Ghana and the rest of the international community last Saturday morning woke up to the stunning news of the death of former United Nations (UN) Secretary General, Kofi Annan aged 80.
The news, perhaps, first broke out in Ghana, his motherland, after snippets of it made it to the social media, prompting many to wonder whether it was real or fake; given the heightened spate of cooked-up stories about the death of high-profile personalities in recent times.
For those who doubted it, they hinged their stance on the fact that credible international networks such as the BBC and others had not reported the story and so it could not be true more so given the stature of the person at the centre of the storm.
Not even Ghana’s own man in the UN, Dr. Mohammed Ibn Chambas initially gave categorical ‘yes he is dead’ response until later.
Credible local sources of the story could not even convince those who heard it because they were in total denial.
Those who had friends among the family of the deceased eventually made calls to authenticate the story and that was when the picture became clear.
Indeed, being his motherland, it was not out of place for people in this country to hear and authenticate the story before others.
Flags at half-mast
President Akufo-Addo has directed that the Ghanaian flag flies at half-mast across the country and in the country’s foreign missions abroad in deference to the deceased, who some described as Ghana’s gift to the international community.
Flags at the UN headquarters in New York are already flying at half-mast.
The former international Number One Civil Servant passed away in Switzerland.
He was married to his second wife, former lawyer, Nane Lagergren of Sweden.
The career diplomat joined the UN in 1962 and rose through the ranks to become the world body’s Secretary-General.
Until recently he was the Chancellor of the University of Ghana, Legon.
No sooner had news of his death been authenticated than tributes start pouring in from all corners of the world.
For his compatriots, they found it shocking that for somebody who brought so much honour to his motherland, he should die so abruptly.
President Akufo-Addo, in a tribute, said “Kofi Annan was a guiding force for good. It is with profound sadness that I learned of his passing. In many ways, Kofi Annan was the United Nations. He rose through the ranks to lead the organization into the new millennium with matchless dignity and determination.
“The Government and people of Ghana, First Lady Rebecca and I are deeply saddened by the news of the death in Berne, Switzerland, of one of our greatest compatriots, Mr. Kofi Annan.
“I extend, on behalf of the entire Ghanaian nation, our sincere, heartfelt condolences to his beloved widow, Nane Maria, and to his devoted children, Ama, Kojo and Nina, on this great loss. I am, however, comforted by the information, after speaking to Nane Maria that he died peacefully in his sleep.
“Consummate international diplomat and highly respected former Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr. Kofi Annan was the first from sub-Saharan Africa to occupy this exalted position. He brought considerable renown to our country by this position and through his conduct and comportment in the global arena. He was an ardent believer in the capacity of the Ghanaian to chart his or her own course onto the path of progress and prosperity. Undoubtedly, he excelled in the various undertakings of his life, leaving in his trail most pleasant memories. His was a life well-lived.
“I have directed that in his honour, Ghana’s national flag will fly at half-mast across the country and in all of Ghana’s diplomatic missions across the world, from Monday, 20th August, 2018, for one week.
Rest in perfect peace, Kofi. You have earned it. God bless.’
As the first black African to head the UN his most controversial moments were during the crisis in Iraqi, the invasion of which country he opposed.
Another difficult time he weathered was the Rwandan genocide which he had terrible thoughts about.
The challenges notwithstanding he would be remembered for the dexterity with which he meandered through the quagmire of a complex world in which sometimes logic was overshadowed by the contrary.
His calmness when he is expressing himself in the face of very grave international challenges stood him apart from others during his two terms as Chief Scribe of the world body.
His speechwriter and former Director of Communications of the UN Edward Mortimen told A`l Jazeera on Saturday that “Kofi Annan was an extraordinary nice man; it was fun working with him. We all liked him.”
When he was handing over to Ban Ki Moon, he said “you are about to take on the most difficult job in the world.”
Soft-spoken Kofi Annan said that one could have things without raising voices.
UN Secretary General’s Tribute
The UN Secretary Antonio Gutteres’ tribute read “Like so many, I was proud to call Kofi Annan a good friend and mentor. I was deeply honoured by his trust in selecting me to serve as UN High Commissioner for Refugees under his leadership.
“He remained someone I could always turn to for counsel and wisdom — and I know I was not alone. He provided people everywhere with a space for dialogue, a place for problem-solving and a path to a better world.
“In these turbulent and trying times, he never stopped working to give life to the values of the United Nations Charter. His legacy will remain a true inspiration for all us.
“My heartfelt condolences to Nane Annan, their beloved family, and all who mourn the loss of this proud son of Africa who became a global champion for peace and all humanity.’
German Foreign Minister
“We mourn with the whole world for a great statesman of our time. Kofi Annan was a strong voice for peace and justice, fighting relentlessly for the world community to solve its problems not through violence but through cooperation. He will be greatly missed.”
Kofi Atta Annan was born in Kumasi on April 8, 1938. He is a royal from Akwamufie in the Eastern Region of Ghana.
He attended the College of Science and Technology Kumasi. At the age of 20, he won a Ford Foundation scholarship for undergraduate studies at Macalester College in St. Paul Minnesota, where he studied economics.
Even then he was showing signs of becoming a diplomat or someone skilled in international relations.
Annan received his bachelor’s degree in economics in 1961. Shortly after completing his studies at Macalester College, Annan headed for Geneva, Switzerland, where he attended graduate classes in economics at the Institut Universitaire des Hautes Etudes Internationales.
Annan was appointed Secretary-General by the UN General Assembly in December 1996 and began serving his four-year term of office on January 1, 1997, a term that was renewed for another four years.