By Koketso Marishane
On August 18th 2018, a giant and great son of Africa took his last breath. Our dear Kofi Annan, a proud son of Africa who has served the world as an outstanding diplomat and very first Black Secretary General of the United Nations passed away at age 80.
Kofi Annan, a native of Ghana, was a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and founding member and chair of The Elders. Our last encounter with Kofi Annan was exactly a month prior to his death when he as chair of our partner organization The Elders, led a march in the city of Johannesburg to mark the centenary of Nelson Mandela on the 18th of July, 2018.
Kofi Anan and the Elders have always been of great support to youth initiatives as they strongly believe in the values of youth initiatives. It’s for this sole factor that MYDF was formed. We will forever miss this passionate, dedicated and exemplary pan-Africanist who continued to work for peace, justice in Africa and beyond till his last days.
We send our truest condolences to the Kofi Annan Foundation, The Elders and the family of Kofi Anan and we will continue celebrating his life through our commitment for social justice.
Kofi Annan, the peacemaker knew how to play big-power politics.
His career was inextricably entangled with power politics. The former UN SG, who passed on on Saturday, spent decades grappling with tensions between the organisation’s members over crises from the Balkans to Syria. At times, he managed the turbulence masterfully. At others, he had little or no control over events. Win or lose, Annan occupied a very rare place in the international political firmament as a mediator able to parlay with the biggest powers.
There have already been many tributes to Annan, emphasizing his commitment to a better world and his personal charisma. He will almost certainly rank as one of the best secretaries-general the UN has had. But he was always a politician rather than a saint, and acutely aware of geo-political realities. But if Annan was politically canny, he could also be a risk-taker. He worked with the permanent members of the security council, above all, the USA, when he could. But he was occassionally willing to pick a fight with the big powers when he had to, or to bet his credibility on long-shot political gambits to head off crises that the powers could not resolve themselves. This mix of calculation and gambling offers lessons for UN officials aiming to deal with today’s international tensions.
He was a shining light of Africa, the internationalist and global statesman. A true African at heart, but a global citizen, for he symbolised the best of humanity. He was a rubble rouser, a troubleshooter and a change-maker. He was one great African. Most of us admired how he spoke clearly the English language, even though he has lived in Europe for a long time. He never naturalised in any of the western countries. He was real, unlike most Africans who try to imitate the western way of speaking.
Most of his working life was spent in the corridors and conference rooms of the UN, but, he once told the author Phillip Gourevitch in 2003: “I feel profoundly African, my roots are deeply African, and the things I was taught as a child are very important to me”.
His first appointment with the UN agency was in 1962, at the World Health Organisation in Geneva. Annan returned briefly to Ghana to promote tourism and worked in Ethiopia with the UN Economic Commission for Africa before returning to the body’s European headquarters. Later, in New York, he worked at first in senior human resources and budgetary positions, and in the early 1990s, the first former UN SG from Africa, Boutros Boutros Ghali of Egypt, appointed him as deputy, then as head of peace keeping operations. In 1997, he became SG of the UN.
Although they’re many occasions where we always learnt something from him, these stand out for us:
- He showed that working with the realities of global politics does not mean simply bowing down to power.
- Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family.
- It has been said that arguing against globalisation is like arguing against the laws of gravity.
- Education is a human right with immense power to transform.
- On its foundation rest the cornerstones of freedom, democracy and sustainable human development.
- More countries have understood that women’s equality is a prerequisite for development.
- There is no development strategy more beneficial to society as a whole-women and men alike – than the one which involves women as central players.
- Business, labour and civil society organisations have skills and resources that are vital in helping to build a more robust global community.
- The Lord had the wonderful advantage of being able to work alone.
- We need to keep hope alive and strive to do better.
- If information and knowledge are central to democracy, they are conditions for development.
- To live is to choose. But to choose well, you must know who you are and what you stand for, where you want to go and why you want to get there.
For some among ourselves who are beneficiaries of his work at the United Nations, we pay respect for his deeds because we know well how great his work has been to the world, especially the global youth. May his African ancestors angels dreamers and travelers traversing tide welcome him into the pearly-gates of heaven for he played his part with excellence.
Koketso Marishane is the UNAOC fellow, NDP 2030 Ambassador and founder of Marishane Youth Development Forum.
Image source: Google