The former Secretary General of the United Nations Kofi Anan died in Switzerland on 17 August after a brief illness. Gilbert Morris wrote this on this Facebook page:
His Excellency, Kofi Annan – the former Secretary General of the United Nations has died.
Kofi and his wife were Ghanaians, whose grandfathers were Chiefs, and so they hailed from Ashanti and Fante aristocracies.
Annan attended university in Ghana, the Graduate Studies Institute in Switzerland and MIT. He was fluent in 11 languages.
In many respects Kofi – whom I met only once – was the forerunner of President Barack Obama: elegant, even more refined, stern without saying a word. At a conference in Switzerland after the crisis in Egypt in 2010, I watched him enter a room, with European Diplomats and politicians reaching out to touch his shoulder as he passed by.
The reason for this high regard was that Kofi was known to be trustworthy and dependable.
His method was calm, and perfectly worded questions. He would ask everyone about a solution…then he would make a decision. Kofi was a master at personal communication: his artful tool was the whisper. At this he was like a Ninja: whole conversations at near inaudible frequencies that left one feeling as if one were the only important person on earth.
It was for this reason, in part, that he was appointed Chairman of the ELDERS, an organisation founded by Nelson Mandela for the provision of experienced wisdom to African leaders in times of crisis.
It was this calm of his and this wise counsel that saw Kofi awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001. Here is an excerpt from his acceptance speech: “We have entered the third millennium through a gate of fire. If today, after the horror of 11 September, we see better, and we see further — we will realize that humanity is indivisible. New threats make no distinctions between races, nations or regions. . . . A deeper awareness of the bonds that bind us all — in pain as in prosperity — has gripped young and old.” (Kofi Annan, Nobel Peace Price acceptance speech) Oh, the language!
It is important to say here: persons of African or Caribbean heritage, who achieve global status in other than sport or entertainment are rare. Kofi Annan’s career and global status derived from attempting to make the world a better place. In a lecture with Boutros-Boutros Ghali (also former Secretary General of the United Nations) to my graduate class, Kofi Annan said: “the exercise of power must always be an act of conscience”. A fine statement by a refined fellow. RIP…a