If there is one person whose contribution to humanity and the cause of world peace cannot be denied, then it is the seventh Secretary General of the United Nations (UN), Mr Kofi Annan.
That was the consensus by a thankful world that gathered at the Accra International Conference Centre (AICC) yesterday to bid an emotional farewell to the global icon who passed away in Switzerland on August 18.
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, in a tribute, said mere words could not describe the late Annan’s contributions to global peace.
Others, such as the UN Secretary General, Mr António Guterres; the late Annan’s widow, Mrs Nane Annan; his children and his family, said he exhibited an extraordinary persona as a family man and global statesman.
The large presence of foreign dignitaries and a cross-section of Ghanaian society at the burial service, christened: “Celebration of Life”, spoke volumes about the event which some commentators labelled Global Funeral.
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The mourners came from all over the world. They included Heads of State and Government, former Heads of State, Prime Ministers, Speakers of Parliament and Senate, ministers of state, Members of Parliament, the clergy, chiefs, heads of the security agencies, heads of institutions, identifiable bodies and a cross-section of society.
The presence of world leaders and representatives of international organisations who joined President Akufo-Addo and the entire nation to say a final goodbye to the late Annan portrayed him as an embodiment of world peace and development.
Also present were the First Lady, Mrs Rebecca Akufo-Addo; the Vice-President, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia; his wife, Mrs Samira Bawumia; the three living former Presidents, Jerry John Rawlings, John Agyekum Kufuor and John Dramani Mahama; a former First Lady, Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings; the Speaker of Parliament, Prof. Mike Oquaye, and other high-ranking Ghanaian personalities.
Among world leaders who attended the service were Mr Guterres, President Alhassane Ouattara of Cote d’Ivoire, President George Weah of Liberia, President Hage Geingob of Namibia, President Mulatu Teshome of Ethiopia, President Julius Maada Bio of Sierra Leone and the Prime Minister of Niger.
Other dignitaries were the Prime Minister of Equatorial Guinea, Francisco Pascual Obama Asue; the Vice-President of Angola, Manuel Vicente; the Deputy Prime Minister of Lesotho, Mr Monyane Moleleki; former Nigerian Heads of State Olusegun Obasanjo and Abdulsalami Abubakar, as well as representatives of many countries and international institutions.
Mrs Annan and her children, Kojo Annan, Ama Annan Adedeji and Nina Cronstedt, who sat through the event, most of the time looked devastated but occasionally came up with smiles.
The four were at the side of their husband and father when he breathed his last on August 18.
The two-and-a-half-hour service, officiated by scores of clergymen, that climaxed three days of national mourning and funeral for the man recognised globally as a consummate diplomat, was followed by a private burial at the new Military Cemetery with full military honours.
Many witness event
At least 2,000 mourners, attired in the traditional black and red, gathered in the main auditorium of the AICC for the funeral service, while many others sat outside and watched the event on giant screens.
The eulogies and the sermon delivered at the service summed up the sense of loss endured by the world with the passing away of the top international diplomat, aged 80.
A former Archbishop of the Anglican Diocese of Accra, the Most Rev. Dr Justice Ofei Akrofi, who led the officiating ministers, said in his sermon that the presence of many people from all over the world at the funeral was a testament to how the world appreciated what the late Mr Annan had stood for.
“If Kofi had been rude to others, they wouldn’t have travelled all over to come to mourn him. Ghana is proud of you,” he said.
The late Annan, who served two terms as UN Chief, made a case for the Black man as the first sub-Saharan African to head the world body.
More than 300 policemen were deployed at the funeral grounds and the adjoining streets in a bid to tighten security.
Strict traffic restrictions were also observed on roads leading to the AICC.
President, world leaders pay last respects
President Akufo-Addo arrived at the auditorium, accompanied by his wife, at 8.58 a.m. and went to the casket, which sat on a catafalque, to pay his last respects.
Earlier, the dignitaries had, one after another, filed past the casket to also pay their respects, with each stopping at the foot of the casket to bow before walking off to take his or her seat.
Signs of pain were visible on the faces of the many gathered when the choir of the Accra Ridge Church sang the hymn: “Now praise we great and famous men”.
Some could not control their emotions and could be seen wiping tears from their eyes when the choir sang: "It is well with my soul", a hymn composed by Philip Bliss.
Archbishop Akrofi, in his sermon, exhorted the world to let the flame that Mr Annan lit burn brighter.
He said God did not create Mr Annan for Ghana alone but for the entire world and expressed the hope that his works would live on for years to come.
The preacher was full of praise for the widow who stood by his husband through both good and difficult times and said she shared in the successes chalked up by her husband.
The Anglican Bishop of Kumasi, the Most Rev. Dr Daniel Yinkah Sarfo, in his benediction, said Mr Annan made history as a man of peace.
The late former UN Secretary General was born in Kumasi and carried the highest honour of Asanteman, Busumuru, conferred on him by the Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, for his work towards world peace.
Military pallbearers in camouflage carried the remains into a hearse and the cortege travelled some six kilometres to the final resting place, with crowds watching and waving on the way.
The ceremony at the cemetery was even more emotional.
President Akufo-Addo, Mr Guterres, Mrs Annan and her children were joined by few others to witness the brief event.
The casket was lowered into the grave, after which wreaths were laid before prayers were said.
The President laid one on behalf of the government and the people of Ghana, while Mr Guterres laid one on behalf of the UN.
The rest were laid by the family, the widow and the children.
And when a 17-gun salute boomed from two anti-tank guns and the last post was sounded, followed by a minute’s silence, a solemn hush fell on the cemetery, signifying the end of proceedings for the late Annan’s final journey to his Maker.