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Tribute To Kofi Atta Annan

September 16, 2018

This last week saw Africa lay down to rest a great statesman, the late Kofi Annan. As I watched the proceedings of the funeral live online, I was saddened by the realization that people of his caliber are fast diminishing from this continent, mostly due to age and age-related ailments.

I was also saddened by something else. 

You see, when the late Kofi Annan left the country to go to Switzerland, he walked with his own two legs, but when he came back home for good, he didn’t come back the same way he left. Yes, he still came back on a plane but this time he did not get a seat in business class or the VIP section. He flew back as CARGO. 

Let that sink in for a few minutes.

The cargo part really made me feel sad. When I saw his casket being brought down from the cargo section of the plane, my eyes filled with tears. I don’t know why but I became emotional. I never knew the man personally but a lot of things were going on in my mind. While all those things were going on in my mind I was also imagining how his family was feeling, watching their beloved being rolled down the conveyor belt. 

As much as they had mourned him while he was in his home in Switzerland, I am sure seeing his body being brought out in that manner finally brought it home to them that he is never coming back again. Worse still, the reporters were referring to his body as “his remains”. Not that they were wrong but still.....


Of course, he did live a rich meaningful life, and he will be remembered by many people the world over, but that doesn’t mean that he won’t be missed. He will be.


This article today serves as a tribute to the late Kofi Annan, and so I have put together a list of 18 quotes bearing very powerful messages from him, touching on different issues that affect our lives. I chose 18 of them to represent the day he died, i.e. 18th August 2018. Here are the  quotes:


  • To live is to choose. But to choose well, you must know who you are and what you stand for, where you want to go and why you want to get there.


  • We need to keep hope alive and strive to do better.


  • We need to think of the future and the planet we are going to leave to our children and their children.


  • On climate change, we often don't fully appreciate that it is a problem. We think it is a problem waiting to happen.


  • Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family.


  • It has been said that arguing against globalization is like arguing against the laws of gravity.


  • We can love what we are, without hating what, and who, we are not.


  • You are never too young to lead and you should never doubt your capacity to triumph where others have not.


  • I used to tell the story about as a young man in high school one of the professors came in and put a broad white sheet on the board with a dot in the right-hand corner and said, "Boys, what do you see?" And we all shouted, a black dot. He stood back and said, "not a single one of you saw the broad white sheet, you all saw the black dot." He went on to tell us to focus on the broader picture, don't focus on the negative.


  • There is no trust more sacred than the one the world holds with children. There is no duty more important than ensuring that their rights are respected, that their welfare is protected, that their lives are free from fear and want and that they grow up in peace.


  • We may have different religions, different languages, different colored skin, but we all belong to one human race. 


  • For everyone, everywhere, literacy is, along with education in general, a basic human right.


  • When women thrive, all of society benefits, and succeeding generations are given a better start in life.    


  • I have always believed that on important issues, the leaders must lead. Where the leaders fail to lead, and people are really concerned about it, the people will take the lead and make the leaders follow.


  • We have to choose between a global market driven only by calculations of short-term profit, and one which has a human face.


  • We need to promote greater tolerance and understanding among the peoples of the world. Nothing can be more dangerous to our efforts to build peace and development than a world divided along religious, ethnic or cultural lines. In each nation, and among all nations, we must work to promote unity based on our shared humanity.


  • Gather the five virtues (Dignity, Confidence, Courage, Compassion, and Faith). Then you are a man.


  • The future belongs to you, but it can only belong to you if you participate and take charge


There are hundreds of other quotes by the late Kofi Annan out there but I chose these particular ones because they are inclusive in nature.


If the late Kofi Atta Annan was a book, we would say the last full stop was put in place on 13th September 2018, when he was finally laid to rest. The good thing about a book is that long after the author is gone, it can still be read by generations to come. I believe he was such a book.


He may have left this world, but even in his absence, he will be remembered for many things he did, for the contributions he made not just to his society but to the world in general. Future generations will definitely get to know about him because he has been well documented in the books of history. He did his work, he finished his race and now he has paved way for others to carry the baton further than where he reached. 


May his soul rest in eternal peace.


Coming back to you dear reader, what will you be remembered for? When that time comes and you leave this world, will we even know you ever lived? Besides your family, who else will remember you, and how will you be remembered? Will you be remembered for the great things you did or for the problematic person you were? Will your death be seen as a big gap or as a blessing in disguise? Sometimes we need to ask ourselves such questions so that we can recalibrate our “GPS”, just in case we were heading in the wrong direction. 


As I come to the end of this tribute to Kofi Annan today I would like to quote an ancient Sanskrit saying that says, “When you were born, you cried while the world rejoiced. Live your life in such a way that when you die, the world cries while you rejoice.” 


Spend a few minutes thinking about this quote before you read the next paragraph. 


Assuming you have thought about it, does the wisdom above strike a chord deep within you? Do you feel that life is slipping by so fast that you just might never get the chance to live with the meaning, happiness and joy you know you deserve? 


That’s why this week I am recommending the book “Who Will Cry When You Die?”, a very special book by leadership guru Robin S. Sharma. In this easy-to-read yet wisdom-rich manual, Robin S. Sharma offers 101 simple solutions to life’s most complex problems, ranging from a little-known method for beating stress and worry to a powerful way to enjoy the journey while you create a legacy that lasts. Other lessons include “Honor Your Past,” “Start Your Day Well,” “See Troubles as Blessings” and “Discover Your Calling.” If you are finally ready to move beyond a life spent chasing success to one of deep significance, this is the ideal book for you.


May we all strive to live a meaningful life, but that will only happen when we find our true purpose. In the words of Victor Frankl said, “When a person can’t find a deep sense of meaning, they distract themselves with pleasure.”


Find pleasure in your purpose and you will live a meaningful life.


Be Ignited. Be Inspired. Be Influenced. Become the best version of yourself you can ever be.



PS: This article was originally published in Tanzania's Guardian On Sunday on the 16th September, 2018, under my weekly column "Thoughts in Words".​​​​







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