Africa: Kofi Annan - 'Gentle Giant's' Passing Leaves Indelible Mark On Liberia, Africa, the World

Photo: Wikimedia
Kofi Annan.

Monrovia — Kofi Annan, the former secretary general of the United Nations died Saturday at the age of 80, leaving an indelible mark on the world as the only black African to ascend at the top of the world body.

In Liberia, where an institute at the University of Liberia, is named in his honor, the death of Mr. Annan is sending shock waves.

Dr. Ophelia Inez Weeks, University President described the fallen UN chief diplomat as a consummate diplomat, who won respect and admiration from around the world.

The Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre was inaugurated in October 2006, shortly after the inauguration of Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf as the first woman head of state.

Mr. Annan played a crucial role in ending the civil war, leading to democratic elections in October 2005.

The institute was established in honor of Mr. Annan's contributions to conflict resolution and transformation in Africa, particularly in Liberia and serves as an important centre of learning for the entire West Africa sub-region and beyond.

As the nation's oldest institution of learning the University of Liberia initiated the establishment of a specialized institute that will serve as a centre of excellence for producing the appropriate human capital required for national recovery.

Professor T. Debey Sayndee, head of the institute told FrontPageAfrica Saturday that Mr. Annan has left an indelible mark not just on the University but Liberia has a whole. "Based on his personal and official contributions to the peace process of Liberia, the government of Liberia in 2006 decided to name the center in his honor and this was done through legislation by the National Legislature - and we thought that there wasn't a greater way to honor him, because professionally and personally, Mr. Annan went to the extreme to ensure the largest peacekeeping force ever assembled in the world came to Liberia. it is commendable and for us, his passing is a great loss. We value his contribution toward peace in Liberia and will forever cherish his memory.

In October 2005, Mr. Anan received Liberia's highest honor at an investiture ceremony held in the parlors of the Executive Mansion.

Former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, who bestowed the honor on Mr. Annan, said in a statement Saturday, that the world has lost a trail blazer for peace, freedom and for democracy, a voice of global moral authority, a humanitarian who never lost sight of his responsibility to lift up those in need. "Africa today lost an heroic son, and I, one of my dearest colleagues, and a friend. I am so very grateful that I was able to be with Kofi in what was the last few weeks of his life, and fittingly, for the celebration of the centennial of Nelson Mandela's birthday. God bless Kofi's family, friends and all those whose life he touched. God bless the next generation of young Africans who will be inspired by his example. God Bless the People of Ghana, his beloved home."

According to Mr. Annan's foundation based in Geneva, Switzerland, he died peacefully on Saturday in the Swiss city of Bern where he had been living near Geneva for several years.

The foundation described Mr. Annan as a global statesman and a deeply committed internationalist who fought throughout his life for a fairer and more peaceful world". "Wherever there was suffering or need, he reached out and touched many people with his deep compassion and empathy."

He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001 for helping to revitalize the international body, during a period that coincided with the Iraq War and the HIV/Aids pandemic.

In Ghana where he was born, the government has declared a week of national mourning. The late diplomat served two terms as UN chief from 1997 to 2006, and was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for his humanitarian work. He later served as the UN special envoy for Syria, leading efforts to find a solution to the conflict.

Mr. Max Bankole Jarrett, a Liberian who previously worked as Deputy Director of Mr. Annan's Africa Progress Secretariat, on loan from the UN Economic Commission for Africa described lamented in a Facebook post Saturday that "a great tree has fallen, in our rather deforested global community."

Mr. Jarrett added: "This is so often said, and something of a cliché but it is true when one is to speak of Kofi Atta Annan: We will not see his like again. In my 28 year professional life, KA was not just the best boss I ever had but a father-figure and an uncle to me too. I am pleased that as we came to the end of the Africa Progress Panel's operations in December last year we were able to have a very personal tète-a-tète in his office in Geneva during which I was able to thank him for offering me the opportunity to serve in his team for four years and for his tutelage."

In a November 2006 contribution to the United Nations Mission in Liberia quarterly publication, the former UN chief diplomat, said Liberia, which was once at the centre of conflict in West Africa, now serves as "an example of hope" and of what can be achieved when leader sand citizens work together, Secretary- General Kofi Annan said in his recent progress report to the Security Council on the war-torn nation's efforts to consolidate peace and rehabilitate its shattered economy.

The Secretary-General also said that Liberia's efforts to cultivate good relations with its neighbors were progressing well, and highlighted the important regional message sent by the transfer on 20 June of former Liberian President Charles Taylor from Sierra Leone to The Hague to face charges of war crimes.

Dr. Laurence Bropleh, a former Liberian Information Minister, who worked with Mr. Annan when he served as a Permanent Representative of the World Council of Churches to the United Nations described the fallen UN Chief diplomat as a 'gentle giant' who taught him so much as a young diplomat serving. "He stood tall for transformative diplomacy and contextualized implementation that helped to change the lives of many across the world. He orchestrated reforms that strengthened the relevance of the United Nations. He encouraged and inspired me, and I thank God that he touched my life. His passing has left a void, for he left indelible diplomatic footprints on the sands of time."

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