Kofi Annan’s family has remained private with little information in the public domain. He first married a Nigerian woman, Titi Alakija, in 1965. Together they had a daughter, Ama, and a son, Kojo.
• UN to hold separate ceremony, fly flags at half mast around the world
Kofi Annan Foundation said yesterday his funeral would be a private event, but did not provide further details, ATS news agency reported.
It said a separate United Nations ceremony would be held at a later date. The UN said it would fly flags at half mast at all of its locations around the world through tomorrow. The former UN Secretary General, Nobel peace laureate and “diplomatic rock star” died at the weekend at the age of 80. From Africa to the United States, tributes continued to pour in from around the world yesterday.
READ ALSO: Kofi Annan (1938 – 2018)
Annan’s family said he had passed away peacefully at the weekend after a short illness. Annan, who lived not far from the UN European headquarters in Geneva, died in a Bern hospital, Swiss media reported. The Ghanaian national was a career diplomat who projected quiet charisma and was widely credited for raising the world body’s pro- file in global politics during his two terms as head of the UN from 1997 to 2006.
The first secretary general from sub-Saharan Africa, Annan led the United Nations through the divisive years of the Iraq war and was later accused of corruption in the oil-for-food scandal, one of the most trying times of his tenure. Annan “astutely guided the United Nations organisation into the 21st century defining an ambitious agenda that had made the UN truly indispensable to peace, prosperity and human dignity around the world,” Annan’s successor as UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, said in a statement.
Current UN chief Antonio Guterres described his predecessor as “a guiding force for good”.
“In many ways, Kofi Annan was the United Nations,” he said. “He rose through the ranks to lead the organisation into the new millennium with matchless dignity and determination.”
And Ghana’s President
Nana Akufo-Addo announced a week of mourning for “one of our greatest compatriots”. Despite his criticism, current and former world leaders voiced their admiration for Annan. Russian President Vladimir Putin hailed his “wisdom and courage”, while German Chancellor Angela Merkel celebrated the “exceptional statesman in the service of the global community.”
READ ALSO: Buhari calls Akufo-Addo, says ‘Kofi Annan’s contribution remains indelible in world’s history’
President Donald Trump had yet to comment, but his Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo yesterday hailed a life spent “advocating for peace and human dignity”. Another Nobel laureate, retired South African archbishop Desmond Tutu, described Annan as “an outstanding human being who represented our continent and the world with enormous graciousness, integrity and distinction.”
And US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said Annan “never stopped fighting for the dignity of every person”. Former US president Barack Obama earlier said Annan “embodied the mission of the United Nations like few others”.
In 2001, as the world was reeling from the September 11 attacks in the United States, Annan was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize jointly with the world body “for their work for a better organised and more peaceful world”.
Born in Kumasi, the capital city of Ghana’s Ashanti region, Annan devoted four decades of his working life to the UN and was the first chief to rise from within the organisation’s ranks. In 1993, he took over as peacekeeping chief, a position he held through two of the UN’s darkest chapters: the Rwandan genocide and the Bosnian war.
Scandal that hit Annan
His tenure as UN chief was tarnished by a 2005 investigation of Annan and his son over the oil-for-food scandal, seen by some as payback for his comments that the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq was “illegal”. An inquiry cleared Annan of any serious wrongdoing, but found ethical and management lapses linked to his son Kojo’s ties with a Swiss firm that won lucrative contracts in the oil-for-food scheme.
Annan later admitted the scandal had sorely tested his mettle not only as secretary general, but as a father. Despite the lows, he left the post as one of the most popular UN leaders ever, and was considered a “diplomatic rock star” in international diplomatic circles.
After ending his second term as UN chief, he kept up his diplomatic work, taking high-profile mediation roles in Kenya and in Syria, and more recently leading an advisory commission in Myanmar on the crisis in Rakhine state.
He enjoyed some success in ending post-election turmoil in Kenya in 2007, and on Saturday the two main players in that crisis, former president Mwai Kibaki and his opposition rival Raila Odinga celebrated his efforts. Odinga said at the weekend that he had “fond memories” of Annan because he stepped in to save the country from civil war after a flawed presidential election in 2007 that led to more than 1,000 deaths. Annan brokered a power-sharing deal to calm tensions.
