Mourners are paying their respects in the birthplace of former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan ahead of the Ghanaian diplomat’s funeral on Thursday.
Annan passed away on Aug 18 at the age of 80 in a Swiss hospital. As one of the world’s most preeminent top diplomats, Annan served two terms as the UN Secretary-General from 1997 to 2006.
Ahead of Annan’s funeral on Thursday, mourners have headed to Kumasi, one of Ghana’s largest cities and the capital of the Ashanti region, which was the birthplace of one of Africa’s most famous sons.
Annan was born on April 8, 1938, and grew up in Kumasi with his twin sister Atta and spent his formative years in his home city. But though his career eventually took him far away from home, he never lost contact with his relatives.
Annan’s family believed deeply in the value of education, and so the young Kofi was an avid learner as a child. His quest for self-betterment eventually would take him to the United States, where he studied economics in Minnesota and management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
He later moved to Switzerland and studied International Relations at the Graduate Institute in Geneva. He joined the United Nations back in 1962 where he worked for the World Health Organization’s Geneva office, before his talent and ambition allowed him to rise to the top of the UN.
Osei Kofi,Annan’s Cousin, recalled the kind of confidence and self-belief shown by Annan. When former UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali called his successor and asked: ‘Are you sure you can solve almost every problem in the world?’
Annan coolly replied that despite his short time in the job, he believed he could do it. Annan would go on to cement a strong reputation as the world’s leading diplomat and revitalized the United Nations in the new millennium.
His efforts saw both he and the UN awarded the Noble Peace Prize in 2001, for their work to create a better organized and more peaceful world. Annan’s work also had an emphasis on improving Human Rights issues, while he always envisioned a better future for young people around the globe.
“You have wider horizons. There are no limits to what you can achieve. You are the smartest generation that we’ve ever had,” he said in his opening address at the One Young World Summit in Johannesburg in 2013. Annan’s death last month was met with much sadness across Africa and around the world. His relatives were also shattered to find out the news.
“I was told that (news about) Kofi. Have you heard what has happened? They said big brother is dead. Ah! Are you sure? Big brother is dead? So, I stopped everything and I called London, I called America, I called so many places and they confirmed that he’s dead,” said Osei Kofi.
Many family members have gone to Accra, the capital of the Republic of Ghana, for the final farewell. Annan’s body is set to be laid to rest at a military cemetery in the capital on Thursday.