To our departed compatriot, Kofi Annan

BY: Ghanaian staff in the UN
Kofi Annan
Kofi Annan

In the Akan tradition of Ghana, we have a saying that goes, Efie kania edum. Na ye be ye den ni? The literal English translation is, “The light at home has gone out. What shall we do?” 

To many of us, especially those working in the United Nations (UN), this saying sums up our feelings to a large extent as we mourn the passing of a great and illustrious son of Ghana who rose to serve the world with distinction, dignity and high diplomacy.

For us Ghanaians working in the UN, Kofi Annan was a major reason for us to work extra hard and give more to the UN as we followed in his footsteps to serve the world. 

Because of Kofi Annan, you couldn’t just resign yourself to being a good professional and a great international civil servant. You had the added incentive to work doubly or hard for the success of the UN, simply because the excellence, fairness and integrity he showed was automatically expected of you as a Ghanaian working within the UN system. 

In fact, we had to put in extra work because whatever sacrifices we made in our pursuit of excellence did not just benefit the UN, but reflected well on the Ghanaian who occupied the highest office in this great global organisation

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His successes were not just the successes of the world but also ours. His challenges were owned, to a degree, by us. And criticisms directed at him stung all committed UN staff but we felt them more. Kofi Annan was not only a UN Secretary-General, but our proud compatriot, our role model, our inspiration, our influencer and our true beacon of light.

He showed every one of us that like him, we could rise from within the ranks – based on merit - to become Secretary-General, regardless of how we looked, what accent we carried and where we came from. He was a great servant of the world.

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We were inspired daily by his impeccable personal and professional dignity in the line of global fire, his incomparable diplomatic skills and the humility with which he used the great power vested in his office to promote the cause of world peace, fair development and equality, plus the protection of the vulnerable.

Kofi Annan worked tirelessly to bring unity where there was division, he spoke truth to power and sometimes paid for it and he never stopped fighting for the dignity of humanity.

To us, he was simply Kofi Atta Annan, our fellow Ghanaian at the UN who knew and understood our personal and professional struggles, because he had encountered the same challenges, and in deep faith, commitment and optimism, used his firm but warm gaze to speak great words of encouragement and inspiration to us. 


Personal words

Here are some personal words of honour and remembrance from some Ghanaians in the UN:

“An exceptional statesman who represented Africa and the world with enormous graciousness, steadfastness and distinction.

“He was a global peacemaker and took up high-profile mediation roles to promote peace and stability in troubled countries. He worked tirelessly to bring unity to the world and never stopped fighting for the dignity of humanity.” - Major-General Francis Vib-Sanziri, the Head of Mission and Force Commander for the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF).

“We mourn an influencer, inspirer and a global icon of Ghana and the UN who gave most of us in the UN system a strong sense of identity and self- esteem.” – Thomas Asare, Comptroller and Director - Division of Financial and Administrative Management, UNICEF-HQ, New York.

“His Excellency was a man of noble character who was steadfast in the business of managing the world. Even in the most difficult situations, Kofi managed to lift his head high every day in a manner befitting this high office. He looked serious most of the time but he was also a man of humour who joked on a recent BBC programme that the true meaning of the Secretary-General’s abbreviated title, “SG”, was "Scape Goat". He raised the flag of Ghana high and he always recognised his roots and aligned himself with all things Ghanaian. We will remember Kofi Annan as one of the most erudite, illustrious and enduring global statesmen of our time.”  - Beatrice Duncan, UN-Women.

“With your impeccable personal dignity, you elevated the Office of Secretary-General in a manner rarely seen. With incomparable diplomatic skill and to great effect, you utilised the power of your office to promote the cause of world peace and to protect the vulnerable. In so doing, you raised the name of the UN and the name of Ghana to new global heights.”  - Michael Kingsley-Nyinah, DPKO, New York.

“Panyin Kofi, you dared to swim upstream when it was easier and safer to gently float downstream. This is surely the mark of a true fearless leader keenly focussed on making a change where necessary.” – Julian Otinkorang (Maj-Retd) – DPKO, New York.

“Secretary-General Kofi Annan, you who stood tall among the famous giants of the world now lay in greatness with the ancestors. Your work has just begun in perfect peace. A true gift of peace to earth and beyond, now you take your rightful place in the Lord. “ – Charles Anyidoho, DPA – New York.  

"Dr Kofi Annan, you are one of the reasons that made me even more proud to say I am a Ghanaian anywhere I find myself in the world. You were an icon of excellence and wisdom, with a distinguished and gentle demeanour. You were a role model and will always be remembered.” – Bridget O. Asiamah – UNFPA, New York.

 “Secretary-General Kofi Annan made a special visit to UNICEF in late December 2006 just before his retirement to meet the staff in the Office of the Executive Director where I was working.  

“He was surrounded by a USG, several ASGs, Chef de Cabinet and close protection officers but somehow he saw my nameplate, and did something I will never forget – he took a moment to graciously step over to my desk to greet me in Twi.

“Here was the Secretary-General of the UN at my desk, modest, despite his importance and extraordinarily crucial role in the world, never forgetting his roots, his countrymen, and doing us all very, very proud.” – Ama Opoku, UNICEF.

“May the gentle soul of our former Secretary-General, compatriot and trailblazer for Ghanaians in the UN rest peacefully in the Lord. Amen” – Patricia Fynn, UNIOGBIS.

“The best way to honour and remember this great son of Africa, this servant of the world and this wonderful human being is to live the life of excellence, dignity, diplomacy and humanity that Kofi Annan lived. 

He showed that you don’t have to be loud to make great impact, you don’t have to put others down for you to rise, and you don’t have to respond to your haters always, because the truth will vindicate you eventually. Rest in peace, Sir. ” – Ben Dotsei Malor, News and Media Division, New York.

“You will be remembered as a beacon of hope, peace and compassion, as well as a source of inspiration, especially to the people of Africa.” – Angelica Spraggins, WHO New York Office.

“When a great man dies, for years, the light he leaves behind him lies on the paths of men.” - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, shared by Phyllis Grobl  of MINUSMA, Mali.

Efie kania edum.” Alas! the light in our home has gone out and our anguish, pain and sorrow are probably lost in translation.

Kofi Atta Annan, the light you’ve left behind will continue to illuminate our paths as we continue your legacy to strive for a fairer and more peaceful world.

Braa Kofi Atta, Damirifa due.

May God grant you perfect peace.