Former UN secretary general Kofi Annan will be buried in his native Ghana today Thursday after a state funeral attended by world leaders past and present, traditional rulers and global royalty.
The ceremony at the Accra International Conference Centre, which starts at 8:30 am (0830 GMT), marks the end of three days of national mourning for the respected diplomat.
Annan led the UN from 1997 to 2006 and was the first from sub-Saharan Africa to do so. He died on August 18 aged 80 at his home in Switzerland after a short illness.
The current head of the world body, Antonio Guterres, is expected to attend the funeral, which will be followed by a private burial at the capital’s military ceremony.
The president of neighbouring Ivory Coast and the leaders of Liberia, Namibia, Ethiopia, Niger and Zimbabwe have also confirmed their attendance at Thursday’s obsequies, according to Ghana’s information minister.
Former heads of state from Germany to Mauritius were also flying in.
Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo called the funeral “a major event for our country” and described Annan as “one of the most illustrious people of this generation”.
Ordinary Ghanaians and dignitaries have paid their respects to Annan since his coffin was returned from Geneva and received with full honours on Monday.
Thousands of people have filed past the coffin, which was draped in the red, green and gold national flag and guarded by the military in ceremonial uniform.
One mourner, Fritz Kitcher, who spent his career working in human rights for the UN in Geneva, said he had seen Annan rise through the ranks.
Annan had taught him “the benefit of humility, the benefit of honesty, the benefit of decisiveness, and diplomacy from the grassroots,” he told AFP.
Others described Annan as a father-figure and a source of national pride.
– ‘Diplomatic rock star’ –
Born in Kumasi, the capital of Ghana’s Ashanti region, Annan devoted four decades of his working life to the UN, and was known for bringing quiet charisma to the role.
He was widely credited for raising the world body’s profile in global politics during his two terms in office, facing challenges including wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Annan was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001, as the world was reeling from the September 11 terror attacks in the United States, jointly with the UN “for their work for a better organised and more peaceful world”.
He left the post as one of the most popular — and recognisable — UN leaders ever, and was considered a “diplomatic rock star” in international circles.
He kept up his diplomatic work, taking mediation roles in Kenya and Syria, and more recently heading an advisory commission in Myanmar on the crisis in Rakhine state.
He acted as a negotiator between the government and the opposition in Kenya after post-election violence at the end of 2007, leading to the formation of the Grand Coalition government.
Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga will be among those attending Thursday’s ceremony, his office said.
Others include Princess Beatrix, the former queen of the Netherlands, and her daughter-in-law Princess Mabel, who were close friends of Annan. Annan is survived by his wife Nane Maria, his children and grandchildren.