Many thanks to Rev. Father Micheal Achile, our editor who led this work and tribute for your e-motivational uplifment.
“To live is to choose. But to choose well, you must know who you are and what you stand for, where you want to go and why you want to go there.”
What better day to reflect on the life and times of a man who embodied world peace than a day after the celebration of the International day of Peace held 21st September 2018? This international awareness day was created following a unanimous United Nations resolution in 1981. This year’s theme focuses on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that was drafted and adopted by the UN 70 years ago!
The man Team LR is dedicating this tribute to, stood up for human rights all his life. He always preached peace and the need for teamwork to achieve world peace. His name is synonymous with peace in all its form including the Nobel version of it. This September, 70 years later, UN’s trending hash tag is one that will make him and his ancestors smile from the great beyond….. his legacy lives on with the theme #StandUp4HumanRights because globally, many can all testify that Kofi never sat down for human rights.
Kofi Annan was born on April 8, 1938, in Kumasi, Ghana. He died on Saturday 18th August in Bern, Switzerland at the age of 80. He attended the elite Mfantsipim school, a Methodist boarding school in Cape Coast founded in the 1870s, where he became fluent in English, French and several African languages. Annan then went on to study economics at Macalester College, international relations from the Graduate Institute Geneva and management at MIT and from then on quickly entered the diplomatic world of the United Nations (UN).
He will be remembered as the United Nation’s first Secretary-General from sub-Saharan Africa (1997-2006), a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, a tenacious global icon, an extraordinary statesman, an exceptional diplomat, an inspirational leader imbued with gentleness, warmth and compassion. He always said of himself “I am a stubborn optimist, I was born an optimist and will remain an optimist”. He was often referred to as the ‘secular pope’ without an army but with the might of persuasion, he brought warring nations peace.
Annan was the grandson of a tribal chief and son of a provincial governor in the then British colony of Gold Coast (now Ghana). Annan blended an educated aristocratic grace of leadership with soft-spoken personal charisma, empathy, great intellectual capacity, and a masterly elegance. His ten years as Secretary General (1997-2006) were marked by astute political adjudication, diplomacy, and personal integrity. There are countless eloquent testaments to the quality of his ten-year tenure at the apex of leadership in the UN. His loyalty to the cause of peace and a better world was devotion, his private and public life were immense sources of inspirations to all who met and worked with him. He was the exemplary global citizen, a pacesetter and a benchmark for leaders to measure themselves against across the globe.
As the Secretary-General, Kofi Annan reformed the UN bureaucracy, vision and mission; put in place programs and policies to combat infectious diseases, principally the astronomic spread of HIV/AIDS, especially in Africa; sought to reduce inequality within and between countries promote human rights and protect civilians from war crimes including genocide. He it was, who launched the UN Global Compact. One other major enduring achievement was the creation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) (2000-2015). This encapsulates a fusion of vision and character of Annan. Through the MDGs he mapped an ambitious set of priorities for the UN. The success of the MDGs and eventual expansion into UN Sustainable Development Goals 2030 was based on his tact in combing pragmatism and humility towards charting a courageous vision of human progress and solidarity. The SDGs includes an updated list of the UN’s current focus and agenda on the issues of climate change and action, affordable and clean energy as well as promoting peace and justice across the globe.
Annan’s commitment to serving humanity did not wind-up with his departure from the UN. He remained relentlessly engaged with poverty alleviation, infectious disease preventions, conflict resolution and reconciliation, and humanitarian relief efforts through UN invitations. He embodied UN’s values and focus through the Kofi Annan Foundation, and as head of the Elders, the group of prominent former leaders and heads of states founded by Nelson Mandela as custodian of world conscience and voice of the voiceless. Annan kept working – and speaking out, as one commentator puts it, “You can take the man out of the UN, but you can’t take the UN out of the man.” He remained a courtly figure of moral authority and through the power of persuasion enforced a high standard of peace and development for world leaders.
“Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family.”
Over a lifetime of serving the UN he came to deeply internalise the moral rhetoric of the institution and never idealism. In jointly awarding the Nobel Prize to him and the UN in 2001, his life became the fullest incarnation of UN ideals, this is the greatest accolade given to any UN secretary-general. He should also be remembered as a champion of international law. Annan stretched the executive authority of the UN through creative interpretations of the Charter to secure the adoption of the “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P) principle. R2P is the global political commitment by all member states geared towards preventing genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. He will be remembered for the creation of the International Criminal Court as the legal instrument to end impunity and prosecute and punish military commanders and political leaders for the most heinous crimes. He also will be remembered as an enlightened and dignified leader, outstanding diplomat, a voice for vulnerable populations as well as his respect basic human decency and value for human lives. All of these could well be the most enduring legacy of his life’s work.
In spite of the stellar performance an indelible dent remains on Annan’s reputation. He is held responsible for the reluctant handling and restrictive interpretations of the UN mandates for the peacekeeping operations in Rwanda and Srebrenica, Bosnia, in 1994-1995. This led to horrendous genocides. Yet, Annan was indeed a good man and a gentleman to the core.
Kofi Annan as a seasoned diplomat with deeply rooted African ideal of humanity as a family, was the embodiment of the vision and mission of the United Nations. His decency, integrity, persistence, optimism, humour and sense of our common humanity always informed his outlook on life. He was optimistic that a better world is possible through dialogue and cooperation. He always made time out to motivate and inspire the next generation of leaders that with matchless bravery, dignity and determination a new and better world is possible.
In many ways, Kofi Annan was the United Nations. His memoir Interventions: A Life in War and Peace (2012) sums his life’s call: let us continue to work together to develop and nurture in future generations a culture of human rights, to promote freedom, security and peace in all nations. May he take his well-deserved place in the hall of the revered ancestors. Rest in peace!