Africa and the rest of the world woke up on Saturday, August 18, 2018 to the death news of former United Nations Secretary General and Ghanaian national, Kofi Anan, a great African Patriot. He died in Bern, Switzerland following a brief illness.
The career diplomat was the first and only one that had come from Sub-Saharan Africa to hold this prestigious top level position of the world body since its formation in 1945. The first from the African continent to hold the Secretary General position of the UN was Boutrous Boutrous-Ghali of Egypt, who served from 1992 to 1996.
Taking over from Boutrous Boutros-Ghali in 1997, Kofi Anan is remembered for a number of achievements at the UN for the two five-year terms he served. Referred to as “World’s top diplomat,” the name Kofi Annan remains in memory for fighting to have a fairer and peaceful world for all, an objective for which he established the Millennium Development Goals that set global targets to address such issues as poverty and child mortality.
The fallen former UN Secretary General boldly condemned the war the United States and Great Britain waged against Iraq in 2003 that ousted Saddam Hussein. Kofi Annan described it as “illegal”. Although he had by then completed his two terms and out of the UN Secretary position, Ambassador Annan will also be remembered by people of Kenya for his intervention to restore peace in that East African country when it was plunged into a period of bloody violence following presidential elections in 2007.
Kenya may not be the only country to remember him. It was during the regime of Ambassador Annan at the United Nations that one of the largest peacekeeping troops was mobilized to come to Liberia after long years of war. The presence of the UN Peacekeeping troops led to total restoration of the peace Liberians enjoy today.
His contribution to peace and conflict resolution in Liberia and the world over is remembered by the establishment of the Kofi Annan Institute of Conflict Resolution at the University of Liberia. Tributes to his exemplary statesmanship have been pouring in from around the world from world leaders including former US President Barack Obama, Russian President Vladimir Putin and current UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, as well as his own compatriot, the President of Ghana, Nana Akuffo Addo, according to the BBC have in separate statements described Kofi Annan as a “Remarkable person, a guiding force for good,” etc. His impressive achievements notwithstanding, he came under severe criticism for the 1994 Rwandan genocide which happened under his watch as Under Secretary-General for Peacekeeping, with charges that he did not do enough to prevent the genocide.
He also came under criticism when reports surfaced about his son’s involvement in the Iraq “Oil for Food” program under which limited amounts of Iraqi oil was sold to underwrite the supply of food to the country. He was later though cleared of personal wrong doing in the matter.
Although his critics contend that he was weak, such failing was however a function of his office which pitted him almost constantly against the vagaries of contending power plays between and amongst the big powers on the Security Council. His critics contend that he saw himself as a great leader but who was yet, in the eyes of his critics, “constitutionally incapable of accepting the burdens that great leadership entails”.
Such self-perception may have prompted the remarks made in his final press conference as Secretary-General. He spoke with a strong sense of bitterness that he was being asked to carry the burden of his office. “There is a tendency in certain places to blame the Secretary-General for everything, for Rwanda, for Srebrenica, for Darfur,” he said.
Continuing he declared, “But should we not also blame the Secretary-General for Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, the tsunami, earthquakes? Perhaps the Secretary-General should be blamed for all of those things. We can have fun with that, if you want”.
Kofi Annan may not have been all things to all men and as a human he certainly had his failings as we all do. United Nations Chief Antonio Guterres voicing deep sorrow at the news his predecessor had passed away, called him “a guiding force for good”. “Kofi Annan was a guiding force for good,” Guterres said in a statement shortly after news broke of Annan’s 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,” he added.
The Daily Observer joins the peoples of Ghana, Africa and the world to mourn the passing of this great son of Africa. May his soul and souls of all African heroes, fighters and crusaders for PEACE and JUSTICE rest in perpetual peace!