Profile: Kofi Annan – the consummate International Diplomat

Kofi Annan, the “consummate international diplomat” in the words of president Akufo-Addo died on August 18, 2018 in Switzerland after a short illness.

Born on April 8, 1938 in Kumasi, the man eulogized as “the embodiment of peace” and “the secretary-general” by Otumfuo Osei Tutu and Graca Machel—widow of former South African President Nelson Mandela was the first black African to lead the United Nations.

He was sired into a royal family by Henry Reginald Annan and Victoria Annan. He had his education at University of Science and Technology (Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology—KNUST); Macalester College, St. Paul, Minnesota, B.A. in economics, 1961; Attended Institut Universitaire des Hautes Etudes Internationales, Geneva, Switzerland, 1961-1962; Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Sloan Fellow, M.S. in management, 1971-1972.

Kofi Annan was involved in two marriages during his lifetime, marrying Nane (Lagergren) Annan (1984 until his death on August 18, 2018) and Titi Alakija (1965-1983, divorce). He left behind 3 children—Nina (stepdaughter), Kojo and Ama.

UN career

Kofi Annan first joined the UN as a budget officer with the World Health Organisaton in Geneva in 1962. He served with various UN agencies, including the Economic Commission for Africa, the United Nations Emergency Force and the High Commissioner for Refugees between 1960s-1980s. He left the United Nations briefly to serve as managing director of the Ghana Tourist Development Company from 1974-1976.

He returned to the United Nations to serve as assistant Secretary-General for Human Resources Management and Security Coordinator from 1987-1990. From 1990-1992, he was the assistant secretary-general for programme Planning, Budget and Finance and Controller of the UN. Again, he was the assistant secretary-general for Peacekeeping Operations from March 1993-February 1994.

From 1994-1995 and April 1996-December 1996, Kofi Annan served as under-secretary-general, beginning his reign as the seventh and the first black African secretary-general of the UN on January 1, 1997-December 31, 2006. He was appointed on June 29, 2001 to a second term as secretary-general, beginning on January 1, 2002.

Likened in stature to Dag Hammarskjold, the second secretary-general of the United Nations, who died in a mysterious plane crash in Africa in 1961, Kofi Annan was credited with revitalizing the UN institutions, shaping what he called a new “norm of humanitarian intervention,” particularly in places where there was no peace for traditional peacekeepers to keep.

On December 10, 2001, he was awarded along with UN, the Noble Peace Prize.

He founded the Kofi Annan Foundation, an NGO which has as its core aim promoting global sustainable development, peace and security in 2007. He also chaired the ten-member advocacy group, the Africa Progress Panel that same year. He led the Global Humanitarian Forum based in Geneva, Switzerland from October 17, 2007-March 2010.

On January 13, 2008, he accepted the invitation from president, John Kufuor, to mediate the election dispute in Kenya, getting Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga to agree on a power-sharing government on March 1, 2008. He became chancellor of the University of Ghana on August 11, 2008. November 22, 2008 – Kofi Annan, along with former US President Jimmy Carter and Nelson Mandela’s wife, Graca Machel, attempted to visit Zimbabwe to gauge the humanitarian situation there as members of The Elders, a humanitarian group of a dozen leaders and activists of worldwide stature formed by Nelson Mandela to foster peace in world conflicts. They were denied entry.

December 7, 2008 – Kofi Annan, Carter and Machel released a report stating that Zimbabwe needs new leadership and called for more international aid for Zimbabwe’s sick and hungry. Their report was based on interviews with politicians, aid workers and others since they were not allowed in the country.

February 23, 2012 – The United Nations announcesdthe appointment of Kofi Annan as joint special envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States on the Syrian crisis.

March 11, 2012 – Kofi Annan left Syria after two days of talks with President Bashar al-Assad. He  proposed a cease-fire, the release of detainees and allowing unfettered access to agencies such as the Red Cross to deliver much needed aid.

March 13, 2012 – In Turkey, he met with government officials and Syrian opposition members including Burhan Ghalioun, chairman of the Syrian National Council.

March 16, 2012 – Kofi Annan briefed the UN Security Council on the situation in Syria and announced he was sending a mission to Damascus to discuss a plan for international monitors to end the daily violence engulfing the country.

March 24, 2012 – Kofi Annan arrived in Moscow in an effort to seek Russian help securing a cease-fire in Syria.

March 27, 2012 – The United Nations announced that Syrian President Assad accepted Kofi Annan’s six-point peace plan.

April 12, 2012 – Annan tells the United Nations that Syria has not fully complied with the terms of the cease-fire, which was worked out in the March peace plan and went into effect on April 10.

May 28, 2012 – Arrives in Damascus demanding accountability for the massacre at Houla and the implementation of the six-point peace plan worked out in March.

August 2, 2012 – UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced that Joint UN-Arab League Special Envoy for Syria Annan will not renew his mandate when it expires at the end of August. Annan is effectively resigning the post.

September 4, 2012 – His memoir, “Interventions: A Life in War and Peace,” was published. The book is written with Nader Mousavizadeh.

August 2016 – Chaired an advisory commission on the humanitarian crisis in Rakhine, Myanmar. The commission was set up by Myanmar’s government along with the Kofi Annan Foundation.

August 18, 2018 – he passed way after a short illness .

Source: Ghana/, with additional files from CNN