Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

H.E. Kofi Attah Annan-Busumuru (1938-2018), 7th Secretary General of the United Nations: A Personal Appreciation

Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

H.E. Kofi Attah Annan-Busumuru (1938-2018), 7th Secretary General of the United Nations: A Personal Appreciation

Article excerpt

H.E. Kofi Annan, the 7th Secretary-General of the United Nations Organization, was one of those extraordinary individuals, a rara avis. Soft-spoken, always impeccably attired, even in casual clothes, compassionate, Kofi Annan, as many simply called him, always sounded like a close friend or acquaintance, even from the lofty position that he held, he exuded the inner peace which seemed o flow like an imaginary halo whenever and in whatever situation he appeared to operate - calm, courteous, and effective.

To us Foreign Service, Career diplomats, he was the model we sought to emulate, without quite succeeding. But that was not for want of trying. Our shortcomings were simply too many. He was above all a great source of pride to Ghana, Ghanaians, and people of African descent everywhere, especially in a world where Africa was often begrudged her due respect. As chance would have it, I found myself in Kingston, Jamaica, just before his election as Secretary-General, attending a Law of the Sea Conference. I recall that in the company of the then Secretary-General of the International Sea Bed Authority, Nil Allotey Odunton, a Jamaican official aware of our Ghanaian nationality stopped to congratulate us on his election. He added, for effect, "You Ghanaians, you owe all this to Kwame Nkrumah whom you unwisely overthrew." We were taken aback. Such was the respect and shared joy that Kofi Annan brought Africans generally.

To be honest, I cannot claim to have known His Excellency Kofi Annan too well. While serving as the Deputy Permanent Representative of Ghana to the United Nations (2001-2004) in New York, I had the privilege to meet him from time to time. So it is probably fair to say, perhaps vicariously, one knew enough about him, especially from my friend and colleague, Amb. Patrick Reginald Dennis Hayford, who worked closely with him and managed his office on the 38th floor. Patty had so much respect and admiration for His Excellency Kofi Annan, and he kept us all informed about the enduring virtues of the man we all considered our collective mentor, and our idol in International Public Service. He did his job so well that he became a global icon.

I recall that in 1993, 1994 or thereabouts, when the United States Government declined to support the re-election of the First African Secretary-General, Dr. Butros Butros Ghali, the idea of an African replacement came up. Kofi Annan was then Head of Peacekeeping (DPKO) and, as the most senior African official in the United Nations Secretariat, the question of his candidature, quite naturally, came up.

In a communication from the Foreign Ministry to all Ghana Missions, a strategy to mobilize political support for our candidate, Kofi, was unveiled. The strategy bore the distinct blend of understated subtlety and nuance that became Kofi Annan's hallmark during his tenure as Secretary-General. It was clear that he had become the preferred candidate of the United States - the sole remaining superpower. While this was a factor in his favour, the outcome was by no means assured. French President Jacques Chirac had opposed his candidature, ostensibly on account of a perception that Kofi did not speak French. It turned out that he had spoken too soon.

Rather than come out openly and assert his fluency in French, Kofi, ever the suave diplomat, chose the indirect route. During a press conference at which the matter came up, Kofi, in answer, broke into perfect French, to the surprise of his opponents and to the obvious delight of his supporters. After this, he added with a wry smile, "I have now learnt to speak English with a French accent". This story might well be apochryphal, but that did not get in the way of Ghanaians propagating it. From then on, getting Kofi Annan elected Secretary-General became a national assignment. The Government of Jerry Rawlings can be forgiven for seeking to take some credit for it. The campaign was expertly executed under the leadership of the Foreign Minister, Dr Obed Asamoah, his deputy, Dr. …

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