Kofi Annan’s Exit and His Unarguable Role of Diplomacy and Other Legacies

Alao Abiodun
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Sadly, the death of Kofi Annan still seems like a dream to the beloved ones he left behind. The reality that he is no longer on this side of the terrestrial divide with the physical seems too hard to accept. The consolatory gains, lies in the fact that he lived a remarkable and exemplary life in the service of mankind worthy of emulation especially to the younger generations. 18th August 2018 was indeed a sad day, a consuming darkness descended on sky of the African continent, as the cloud was pregnant with tears, anguish and pain. The gloomy atmosphere brought to an abrupt end 80 years of vibrant, purposeful and active life dedicated to outstanding service to the world at large, community development, conflict resolution, adroit display of diplomatic skills and many other indisputable legacies.

Without mincing words, after much perusal of different compendiums about this great sage, it kept me the ocean of conclusion that he was a truly an accomplished leader and great achiever who attained enviable heights in many spheres of human endeavors. He was a man who from his childhood, was destined for greatness; greatness that did not come through any inheritance but through the dint of hard work and perseverance.

Born in Kumasi, Ghana in 1938, he joined the United Nations (UN) in 1962 after studying management at the Massachusetts institute of technology and worked his way up to the UN hierarchy. He eventually rose to become the head of the UN Peacekeeping before assuming the top organizational job. Kofi Annan was the first black person to head the UN and as a career diplomat and renowned leader, he served as a chief of the UN between 1997-2006, being elected twice. He was the 7th UN Secretary General: the only black African to hold that prestigious position. He started his job in the UN as a personnel at the departments of human resources management, health, budget and finance, and later as head of the peacekeeping mission. Annan spent most of his adult life in the UN. He led the UN for two successive five year tenure, beginning in 1997. Kofi Annan was a master mediator who was keen on flying the flag for peace around the world and was jointly awarded a Nobel Peace Prize with the UN in 2001 for his efforts.

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As a man with a sterling personality and indelible legacies in Africa and the world at large, one can describe him using a string of paradoxical epithets, He was generous, but however frugal, He was also frank especially against war and crisis but sympathetic with the plight of the people, a man who was firm in his stand, but fair in his diplomatic approaches, He was radical in his measures, but strategic in his actions and thinking. As a man of great intellect, He had the right dosages of everything that was needed for a successful and meaningful life geared towards greatness. In an affirmative statement, even Anthony Gutiérrez, the incumbent UN Secretary General stressed that “Kofi Annan was the UN”.

It is however noteworthy that Kofi Annan demonstrated huge sense of commitment towards raising the African agenda on an international scale. In 2001, he launched a campaign to tackle Africa’s HIV and AIDS epidemic. With his impressive mediating skills, diplomatic engagements and conflict resolution skills, he interfered through dealing with crises in the Middle East and was however credited with preventing a bombing in Iraq in 1998. In 2008, he launched a peacekeeping attempt in Kenya after violence broke out following former President Mwai Kibaki topping election polls over opposition leader Ralia Odinga in 2007. As a diplomat, he got both leaders to agree on a power-sharing coalition. In 2001, he and the UN jointly received the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts to reform the UN and give “priority to human rights.”

In 2006, clocking 69 years, He stepped down from his post, tactically redirecting his wealth of knowledge, experience and ingenious skills to set up the Kofi Annan Foundation which was aimed at helping to promote global security, peace and sustainable development in 2007. Despite his retirement, he worked effortlessly and tirelessly in other subtle ways, notably as the chair of “The Elders”, a group started by Nelson Mandela to get world leaders to work towards peace and human rights.

Earlier this week, his body was flown back from Switzerland for state funeral and private burial in Accra, influx of mourners amidst sad look and teary eyes from across the globe paid their respects to the former UN secretary general Kofi Annan at the lying-in-state in Ghana. It should be recalled that the 80-years-old diplomat who passed away on 18th August 2018 after a short illness has indeed made so many indelible and laudable landmark because even in the wake of his death, the legacy of the Nobel Peace Prize winner is being celebrated by world leaders across the globe. No wonder Former US President, Barack Obama said Kofi Annan, who was the first black African to take on the UN secretary general role, had always pursued a “better world.” He was a great achiever who left indelible footprints on the sands of time. As a consummate administrator, He was indeed a towering global leader and diplomat. A distinguished humanitarian and honest negotiator. There is no doubt that Kofi Annan, from his life odysseys, was highly accomplished. With his death, the continent has lost a visionary; the UN has lost a leading light and the Ghana community has lost a shining hero.

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