A heartbroken nation yesterday began an elaborate programme to say a final goodbye to the late Kofi Annan with hundreds of mourners turning up at the Accra International Conference Centre (AICC) to pay their last respects to the man who was the first sub-Saharan African to head the United Nations (UN).
However, the mourners, many of whom went to the funeral grounds with sorrow etched on their faces over the loss of the former UN General Secretary and Nobel Peace Laureate, were disappointed when they entered the foyer of the AICC and found the casket which was draped in national colours closed, leaving them with no choice but to file past the casket.
It had been announced by the Funeral Planning Committee that the casket would be opened from 10a.m. to 4p.m. on the first of the three-day state funeral for the general public to pay their respects but that did not happen.
A Deputy Minister of Information, Mr Pius Enam Hadzide, who gave an explanation about the development when he spoke to the Daily Graphic, said the funeral planning committee decided to cover the casket and rather drape it with the national colours to show the true Ghanaian in Mr Annan.
He added that doing so was to put Ghana on the world map.
Per the programme released by the Kofi Annan Funeral Planning Committee, former ministers of state, members of the diplomatic corps, Members of Parliament (MPs), ministers of state, members of the Council of State, members of the Mfanstipim Old Boys Association, chiefs and queenmothers, the Akwamanhene and his delegation and the Asantehene Otumfuo Osei Tutu’s delegation will have their turn today.
Thursday, September 13 will be the turn of VVIPs, including the Inspector General of Police, Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Chairman of the Council of State, the Chief of Staff, Chief Justice, Speaker of Parliament, former Presidents of Ghana, the Vice-President, visiting heads of state and the President of Ghana. After the burial service at the AICC, the remains of one of Ghana’s greatest sons will be interred at the new Military Cemetery at La with full military honours.
The general public, heads of departments, associations and others filed past the body yesterday.
Some of the mourners the Daily Graphic spoke to expressed their displeasure about the development, especially when some claimed they travelled from far places simply to catch a glimpse of the body.
A Political Science lecturer at the University of Ghana, Professor Anthony Gyampoh, said he was not particularly happy about the fact that the casket was closed to the very public who were asked to pay their last respects to the late statesman.
He stated that the closure of the casket had not been the culture in the country and wondered why it was in the case for Annan.
Prof. Gyampoh, however, extolled the virtues of Mr Annan, noting that he would be remembered for his service to humanity.
One man who gave his name only as Kweku, angrily told the Daily Graphic that he came all the way from Aburi just to see the body of the former UN Secretary-General but he was leaving the centre disappointed because the purpose of his visit was not met.
Kofi Annan eulogised
Other personalities who spoke to the Daily Graphic, including the Executive Director of the Institute for Democratic Governance (IDEG), Dr Emmanuel Akwetey, touted the selfless lifestyle and humanitarian services undertaken by Kofi Annan when he was head of the world body.
He said Mr Annan did phenomenal things to bring about world peace.
A Senior Research Fellow at the IDEG, Dr Kwesi Jonah, who described the late statesman as a towering figure, said he continued to champion world peace even after he had retired from international diplomacy.
Body brought home
The final journey for the late Kofi Annan began on a slow note when members of the public started trickling in at about 9a.m. at the AICC to pay their last respects.
Amid some security presence, curious individuals made their way to the foyer where the casket had been placed to catch a glimpse of the remains of Mr Annan.
The Police Band and the Mass Choir treated mourners to moving hymns despite the disappointment arising out of the closure of the casket which denied the public the full view of the body.
The remains of Kofi Annan arrived in the country last Monday at the Jubilee Lounge of the Kotoka International Airport (KIA) accompanied by his wife Nane Maria and children Nina, Ama and Kojo and some UN officials.
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo led a government delegation to receive the body.
Mr Annan died in Bern, Switzerland on August 18, 2018 after a short illness.
He was 80.