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A Man Of Principle

“To live is to choose. But to choose well, you must know who you are and what you stand for, where you want to go and why you want to get there.”Kofi Annan.

When Kofi Annan (April 8, 1938-August 18, 2018) became the Secretary General of the United Nations (UN) in 1996, the world body was facing various problems. Many experts used to believe that the UN failed to serve the purpose for which it was created after the WWII. They also believed that the UN’s existence had become useless. The seasoned diplomat from Ghana took charge of the UN in such a disappointing environment.
However, Annan managed to re-establish the fact that it was important to promote international co-operation and to create and maintain international order, despite some personal and collective failures at international level. In fact, his leadership qualities made it possible. That’s why current UN Secretary General António Guterres has described the Ghanaian diplomat as ‘a guiding force for good’.

Annan arrives at Sittwe airport, Rakhine state, Myanmar, in his capacity as the Myanmar government-appointed chairman of the advisory commission on Rakhine state, December 2, 2016.

The existence of peace depends on a leader’s character, and not on his/her success. Before the Gulf War, Annan had tried to explain the ill effects of a war on the global community to then US President George W Bush and his advisers. However, he failed…. The US and its Western allies might have ignored his advice, but the historical significance of his words was huge. Only a great leader can hold his/her nerve in a turbulent period and predict the future accurately.
A number of world leaders and diplomats had strongly criticised Annan for maintaining a ‘calm and quite’ attitude. They were of the opinion that nothing could disturb him, as he made no comments even during the Rwandan genocide. Critics said that it was not possible for methodist Annan to go beyond the rules and procedures and do the right thing at the right time.
Actually, his critics failed to realise that Annan had always remained strict in order to deliver justice. He used to say that it was not possible to deliver justice by breaking the rules and regulations. Annan was well aware of the fact that it would be difficult to encourage all the parties to follow the rules……it might also be critical. No one knows whether the Rwandan genocide could have been avoided by bypassing the diplomatic steps, but such an attempt would certainly encourage others to break the international rules.

A poster depicting the late Kofi Annan outside his family home in Bompata town in Kumasi, Ghana, the day after his death, August 19, 2018.

Annan left this world at a time when we have forgotten the democratic values, and the concept of co-operation and co-ordination. We are also not ready to hear our opponents’ arguments in a calm fashion. Annan and his UN had jointly received the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts to reform the world body and give “priority to human rights” in 2001. Those – who think that the UN has no role to play in the contemporary world – should accept the fact that Annan, the first black African to take on the UN secretary general role, had always pursued a better world. Seventeen years later, we should remember the important role played by him in order to get rid of the crisis-ridden global politics. Perhaps, it’s the right time to know about the life and legacy of Kofi Annan.

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