Kofi Annan (1938-2018): Excerpts from an introduction by His Highness the Aga Khan and rare letters from His Highness and Prince Sadruddin to the former Secretary General

Kofi Annan (1938-2018): A Statement by the Annan Family

Kofi Annan

Photo: Kofi Annan Foundation.

It is with immense sadness that the Annan family and the Kofi Annan Foundation announce that Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations and Nobel Peace Laureate, passed away peacefully on Saturday 18th August after a short illness. His wife Nane and their children Ama, Kojo and Nina were by his side during his last days.

Kofi Annan was a global statesman and a deeply committed internationalist who fought throughout his life for a fairer and more peaceful world. During his distinguished career and leadership of the United Nations he was an ardent champion of peace, sustainable development, human rights and the rule of law.

After stepping down from the United Nations, he continued to work tirelessly in the cause of peace through his chairmanship of the Kofi Annan Foundation and as chair of The Elders, the group founded by Nelson Mandela. He was an inspiration to young and old alike.

Kofi Annan was a son of Ghana and felt a special responsibility towards Africa. He was particularly committed to African development and deeply engaged in many initiatives, including his chairmanship of the Africa Progress Panel and his early leadership of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).

Wherever there was suffering or need, he reached out and touched many people with his deep compassion and empathy. He selflessly placed others first, radiating genuine kindness, warmth and brilliance in all he did. He will be greatly missed by so many around the world, as well as his staff at the Foundation and his many former colleagues in the United Nations system. He will remain in our hearts forever.

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Aga Khan Attends Kofi Annan’s Funeral

Kofi Annan Funeral

Surrounded by family, former Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s widow Nane pays final respects to her late husband in Accra, Ghana on 13 September 2018. Photo: UN Photo/Ben Malor.

The following report is adapted from http://www.Akdn.org.

His Highness the Aga Khan, at the invitation of the President of Ghana, His Excellency Nana Akufo-Addo, on September 13, 2018 joined world leaders to pay tribute to former Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan.  Mr Annan was laid to rest at a State funeral in Accra, Ghana earlier on September 13.

The Aga Khan, Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims and founder of the Aga Khan Development Network, was accompanied by his daughter Princess Zahra Aga Khan.

Mr Annan was a friend of the family and a valued partner of the Aga Khan Development Network. In 2010, he was appointed to the Board of Directors of the Global Centre for Pluralism, founded by the Aga Khan in Ottawa Canada, in partnership with the Government of Canada. The Centre was created to advance positive responses to the challenge of living peacefully and productively together in diverse societies. 

His Highness thanked the Government of Ghana for bringing together dignitaries, friends and colleagues from around the world to honour Mr Annan’s accomplishments.

He paid tribute to Mr Annan’s service to the cause of peace and tolerance. “Kofi Annan fought for peace, dignity, and respect, traits which he embodied throughout his life’s work. Mr Annan was a unique leader, who, as Secretary General of the United Nations, as a member of the Elders and through the Kofi Annan Foundation, had an impact on world events which will be remembered for their contribution to help bring stability and hope to so many parts of the globe.  He was a remarkably generous individual and trusted friend.  He will be greatly missed.”

Princess Zahra, who served on the Board of Directors of the Global Centre for Pluralism with Kofi Annan, also expressed her deep sadness at the loss of the visionary leader.

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Excerpts from an introduction of Kofi Annan given by His Highness the Aga Khan

2013-05-Canada-6822_Aga Khan and Kofi Annan

His Highness the Aga Khan, Chairman of the Board of the Global Centre of the Pluralism (GCP), Kofi Annan, a member of the GCP Board with Secretary General of the GCP John McNee, shortly after Mr Anan delivered the Global Centre for Pluralism’s second annual Pluralism Lecture on May 24, 2013 at the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat in Ottawa. Photo: AKDN.

MAY 24, 2013, OTTAWA: As you know, Kofi Annan retired from his official post [UN Secretary General] six years ago. But he has in no way retired from his role as an active global statesman – tirelessly working to foster peaceful dialogue around the world.

I remember vividly – and I know you do also – the role he played when violence erupted in Kenya after the 2007 election. He led the way in bringing clashing voices together, and the result was a successful power-sharing arrangement which ended the crisis and paved the way for major constitutional reform.

Now, six years later, another election in Kenya has recently come and gone – this time without major violence. I think we all have recognized and remembered – as the Kenyan people do – how important have been the foundations that Kofi Annan did so much to build in 2007.

