World leaders continue to pour encomiums on perhaps Africa’s foremost diplomat, a former United Nations (UN) Secretary-General, Kofi Annan who died Saturday in Switzerland at 80 years.
His organisation, the Kofi Annan Foundation, announced his death after a short illness, saying he was surrounded in his last days by his second wife Nane and children Ama, Kojo and Nina. Annan was first married to a Nigerian, Titi Alakija, in 1965. They separated in the late 1970s and divorced in 1983.
He was the first UN scribe from sub-Sahara Africa. His two terms tenure started on 1 January 1997 and ended in December 2006. The Ghanaian took over the mantle of the world organization from Egyptian Boutros Boutros-Ghali.
President Muhammadu Buhari commiserated with the government and people of Ghana over Annan’s death.
President Buhari, who called Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo from London, said all Nigerians and ECOWAS member countries share in the deep loss, considering the strategic influence of the former scribe in global affairs and his vision for the repositioning of the West Coast and Africa.
As the first elected staff of the United Nations to lead the world organisation and first African to win the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize jointly with the United Nations, the President noted that Annan’s humility, nobility and love for humanity set him apart for global greatness, achieving recognition and commendation for the reform of the United Nations’ bureaucracy and multiple interventions to bring peace to the world.
Buhari in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, said Annan’s origin and home will always be traced to Ghana, but his exceptional leadership roles, humanitarian spirit and contributions to global peace and development will remain indelible in the history of the entire world, especially the efforts to combat HIV/AIDS in Africa and launch of the UN Global Compact.
Buhari sent condolences to the wife of the diplomat, Nane Maria Annan and his family members, staff of the United Nations and the global organisations he was heading, like The Elders, which was founded by the late Nelson Mandela.
United Kingdom Prime Minister, Theresa May took to Twitter, saying: “Sad to hear of the death of Kofi Annan. A great leader and reformer of the UN, he made a huge contribution to making the world he has left a better place than the one he was born into. My thoughts and condolences are with his family.”
French President Emmanuel Macron also tweeted that “Kofi Annan, former UN secretary-General and Nobel Peace Prize, left this world overnight. France pays homage to him. We will never forget his calm and resolved gaze nor the strength of his fights.”
The Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo in a tweet ordered flags flown at half-mast across the country and in diplomatic missions across the world for seven days, starting on Monday, August 20.
According to him, Annan was a consummate international diplomat and highly respected former Secretary-General of the United Nations “who 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.”
Incumbent UN Secretary-General António Guterres described Annan as “a proud son of Africa.” In a statement on the UN website, Guterres also said “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.”
South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa in a tweet described Annan as “a great leader and diplomat extraordinaire” who had advanced the African agenda within the United Nations and had “flown the flag for peace” around the world.
The Togolese leader Faure Gnassingbe said “The death of the former Secretary-General of the UN Kofi Annan plunges us all into sadness. This worthy son of Africa was a valiant representative of our continent.”
The Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi noted that “the world has lost not only a great African diplomat and humanitarian but also a conscience keeper of international peace and security.”
Born in Kumasi, Annan joined the UN in 1962, working for the World Health Organization’s Geneva office. He went on to work in several capacities at the UN headquarters including serving as the Under-Secretary-General for peacekeeping between March 1992 and December 1996.
As the Secretary-General, Annan reformed the UN bureaucracy; worked to combat HIV, especially in Africa and launched the UN Global Compact. He has been criticized for not expanding the Security Council and faced calls for resignation after an investigation into the Oil-for-Food Programme. (With agency reports)
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