A Tribute To Maitre Beye

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Message by Under-Secretary-General Special Adviser to the Secretary-General, Professor Ibrahim Gambari

New York, June 26 2008

Don Steinberg,
Deputy Secretary-General,
My dear Kadiatou Sall-Beye,
Dear Friends,

We gather together this morning to remember the life and give tribute to the accomplishments of one of Africa's most respected diplomats and public servants, a great champion of international peace and security. He was a righteous man, one who used his abundant God-given abilities for the sake of others, and to promote freedom, justice and equality throughout the world.

We are here to celebrate the life of Maître Alioune Beye, a great gentleman, a statesman, and friend and brother to us all. He lived and died trying to make our world a better place. This life-long commitment originated in the long-standing tradition of his Malian origins, his family and his early youth. His noble nature and human character inspired all his actions and determined all his decisions. Whether as a public servant, a diplomat, a peace-negotiator, or a distinguished member of society, a selfless love for all of mankind was his guiding principle.

There was an innate nobility in his demeanour and will to action. There was no act of his that did not have the imprint of his character. Whether he was sitting in the majesty of presidential palaces, in the intimacy of his home, or the frenetic pace of his work place, that nobility transcended all his actions and characterized all his interactions.

Today, it has been ten years that we have been without Maître Beye. It would be easy to dwell on the sorrow of his loss, but the reality is that his supreme sacrifice was not in vain. Former Secretary-General Kofi Annan had called him a "dedicated and dynamic peacemaker". I think of him as an African role model, an incurable optimist and a man who was passionately devoted to the African cause and to world peace.

When he was appointed Special Representative in Angola in June 1993, Maître Beye approached his mandate with the energy and commitment that he invested in everything in his life. He was motivated by the high expectations of himself as well as the recognition that Africa's potential was being wasted on warfare instead of development. He took on his position without being discouraged by the renewed civil war and labored at advancing the peace negotiations. It was his personal engagement and statecraft that brought both sides back to the negotiating table. And it was through his engaging personality and the trust that he enjoyed from the parties that ensured the continuation of the negotiations for almost a year. As a consequence, he was able to get the parties to sign on to the peace agreement, the Lusaka Protocol, in November 1994, which was essentially his creation.

As we know, that was rather the beginning than the end of the peace process. And by good fortune I was the last SRSG and Chairman of the Joint Commission to bring the war in Angola to a formal conclusion. As such, I was a direct beneficiary, on behalf of the Secretary-General and the United Nations, of Maître Beye's vigorous involvement in Angola, trying to bring about the implementation of that accord. In pursuing this objective, nothing could stop his efforts, even when he needed bypass surgery, he returned to work shortly thereafter. Angola could not afford to wait and it could certainly not do without him. In fact, Maître Beye was one of the rare mediators in history that could use the threat of his own resignation as a tool to push the parties. My greatest regret is that he did not come to witness the ultimate result of his devotion, namely a peaceful and rapidly developing Angola.

We, who loved him know that he never forgot his Malian heritage. As Foreign Minister, he was a humble and devoted servant of his country. Of all of his legacies, I believe Maître Beye would have found it particularly fitting that the peacekeeping academy "École de maintien de la paix Alioune Blondin Beye" in Bamako would carry his name. Its mission ties together all of his lifetime commitments: to his country, to Africa and to keeping world peace.

Finally, I would like to close by recalling my first meeting with Maître Beye, this great son of Africa, in 1984. This was at the Summit of the then Organisation of African Unity (OAU) held at its Headquarters in Addis Ababa. He was then a candidate for the position of Secretary-General of the Organisation and I was a young Foreign Minister of Nigeria. Although his quest was not successful, I was deeply impressed by his strong personality yet humble disposition, his infectious enthusiasm/optimism as well as total commitment to the unity, peace and prosperity of the African continent in a changing world. What the OAU lost then was the gain of the United Nations later. He discharged his responsibility as SRSG in Angola in ways that forever touched the lives of Angolans and all those who met or worked with him, including those who died with him, now Ambassadors of Peace, among them a young Nigerian United Nations staff member, Ibikunle Williams.

Maître Beye will live on in the memories not only of those who met and worked with him, but all lovers of peace everywhere.

Thank you.

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