CHARLES KUMOLU//Yesterday’s demise of a former Secretary General of United Nations, UN, Mr. Kofi Annan, was literally a global loss.
Better still, it was a rare interpretation of the Singing Cookes’ Earth’s Loss, Heaven’s Gain. Kofi Annan. The song which has gone from being just a gospel melody to a funeral tribute, finds real meaning in the diplomat’s demise.
Annan was not the first person nor the only African to have headed the global body, but his ability to lead and inspire endeared him to the world. His 10-year leadership of the UN in the post-cold war era, saw him championing human rights like never before. His personality, style, and strength combined to reinvigorate the agency.
The UN, which Annan led from 1996-2007, was not without failings but his reign was successful in many areas. Little wonder the failure to act sufficiently during the Rwandan genocide and Bosnian crisis, were just the low moments that featured in most commentaries about his time as head of the UN. This explains the quality of the tributes pouring in for the late global statesman, whose works at the UN earned him the status of an international superstar. Some of the eulogies are even coming from quarters, that hardly espouse those things that endeared Annan to people. However, beyond these chanting of dirges, his legacies are timeless lessons for leaders, especially African rulers.
As they eulogise one of the continent’s best exports after the late Nelson Mandela, it is expected that they ponder on his legacies and ask: What are we going to be remembered for? It becomes necessary as Annan’s good deeds would never be interred with his bones in line with Marc Anthony’s assertion in William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. He joined the UN in 1962, working for the World Health Organisation’s Geneva office. Annan went on to work in many capacities at the UN including serving as the Under-Secretary-General for peacekeeping between March 1992 and December 1996. He was appointed as the Secretary-General on 13 December 1996 by the Security Council, and later confirmed by the General Assembly, making him the first office holder to be elected from the UN staff itself.
Annan was re-elected for a second term in 2001, and was succeeded as Secretary-General by Ban Ki-moon on 1 January 2007. As the Secretary-General, Annan reformed the UN bureaucracy; worked to combat HIV, especially in Africa; and launched the UN Global Compact. Annan, who never stopped working after he left the UN, was berated for not expanding the Security Council. There were also calls for resignation after an investigation into the Oil-for-Food Programme.
After leaving the UN, he founded the Kofi Annan Foundation in 2007 to work on international development. Annan was made the UN–Arab League Joint Special Representative for Syria in 2012. His duty was to help find a resolution to the Syrian conflict.
He is survived by a wife and children, all of whom were by him when he gave up the ghost.