World leaders gather in Ghana as Kofi Annan goes home(photos)

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World leaders and international dignitaries traveled to Ghana to pay their last respects to the late United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan who was honoured with a state funeral.

Kofi Annan’s fellow Ghanaians finally got their moment to bid farewell to the Nobel laureate on Thursday, in an elaborate state funeral for the first black African to ever lead the United Nations.

Over three days of national mourning that ended with his funeral on Thursday, Mr. Annan was remembered for his diplomatic legacy and decades of humanitarian advocacy, according to the New York Times

He presided through the beginning of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001 for “having revitalized the U.N. and for having given priority to human rights,” according to the Nobel Committee.

He began working at a United Nations agency in 1962, at the World Health Organization in Geneva. But his decades of work at the United Nations were not without controversy.

As the head of the United Nations peacekeeping operations from 1993 to 1997 — a period that included the deaths of more than 800,000 Rwandans in the genocide of 1994, and the massacre of 8,000 Bosnian Muslims at Srebrenica in 1995 — Mr. Annan faced criticism for inaction. He later acknowledged the shortcomings of the United Nations response.

Annan died on Aug. 18 in Bern, Switzerland at age 80. The grandson of tribal chiefs, he was awarded the title of Busumburu, by the Ashante kingdom, the highest title in the land.

Presidents from across Africa joined Guterres, Annan’s family and many others in a ceremony that concluded two days of viewings.

The presidents of Namibia, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia and Sierra Leone attended, along with Niger’s prime minister and Angola’s vice president.

Former leaders from Europe and Africa also joined the ceremony, including Graca Machel, wife of the late South African President Nelson Mandela.

Gutteres said the late Annan “was an exceptional global leader — and he was also someone virtually anyone in the world could see themselves in: those on the far reaches of poverty, conflict and despair who found in him an ally; the junior U.N. staffer following in his footsteps; the young person to whom he said until his dying breath ‘always remember, you are never too young to lead — and we are never too old to learn.’”

Ghana’s President Nana Dankwa Akufo-Addo said Annan was bold and never gave up on what he believed in.

“Despite the unjustified attacks on him, trying to fix him with responsibility for the genocides in Rwanda and Srebrenica when he was head of U.N. peace operations, he never lost his moral compass, as he showed when he stood up to the might of the United States of America when she was embarking on the ill-fated intervention in Iraq.”

History has vindicated Annan, said Akufo-Addo, saying that his “epic but unavailing effort to establish the supremacy of international law over the actions of even the world’s greatest power won him the admiration of all right-thinking persons.”

He said, Kofi Annan was an ardent believer in the capacity of Ghana and the continent of Africa to chart its own path of progress.

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