This weekend, the world woke up to the sad news on the passing of the first African Secretary General of the United Nations (UN) Kofi Annan. News headlines report that the 80-year-old advocate for the African continent, and seventh Secretary-General who rose through the ranks of the UN, suffered with a short illness before he died.
The Ghanaian diplomat, and one of the United Nations’ most high-profile and well-respected former Secretary-Generals was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize along with the UN “for their work for a better organised and more peaceful world”. Annan served as the UN Secretary-General from January 1997 to December 2006 – and put development, human rights, the rule of law, good governance and peace at the top of the UNs agenda.
Commenting on the passing of Kofi Annan, Brand South Africa’s Chief Marketing Officer Mrs Linda Magapatona-Sangaret said: “2018 marks the centenary of the birth of Nelson Mandela – it is a year which has provided an opportunity for people around the world to reflect on his exceptional leadership. Kofi Annan too was such a great leader, and leaves behind a similar legacy as he dedicated his years in service of human development and peace. The world has lost yet another magnanimous and selfless model leader.”
Annan who delivered the 5thh Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture on 22 July 2007 which focused on the progress of Africa, also served as the Chair of the The Elders – an international non-governmental organisation of public figures noted as elder statesmen, peace activists, and human rights advocates, who were brought together by Nelson Mandela in 2007. The goal Nelson Mandela set for the Elders was to use their “almost 1,000 years of joint experience” to work on solutions for seemingly insurmountable problems such as climate change, HIV/AIDS, and poverty, as well as to “use their political independence to help resolve some of the world’s most intractable conflicts.
Kofi Annan was a member of The Elders since its founding in 2007, succeeding Desmond Tutu as Chair in May 2013. Between February and August 2012 Kofi Annan temporarily recused himself as a member of The Elders during his UN and Arab League assignment as Joint Special Envoy on the Syrian crisis. Kofi Annan’s first engagement with The Elders came in November 2008 when, together with Jimmy Carter and Graça Machel, he drew the world’s attention on the humanitarian crisis affecting Zimbabwe.