In Akan philosophy and (generally, African) scheme of things there are fundamentally two ways of measuring the sum of a human being’s existence – how he or she lived while among the ateasefo (the living) and where he or she is likely to go when he or she sheds honam (the body).
The two are complimentary, and while that does provide, conceptually, a very terse summary of a person’s life among ateasefo, we get a sense of the details of that life when we open the life box and begin to take out and examine the content of the individual’s time here. In that light, much has been said about the life and work of former Secretary-General of the United Nations Organisation, Busumuru Kofi Atta Annan, who passed away on August 18, 2018 and was buried on September 13, 2018 at the new 37 Military Cemetery at La in Accra.
Obviously, the world could not, did not, allow to slip away the opportunity to discuss the sum of his life. While Ghanaians or largely Africans have said all the nice things about him, some Western governments and media have tried to remind their readers, listeners and viewers of what they term his failures, particularly Rwanda. And it therefore behoves us to take a real hard look at his life, one, without the sentiments on either side, but two, and very importantly, in the light of the power balance in the world and how that does affect everything that a leader of any sort does in his home state or more so on the global scene.
There is not adequate space in this newspaper to detail the life and work of Annan. Thus a terse summary of his education and career will do, and then Ti-Kelenkenlen will pick two cases that could be used to conduct fair assessment of Annan’s life and the work he did for humankind.
Life, Education and Career
He was born a twin (along with a sister) on April 8, 1938 in Kumasi. After basic school, he attended Mfantsipim (Kwabotwe) SHS from 1954 to 1957, the year of Ghana’s independence. A Life Map information available at www.thirteen.org and titled Kofi Annan – Centre of the Storm, Annan is reported to have said that at Kwabotwe he learnt that “that suffering anywhere concerns people everywhere.”That apt observation obviously shaped his entire life, and his work at the United Nations gave him the opportunity to try to do what he could about it, both as n individual and as a member of a team. The very next year he enrolled to study economics at KNUST (then called Kumasi College of Science and Technology). “He received a Ford Foundation grant, enabling him to complete his under-graduate studies in economics at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, United States, in 1961. Annan then completed a diplôme d’études approfondies (DEA) degree in International Relations at The Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Switzerland, from 1961–1962. After some years of work experience, he studied at the MIT Sloan School of Managementhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kofi_Annan – cite_note-15 (1971–1972) in the Sloan Fellows programme and earned a master’s degree in management,” says information condensed at Wikipedia.
In 1965, Kofi Annan married a woman from Nigeria, Titi Alakija. They had two children, a daughter, Ama, and a son, Kojo. However, the couple separated in the late 1970s and divorced in 1983. The very next year, 1984, Annan married another woman, Nane Annan, a Swedish lawyer at the UN and a maternal half-niece of diplomat Raoul Wallenberg. She has a daughter, Nina, from a previous marriage.”
It is noteworthy that immediately after international and development studies in Geneva, Annan got a job as a budget officer at the World Health Organisation (a unit of the UN). Then there was a break in serving at the UN when he returned to Ghana to head the Ghana Tourist Development Company (1974-1976.) He returned to Geneva in 1980 as the head of personnel at the UN High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR.) He then worked in separate capacities at different agencies of the United Nations, and then on January 1, 1997 he was sworn in as the 7th Secretary-General of the United Nations Organisation. He was later approved for a second term which he began on June 29, 2001. He retired on September 19, 2006.
He then continued to serve the United Nations as a senior envoy in various capacities till he discarded his body and departed to asamando (land of ancestors) on August 18, 2018.
Personally, for Ti-Kelenkelen, one thing stands out about the human being Kofi Atta Annan and is a pointer to his general character. Some Africans are born, cut their teeth and grow up on this continent, yet they go to the US or somewhere in the EU for few months or years, and when they return they claim they can no longer speak like an African; they speak with an accent that only shows how fake they have become. That was not Kofi Annan. In spite of having worked with the UN and its agencies and lived in Switzerland and the United States for more than half of his 80-year lifetime among ateasefo (the living), Kofi Annan, at the time of his death, still spoke like a Ghanaian. That was or is the clearest indication that the man was neither fake not a hypocrite and he was not thrown about by just any wind of doctrine. He had an inner centre firmly stemmed in Onyame (God) and in the system of common core values shared by and which inure to the benefit of all humankind.
The global scene has always been in turmoil with fighting (civil and international wars) in different parts of many continents at the same time. Sometimes (most of the time) these wars create large-scale humanitarian crises in the form of migrations and its attendant challenges.
(To be cont’d next Monday)
“…It therefore behoves us to take a real hard look at his life, one, without the sentiments on either side…”
“That apt observation obviously shaped his entire life, and his work at the United Nations gave him the opportunity to try to do what he could about it, both as an individual and as a member of a team.”
“That was or is the clearest indication that the man was neither fake not a hypocrite and he was not thrown about by just any wind of doctrine.”