Former UN chief
Prominent figures eulogize Kofi Annan at state funeral
ACCRA, Ghana — World leaders past and present, traditional rulers and global royalty on Thursday joined the family of Kofi Annan, as the former UN secretary-general’s state funeral took place in his native Ghana.
Hundreds of dignitaries, most of them dressed in black mourning clothes, gathered at the Accra International Conference Center to mark the end of three days of national mourning for the respected diplomat.
Annan’s casket was center stage at the religious service and surrounded by flowers and candles.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres led mourners from the diplomatic corps, while there were representatives of the African Union, the West African bloc ECOWAS, and presidents from across Africa and beyond.
Guterres praised his friend as an “exceptional global leader” who was dignified, courageous and a man of “integrity, dynamism and dedication”.
Annan’s widow Nane Maria called her husband an “extraordinary” person who had a “joy of life”.
Ghana’s President Nana Addo Dankwa Afufo-Addo has ordered Ghana’s flags to fly at half-staff.
He said Annan “brought considerable renown to our country by this position and by his conduct and comportment in the global arena”.
Annan led the United Nations from 1997 to 2006 and was the first from sub-Saharan Africa to do so. He died on Aug 18 at his home in Switzerland after a short illness, aged 80.
The funeral was followed by a private burial at the capital’s military cemetery and a 17-gun salute.
Ordinary Ghanaians and dignitaries have paid their respects to Annan since his coffin was returned from Geneva and received with full honors on Monday.
Thousands of people have filed past the coffin, which was draped in the red, green and gold national flag and guarded by the military in ceremonial uniform.
One mourner, Fritz Kitcher, who spent his career working in human rights for the UN in Geneva, said he had seen Annan rise through the ranks.
Annan had taught him “the benefit of humility, the benefit of honesty, the benefit of decisiveness, and diplomacy from the grassroots,” he said.
Others described Annan as a father-figure and a source of national pride.
‘Diplomatic rock star’
Annan devoted four decades of his working life to the UN, and was known for bringing quiet charisma to the role.
He was widely credited for raising the world body’s profile in global politics during his two terms in office, facing challenges including wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Annan was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001, as the world was reeling from the Sept 11 terror attacks in the United States in 2001, jointly with the UN “for their work for a better organized and more peaceful world”.
He left the post as one of the most popular — and recognizable — UN leaders ever, and was considered a “diplomatic rock star” in international circles.
He kept up his diplomatic work, taking mediation roles in Kenya and Syria, and more recently heading an advisory commission on Myanmar.
He acted as a negotiator between the government and the opposition in Kenya after postelection violence at the end of 2007, leading to the formation of the Grand Coalition government.
The Iranian ambassador to Ghana, Nosratollah Maleki, said: “Annan was not only a Ghanaian but was a global citizen who believed in peace and security.”
Annan is survived by his wife Nane Maria, his children and grandchildren.
Kofi Annan’s son Kojo (left), widow Nane Maria (second left) and daughter Ama (center) join other family members to pay their respects to the former UN secretary-general in Ghana on Wednesday.