We also recall the political violence in Cote D’Ivoire in 2011, when Kofi Annan, in his capacity as an Elder, once again pressed for resolution. And these dramatic moments are only particular examples of his continuing efforts – day by day and year by year – in the service of global harmony.

Our honoree also leads the Kofi Annan Foundation in dealing with critical global issues such as food security, governance, climate change, drug-trafficking and HIV/AIDS. And you may know as well about his leadership role in chairing the Africa Progress Panel.

The Panel – just this month – issued a deeply stirring report. Its study testifies eloquently to Africa’s profound potential for development, but it also squarely identifies the scourge of corruption, and calls powerfully for a new strengthening of transparency and accountability, nationally and internationally, in the public and private sectors alike.

In welcoming Kofi Annan this evening, I want to emphasize what his personal example has meant to all of us. He has truly been an inspiration, demonstrating the power of patience and persistence – of a willingness always to listen – and a refusal to give up hope.

Our Global Centre for Pluralism was founded here in Ottawa in 2006 to address what I believe is the central challenge of our time – learning to live peacefully and constructively in a highly diversified and rapidly shrinking world.

aga-khan-johnson-anan-and-clarkson

During the inaugural board meeting of the Global Centre for Pluralism in October 2010, His Highness the Aga Khan and the Board were hosted at Rideau Hall, the official Governor General’s residence in Ottawa. Shown in the picture are, from left to right, the then Governor General of Canada, David Johnston, his wife, Mrs. Sharon Johnston, the Aga Khan, former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, and the former Governor General, Adrienne Clarkson. Photo: AKDN/Denis Drever.

As Kofi Annan has taught us, pluralism requires constant dialogue, a readiness to compromise, and an understanding that pluralism is not an end in itself, but a continuous process.

The Global Centre for Pluralism was established in partnership with the Government of Canada, and was inspired in part by Canada’s experience as a highly diverse society. We want the Centre to be a place where we can all learn from one another about the challenges of diversity – and where we can share the lessons of successful pluralism.

And on evenings like this, we also help realize the Centre’s potential as a destination for dialogue, a place where we can exchange ideas with true champions of global pluralism, like Kofi Annan.

Ladies and Gentlemen, together with you, I eagerly look forward to hearing from the Centre’s honored Lecturer for 2013, Kofi Annan.

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The Aga Khan’s Letter to Kofi Annan: “The World’s Drug Problem Must Remain a Matter of Permanent Concern”

“…For all clear thinking individuals, wherever they may be, the world’s drug problem must remain a matter of permanent concern. With the density of the Ismaili population in Gorno-Badakhshan, in Afghan Badakshan, in Chitral and Hunza and elsewhere in South West Asia and Africa, the leaders of the Ismaili Community, its institutions and I, as the Imam, must be particularly concerned with this aggressive and damaging problem…” — Excerpt from Aga Khan’s letter to Kofi Annan. Please download complete letter in PDF format below.

Please click Letter to Kofi Annan from His Highness the Aga Khan

Also, please click Letter to Kofi Annan from Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan

Date posted: August 18, 2018.
Last updated: September 14, 2018.

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Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Letter to Kofi Annan: “The World’s Drug Problem Must Remain a Matter of Permanent Concern”

“…For all clear thinking individuals, wherever they may be, the world’s drug problem must remain a matter of permanent concern. With the density of the Ismaili population in Gorno-Badakhshan, in Afghan Badakshan, in Chitral and Hunza and elsewhere in South West Asia and Africa, the leaders of the Ismaili Community, its institutions and I, as the Imam, must be particularly concerned with this aggressive and damaging problem…” — Excerpt from Aga Khan’s letter to Kofi Annan. Please download complete letter in PDF format below.

LETTER FROM PUBLISHER

By Abdulmalik Merchant

Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, has throughout his 58 years of Imamat urged his followers not to indulge in dangerous and unhealthy social habits such as alcohol, drugs and smoking. In the eyes of the Imam, all his followers are his spiritual children and, like all parents, the 49th Ismaili Imam desires nothing but the best for his community in both spiritual and temporal matters.

There is one farman on alcohol and smoking that has particularly reverberated in my heart and memory for many decades. I remember it well because Alwaez Nizar Chunara, who was our neighbour in Dar-es-Salaam, had conveyed it to us well before it got read out in jamatkhanas across East Africa. It was made in Mbale, Uganda, sometime in the 1960’s, and Mawlana Hazar Imam said in the farman that some of his spiritual children had the impression and told others in the jamat that they were not socially advanced if they did not drink and smoke. This he said, “is absolute and complete nonsense,” (repeating it), and further stated that if we really wanted to be socially distinguished we should not drink and smoke.

