The City: KUMASI…
Affectionately referred to as Oseikrom by the natives, Kumasi in Ghana (historically spelt Coomassie or Comassie), was established as capital of the Ashanti Kingdom in 1701 by one of its co-founders, Otumfuo Nana Osei Kofi Tutu Opemsoo, who was crowned as Asantehene, king of all Ashanti.
According to tradition, under the guidance of the Okomfo Anokye, priest and co-founder of the city, Osei Tutu is said to have planted two kuma trees at two separate locations. One of the trees died and the other flourished. So, one place was referred to as Kumawu (the kuma died), while the other became Kumasi (the Kuma flourished).
One of the largest metropolitan areas of Ghana, Kumasi remains a place where tradition is highly regarded, even with its blend of modernity.
The Icon: KOFI ATTA ANNAN…
In January 1997, Kofi Annan became the 7th Secretary-General of the United Nations and served in that capacity until December 2006. During his term, the United Nations had major achievements like: the setting up of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the creation of the Global Funds to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM).
Born a twin on the 8th of April 1938 into an aristocratic family of the Ashanti/Fante tribe in Kumasi in the Gold Coast, Kofi Annan attended Mfantsipim, an elite Methodist boarding school in Cape Coast, where he learnt that “suffering anywhere concerns people everywhere.”
His graduation from Mfantsipim in 1957 coincided with the Independence of the Gold Coast from Britain. Being the first British colony to achieve that left a strong impression on Kofi and the people of his generation who witnessed the event and grew up realizing all is possible.
The following year, he enrolled at Kumasi College of Science and Technology (now Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology to study economics. However on bagging a Ford Foundation grant, he completed his undergrad studies at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1961. He earned a degree in International Relations from Graduate Institute of International Studies, Geneva and started work with the UN as a Budget Officer at the World Health Organization (WHO).
He had a stint in the ‘70s as Director of Tourism in his country, Ghana before assuming the position of Head of Personnel for the office of the UN High Commission for Refugees in Geneva in 1980. Between 1987 and 1996, he had served as Assistant Secretary-General of the UN in three consecutive positions.
On assumption of office as UN Secretary-General, Annan initiated major improvements in the UN by releasing two reports on management reforms titled: Management and Organizational Measures and Renewing the United Nations: A Programme for Reform. He also proposed the Millennium Summit for 2000 which was very instrumental to the Millennium Development Goals.
Ahead of the summit, he released a report: We the Peoples: The Role of the United Nations in the 21st Century. In the report, member states were enjoined to “put people at the centre of everything…” stating that “No calling is more noble, and no responsibility greater, than that of enabling men, women and children, in cities and villages around the world, to make their lives better.” Delegates to the summit eventually adopted the Millennium Declaration committing to a new global partnership and a series of time-bound targets which became known as the MDGs.
Kofi Annan was involved in the transition of military to civilian rule in Nigeria in 1998. His address to the World Economic Forum in January 1999 was instrumental to the launch of the UN Global Compact in July 2000. He issued a 5-point Call to Action to address the HIV/AIDS pandemic in April 2001 which led to creation of the Global Funds to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM).
After his tenure as UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan has continued to serve in other important capacity on the global stage. In 2007, he launched the Kofi Annan Foundation to “promote better global governance and strengthen the capacities of people and countries to achieve a fairer, more secure world.”
Kofi Annan is married to a Swede, Nane Annan (nee Lagergren). They have three children: Ama, Kojo, and Nina. Ama and Kojo are from his first marriage to a Nigerian Titi Alakija.
Did You Know?
- Kofi Annan was born on a Friday, hence his name Kofi which is given to a male child born of a Friday among the Ashanti.
- He was born a twin. His twin sister, Efua died in 1991.
- He graduated from Mfantsipim in 1957, the same year the Gold Coast became independent and changed her name to Ghana.
- In 1984, Kofi married Swedish lawyer/painter Nane Lagergren.
- He replaced Egyptian Boutros Boutros-Ghali as Secretary-General of the UN.
- In 2001, he was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace with the UN.
- Kofi Annan delivered his final speech as Secretary-General of the UN on December 11, 2006 at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library, in Missouri.
- He was head of the Panel of Eminent African Personalities established by the African Union (AU) to find a peaceful solution to the crisis resulting from the 2007 Kenya Presidential elections.
- In 2008, he was appointed Chancellor of the University of Ghana.
- Kofi Annan has received national honors from at least eight countries: Austria, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Germany, the Netherlands, the UK and his native Ghana.
- He has also bagged at least 30 honorary degrees from several universities and institutions across the globe.
- In February 2012, he was appointed the UN-Arab League Special Envoy to Syria to try and end the civil war in the country.
- Aside from the Nobel Prize, he has also received about 20 other international awards.
- Interventions: A Life of War and Peace, his memoir was published on September 4, 2012.
Afro Tourism salutes another important City Icon and living legend, Kofi Atta Annan!
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