For­mer UN chief

Prom­i­nent fig­ures eu­lo­gize Kofi An­nan at state fu­neral

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

SUN­DAY ALAMBA / AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

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.

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