Kofi Annan laid to rest with military honours

Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary General, was given a state burial with full military honours after a funeral service at the Accra International Conference Centre.

Some 2,000 guests were invited but there were also hundreds who thronged the grounds of the conference centre, where two large portraits hanged at the entrance of the building.

Ghana’s president Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, led Ghana to mourn the late top diplomat and civil servant, who passed away in Switzerland on 18 August, aged 80. His wife, Nane, and children were also at the funeral.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, led the UN family while many African leaders as well as representatives of world leaders, diplomats, Ghanaian security chiefs, chiefs and queen mothers’ attended. All living former presidents of Ghana – Jerry John Rawlings, John Agyekum Kufuor and John Dramani Mahama – were also present.

Ghana declared a three-day national mourning after the body arrived in Accra with Flags flying at half-mast for the fallen Ghanaian icon.

As the funeral cortege drove to the military cemetery, many people lined the streets to bid him farewell. He was given a 17-gun salute at the burial at the military cemetery.

In his tribute, Ghana’s president, Nana Akufo-Addo, said Kofi Annan brought renown to Ghana. He said Kofi Annan was charming, cosmopolitan, consensus-builder, elegant, eloquent, gentle-mannered, modest, proud African, peacemaker, and a quintessential diplomat.

UN secretary-general Guterres said during the tumultuous era in which Kofi Annan led the United Nations, he combined compassion, commitment and diplomatic skill to bring the Organization closer to world’s peace, build the foundations of peace and give life to the values of the Charter. “Kofi Annan was a guiding force for the good.”

Kofi Annan, he said, was a courageous man who spoke tough while subjecting himself to scrutiny.

He said Annan pioneered many new ideas and opened the doors of the United Nations family. He cited the MDGs. He also mentioned his fight against poverty, HIV/AIDS and his desire for the environmental sanity.

Even after his retirement, he still worked for peace as a diplomat working for peace in Kenya, Syria and Myanmar.

His children described him as a man with a spirit of generosity, a man who sought truth and fought for peace.

“I remember how excited he always was to return home to Ghana. He would always be so happy,” said Nane. “He tried his best to make the world a better place in our homes, or villages, our towns and our communities….my Love, may you rest in peace and continue to inspire us and guide us.”

Kofi Annan’s body arrived in Ghana last Monday and hundreds of people filed past his casket as they paid their last respects to him.

Kofi Annan was born in Kumasi, Ghana, on 8 April 1938.

He joined the UN system in 1962 as an administrative and budget officer with the World Health Organization in Geneva, rising through the ranks to hold senior-level posts in areas such as budget and finance, and peacekeeping.

He served as UN Secretary-General for two consecutive five-year terms, beginning in January 1997.

The Kofi Annan Foundation has described him as a global statesman and a deeply committed internationalist who fought throughout his life for a fairer and more peaceful world. During his distinguished career and leadership of the United Nations he was an ardent champion of peace, sustainable development, human rights and the rule of law.

After stepping down from the United Nations, he continued to work tirelessly in the cause of peace through his chairmanship of the Kofi Annan Foundation and as chair of The Elders, the group founded by Nelson Mandela. He was an inspiration to the young and old alike.

It said Kofi Annan was a son of Ghana and felt a special responsibility towards Africa. He was particularly committed to African development and deeply engaged in many initiatives, including his chairmanship of the Africa Progress Panel and his early leadership of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).

“Wherever there was suffering or need, he reached out and touched many people with his deep compassion and empathy. He selflessly placed others first, radiating genuine kindness, warmth and brilliance in all he did. He will be greatly missed by so many around the world, as well as his staff at the Foundation and his many former colleagues in the United Nations system. He will remain in our hearts forever.”

Kofi Annan and the UN were the co-recipients of the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize.