Kofi Atta Annan (1938-2018)


According to British legendary writer, William Shakespeare, death is a necessary end, it will come when it will come.
For Kofi Atta Annan, the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations, death came knocking in a most treacherous manner on August 18, 2018, without sounding a warning note.
But the most interesting aspect of the life of this quintessential African diplomat is the fact that he dedicated his life to the service of humanity, having bestrode the world stage with dignity, finesse, admirable restraint and wisdom as an intellectual colossus.
By sheer dint of hard work and uncommon commitment, Annan rose to the pinnacle of global politics and urguably became the number one citizen and public administrator of the world. But, that is not all about his life story.
Kofi Annan was a Ghanaian diplomat, who served as the Secretary-General of the United Nations from January, 1997 to December, 2006. Annan and the United Nations were co-recipients of the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize, owing to his immense contributions towards global peace. He was the founder and Chairman of the Kofi Annan Foundation as well as Chairman of The Elders, an international organisation founded by former South African President, Nelson Mandela.
Born on April 8, 1938 in Kumasi in the Gold Coast, today’s Ghana, Annan studied Economics in 1958 at the Kumasi College of Science and Technology, now the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. By virtue of a Ford Foundation grant, he was able to complete his undergraduate studies in Economics at Macalester College in the United States in 1961.
Kofi Annan equally obtained a DEA Degree in International Relations at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Switzerland. However, after some years of work experience, he got a Master’s Degree in Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management between 1971 and 1972.
In 1962, Kofi Annan started working as a budget officer for the World Health Organisation (WHO), an agency of the United Nations. He also worked as a manager of the state-owned Ghana Tourist Development Company in Accra in 1980. He became the head of personnel for the office of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in Geneva. He was later appointed the director of administrative management services of the United Nations Secretariat in New York in 1983.
Besides, he also worked in several capacities at the UN headquarters in New York, including serving as the Under-Secretary General for peace keeping between March, 1992 and December, 1996.
He was elected the UN Secretary-General on December 13, 1996 by the Security Council and later confirmed by the General Assembly, thus, making him the first office holder to be so elected from the staff of the United Nations itself. He succeeded Boutros Boutros-Ghali of Egypt as the second African to head the UN.
Annan was re-elected for a second term in 2001 and was succeeded in January, 2007 by Ban Ki-moon. Indeed, Kofi Annan’s life revolved around service and hard work, particularly at the United Nations.
Little wonder, then, the incumbent UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres said, in a tribute, that Annan, the second African to occupy the top seat of the global body was United Nations itself.
As the number one public administrator in the world, Kofi Annan gave the global community the best, ever known by an African through his diplomatic finesse, dexterity and administrative engineering in global politics.
As Secretary-General, Annan reformed the United Nations’ bureaucracy, worked to combat the HIV/AIDS pandemic, especially in Africa and equally launched the UN Global Compact. He was the initiator of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), aimed at addressing the dehumanising poverty in which over one billion people are currently enmeshed all over the world.
After his stewardship, he founded in 2007 the Kofi Annan Foundation, with headquarters in Geneva to continue his humanitarian work across the globe. In 2012, Annan was the UN Arab League Joint Special Representative for Syria to help find a lasting resolution to the Syrian crisis, a position he resigned owing to UN’s lack of progress due mainly to the antics of some major powers. He was later appointed to lead a UN Commission to investigate the Rolingya refugee crisis.
As a writer aptly pointed out, “Annan was a Nobel Laureate whose accomplishments put him shoulders and head above his peers anywhere in the world”. He was a highly respected moral authority and voice, who spoke to African leaders as nobody else dared to do.
Kofi Annan was first married to a Nigerian, Titi Alakija, who, he later divorced before marrying Nane Lagergren of Switzerland. He is survived by three children including Kojo Annan, his first son. He lost his twin sister, Efua Atta to the cold hands of death in 1991. Annan was fluent in English, French and other African languages.
While The Tide joins the rest of the world to mourn this global icon, Africa, the entire black race and, indeed, the global community will continue to cherish and remember him for his meritorious services to humanity.
Adieu, Annan, Adieu, great one!