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The former Secretary-General (SG) of the United Nations (UN) – Mr Kofi Annan – was hailed as a simple man of the people whose love for the people transcended the artificial boundaries. He was the man of the people of the world. That was what Members of the National Assembly (NA) described the late Mr Annan when they paid tribute to him in the NA at Parliament yesterday.

The NA created time for Members of Parliament (MPs) to pay tributes to Mr Annan who passed on last week at a hospital in New York in America. “The enduring compassion and regard for the true welfare of others is the hallmark that has stayed with Kofi Annan all his life,” said Mr Luwellyn Landers, the Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation.

Mr Landers said Mr Annan was a product of a proud nation that has tamed iron and that has mined gold from time immemorial. “A nation that is proud of its aristocracy and that is steeped in the traditions of ancient African traditional authority.”

Giving Mr Annan’s profile, Mr Landers said Mr Annan is a descendant of generations of Ghanaian tribal chiefs. He was born on 8 April 1938, one of twin sons of the manager of a chemical company in Ghana, who was in line to become the chief of the Fante tribe.

He said Mr Annan was raised in the tradition of chieftaincy and many royal meetings in the traditional courts were an early basis of his later diplomatic upbringing. “The consensus-building format of conflict resolution was to stay with him throughout his adult life. He chose diplomacy as the best possible career at a time where many chose politics, teaching, priesthood and the legal fraternity,” he said.

According to Mr Landers, Mr Annan was entrusted with greatness from the time of his birth and when the time came, he embraced the full meaning of that natural calling to higher service of humanity. “Rising through the ranks of the UN from the lowest position to its ultimate helm, bespeaks a great feat and triumph of this genial soul. He carved a lasting niche for himself and his continent in those gilded corridors in New York and embosomed his name forever in its annals.”

Mr Landers described Mr Annan as ever conscious and ever vigilant to his historic mission and compassionate about the African agenda. “Kofi Annan broke down all the barriers of prejudice and race to assume and sustain the highest office in the UN with pride.”

He said Mr Annan rose to the top of the UN despite all the obstacles and restrictions placed in the way of anyone coming from the developing Global South (made up of Africa, Latin America, and developing Asia including the Middle East). “Despite his rise, he was not blinded by the laurels of office nor was he indifferent to the struggles of the African continent and other countries of the Global South, creating the space of their voices to be heard. He made it his mission to fight for the transformation of the United Nations,” he added.

As a lasting tribute to Mr Kofi Annan, Mr Landers said: “We must struggle to reinstall multilateralism (the alliance of multiple countries pursuing a common goal) at a time when multilateralism is under serious threat. As a lasting remembrance of that great son of Africa, we must reject the notion of arbitrary conduct in the affairs of the world.”

It was under his watch that the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were crafted and adopted. It was also under his watch that the UN Commission on Human Rights was transformed into a fully fledged Human Rights Council in 2006.

Also paying tribute to Mr Annana, Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi said Mr Annan had an enormous capacity for empathy and was deeply concerned about the suffering of so many due to poverty. “From the heights of the United Nations, he maintained his connection with ordinary men and women, for it was these whom he sought to serve.”

Prince Buthelezi said he was grateful to have had the opportunity to see Mr Annan again just a few weeks ago when he joined The Elders for the commemoration of 100 years since the birth of former President Nelson Mandela.

“Like so many over the years, I have quoted Mr Annan many times, for I admire his wisdom. In 2013, when I responded in this House to the State of the Nation Address, I reminded us of Mr Annan’s warning on the increasing damage being done by corruption.”

According to Prince Buthelezi, Mr Annan said: “Corruption hurts the poor disproportionately by diverting funds intended for development, undermining a government’s ability to provide basic services, feeding inequality and injustice, and discouraging foreign aid and investment. Corruption is a key element in economic underperformance and a major obstacle to poverty alleviation and [socio-economic] development.”

Paying tribute to Mr Annan, Rev Kenneth Meshoe said Mr Annan had a way of quietly, but firmly reminding world leaders that they needed to put their duty to their citizens above their political agendas. “We can all learn from his caution and example in this regard. Mr Annan’s legacy and contribution to our world will not soon be forgotten,” said Rev Meshoe.

Mr Mosiuoa Lekota said history will count Mr Annan as one of the most outstanding incumbents of an office of the UN. “He displayed ethical, principled, modest, forthright and honest leadership. We can return to the ethical and selfless leadership and governance espoused by Mr Annan and promote and protect global statutes and institutions, such as the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, established during his tenure as ‘SG’ of the United Nations.”

Mr Nqabayomzi Kwankwa said during Mr Annan’s time as the UN Secretary-General, Tata Annan worked hard to institute institutional reforms that would turn the UN into a credible multilateral institution. “An ardent champion of peace and fundamental human rights, with great equanimity, he tackled global challenges with enthusiasm and persistence in the face of daunting challenges,” he said.

Mr Kwankwa said who can forget how disappointed he was, when the United States invaded Iraq in 2003 without the approval of the UN Security Council? According to Mr Kwankwa, United States (US) unilateralism even at that time was unmerited. “Tata Annan, utterly embarrassed and deflated by the arrogance of the US, carried himself with dignity and integrity. Remarkably, he showed no residue of bitterness although the actions of the US undermined his leadership,” he stressed.

He said in Tata Annan, “we have lost a son of Africa, whose light shone like a beacon in the dark continent. He dedicated his life to the attainment of the Pan-African Vision of building an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa”.

All the NA MPs who paid tribute to the late Mr Annan said in line with the Nepad (New Partnership for Africa's Development) and Agenda 2063, Mr Annan worked tirelessly to build a peaceful and secure Africa, an Africa of good governance, democracy and respect for fundamental human rights.

As an example, Mr Kwankwa cited a time when Mr Annan got involved in mediation efforts in Africa and elsewhere, such as the role he played in brokering a peace deal between former President Mwai Kibaki and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga that ended the post-election violence in Kenya in 2008.   

By Zizipho Klaas

7 September 2018