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The President of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, has described the former Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Atta Annan as a proud African who devoted his entire life to serving humanity.

The President of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, has described the former Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Atta Annan as a proud African who devoted his entire life to serving humanity.

President Akufo-Addo was paying tribute to the much-admired international public servant and proud son of Ghana at Annan’s state burial service yesterday at the Accra International Conference Centre.

Annan was honoured with three days of national mourning and a private, full military burial.

The solemn ceremony was attended by a cross-section of political leaders ‒ from the serious to the clownish ‒ all eager to figure on the platform of hallowed dignitaries. Among those present were Akua Donkor of the Ghana Freedom Party, Ekwow Spio-Garbrah of the National Democratic Congress, Hassan Ayariga of the All People’s Congress, Bernard Mornah of the People’s National Convention and Edmund Delle of the Convention People’s Party.

“Quintessential diplomat”

In an introduction to his tribute to the former UN chief, the President summed him as “charming, cosmopolitan, consensus-builder, elegant, eloquent, gentle-mannered, modest, polyglot, proud African, peacemaker, quintessential diplomat”.

The President said the words still did not capture Annan’s personality; but he described him as one of the truly iconic figures of modern times. According to President Akufo-Addo, even though Annan was his senior, they were good friends for most of his adult life.

He hailed Annan for bringing considerable renown to Ghana through his position and by his conduct and comportment in the global arena. “Indeed, the outpouring of tributes from the world over is an accurate measure of the man, a man who gave his life to making peace where there was conflict, to defending the voiceless who were powerless, to promoting virtue where there was evil,” President Akufo-Addo said.

He recounted how Annan had offered him sensitive advice when Akufo-Addo became President of Ghana, as a father to a son, and how deeply he appreciated it.

“A devout Christian, an outstanding Ghanaian, who served his country, Africa and humanity with dignity and humility, has left us to join his maker,” President Akufo-Addo said. “Ghana, Africa and the world have suffered greatly from his passing.”

The President described their last encounter, which took place at Jubilee House on 10 March this year. Annan visited to inform the President that he would be unable to continue to serve as Chancellor of Ghana’s premier tertiary institution, the University of Ghana at Legon, because he had served the two terms permitted by the university’s statutes.

Guiding force

President Akufo-Addo paid homage to Annan as a man wedded to his maternal and paternal origins, who had loving ties to his extended family and had left behind a constant companion in his devoted wife, Nane Maria, as well as their cherished children, Ama, Kojo and Nina.

For his part, the current Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, declared: “Kofi Annan was the United Nations, and the United Nations was Kofi Annan.”

According to Guterres, Annan was a moral leader and guiding force for good.

He recalled how Annan served the UN for decades, rising through the ranks of the United Nations from a junior posting in 1962, and described him as one whose knowledge of the organisation was unparalleled. He also had a unique bond with the staff, Guterres said.

Secretary-General Guterres described Annan’s tenure at the UN as highly dynamic, a time when new ideas and policies were pioneered, including the elaboration of the Millennium Development Goals; the comprehensive reform proposals set out in Annan’s landmark report Larger Freedom; and the conceptual underpinnings of the doctrine of the “responsibility to protect” people from grave violations of human rights.

“I and so many others have lost a friend,” Guterres said. “The world has lost a standard-bearer of global co-operation. The United Nations has lost an embodiment of its mission.”

Annan the peace activist

In a published tribute, Kofi Annan’s wife, Nane, described life with her husband as wondrous and thanked him for sharing his “courageous heart”, love for life and deep humanity.

She said the family is grateful that it was able to celebrate Annan’s 80th birthday together in April. This, she said, would continue to give the family strength. In her oration at the funeral service, she described how her late husband’s leadership qualities had emerged when still young and she recalled his lifelong commitment to promoting global peace – one of the chief values espoused by the founding fathers of the United Nations.

Among African leaders who attended the funeral service and burial ceremony were President Alassane Ouattara of Côte d’Ivoire, President George Weah of Liberia, President Hage Geingob of Namibia, President Mulatu Teshome of Ethiopia, President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger and President Emmerson Mnangagwa of Zimbabwe.

Former heads of state of Finland, Germany and Switzerland were also in attendance, as were all three surviving former Ghanaian presidents ‒ Jerry John Rawlings, John Agyekum Kufour and John Dramani Mahama.

Annan’s interment at the Burma Camp Military Cemetery in Accra was preceded by full military honours, including a 17-gun salute.

Annan became the UN’s first leader from sub-Saharan Africa in 1997 and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate in 2001. He died on August 18 in Bern, Switzerland, where he had retired with his wife. He was 80.

His coffin, draped in Ghana’s red, gold and green with the black star, was guarded by senior military officers in ceremonial dress during three days of filing past his remains at the AICC.