesty King Hassan II, President “Mitterrand” and many African Presidents,which has always been a constant support for Egyptian diplomacy and initiatives.
Under Egypt’s Chairmanship of the Organization of African Unity in 1989, and before returning from Rabat, Dr. Botrous-Ghali asked me to be a roving ambassador to Africa in order to assist in settling African disputes through dialogue, mediation and conciliation. This way, I helped him in the peaceful resolution of African disputes, particularly those between Mauritania and Senegal, and between Libya and Chad, and in the Horn of Africa, in addition to the mediation between Zaire (Democratic Republic of the Congo) and Angola.During that period,his close ties with African leaders,had the greatest impact on the success of Egyptian diplomacy to settling those disputes by peaceful means, and strengthening Egypt’s bilateral relations with various African States. It was his initiative to establish the Egyptian Fund for Technical Cooperation in Africa, which was later merged into the Egyptian Agency for Development in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Dr. Botrous-Ghali’s mandate as the UN Secretary-General,was full of hard work, tireless activism and initiatives that had global impact. He began that mandate by setting the Peace Plan in June 1992, then the 1995 Development Plan, following the Resolution that decided to indefinitely extend the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). That Resolution was issued at the Review Conference of that Treaty in New York in the same year (1995). Among his contributions to the issues of Security and Disarmament, was his Statement to the Conference on Disarmament in 1995, in which he demanded called for the negotiation of a Nuclear Disarmament Treaty to save mankind from eradication, before the International Court of Justice issued its advisory opinion on the subject in July 1996. That statement angered the States possessing nuclear weapons, especially the United States and Britain.
In his capacity as the UN Secretary-General, Dr. Botrous was the dynamo behind convening global conferences of the 1990s, starting with the major UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), also known as the “Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit”, the “Rio Summit”, the “Rio Conference”, and the “Earth Summit”, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (3-14 June 1992); the World Conference on Human Rights, held in Vienna, Austria (14-25 June 1993); the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD)”, held in Cairo, Egypt (5-13 September 1994); the “World Summit on Social Development”, held in Copenhagen, Denmark (March 1995); the Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing, China (1995);and the Second UN Conference on Human Settlements (HABITAT II), held in Istanbul, Turkey (3-14 June 1996) after his mandate was expired. All of those conferences and their outcomes were the building blocks for the 2000 Millennium Summit. History will also remember Dr. Botrous Boutrous-Ghali for his remarkable contributions to the within the “La Francophonie” International Organization as well as in the domain of promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and global levels.
After my service with the Egyptian diplomacy was ended, Dr. Botrous-Ghali advised me not to stop working in any field to serve the homeland, as long as my health allows me. Our personal relationship continued, with consultations on issues like reforming the UN, oversight and accountability processes at the UN and its specialized agencies, as well as within the framework of peace-making, peace-building and peacekeeping operations.
Dr. Botrous-Ghali is truly a role model, and I call upon youth in general and young diplomats in particular, who did not have the opportunity to know his, to get to know him and to follow him as a role model. He left a great legacy of intellectual, cultural and civilizational heritage in the fields of law, politics, journalism and media.
Both personally and on behalf of the ECFA, I pray to Allah, for our dear deceased Dr. Botrous-Ghali, asking God to forgive him, surround his soul with His generous hospitality, for the great service she delivered to humanity and to our dear Homeland, Egypt, and to grant his longtime companion and widow, Leah, his Kindred, lovers, students and followers with patience.
9th March 2016