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KOFI ANNAN WAS A RARE BREED –
TRIBUTE BY FORMER PRESIDENT JERRY JOHN RAWLINGS
I do recall very well receiving calls from some world leaders expressing their desire to support Kofi Annan’s candidature for the position of the Secretary-General of the United Nations.
With Boutros Boutros-Ghali then just finishing his first term as Secretary-General, I did not think Egypt and other sympathizers would be amused by a competition from Ghana.
But I realized before long that Boutros Boutros-Ghali had lost the confidence and the support of the major powers and we decided that a good opportunity was presented to us. The greatest thing going for us was the man we were putting forward. Kofi Annan had this calm approach to issues no matter how explosive. His comportment and demeanor were soothing and unthreatening and I thought that would go down well with the powers that be and with people involved in conflict and disputes.
Besides Kofi Annan had worked his way through the United Nations system, his entire working life had been spent at the UN. He possessed a good institutional and historical memory about events and challenges the world had gone through. He spoke all the international languages pretty well and besides, it was Africa’s turn. So, who better than him I thought, and we decided it would be difficult to look past Annan if he was a candidate.
Annan’s election as Secretary-General was a diplomatic coup d’état.
Luckily for all of us, Kofi Annan as Secretary-General turned out to be as good as his promise. Even during the most difficult challenges, he kept his cool and was respectful towards everybody.
Annan’s breed is rare. And he was the right person at the right time. And when it came to the end of his tenure, I suspect that if the world had the opportunity they would have insisted let’s give him another term.
I should acknowledge here that the suggestion to build and name the International Peacekeeping Centre at Teshie, Accra after Kofi Annan, came from the Ghana Armed Forces under the leadership of General Arnold Quainoo and I am grateful to him and the others who may have suggested it to him. It was an inspired suggestion and I didn’t hesitate at all in giving the go ahead.
We have lost one of the finest. Sometimes when you lose a father, or an important member of a family, it can either help to strengthen the family or it could lead to a break up. The world is going through some pretty difficult times since the collapse of the bipolar world. The UN has a very interesting person as the Secretary-General today. A highly experienced and forceful person in the person of António Guterres, but nevertheless issues have become so complex that I believe we could do with a few more of Kofi Annan’s kind.
I was not at all surprised that after he left the UN, Annan was regularly invited to take up certain difficult assignments. He had great negotiating skills and was equipped for very complex situations.
Kofi Annan’s approach used to set people at ease. We have lost a very precious person, a peacemaker indeed. That is a great loss, a heavy loss to all of us.
My heartfelt condolences to Nane Annan, the children and the family. Rest in peace, Kofi Annan.