Chief Emeka Anyaoku served as Commonwealth Secretary-General from 1990 to 2000.
Born Eleazar Chukwuemeka (Emeka) Anyaoku on 18 January 1933 in Obosi, Nigeria, he attended the Merchants of Light School in Oba and (as a College Scholar) the University College of Ibadan, at the time a college of the University of London and from which he obtained an honours degree in Classics. Chief Anyaoku later attended specialist courses in the United Kingdom and France.
In 1959, Emeka Anyaoku joined the Commonwealth Development Corporation. Following Nigeria’s independence, he was invited to join his country’s diplomatic service and, in 1963, was posted to Nigeria’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York.
In 1966, shortly after the establishment of the Commonwealth Secretariat, he was seconded to the new organisation at the request of the first Secretary-General, Arnold Smith of Canada, as Assistant Director of International Affairs, later becoming Director and, in 1975, Assistant Secretary-General. In 1977, Commonwealth governments elected him Deputy Secretary-General with responsibility for international affairs and the Secretariat’s administration.
Nigeria’s civilian government of 1983 called on Chief Anyaoku to become the country’s Foreign Minister. On the overthrow of the Government by the military, he returned to his position as Deputy Secretary-General with the support of the new government in Nigeria and the endorsement of all Commonwealth governments.
At the 1989 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Chief Anyaoku was elected the third Commonwealth Secretary-General. He was re-elected at the 1993 CHOGM in Limassol, Cyprus, for a second five-year term.
Among his early tasks was to assist Commonwealth Heads of Government on a reappraisal of the future role of the association, giving it new strategic directions: to help countries build strong democracies guaranteeing individual liberty and human rights, while at the same time assisting in the major task of their sustainable development.
The promotion of the Commonwealth ideals of human dignity and equality - embracing democracy and human rights as well as economic and social development at the national level, and co-operation for justice and peace at the international level - was the highlight of Chief Anyaoku’s leadership of the Secretariat.
At the 1991 Commonwealth summit in Harare, Zimbabwe, Chief Anyaoku’s first as Secretary-General, Heads of Government mandated him to visit South Africa and explore with its leaders ways in which the Commonwealth could best assist the ending of apartheid. They also issued the Harare Commonwealth Declaration, which set out to give contemporary relevance to the Commonwealth’s beliefs and purposes and gave it a new mandate.
Under Chief Anyaoku’s guidance, the Secretariat also launched a variety of important initiatives in sustainable economic and social development, and through the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Co-operation (CFTC), the operational arm of the Secretariat, reinforced the benefits of co-operation and mutual assistance among members.
During his stewardship, apartheid was peacefully replaced by non-racial democracy through a process which brought South Africa a degree of unity and reconciliation that the world found near miraculous. The Commonwealth throughout undertook important initiatives and provided practical assistance. Chief Anyaoku organised a high-level Commonwealth group to attend the launching of the constitutional negotiations (the Convention for a Democratic South Africa), and sent Commonwealth Observer Missions, the first - over two years - to help combat political violence, and the second to assist in and monitor the historic 1994 elections.
He was succeeded by as Secretary-General by Donald C McKinnon of New Zealand.