Annan resigned from the peace mission for Syria in 2012 after just a few months, saying a Security Council stalemate had turned it into a “mission impossible”. He also set up his foundation devoted to conflict resolution and joined the Elders group of statesmen which speaks out on global issues.
But he had recently spoken of his despair at the state of global leadership and the lack of will to engage in resolving crises. “Honestly speaking, we are in a mess,” he told AFP last December, warning that “today, leaders are going in the wrong direction… leaders are withdrawing.”
… How Ghana reacted to death
Streets were hushed as Ghana at the weekend mourned Kofi Annan, the grandson of tribal chiefs who became the first black African to assume the world’s top diplomatic post.
President Nana Akufo-Addo ordered flags to fly at half-staff for a week while trying to reassure the country’s 28 million people that the former UN secretary-general and Nobel Peace Prize winner left the world without pain.
“I am comforted … that he died peacefully in his sleep,” the president said on Twitter after speaking with Annan’s wife. “Rest in perfect peace, Kofi. You have earned it.” The normally vibrant capital, Accra, was somber after initial disbelief from some residents dismissing Annan’s death as fake news.
“It was a great shock to hear this news,” former President John Kufuor told The Associated Press. He said Annan had continued to visit Ghana about three times a year and if there were any invitations he honored them. “Grandpa used to tell us a lot about how he was such a nice person,” said Kojo Manu, a mechanic who said his late grandfather had lived in the same neighborhood with Annan.
“Big man Kofi Annan gave some of us a reason to live and to continue to have faith in our roots as Africans,” said Emmanuel Youri, an advertising executive. “He was a great African by every standard,” lawmaker Ras Mubarak said.
Annan was born two decades before Ghana became the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to gain independence from colonial rule. The son of a provincial governor, he attended an elite boarding school and became fluent in English, French and several African languages and quickly entered the diplomatic world. He spent almost his entire professional life in the United Nations, and Africa played a major part of his work.
Author of Millennium Development Goals
Africa’s widespread health and development challenges shaped Annan’s crafting of what became known as the Millennium Development Goals, and played a central role in creating the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
After stepping down as UN chief, Annan was still called on to apply his diplomatic skills to some of Africa’s biggest crises, either on his own or as chair of The Elders, an elite group of former leaders founded by South Africa’s Nelson Mandela.
The global diplomat also spoke sharply at times about the continent and its ills, saying late last year on Twitter that “the African officials who are signing away their countries’ resources at an almost
giveaway rate to big multinationals in the expectation that they will get something are really betraying their people. It denies them development and food.”
Last major appearance
Annan’s last major public appearance in Africa was last month in Zimbabwe on the brink of a historic presidential election, the first without longtime leader Robert Mugabe on the ballot.
As Annan urged Zimbabweans to vote peacefully and met with the country’s leaders, he struggled to walk and coughed from time to time, with his aides closely following behind.
Kofi Annan’s family has remained private with little information in the public domain. He first married a Nigerian woman, Titi Alakija, in 1965. Together they had a daughter, Ama, and a son, Kojo. Annan separated with Titi in the late seventies but he remained an involved parent and lived with his son Kojo for a while after his separation with the mother. After several years of living apart from his first wife, Annan fell in love with a Swedish woman, Nane Lagergren.
Nane Lagergren married Kofi 34 years ago after they first met in Geneva. Nane was working in the same office with Kofi at the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees as a legal officer. She accompanied Kofi to New York, where they married. They have since lived together. As the wife of the U.N. Secretary General, Nane took part in women’s issues and programs that aimed at alleviating poverty and the welfare of children, refugees and the disabled. The Annan’s have three children, all from their previous marriages as they don’t have children together.
Born in October 1944, Nane is a lawyer and a maternal half-niece of Raoul Wallenberg, a renowned Swedish humanitarian, diplomat and businessman who helped thousands of Jews escape from the Nazis during the World War II.
Nane is an artist, taking up painting full-time in 1985. She published a book in 2000, “The United Nations, came along with me” where she used children to make illustrations. As an artist, Nane has taken part in several group exhibitions including UNICEF and UN Children’s Fund. Nane was born in Stockholm where she grew up and studied law. After working as an assistant judge at the administrative and fiscal court of appeal, she joined the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva in 1981 – the year she met Kofi.