Boutros Boutros-Ghali

This article is about the Egyptian diplomat. For his grandfather, the former Prime Minister of Egypt, see Boutros Ghali.
Boutros Boutros-Ghali
6th Secretary-General of the United Nations
In office
1 January 1992  31 December 1996
Preceded by Javier Pérez de Cuéllar
Succeeded by Kofi Annan
1st Secretary-General of La Francophonie
In office
16 November 1997  31 December 2002
Preceded by Position established
Succeeded by Abdou Diouf
Minister of Foreign Affairs
In office
17 September 1978  17 February 1979
Prime Minister Mamdouh Salem
Mustafa Khalil
Preceded by Muhammad Ibrahim Kamel
Succeeded by Mustafa Khalil
In office
17 November 1977  15 December 1977
Prime Minister Mamdouh Salem
Preceded by Ismail Fahmi
Succeeded by Muhammad Ibrahim Kamel
Personal details
Born (1922-11-14)14 November 1922
Cairo, Egypt
Died 16 February 2016(2016-02-16) (aged 93)
Cairo, Egypt
Political party Arab Socialist (Before 1978)
National Democratic (1978–2011)
Independent (2011–2016)
Spouse(s) Leia Maria Boutros-Ghali
Alma mater Cairo University
Pantheon-Sorbonne University
Institute of Political Studies, Paris
Religion Christian (Coptic Orthodoxy)

Boutros Boutros-Ghali (Arabic: بطرس بطرس غالي Buṭrus Buṭrus Ghālī , Egyptian Arabic pronunciation: [ˈbotɾos ˈɣæːli]; 14 November 1922 – 16 February 2016) was an Egyptian politician and diplomat who was the sixth Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN) from January 1992 to December 1996. An academic and former Vice Foreign Minister of Egypt, Boutros-Ghali oversaw the UN at a time when it dealt with several world crises, including the breakup of Yugoslavia and the Rwandan Genocide. He was then the first Secretary-General of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie from November 1997 to December 2002.

Early life and education

Boutros Boutros-Ghali was born in Cairo on 14 November 1922 into a Coptic Christian family.[1] His father Yusuf Butros Ghali was the son of Boutros Ghali (also his namesake), who was Prime Minister of Egypt from 1908 until he was assassinated in 1910.[2][3] His mother Safela Mikhail Sharubim was daughter of Mikhail Sharubim (1861–1920), a prominent public servant and historian.[4]

Boutros-Ghali graduated from Cairo University in 1946.[5] He received a PhD in international law from the University of Paris and diploma in international relations from the Sciences Po in 1949. During 1949–1979, he was appointed Professor of International Law and International Relations at Cairo University. 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. In 1986 he received an honorary doctorate from the Faculty of Law at Uppsala University, Sweden.[6] He was also the Honorary Rector of the Graduate Institute of Peace Studies, a branch of Kyunghee University Seoul.

Political career

Boutros Boutros-Ghali and Moshe Dayan at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg (October 1979)

Boutros Boutros-Ghali's political career developed during the presidency of Anwar El Sadat. He was a member of the Central Committee of the Arab Socialist Union from 1974 to 1977. He served as Egypt's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs from 1977 until early 1991. He then became Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs for several months before moving to the UN. As Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, he played a part in the peace agreements between President Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin.[7]

According to investigative journalist Linda Melvern, Boutros-Ghali approved a secret $26 million arms sale to the government of Rwanda in 1990 when he was Foreign Minister, the weapons stockpiled by the Hutu regime as part of the fairly public, long-term preparations for the subsequent genocide. He was serving as UN Secretary-General when the killings occurred four years later.[8]

