A steady stream of mourners yesterday paid their respects to the former UN secretary general Kofi Annan as he lay in state in the capital of his native Ghana.
The diplomat’s body was flown back from Switzerland on Monday ahead of a state funeral and private burial in Accra on Thursday. Nobel peace laureate Annan, who was the world body’s first leader from sub-Saharan Africa, died on August 18 after a brief illness. He was 80.
Draped in Ghana’s red, green and gold flag, his coffin was guarded by senior military officers in ceremonial uniform at the Accra International Conference Centre. There were traditional dances and a choir sang hymns as the public filed past, taking their chance to say a proud farewell to one of the country’s most famous sons. Fritz Kitcher, who spent his career working in human rights for the United Nations in Geneva, said he had watched Annan rise through the ranks.
Now retired and back living in Ghana, he said Annan had taught him “the benefit of humility, the benefit of honesty, the benefit of decisiveness, and diplomacy from the grassroots”. Annan’s role as the UN’s first black African leader was “an honour for Ghana”, Kitcher said. ‘He lifted Africa’
“It was marvellous in our eyes, it was one of these things that we can only dream... he lifted Africa and showed that we are also able to do great things,” he told AFP. Jennifer Asuako, a programme analyst with the UN in Ghana, said Annan was widely respected, humble and an inspiration to his colleagues. S
he pledged to “keep the torch burning” on gender equality, an area where he showed great dedication. “He made the whole world understand promoting equality between men and women is not an issue of women only, but it’s an issue for sustainable development,” she said. “There are a lot of Ghanaians who can take on the mantle and do similar, like he did, but not like him because he is a unique individual.”