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Kofi Annan remembered in Ghana and beyond

By Justice Lee Adoboe ACCRA (Xinhua) -- The national flags of Ghana are flying at half mast across the country and at the country’s missions around the globe.

Kofi Annan, former United Nations (UN) Secretary-General, passed on at a hospital in Bern, Switzerland, after a short illness.

“We knew that in August he tends to come to Ghana and stay in his house and family members will go and see him. So we were looking forward to seeing him in August. So to hear this news is really shattering,” Kojo Amoo Gottfried, Ghana’s former ambassador to China, told Xinhua on Saturday hours after the news broke.

Amoo-Gottfried, who grew up with Kofi Annan in Bompata, Kumasi, said: “As a man, Kofi was forthright, truthful and did what he considered to be right, and never gave up.”

Commentators say not only do people in war-torn countries recognize the greatness of Annan, who took over from Boutros Boutros-Ghali in 1997 as the seventh UN secretary-general, but also the youth and women see a father figure in him.

“To say he is a statesman is an understatement. He lived fulfilled life always preaching peace and fairness in the world and he practiced it so much,” Ghana’s deputy information minister Nana Ama Dokuaa Asiamah-Adjei remarked in an interview with Xinhua.

“His fight for the youth, his fight for women, we cannot forget,” she said, adding that her wish was for Annan to have stayed a little longer for Ghana and Africa to tap into his reservoir of experience.

Ordinary Ghanaians like Eric Kwaku, a taxi driver, said Annan’s achievements were a source of pride for Ghanaians.

“I felt proud when he rose to the secretary general position as a Ghanaian ... He did the best for the world,” he told Xinhua in his native Twi language on Sunday.

Wosila Asumbe Abubakar, a level-100 student of the Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ), said the late secretary general’s ascent to that position was great honor to Ghana.

“His death is a big blow to Ghana,” the young student said. “He fought for peace around the world and was successful. It gives me a lot of inspiration.”

Joseph Opoku, an estate developer, said Annan’s achievements have been of great inspiration to his family, and he tried to let his children model their lives around that of the revered global statesman.

“I even visited his family home at Cape Coast and that of Kumasi, and so it is like, it became a sort of inspiration for me.”

Inspired by Annan, Opoku said he decided to send all his children abroad after secondary education for them to get exposed to the world, make good use of opportunities out there and serve the world.

In 2004, the UN opened an international peacekeeping training center in Ghana’s capital in honor of their serving secretary-general.

Emmanuel Kwesi Aning, Head of the Faculty of Academic Affairs and Research at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Center (KAIPTC), told Xinhua that: “Annan and Mandela epitomized the optimism and the hopes of the independence movement.”

“Annan was a young man when we got independence, probably about 19 years, so he took this optimism and the hope that the black man can deliver and he lived up to it,” he said.

In the institute, Aning said the feeling was that of shock, loss and sadness, tinged with the new desire to work harder to protect the legacy that the former secretary-general stood for.

“I think Annan meant different things to different people. For the refugee in Dafour whom Annan visited ... he was almost like a god,” the expert said.

He listed places such as Tusla, Trebenista and Syria, Rwanda, Kenya and Iraq where the late secretary-general endeared himself to the people.

Aning revealed that any time elections were held in Ghana, Annan was quietly behind the scene urging leaders to choose peace over violence.

The expert credited the late secretary-general with the introduction of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), now the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as well as some of the finest works on HIV/AIDS, the green revolution and new thinking into ICT.

“Those were the legacies of Mr. Annan because they were decisions that were centered on the human being; how do we improve human lives, that has remained, and that is why he still is the face of the United Nations,” Aning added.

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