UN career

Elected in 1991 as Secretary-General, the top post of the UN, Boutros-Ghali's term in office remains controversial. In 1992, he submitted An Agenda for Peace, a suggestion for how the UN could respond to violent conflict. However, he was criticised for the UN's failure to act during the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, which officially left over one million people dead, and he appeared unable to muster support in the UN for intervention in the continuing Angolan Civil War. One of the hardest tasks during his term was dealing with the crisis of the Yugoslav Wars after the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia. His reputation became entangled in the larger controversies over the effectiveness of the UN and the role of the United States in the UN. Some Somalis believed he was responsible for an escalation of the Somalia crisis by undertaking a personal vendetta against Mohamed Farrah Aidid and his Habr Gidr clan, favouring their rivals, the Darod the clan of the former dictator Mohamed Siad Barre. It was believed that he demanded the 12 July 1993 US helicopter attack on a meeting of Habr Gidr clan leaders, who were meeting to discuss a peace initiative put forward by the leader of the UN Mission in Mogadishu, retired U.S. Admiral Jonathan Howe. It is generally believed that the majority of the clan elders were eager to arrange a peace and to rein in the provocative activities of their clan leader, Mohamed Farrah Aidid, but, after this attack on a peaceful meeting, the clan was resolved on fighting the Americans and the UN, leading to the Battle of Mogadishu on 3–4 October 1993.[9]

Nomination for second term

In 1996, ten Security Council members, led by African members Egypt, Guinea-Bissau and Botswana, sponsored a resolution backing Boutros-Ghali for a second five-year term, until the year 2001. However, the United States vetoed a second term for him. In addition to the United States, the United Kingdom, South Korea, and Italy did not sponsor the resolution, but the last three nations voted in support of Boutros-Ghali after the United States had firmly declared its intention to veto. Although not the first vetoed candidate (China vetoed the third term of Kurt Waldheim in 1981 in order to nominate a secretary-general from the Third World), Boutros-Ghali was the only UN Secretary-General not to be elected to a second term in office. He was succeeded at the UN by Kofi Annan.

Richard Clarke, Michael Sheehan and James Rubin participated in what they called "Operation Orient Express". Clarke wrote:

Albright and I and a handful of others (Michael Sheehan, Jamie Rubin) had entered into a pact together in 1996 to oust Boutros-Ghali as Secretary General of the United Nations, a secret plan we had called Operation Orient Express, reflecting our hope that many nations would join us in doing in the UN head. In the end, the US had to do it alone (with its UN veto) and Sheehan and I had to prevent the President from giving in to pressure from world leaders and extending Boutros-Ghali's tenure, often by our racing to the Oval Office when we were alerted that a head of state was telephoning the President. In the end Clinton was impressed that we had managed not only to oust Boutros-Ghali but to have Kofi Annan selected to replace him. (Clinton told Sheehan and me, 'Get me a crow, I should eat a crow, because I said you would never pull it off.')[10]

Richard Holbrooke wrote that the United States was opposed to Boutros-Ghali because of the latter's reluctance on approving NATO bombing in Bosnia (something that Kofi Annan supported). He notes that United States opposition to the Secretary General was opposed by all its allies.[11]

Stanley Meisler, biographer of Kofi Annan, writes that Boutros Ghali's reluctance to bomb the Serbs in Bosnia stemmed from French and British opposition to the tactic, as both countries had provided most of the UN peacekeepers and feared that the Serbs would retaliate against their soldiers. Meisler instead suggests that Clinton sought to veto Boutros Ghali's second term to increase his own popularity, as Senator Bob Dole, who was running against Clinton in 1996, had gotten a few votes by repeatedly denouncing Boutros-Ghali vehemently.[12]

In his own autobiographical account, Boutros-Ghali blamed the veto on a variety of factors, including political pressure related to the 1996 US presidential election, friction between the US and UN over issues such as the Bosnian War and the Rwandan Genocide, as well as tension over unpaid UN dues owed by the United States.[13]

Later life

Boutros Boutros-Ghali's wife, Leia Maria Boutros-Ghali, née Leia Nadler, was raised in an Egyptian Jewish family in Alexandria and converted to Roman Catholicism as a young woman.[5][14]

From 1997 to 2002, Boutros-Ghali was Secretary-General of La Francophonie, an organisation of French-speaking nations. From 2003 to 2006, he served as the chairman of the board of the South Centre,[15] an intergovernmental research organisation of developing countries. He was President of the Curatorium Administrative Council at the Hague Academy of International Law. In 2003, Boutros-Ghali was appointed Director of the National Council for Human Rights, which he remained until 2012.

