WORLD leaders, international dignitaries and people from all walks of life yesterday united in sorrow, after jetting into Ghana to pay their last respects to the late United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, who was honoured with a state funeral.
Many took turns to laud Annan as an exceptional man and leader before he was buried at Accra’s Military Cemetery, with full military honours and a 17-gun salute.
Annan died on August 18 in Bern, Switzerland at the age of 80 years, he was the first black African to become the UN leader and was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize.
“Kofi Annan was courageous, speaking the truth to power while subjecting himself to intense self-scrutiny,” said current UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
The presidents of Namibia, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia and Sierra Leone attended, along with Niger’s prime minister and Angola’s Vice president, while former leaders from Europe and Africa also joined the ceremony, including Graca Machel, wife of the late South African President Nelson Mandela.
Mr Gutteres said the late Annan “was an exceptional global leader — and he was also someone virtually anyone in the world could see themselves in: those on the far reaches of poverty, conflict and despair who found in him an ally; the junior UN staffer following in his footsteps; the young person to whom he said until his dying breath ‘always remember, you are never too young to lead — and we are never too old to learn.’”
Mr Guterres, who was selected by Annan to be the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, spoke of the honour of working with him to weather “many of the same global storms.”
“He helped to ease post-election tensions in Kenya, gave his all to find a political solution to the brutal war in Syria and set out a path for ensuring justice and rights for the Rohingya people of Myanmar,” said Mr Guterres.
Ghana’s President Nana Dankwa Akufo-Addo said Annan was bold and never gave up on what he believed in.
“Despite the unjustified attacks on him, trying to fix him with responsibility for the genocides in Rwanda and Srebrenica when he was head of UN peace operations, he never lost his moral compass, as he showed when he stood up to the might of the United States of America when she was embarking on the ill-fated intervention in Iraq.”
Annan’s wife, Nane “thanked God for giving her such an extraordinary human being,” while his daughter Ama Annan Adedeji said her father “was one of the most loving people I have known.”
Mourners have thronged the conference centre in Accra, where his coffin has been since his body arrived Monday, and where the funeral was held.