Kofi Annan, the former UN secretary-general and Nobel Peace Prize winner, is being laid to rest Thursday in his home country of Ghana.
Thousands of Ghanaians and dignitaries from around the world gathered at the Accra International Conference Centre for the state funeral to pay their last respects to the diplomat. They included current UN Secretary-General António Guterres.
The presidents of Ivory Coast, Liberia, Namibia, Ethiopia, Niger and Zimbabwe were among the African leaders attending Thursday’s ceremony, which marks the end of three days of mourning declared in Ghana.
Annan, the first black man to lead the United Nations,died in August at 80 after a brief illness.
His body was flown back to Ghana from Switzerland on Monday ahead of the funeral, which will be followed by a private burial ceremony.
The Ghanaian diplomat was the seventh UN secretary-general, serving from 1997 to 2006, and was the first to rise from within the ranks of the UN staff.
Annan, described by former Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as “Africa’s foremost son,” led the United Nations at a time of raging global terrorism; his efforts at combating conflicts in Africa, Asia and the Middle East won him a Nobel Peace Prize in 2001.
Daughter Ama Annan Adedeji told those gathered that she will always remember her father’s selflessness.
“My father will always be someone special in my life … a man with a generosity of spirit, who gave himself to others. (He) put himself at their disposal and was one of the most loving people I know,” she said.
The United Nations will hold two other ceremonies in Annan’s honor later this month in Geneva, Switzerland, and in New York.
There has been an outpouring of tributes from prominent figures and close associates since Annan’s death on August 18.
Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström described Annan as a resolute defender of UN values who dedicated his life to making the world more peaceful.
“Today state funeral service for global leader Kofi Annan in Accra…. K.Annan was a resolute defender of UN Charter values and devoted to making the world more peaceful. May his memory serve as inspiration for future generations,” Wallström said in a tweet.
Amnesty International Secretary-General Kumi Naidoo called Annan one of Ghana’s finest sons and said the world had lost a moral compass.
“I’ve taken my seat at the state funeral of Kofi Annan. Very aware today that Ghana has lost one of its finest sons, Africa has lost a giant, the world has lost a moral compass,” Naidoo tweeted.