Kofi Annan was one of the most respected diplomats in the world who was the Secretary-General of the United Nations for almost a decade (from 1997 to 2006). One of the most significant things about his two terms in office is his strong opposition to the invasion of Iraq by the United States as well as his efforts towards the achievement of world peace. While his life was mostly seen through the lens of diplomacy, there are many other sides to his story, his life, and his simple death.
Who Is Kofi Annan?
A former Secretary-General of the UN, he was born Kofi Atta Annan on 8 April 1938 in the Ashanti Region of Gold Coast (now Ghana) alongside his twin sister, Efua Atta who died in 1991.
He was raised in a family of tribal chiefs while his father, Henry Reginald Annan, was once a provincial governor in the country. Interestingly enough his mother, Victoria Annan, also came from a family of tribal chiefs.
His Education and Career
For his education, the man who would go on to be awarded the Nobel Peace prize attended the Methodist boarding school and from there he moved to the Kumasi College of Science and Technology which is the present day Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology of Ghana. Nonetheless, it was in Macalester College in the United States, Saint Paul, Minnesota that he obtained his undergraduate degree thanks to a Ford Foundation grant he got. He would then attend the Institut Universitaire des Hautes Etudes Internationales, Geneva, Switzerland and later the MIT Sloan School of Management from 1971 to 1972.
He began his working life in 1962 when he got a job with the World Health Organization in Geneva as a Budget Officer, marking his first step in his gradual rise in the United Nations although he left it between 1974 and 1976 to work in his home country of Ghana.
Before becoming the assistant secretary-general for Programme Planning, Budget and Finance, and controller of the UN in 1990, he worked with different agencies of the United Nations including Economic Commission for Africa and the High Commissioner for Refugees. More so, he was the assistant secretary-general for Human Resources Management and security coordinator for the United Nations.
Between March 1993 and February 1994, Annan was the assistant secretary-general for Peacekeeping Operations before he rose to become the under-secretary-general until 1996 when he was appointed to serve as the seventh secretary-general of the United Nations to replace Boutros Boutros-Ghali of Egypt.
Kofi Annan held the position until 2001 when he was again appointed to serve for a second term in the same capacity. In that same year, Annan and the UN were jointly named the Nobel Peace Prize winners “for their work for a better organized and more peaceful world.”
His time in office was not one of the best times for the world peace as it was the time that the US invaded Iraq, something he came out to describe as an illegality.
With a lot of achievements during his time in the United Nations including launching the Global Compact campaign for the promotion of corporate social responsibility as well as the opposition to Iran’s nuclear program, Kofi Annan has gone on to become one of the most popular United Nations Secretary Generals ever.
That stated, his time in office also saw some controversies such as the sexual-harassment case which involved the then, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Ruud Lubbers as well as the Director of UNHCR Personnel, Werner Blatter. Even though Lubbers was found guilty by the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), Kofi Annan cleared him of any misdeeds, but the OIOS in its annual report to the General Assembly stated that it found Lubbers guilty and that went on to affect the favorable influence that Annan had.
Another major controversy that he got embroiled is what has come to be known as the Oil-for-Food scandal. The scandal involved his son, Kojo Annan allegedly receiving payments from Cotecna Inspection SA, a company that got a deal from the UN Oil-for-Food Programme. To investigate the case, Annan created an Independent Inquiry Committee which did not find him guilty of anything but the Secretary-General was criticized for his complacency in handling the matter.
Wife and Family
The first woman that he got married to was Titi Alakija, who was a Nigerian. The two became man and wife in 1965 but unfortunately, the marriage ended in 1983 in a divorce. Before it came to an end, the marriage was blessed with a son, Kojo Annan who was born on 25 July 1973 as well as a daughter.
The next woman to become his wife was Nane Maria Lagergren whom he got married to in 1984. A Swedish lawyer at the United Nations, Nane Maria Lagergren was also like Annan once married and she had a daughter from the marriage, Nina Cronstedt de Groot.
With his wife and three kids, Annan maintained a rather very simple family life that is mostly away from the public except for Kojo who was dragged to the public eyes as a result of the Oil-for-Food scandal.
Life and Death
Living a life that can be described as very successful, Kofi Annan died on August 18, 2018, after a brief illness. According to his foundation, his last days were spent with his wife and three children around him. Since his retirement, the former UN Secretary-General lived in Switzerland where he died.