- By Sayar Mya (MOFA)
- “Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.”
— Shannon L. Alder
Suddenly, in minor shock and tremble, some hot coffee from my cup spilled over the newspaper South China Morning Post on the breakfast table, when the author of this article saw the news headlines “Kofi Annan, former UN chief and Nobel laureate, dead at age 80” in the Saturday, 18 August 2018 issue.
Dr. Kofi Annan, one of the world’s most celebrated diplomat and a charismatic symbol of the United Nations, who rose through its ranks to become the first black African secretary general, has died. His foundation announced his death in Switzerland on Saturday in a tweet, saying that he died after a short unspecified illness.
“Wherever there was suffering or need, he reached out and touched many people with his deep compassion and empathy,” the foundation said in a statement.
We were casually talking about the Panglong peace process and the situation in Rakhine in our beloved country Myanmar with my better half and my daughter, while on a family gathering in Hong Kong.
As a retired Myanmar diplomat and a freelancer, my mind flew back to events in Myanmar over the years.
In September 2016, following a request from Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the State Counsellor of Myanmar, the Kofi Annan Foundation and the Office of the State Counsellor established an Advisory Commission on Rakhine State. The Commission is a national entity and the majority of its members are from Myanmar. It was mandated to examine the complex challenges facing Rakhine State and to propose answers to those challenges.
After one year of consultations held across Rakhine State and in other parts of the country and the region, the Advisory Commission submitted its final report to national authorities on 23 August 2017. The report recommends urgent and sustained action on a number of fronts to prevent violence, maintain peace, foster reconciliation and offer a sense of hope to the State’s hard-pressed population.
The final report of the Advisory Commission chaired by Dr. Kofi Annan puts forward recommendations to surmount the political, socio-economic and humanitarian challenges that currently face Rakhine State.
“Unless concerted action – led by the government and aided by all sectors of the government and society – is taken soon, we risk the return of another cycle of violence and radicalization, which will further deepen the chronic poverty that afflicts Rakhine State”, said Dr. Kofi Annan, Chair of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State.
In August 2017, it presented its final report, “Towards a Peaceful, Fair and Prosperous Future for the People of Rakhine”. The Commission was composed of six local and three international experts, and chaired by Dr. Kofi Annan.
In its work, it considered humanitarian and developmental issues, access to basic services, legal questions including citizenship and the assurance of basic rights, and security to all people in all communities. It presented its final report and recommendations to the Government of Myanmar in August 2017.
The State Counsellor lauded Dr. Annan in her speech delivered at the 43rd Singapore Lecture organized by ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute on 21 August 2018.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said, “Please allow me, at this point, to pay tribute to Dr. Kofi Annan. His qualities and achievements were myriad, but here it is only fitting that I should focus on what he meant to us as we negotiated the path of democratic transition. He agreed to take on the responsibility of advising us on how we might resolve deep-rooted problems in the Rakhine State, because his nature was cast in a generous, positive mould.
“He wanted us to succeed, to reach our goals of peace, prosperity, security and progress for our country. Dr. Annan abided by his decision to help us, even after events in the Rakhine brought down severe criticism on Myanmar. His compassion, his integrity and his courage shone through his acts and the recommendations of his Commission reflected his wisdom and his wide experience of the challenges of our times. His approach was constructive and caring. Despite the many demands on his duties, he made time to speak to me on the telephone occasionally, to ask how he might help, to listen, and to encourage.
“One of the last public events he organized was a workshop earlier this year on ‘lessons learnt’ in Rakhine. His life is a lesson we could learn to our profit. It exemplified the principles and values on which the United Nations was founded, the principles and values that allowed us to hope peace and prosperity might be possible for all in our world.”
While browsing the web, this author fortunately came across a very touching and tear-shedding lines written by his son, which I could not suppress my desire to share with the esteemed readers of the Global New Light of Myanmar. Here it is:
The family of former United Nations Secretary General has published a tribute to the man hailed as a reformer at the global diplomacy outfit. The piece authored by his son, Kojo, also acknowledged the outpouring of love and support from around the world. It was published on the website of the Kofi Annan Foundation and produced here below.
On 18 August 2018, the world lost a leader and a statesman: Kofi Atta Annan.
And we lost a brother, a husband, a father, a grandfather, and an uncle – a man of deep conviction who was as committed to instilling the values of fairness, integrity, kindness, and service in each of us, as he was to advocating for peace and human rights around the world.
He was as present with each of us and the family as a whole, as he was with every crisis, every mission, and every intervention.
No call, email, or text went unanswered.
No personal crises unaddressed.
No major family milestones or celebrations unattended, no matter what was happening in the world.
So while we shared him with the world, we were never poorer for it.
Today, buoyed and comforted by the outpouring of love and support we have received from around the world, we are richer for having shared him with you. Stubborn optimist that he was, he would want us all to look forward with hope, and keep striving to create a freer, fairer, more peaceful world.
Daddy, may you rest in perfect peace knowing the depth of our love for you and gratitude for the tremendous role you played in each of our lives.
Atta says, “Bye bye Grandpa, enjoy heaven!”
The lines were written by Kojo, on behalf of the Annan family.
On my part, I could not find or think of any better and strong words in tribute of Dr. Annan to mention in my conclusion.
Therefore, the author simply takes the liberty by wrapping up with the following milestones.
Key dates in the life of Dr. Kofi Atta Annan
1938: Born in Kumasi, Ghana’s second city, seat of the Ashanti kingdom
1962: Starts working at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland
1965: Weds Titi Alakija. They have two children, a boy and a girl
1984: Marries Nane Lagergren, having divorced a year earlier
1991: Twin sister Efua dies
1993: Becomes head of U.N. peacekeeping operations
1997: Appointed seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations
2001: Wins Nobel Peace Prize
2006: Steps down as Secretary-General after 10 years
2012: Becomes UN/Arab League Joint Special Envoy on the Syrian crisis
2013: Made Chair of The Elders, a peace and human rights advocacy group
2016: Leads the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, Myanmar
Rest in eternal peace, Sir!!!