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Sep 14, 2018 | Regional News

The Untold Family Story Of Kofi Annan

By Grace Afua Somuah-Annan -
The Untold Family Story Of Kofi Annan

He got married in 1965 to Titilola Alakija and by the mid-1970s Kofi Annan had become the proud father of Ama and Kojo.

Talking about family life, he recalled that he was something of a hands-on-father. He told the BBC, 'Yes, I was, particularly when they were younger and I hadn't taken on challenging assignments which saw me at various ends of the world.'

Asked whether he was very much part of his children's upbringing and changed their nappies, Kofi Annan responded with unbridled mirth. 'Errr - yes, I was forced to! These things don't come to an African father naturally', he said, laughing. He said when he separated from his first wife: 'My daughter was old enough to go to boarding school. My son was not and since I was a bit more settled, I kept him while my ex-wife was sorting out her situation. So, I moved with Kojo from New York to Geneva, where I was a single parent.'

The laughter bubbled up in Kofi Annan again as he recalled a dinner party at home with friends. It was getting late and he said to his guests: 'You'd better go home because I have to get up early tomorrow.' They asked, 'Why do you have to get up so early?' He said, 'I need to prepare my son for school. I have to give him a shower and prepare his lunch box.'

One of the women friends exploded with laughter. He said, 'What's so funny about that?' She replied that she had four children, yet she didn't go to sleep at 9 or 10pm. He then asked, 'So how do you do it?' And she replied: 'Well, I lay out their clothes at night, they have their shower at night, I prepare the lunch boxes and put them in the fridge at night and, in the morning, they have their breakfast, they put on their clothes, I give them the lunch boxes and off they go.'

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Kofi Annan and family
Kofi Annan noted ruefully, 'Then she looks at me and says, 'I thought you were supposed to be the big manager!' and they all burst out laughing.'

He said that taught him a lesson or two. 'I've always respected women, but I came out of that experience with heightened respect for women and I learned a lot … and you also realise that being a man in a fairly senior position, your colleagues will cut you some slack which they don't necessarily do for a woman.'

Kofi Annan met his second wife, Nane Maria, in Geneva and the couple married in 1984. He brought two children, Ama and Kojo, to the marriage and Nane her daughter, Nina, making a happy family. He praised his wife for being by his side through thick and thin, including during difficult times as UN Secretary-General. 'She was extremely supportive and, honestly speaking, I don't think I could have done it without her. The two of us came to recognise that one lives in two worlds - the big world, which is the UN out there, trying to solve these problems and the small world which is family, friends, going for walks, listening to music.' He said he liked open spaces, because, 'You clear your head, you walk and, in the end, you feel you are fit for battle. You are ready to resume'. - BIOGRAPHY OF KOFI ANNAN (APRIL 1938 - AUGUST 2018)

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