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Kofi Annan (1938-2018)

Perhaps no other prominent African personality of international clout, apart from the late Nelson Mandela, has attracted so much accolade, sympathy, empathy and condolence like the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations  Kofi Atta Annan, who died in Bern, Switzerland, on August 18, 2018.

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Born on 8 April 1938 in Kumasi, Ghana, Kofi Annan, the first black African to take on the UN Secretary General role, attended Methodist Boarding School, Mfantsipim 1954-57 and studied Economics at the Kumasi College of Science and Technology before proceeding to Macalester College, Minnesota, USA in 1958. After Mr. Annan graduated from Macalester College in 1961, he got his first job in the UN as a budget officer for the World Health Organization (WHO).

The Ghanian diplomat also studied international relations from the Graduate Institute Geneva and management at MIT. Annan joined the UN in 1962, working for the World Health Organization’s Geneva office. He went on to work in several capacities at the UN Headquarters including serving as the Under-Secretary-General for peacekeeping between March 1992 and December 1996. He was appointed as the Secretary-General on 13 December 1996 by the Security Council, and later confirmed by the General Assembly, making him the first office holder to be elected from the UN staff itself. He was re-elected for a second term in 2001, and was succeeded as Secretary-General by Ban Ki-moon on 1 January 2007. 

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Throughout his career, Mr. Annan demonstrated a commitment to raising the African agenda on an international scale. As the Secretary-General, Annan reformed the UN bureaucracy; worked to combat HIV, especially in Africa; and launched the UN Global Compact. In 2001, he launched a campaign to tackle Africa’s HIV and AIDS epidemic. Mr. Annan stepped down from his post in 2006, aged 69.

Mr. Annan was known for his impressive mediation skills, especially when dealing with crises in the Middle East and is credited with having prevented a bombing in Iraq in 1998.

In 2008, he launched a peacekeeping attempt in Kenya after violence broke out following former President Mwai Kibaki topping election polls over opposition leader Ralia Odinga in 2007.

In 2012, Annan was the UN-Arab League Joint Special Representative for Syria, to help find a resolution to the ongoing conflict there. Annan quit after becoming frustrated with the UN’s lack of progress with regard to conflict resolution. In September 2016, Annan was appointed to lead a UN commission to investigate the Rohingya crisis.

Annan and the UN were the co-recipients of the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize. He was the founder and chairman of the Kofi Annan Foundation, as well as chairman of The Elders, an international organization founded by Nelson Mandela.

After the end of his term as UN Secretary-General, he set up the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Center in Accra, Ghana, and founded the Kofi Annan Foundation in 2007 to work on international development.

He then set up the Kofi Annan foundation to help promote global security, peace and sustainable development in 2007.

Annan distinguished himself as an international statesman, global icon, finest diplomat and tireless champion of human rights for all. He was an icon, an enigma in humility, service and commitment to humanity, a great African diplomat, and humanitarian, a conscience keeper of international peace and security

An inspiration who devoted his life to making the world a more peaceful place, he stood firmly for development,  embodied the mission of the UN, a consummate diplomat, a global statesman who dedicated his life to democracy, peace, stability, security, equity, justice, human rights, development and progress.

Kofi Annan was certainly one of Africa’s prominent diplomats, he was firm and just, an icon of peace and diplomacy, a distinguished and accomplished international public servant. His time at the UN was also remarkable for his role in ensuring stability of democratic governments in Africa and intervention in conflict resolution around the world aimed at achieving world peace.

His death marks the end of an era for not only Africa but the world in general.


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