Paul Vallely: Smooth? Yes, but Tidjane is also a passionate fighter

Share
Related Topics

For Tidjane Thiam, the subject of peace and security was not just a brief he had been handed as a member of Tony Blair's Commission for Africa. It was a passion which grew out of personal experience, because in 1999 he was ousted as Minister of Planning and Development of the Ivory Coast in a coup which confined him briefly to an African jail.

That taught him, he said, that there could be no development without peace. "The right to live is the most basic of all human rights," he said, yet "in too many parts of the continent, this right is still very much theoretical." If the commission did not acknowledge that, he warned, it would seem "detached from many Africans' day-to-day realities" and be dismissed as "experts talking to experts".

Anyone encountering this tall, quietly-spoken man – always clad in an elegant dark suit – could be forgiven for thinking him a cosmopolitan European. He was that, for he had fled Africa with his family at the age of four and had been schooled in France's most elite academic establishments. But beneath his urbane exterior and his powerful intellect lay a passion which made him one of the most independent-minded commissioners.

When No 10 wanted to shift the emphasis of the commission's recommendations on security into the more conventional territory of reactive peacekeeping, he insisted that it should focus primarily on preventive work. When other commissioners called for increases in aid, he insisted they must be accompanied by equally strong arguments on how to improve its use.

He demanded the spotlight be turned on bad governments in Africa, insisting that most Africans now realise that the primary responsibility for their lack of development lies within their countries, rather than with the trade policies of rich countries.

There was a personal toughness about him. When he was told in France that he would be given a top job were it not for the fact that he was black, he responded by walking out of the company. But he has a tenderness too, as was evident from the charm with which he handled US Senator Nancy Baker, who was George Bush's representative on the commission. He could never be a politician, he once said, because he wanted to "keep some faith in human nature".

Paul Vallely was a co-author of the report of the Commission for Africa

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Engineer / Software Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software Engineer / Softw...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Election catch-up: Blairites for and against a Miliband victory

John Rentoul
Nicola Sturgeon could have considerable influence over David Cameron in a hung parliament  

General Election 2015: What if Cameron were to end up in debt to the SNP?

Steve Richards
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before