Kojo Annan, son of former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, addresses a memorial tribute to his father at the UN headquarters in New York, on Sept. 21, 2018. (Xinhua/Li Muzi)
UNITED NATIONS, Sept. 21 (Xinhua) -- "The United Nations and Kofi Annan (the late UN secretary-general) were inseparable; it is impossible to say where one ended and the other began," the current UN chief, Antonio Guterres, said on Friday.
Guterres led a list of diplomats, staff and family members speaking in the UN General Assembly Hall at a memorial tribute to Annan, who died on Aug. 18 in Geneva after a short illness, a Nobel laureate and native of Ghana.
"Kofi Annan was uncommonly warm, accessible and of the people -- but above all he was principled and forceful in battling for the values of the UN Charter," said Guterres. "He was charming and wise, kind and courageous. But he also knew how to deliver the barb -- in his masterly subtle way."
"And sometimes, people were so captivated by his presence that they did not realize that they were being admonished!' said Guterres, who Annan appointed High Commissioner for Refugees in 2005.
But, "Throughout his tenure Kofi Annan urged us never to be bystanders in life," the UN chief said. "He summoned us all to act against bias, brutality and bloodshed."
"He was a multilateralist through and through, a true UN-blue believer in a rules-based global order," Guterres said. "And, I must say, his loss cuts even deeper because we have never needed that faith and inspiration more."
This was a reference to U.S. President Donald Trump's history of snubbing multilateralism for his bilateral approach to international relations.
"Kofi Annan called the United Nations the 'last best hope of humanity," said Guterres. "He burned with the flame of human rights, dignity and justice."
President Maria Fernanda Espinosa of the 73rd General Assembly session, which just began last week, said it is "eminently fitting that we remember him (Annan) on this day -- a day fixed by this Assembly 17 years ago, on his watch and with his strong support, as International Peace Day. For no one labored more tirelessly or consistently in the cause of peace than did Kofi Annan."
"Kofi Annan was a great Secretary-General because he understood that peace cannot be achieved in isolation," she said.
Nane Annan said her late husband, "died too soon," shortly after returning from witnessing elections in Zimbabwe, just another one of the many missions he was on since "retiring" at the end of 2006.
"The rebel on the 38th floor," where the secretary general's office is located, had a "glowing aura" and was known for thinking "outside the box," she said, expressing gratitude for the memorial and adding, "We shall cherish this moment."
The late UN chief's son, Kojo Annan, in stepping behind the green marble podium where heads of state and government will stand next week to deliver speeches during the assembly's annual General Debate, said, "this is hallowed ground."
Hallowed, because it is "the only place on the planet" considered "home" for all world leaders, he said.
Recalling his father's legacy and afforded the privilege of being called a "World Citizen," Kojo Annan said it meant "completely embracing the common humanity of all of the world's citizens; it's about seeing potential in anyone and helping build a world where anything is possible for that someone."
"It's literally unfathomable that an obscure young man born in Kumasi, Ghana's second city, 19 years before Ghana's independence and who had never left the country before he was 18, would rise one day to become the 7th secretary-general of the United Nations, and yet that was my father's story," he said.
Ghana Ambassador Annan Cato, speaking for Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, president of Ghana, said "the outpouring of tributes to the life and work of Kofi Annan this morning has again reminded us of some of the contours in the foot-prints he left as he walked the globe."
"It is Ghana's hope that these foot-prints will serve as a guiding light for future generations," Cato said. "It is also our hope that a fitting tribute and memorial to Kofi Annan will be the reinforcement of our collective commitment to the urgent work of the United Nations in addressing the challenges of today's world."
Citing the opening words of the UN Charter the Accra envoy said, "We the Peoples' was Kofi Annan's mantra."