ACCRA. – Hundreds of Ghanaians from all walks of life were filing past yesterday to pay their last respects to the former UN secretary general Kofi Annan, as his body lay in state in the capital of his native Ghana.
The Nobel peace laureate passed away on August 18 in the Swiss city of Berne, at the age of 80, after a short illness.
The international top diplomat’s body was flown back from his home in Switzerland on Monday ahead of a state funeral and private burial in Accra tomorrow.
Scores of world leaders past and present, as well as royalty, are expected in Accra for Annan’s funeral.
A private burial service will then be held in the city’s military cemetery.
His coffin, draped in Ghana’s red, green and gold flag, was guarded by senior military officers in ceremonial uniform at the Accra International Conference Centre.
A choir sang hymns and traditional dances were performed as the public got their chance to say farewell to one of the country’s most famous sons.
Professor Atsu Ayee of the Political Science Department of the University of Ghana said, “The lasting tribute we can give to Kofi Annan, Ghana’s illustrious son, who rose through the ranks to head the United Nations, for a decade, is to emulate his sterling leadership skills and love for humanity.”
Prof Atsu Ayee said the late Annan did his best to put Ghana on the world stage and also contributed immensely to world peace.
“He has left an indelible landmark, which would be difficult to fill,” Prof Atsu Ayee remarked in an interview with the Ghana News Agency, after paying his respects to him at the start of the three-day State Funeral, at the Accra International Conference Centre.
He expressed gratitude to God for the life and ministry of Kofi Annan, who co-received the Noble Peace Prize in 2001 with the UN.
He also commended the family of Kofi Annan for giving him to Ghana and the world at large.
Tributes have since poured for Annan from every corner of the world to celebrate the man who founded the Kofi Annan Foundation, in 2007, upon retirement, to continually mobilise human and financial resources towards minimising poverty and creating a better and fairer world.
Born in Kumasi, he joined the UN in 1962, working for the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Office in Geneva.
He then went to serve in various capacities at the UN Headquarters, including serving as Under Secretary-General for Peacekeeping, from March 1992 to December 1996.
He was appointed the UN Chief in December 1996 by the Security Council and later confirmed by the General Assembly, becoming the first office holder to be elected from the UN staff itself.
Annan was re-elected for a second term in 2001 and was succeeded by South Korea’s Ban Ki-moon on January 01, 2007.
As Secretary-General, he worked to reform the UN bureaucracy, combat the deadly HIV spread, especially in Africa, and launched the UN Global Compact.
He also initiated the Millennium Development Goals towards improving the lots of the poor around the world.
After serving out his term, he formed the Kofi Annan Foundation in 2007 to work on international development, peace and humanitarianism.
He was also the Chairman of “The Elders”, an international organisation founded by Nelson Mandela. One of his last assignments as an Elder was when he came to Zimbabwe in June before the July 30 harmonised elections.
In 2012, Annan became the UN-Arab League Joint Special Representative for Syria, to aid efforts at resolving the bloody conflict there but quit over his frustration with the lack of progress with regard to conflict resolution.
He was appointed to lead a UN Commission to investigate the Rohingya crisis in September 2016.
Annan studied Economics at Macalester College – International Relations from the Graduate Institute Geneva and Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
He is survived by his wife Nane Marie Lagergren and their three children. – Ghana News Agency/AFP/HR