A big farewell to former UN chief Kofi Annan at Ghana state funeral

14Sep 2018
The Guardian Reporter
The Guardian
A big farewell to former UN chief Kofi Annan at Ghana state funeral

UNITED in sorrow, world leaders and international dignitaries thronged Ghana to pay their last respects to immediate former United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan, who was honoured with a state funeral yesterday with many hailing his record as an advocate for humanity and world peace.

Kofi Annan’s widow, Nane Maria Lagergren, and children Ama, Kojo and Nina with other family members in paying their last respects to the distinguished Ghanaian diplomat and immediate former United Nations Secretary General at a state funeral just before he was buried in Accra yesterday. Photo: Agencies

Annan died on August 18 in Bern, Switzerland, at age 80, and his body was flown to Accra on Monday for burial in his homeland where he is seen as a national hero.

The grandson of tribal chiefs, he was the first black African to become the leader of the UN, holding the post from 1997 to 2006, and was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize.

“Kofi Annan was courageous, speaking the truth to power while subjecting himself to intense self-scrutiny,” said current UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

Presidents from across Africa joined Guterres, Annan’s family, and many others in a ceremony that concluded two days of viewings.

The presidents of Namibia, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia and Sierra Leone attended, along with Niger’s prime minister and Angola’s vice president.

Former leaders from Europe and Africa also joined the ceremony, including Graca Machel, widow of former South African president Nelson Mandela.

According to Gutteres: “Kofi was an exceptional global leader – and he was also someone virtually anyone in the world could see themselves in: those on the far reaches of poverty, conflict and despair who found in him an ally; the junior UN staffer following in his footsteps; the young person to whom he said until his dying breath ‘always remember, you are never too young to lead – and we are never too old to learn.’”

Guterres, who was selected by Annan to be the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, spoke of the honour of working with him to weather “many of the same global storms’.

“The world has lost a standard-bearer of global cooperation. The United Nations has lost an embodiment of its mission,” he said, adding: “Now that I occupy the office Kofi once held, I am continually inspired by his integrity, dynamism and dedication. To him, indifference was the world’s worst poison.”

Even after serving as UN secretary general, Kofi continued to work on the front lines of diplomacy, said Guterres, elaborating: “He helped to ease post-election tensions in Kenya, gave his all to find a political solution to the brutal war in Syria, and set out a path for ensuring justice and rights for the Rohingya people of Myanmar.”

“As we face the headwinds of our troubled and turbulent times, let us always be inspired by the legacy of Kofi Annan. Our world needs it now more than ever.”

Ghana’s president Nana Dankwa Akufo-Addo said Annan was bold and never gave up on what he believed in: “Despite the unjustified attacks on him, trying to fix him with responsibility for the genocides in Rwanda and Srebrenica when he was head of UN peace operations, he never lost his moral compass, as he showed when he stood up to the might of the United States of America when she was embarking on the ill-fated intervention in Iraq.”

History has vindicated Annan, said Akufo-Addo, saying that his “epic but unavailing efforts to establish the supremacy of international law over the actions of even the world’s greatest power won him the admiration of all right-thinking persons”.

He further noted that Annan was an ardent believer in the capacity of Ghana and the continent of Africa to chart their own path of progress.

Annan’s wife Nane “thanked God for giving me such an extraordinary human being”, while his daughter Ama Annan Adedeji said her father was “one of the most loving people l have known”.

Around 6,000 mourners packed the auditorium for Thursday’s official service - the climax of a multi-day funeral ceremony which has seen his coffin, draped in the Ghanaian national colours, displayed for public viewing.

The ceremony was projected onto big screens outside the auditorium for the crowds of mourners that could not fit inside the venue. Many commuters in the capital wore black as a sign of respect.

A private burial followed at Accra’s Military Cemetery, with full military honours and a 17-gun salute.

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