During the same East African visit Mawlana Hazar Imam described alcohol as not being for his jamat because it led to losing our honour and creating a bad impression, especially when one went around being drunk. A few years later in London he mentioned that alcohol was a bringer of spiritual sorrow. Mawlana Hazar Imam’s beloved grandfather when addressing Muslims in South Africa warned about alcohol as follows:

“The greatest danger to every Muslim citizen – I have not the least hesitation in saying it – is alcohol. Time has shown that it is an injury to you; an injury to your person; an injury to your health. It is forbidden because it carries greater evil than good. Believe me, in a community like yours, alcohol is a very grave danger. Once you got into the alcohol habit, I do not know where it would lead you. A handful, here and there, of the weak, or of the unhappy, find their way to this terrible poison. Avoid it at all costs. Avoid it, I say, for in this country you cannot afford to lose one man.”

KOFI ANNAN’S LETTER TO THE LATE PRINCE SADRUDDIN AGA KHAN

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7th Secretary General of the United Nations, from January 1, 1997 – December 31, 2006

Kofi Annan, 7th Secretary General of the United Nations, from January 1, 1997 – December 31, 2006

Then, another farman on social habits that immediately comes to mind, because I was present to hear it as a youth  and as a volunteer standing close to the stage, was the one that he made during his visit to Dar-es-Salaam in 1970 for the opening of the IPS building by President Julius Nyerere. The newly established Karimabad Jamat and the Changombe Jamat located in Dar-es-Salaam’s outskirts were brought together for the mulaqat with Mawlana Hazar Imam at the Diamond Jubilee Hall.

The farman dealt substantially on economic matters; Mawlana Hazar Imam spoke about him being happy if families could afford one car and very happy if they could afford two cars, but he went on to say that he did not want to see that second car. Turning to the subject of health and social habits, he made a plea to the jamat not to be wasteful on drugs, cigarettes and alcohol. This mention of drugs was one of the earliest references to drugs in any farman that Hazar Imam had made from 1957 until 1970.

In this connection, it may be mentioned that the use of drugs, particularly of heroin in the USA, was rising at alarming rates in the 1960’s. The Reader’s Digest had even published an incredible heart wrenching essay, “We are All Animals,” about chilling stories of being a drug addict. My mum, I recall, read the entire article out to her students at the Aga Khan Girls Secondary School. Her students literally had tears in their eyes, hearing the sad stories.

HIS HIGHNESS THE AGA KHAN’S LETTER TO KOFI ANNAN

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Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, 49th Ismaili Imam

Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, 49th Ismaili Imam.

So, when I ran into this letter that Mawlana Hazar Imam sent to Kofi Annan, which had been preceded by the Secretary General’s letter to Mawlana Hazar Imam’s late uncle Prince Sadruddin (and perhaps to Mawlana Hazar Imam too, judging by the acknowledgement given), I thought I had also bring to light the general concern about social habits and their absolute wastefulness, and indignity they bring on the community. In making choices between good and bad habits, Mawlana Hazar Imam has asked us to adopt those that would enable the jamat to live happily, leaving aside alcohol, drugs and other social habits that would compromise the well-being of the jamat.

A key point that emerges from Hazar Imam’s letter to Mr. Annan is the damaging and aggressive problem of drugs not merely in the regions of Central Asia, where poppy plants are being grown in abundance, but elsewhere in the world where his community resides. The growth of poppy is destroying the physical and mental lives of hundreds of thousands of people. Others profit from its growth and illegal trade, as the resin from the plants is extracted and refined into morphine, with further refinements yielding different forms and grades of heroin.

Mawlana Hazar Imam is continuously concerned for the well-being of his jamat, and nothing is more important to him than the strength of our mental health and capacity, which he has said must be preserved and enhanced rather than being destroyed through the use of drugs. The Ismaili community can certainly set a true example of  social distinction and wisdom by avoiding all forms of social habits that do not contribute to any form of advancement. As a small community, our resolve to abstain from detrimental social habits would help us to serve our families, our communities and countries more effectively and purposefully in the coming years and decades.

Date posted: July 23, 2015.
Last updated: July 25, 2015 (updated with additional material from the personal notes of my mother, Alwaeza Maleksultan Merchant, on smoking, drinking and drugs).

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Thanking Ismaili Historical Figures: A “Thank You” Letter to Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan by Mohezin Tejani, Thailand

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