Today Kofi Annan is laid to rest in Ghana. While many have gathered in Accra to say their final farewells, millions more are here in spirit, grieving the loss of a remarkable leader and celebrating a life well lived.
“Kofi Annan was the United Nations and the United Nations was Kofi Annan,” the Secretary-General of the UN, António Manuel de Oliveira Guterres has said.
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According to Guterres, the late former Secretary-General of the UN, who died on August 18, 2018, in Switzerland after a short illness was “an exceptional global leader” and also “someone virtually anyone in the world could see themselves in. Those on the far reaches of poverty, conflict and despair always found in him an ally.”
Guterres continued: “Kofi Annan was courageous, speaking truth to power whilst subjecting himself to intense self-scrutiny.” Kofi Annan, he said, had an enormous mystical sense of the United Nations as a “force for good in the world of ills.”
Likened to Dag Hammarskjold, the second Secretary-General of the United Nations, who died in a mysterious plane crash in Africa in 1961, Kofi Annan who was appointed as the seventh and the first black African Secretary-General of the United Nations on January 1, 1997 to December 31, 2006 was credited for revitalizing institutions of the United Nations, shaping what he called a new “norm of humanitarian intervention,” particularly in places where there was no peace for traditional peacekeepers to keep.
“All of these added up to a remarkable record of achievement,” said Guterres adding “Kofi Annan was the United Nations and the United Nations was him.”
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Born on April 8, 1938, in Kumasi, the man eulogized as “the embodiment of peace” and “the secretary-general” by Otumfuo Osei Tutu and Graca Machel—widow of former South African President Nelson Mandela was the first black African to lead the United Nations.
“He will be remembered in my view as the Secretary-General of the UN. I think there will be very few who will remember other Secretaries-General and I’m not being diplomatic here, but he is really, the one all people in the world when they say, the Secretary-General of the UN—it’s the face of Kofi Annan,” said Graca Machel.
“We will miss him, we will miss him very…very dearly. It is going to be very difficult to find someone who can step in his shoes,” she added.
He was sired into a royal family by Henry Reginald Annan and Victoria Annan. He had his education at University of Science and Technology (Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology—KNUST); Macalester College, St. Paul, Minnesota, B.A. in economics, 1961; Attended Institut Universitaire des Hautes Etudes Internationales, Geneva, Switzerland, 1961-1962; Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Sloan Fellow, M.S. in management, 1971-1972.
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Kofi Annan was involved in two marriages during his lifetime, marrying Nane (Lagergren) Annan (1984 until his death on August 18, 2018) and Titi Alakija (1965-1983, divorce). He left behind 3 children—Nina (stepdaughter), Kojo and Ama.
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