Boutros-Ghali supported the Campaign for the Establishment of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly and was one of the initial signatories of the Campaign's appeal in 2007. In a message to the Campaign, he stressed the necessity to establish democratic participation of citizens at the global level.[16]

From 2009-2015 he also participated as jury member for the Conflict Prevention Prize, awarded every year by the Fondation Chirac.[17]


Boutros-Ghali died aged 93 in a hospital in Cairo, after having been admitted for a broken pelvis or leg, on 16 February 2016.[18][19][20]


As Secretary-General, Boutros-Ghali wrote An Agenda for Peace. He has also published two memoirs:

See also




  1. Boutros Boutros-Ghali Biography, Encyclopedia of World Biography
  2. Reid, Donald M. (1982). "Political Assassination in Egypt, 1910–1954". The International Journal of African Historical Studies. 15 (4): 625–651. doi:10.2307/217848. JSTOR 217848.
  3. Goldschmidt 1993, pp.183,188
  4. Goldschmidt 1993 p.183
  5. 1 2 Goshko, John M. (2016-02-16). "Boutros Boutros-Ghali, U.N. secretary general who clashed with U.S., dies at 93". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2016-02-16.
  7. "Boutros Boutros-Ghali: The world is his oyster". Weekly Ahram. 18 January 2006. Archived from the original on 30 June 2012. Retrieved 8 June 2012.
  8. Melvern, Linda (2000). A People Betrayed: The Role of the West in Rwanda's Genocide. London: Zed. ISBN 1-85649-830-1.Washington Monthly Review
  9. Bowden, Mark (1999). Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War. New York: New American Library. pp. 83–84. ISBN 0-451-20514-6.
  10. Clarke, Richard (2004). Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror. New York: Free Press. p. 201. ISBN 0-7432-6024-4.
  11. Holbrooke, Richard (1999). To End a War. New York: Modern Library. p. 202. ISBN 0-375-75360-5.
  12. Stanley Meisler (18 October 1996). "Getting Rid of Boutros-Ghali".
  13. Lewis, Paul (24 May 1999). "Boutros-Ghali's Book Says Albright and Clinton Betrayed Him". New York Times. Retrieved 6 March 2015.
  14. "At Home With: Boutros Boutros-Ghali".
  15. "South Centre website". 8 June 2012. Retrieved 8 June 2012.
  16. "MESSAGE FROM DR. BOUTROS BOUTROS GHALI" (PDF). International campaign for the establishment of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly.
  17. "The jury for the Conflict Prevention Prize awarded by the Fondation Chirac". 30 May 2012. Retrieved 8 June 2012.
  18. "Boutros Boutros-Ghali, former UN head, dies at 93". BBC News. Retrieved 2016-02-16.
  19. "Boutros Boutros-Ghali: Make diplomacy, not war". Retrieved 2016-02-18.
  20. "Former U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali dies -". CNN. Retrieved 2016-02-18.
Political offices
Preceded by
Ismail Fahmi
Minister of Foreign Affairs

Succeeded by
Muhammad Ibrahim Kamel
Preceded by
Muhammad Ibrahim Kamel
Minister of Foreign Affairs

Succeeded by
Mustafa Khalil
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Javier Pérez de Cuéllar
Secretary General of the United Nations
Succeeded by
Kofi Annan
Preceded by
Jean-Louis Roy
as Secretary General of the Agence de Coopération Culturelle et Technique
Secretary General of La Francophonie
Succeeded by
Abdou Diouf
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