A Tribute to Busumuru Kofi Annan – On Behalf of Ghanaians Living Abroad


Those of us who have lived awhile in the New York Metropolitan area were aware of a Ghanaian who held a high position at the United Nations.  Most of us had not met the gentleman but his name was incontrovertibly Ghanaian, and that sufficed to hail this Kofi Annan who served as the Under-Secretary for UN Peacekeeping from 1992- 1996.  Imagine – one of us was really in charge of commanding forces to keep peace in Lebanon, Israel, Nicaragua, Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Ireland, Kosovo, and everywhere else around the whole world?  Wow! Our hearts were pumped up and we whispered prideful comments at our funerals and baby naming ceremonies. We learned from our colleagues working at the UN that he had worked at the UN since 1962. Those of us named Kofi conveniently used his name as a reference to correct those who were insisting on spelling and calling us “Coffee”. No it is K-O-F-I as in Kofi Annan!

Then came the announcement on December 13, 1996 that our own Kofi Annan had been appointed the Secretary General of the United Nations! Yes, we had celebrated the Secretary Generalship of Boutros Boutros-Ghali. He was Egyptian. Ghanaians especially have a soft spot for Egypt because our first president, Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah married Fathia from Egypt. We claimed Boutros and toasted him. But Kofi Annan was closest. He had crawled and eaten the same Cape Coast dust, where he was born on April 8, 1938, as some of us. He had walked the same streets in Kumasi all the way through attending the local Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology.  He attended the same Mfantsipim School in Cape Coast that some of us could identify with. He ate the same fufu, kenkey, banku, red-red, and all the assorted soups and stews that have nourished all of us. With his dark complexion and goatee, he looked just like most Ghanaians. He resembled someone in the families of all the people from Sub-Sahara Africa. By Gosh he had not lost his accent after working for the United Nations since 1962 and marrying first a Nigerian (Titi Alakije), and then a Swede (Nane Maria).  He sounded just like us. The names of two of his children, Kojo – born on Monday, and Amma- born on Saturday, were inimitably Akan. Even the third child’s name, Nina, sounded like Nima or Nana. Did you know that his middle initial “A” stood for Ata (twin)? Yes all twin boys come with that name “Ata” as their birthright.  That is ours too! Thank you, Boutros Boutros-Ghali for paving the way for the United Nations to continue to look to Africa, and now turn their eyes southward for its leader.  Now when we said we were from Ghana, we proudly added, smiling cheek to cheek, the country of Kofi Annan. Yes, the same place, known for more than soccer.

The enthusiasm spread to our homeland. The Asantehene (King of the Ashantis) held a grand durbar in Kumasi for the son of the soil. In August 2012, in the presence of all the chiefs of Asanteman, dignitaries, political leaders, and proud common-folk singing praises, the King conferred the title of Busumuru (Highest Achiever of Honor) on the humbled UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. He was clad in a traditional black and white kente cloth, coming out of the suit to make everyone see his naked top part as humility itself. The conferment instantly made him a royal of Asanteman.

We followed his trajectory. We celebrated his accomplishments: working to turn the tide on the scourge of HIV/AIDS; convincing world leaders to adopt metrics of poverty reduction through the Millennium Development Goals; establishing the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Center in Accra in 1998; winning the Nobel Peace prize in 2001; serving two terms from 1997 through 2007 as the UN Secretary General, and many more. We pained at his failures, the Rwanda genocide especially. Yes, that one hit hard. The challenge from the UN Oil-for-Food Program that his detractors tried hard to use to unseat him was hurtful to live through with him. We aged as he did.

The announcement came on August 18, 2018. It had a finality, and like Kofi, it was simple: “Kofi Annan is dead at age 80”

With tears running down our closed lips, and with the celebratory smiles gone, we say:

“Kofi nante yie,

Busumuru kↄ bↄkↄↄ.

Barima bԑyԑԑ bi, na wanmԑyԑ ni nyinaa

(Kofi may you have a safe trip. Busummuru walk gingerly. A man is expected to do his best, but not complete all tasks).

Your legacy continues to be “I am from Ghana, the country of Kofi Annan, spelled K-O-F-I”

Kofi A. Boateng, PhD, is the Chairman of New York City-based Progressive Alliance Movement (PAM) and heads the Ghana Chamber of Commerce (GCC), New York.

Posted by on Sep 12 2018. Filed under Features. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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