11.09.2018 Profile & Biography

Kofi Annan

By Evans Annang -
Kofi Annan
11.09.2018 LISTEN

The limelight will be on Accra, Ghana this week as it prepares to give a fitting burial to one of its illustrious sons, Kofi Annan this Thrusday.

Annan, who died in the Swiss capital Berne last month, will receive a full state burial from the Ghanaian government.

This is simply due to his humanitarian exploits on the world stage during his tenure as the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Born in Kumasi on April 8, 1938; Kofi's rise to become the leader of one biggest institutions in the world was a spectacular one.

He joined the UN system in 1962 as an administrative and budget officer with the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Geneva.


Kofi Annan completed Mfantsipim in 1957 after entering in 1954. n 1958, Annan began studying economics at the Kumasi College of Science and Technology, now the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. He received a Ford Foundation grant, enabling him to complete his undergraduate studies in economics at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, United States.

He later served with the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) in Addis Ababa, the UN Emergency Force (UNEF II) in Ismailia, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in Geneva.

He facilitated the repatriation from Iraq of more than 900 international staff in the 90s and other non-Iraqi nationals and also served as Special Representative of the Secretary-General to the former Yugoslavia and Special Envoy to NATO.

Kofi Annan was the first UN chief from sub-Saharan Africa AFPFileKofi Annan was the first UN chief from sub-Saharan Africa (AFP/File)

The UN Security Council recommended Annan on 13 December 1996. Confirmed four days later by the vote of the General Assembly, he started his first term as Secretary-General on 1 January 1997.

He was a constant advocate for human rights, the rule of law, the Millennium Development Goals and Africa, and sought to bring the organisation closer to the global public by forging ties with civil society, the private sector and other partners.

On his initiative, UN peacekeeping was strengthened in ways that enabled the UN to cope with a rapid rise in the number of operations and personnel. It was also at his urging that in 2005, member states established two new inter-governmental bodies: the Peacebuilding Commission and the Human Rights Council.

Mr Annan also played a central role in the creation of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria; the adoption of the UN's first-ever counter-terrorism strategy and the acceptance by member states of the 'responsibility to protect' people from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.

His 'Global Compact' initiative, launched in 1999, has become the world's largest effort to promote corporate social responsibility.

Annan believed that the expertise and evidence needed to solve pressing problems such as poverty, violent conflict and poor governance in most cases already existed, saying that progress was held back too often due to the lack of leadership and political will to use them to identify and deliver solutions.

Kofi Annan was the first sub-Saharan African to be Secretary General of the United Nations AFPFileKofi Annan was the first sub-Saharan African to be Secretary General of the United Nations (AFP/File)

He set up the Kofi Annan Foundation in 2007 to mobilise leaders of all sectors to provide leadership where it was needed.

With the foundation, he mobilised political will to overcome threats to peace, development and human rights. It works on the premise that there can be no long-term peace without development and no sustainable development without peace and that no society can long remain prosperous without the rule of law and respect for human rights.

The foundation works to identify new threats to peace and security and supports Annan's preventive diplomacy and mediation activities.

It also works with selected partner organisations to amplify Annan's voice and catalyse effective action on the promotion of food and nutrition security, sustainable development and support for good governance, the rule of law and respect for human rights.

Today, the foundation devotes considerable time to support democracy and elections with integrity.

Kofi Annan chaired the Global Commission on Elections, Democracy and Security (March 2011 to September 2012) and in January 2013, launched the West Africa Commission on Drugs as a response to the surge in drug trafficking and consumption in West Africa and their impact on security, governance and public health.


In early 2008, he led the African Union's Panel of Eminent African Personalities which mediated a peaceful resolution to post-election violence in Kenya.

From February to August 2012, he was the UN-Arab League Joint Special Envoy for Syria mandated to seek a resolution to the conflict there.

Mr Annan was the Founding Chairman of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), which works for a food secure and prosperous Africa by promoting rapid, sustainable agricultural growth based on smallholder farmers.

He chaired the African Progress Panel, which advocates at the highest level equitable and sustainable development in Africa. The panel includes distinguished individuals from the public and the private sectors and publishes an annual Africa progress report.

He was an active member of The Elders, an independent group of global leaders which works together for peace and human rights, and in 2013 was appointed its chairperson.


Mr Annan was the Chancellor of the University of Ghana and held a number of positions at universities around the world.

His death elicited condolences President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, former Presidents John Dramani Mahama and Jerry John Rawlings, the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres; the British Prime Minister, Theresa May; the Russian President, Vladimir Putin; the French President, Emmanuel Macron, and the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.

Other leaders who also expressed their condolences are the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu; the South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa; the Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari; the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, and former US Presidents Barrack Obama and Bill Clinton.

He was the co-recipient of the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize with the UN.