Final farewell to Kofi Annan at Ghana state funeral

  • 13 Sep 2018

Annan's body will remain at the Accra Conference Centre until the burial ceremony at Burma Camp military cemetery in Accra.

Nane Maria, the widow of Kofi Annan, Ghanaian diplomat and former secretary general of United Nations who died on August 18, at the age of 80 after a short illness, stands in front of his coffin at the Accra International Conference Centre in Accra on September 12, 2018. ( AFP )

World dignitaries laid to rest former UN secretary general Kofi Annan in his native Ghana on Thursday, with calls to keep alive the legacy of a "stubborn optimist" to create a better, more peaceful world.

His widow Nane Maria led hundreds of mourners, including world leaders past and present, traditional rulers and global royalty and called her husband an "extraordinary" person who had a "joy of life."

TRT World's Adesewa Josh reports.

Annan died on August 18 in Bern, Switzerland at age 80. The grandson of tribal chiefs, he was the first black sub-Saharan African to become the UN leader (1997 to 2006) and was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize.

"My love, you are now back home where you started your long journey. But may your wisdom and compassion continue to guide us, wherever we are," she said at his funeral service in the capital, Accra.

His son, Kojo, said his father had dedicated his life to the ideals of unity, equality, love, peace and respect.

"The greatest tribute we could ever pay is to follow his example," he added to conclude a three-hour ceremony of tributes, prayer and song.

Mourners have thronged to the Accra International Conference Centre in Accra, where his coffin has been since his body arrived Monday, and where the funeral was held.

A private burial follows at Accra's Military Cemetery, with full military honours and a 17-gun salute.

Mourners watch on a screen the retransmission of the funeral ceremony of Kofi Annan, a Ghanaian diplomat and former secretary general of the United Nations who died on August 18 at the age of 80 after a short illness, at the Accra International Conference Centre on September 13, 2018.(AFP)

'Stubborn optimist' 

Thousands of ordinary Ghanaians this week paid their final respects as his coffin lay in state during three days of national mourning.

Ghana's President Nana Akufo-Addo called him "one of the truly iconic figures of modern times."

Many ordinary Ghanaians described him as a father-figure and a source of national pride. His brother, Kobina told the congregation that he was not just a leader and statesman.

"We lost a brother, a husband, a father, a grandfather and an uncle, a man of deep conviction who was as committed to instilling the values of fairness, integrity, kindness and service in each of us as he was to advocating for peace and human rights around the world," he said.

"Stubborn optimist that he was, he would want us all to look forward with hope and keep striving to create a freer, fairer and more peaceful world."

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres (L) pays his respects by the coffin of former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan, draped with Ghana's flag, during a state funeral at the Accra International Conference Centre in Ghana. September 13, 2018.(AP)

'He was the UN'

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres praised his close friend as an "exceptional global leader" who was dignified, courageous and a man of "integrity, dynamism and dedication."

"Kofi Annan was the United Nations and the United Nations was him," he added.

"As we face the headwinds of our troubled and turbulent times, let us always be inspired by the legacy of Kofi Annan," he said, adding, "Our world needs it more than ever."

'Diplomatic rock star' 

Annan, who was originally from Kumasi, the capital of the Ashanti region in southern Ghana, 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. He faced several insurmountable challenges including wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Annan was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001, as the world was reeling from the September 11 terror attacks in the United States, jointly with the UN "for their work for a better organised and more peaceful world."

Opera singer and UN goodwill ambassador Barbara Hendricks, who performed at his Nobel ceremony, on Thursday sang the civil rights anthem "Oh, Freedom."

Annan, a proud African, whom Nelson Mandela called "my leader," left the post as one of the most popular – and recognisable – UN chiefs in history, and was considered a "diplomatic rock star" in international circles.

Ghana's national flags fly at half-mast in honour of the late Kofi Annan, former UN secretary general and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, at the Black Star Square in Accra, Ghana. August 20, 2018.(Reuters)

Akufo-Addo said Annan "brought considerable renown to our country by this position and by his conduct and comportment in the global arena."

"The outpouring of tributes from the world over is an accurate measure of the man, a man who gave his life to making peace where there was conflict, to defending the voiceless who were powerless, to promoting virtue where there was evil," he added.

TRT World's Adesewa Josh has more. 

Annan kept up his diplomatic work after leaving office, taking mediation roles in Kenya and Syria, and more recently heading an advisory commission in Myanmar on the crisis in Rakhine state.

He acted as a negotiator between the government and the opposition in Kenya after post-election violence at the end of 2007, leading to the formation of the Grand Coalition government.

As well as Guterres, the funeral was attended by representatives of the African Union, the West African bloc ECOWAS, and presidents from across Africa and beyond.

Royalty included Princess Beatrix, the former queen of the Netherlands, and her daughter-in-law Princess Mabel, who were close friends.