Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi led the funeral procession for the country’s veteran diplomat and former Secretary-General of the United Nations Boutros Boutros-Ghali as he was laid to rest with full state honors on Friday. The president walked at the head of the cortege as a horse-drawn hearse carried the flag-draped coffin for burial on the outskirts of Cairo.
Speaking at the service in Cairo, the patriarch of Egypt’s Coptic Church, Pope Tawadros II said Egypt was bidding farewell to “this fine example in Egyptian life and in Egyptian history.” The current UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, described him as a respected statesman and scholar of international law who brought “formidable experience and intellectual power” to the job.
Boutros-Ghali, who died on Tuesday, 16 February at the age of 93, was the scion of a prominent Egyptian Christian political family. Born in 1922 to Yusuf Butros Ghali, the son of a former prime minister of Egypt, and Safela Mikhail Sharubim, the daughter of a prominent Egyptian public servant and historian, Boutros-Ghali’s early upbringing was in Egyptian high-society. He is survived by his Egyptian Jewish wife, Leia Maria; the couple had no children.
Graduating from Cairo University in 1946, he earned a PhD in International Law from University of Paris and was a Fulbright Research scholar at Columbia University in the US. He served as academician at various universities in Egypt and abroad. He later entered the political field and was closely associated with former president Anwar Sadat and 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 United Nations.
The late diplomat played a major role in negotiating Egypt’s peace deal with Israel that was signed in 1979. He was elected to the top UN post in 1991 and served during a period when the world body was faced with crises in Somalia, Rwanda, the Middle-East and in the Balkans.
During his term as UN chief his views often ran counter to those of the United States, including reluctance to approve the NATO bombing in Bosnia. Consequently he was denied a second-term in office by a veto from the US and became the only UN chief to be denied a second-term in office. Boutros-Ghali was the first from the Arab world and the first from the African continent to head the United Nations.