Ghana’s public says farewell to Kofi Annan

Members of the public and family sit and pay their respects as the coffin of former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan lies in state at the Accra International Conference Center. (AP Photo)
Updated 11 September 2018
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Ghana’s public says farewell to Kofi Annan

  • Nobel peace laureate Annan, who was the world body’s first leader from sub-Saharan Africa, died aged 80 on August 18 after a short illness
  • Most of those who queued to pay their respects wore black and red mourning clothes and passed under large posters of Annan to the sound of pulsating drums

ACCRA: A steady stream of mourners on Tuesday paid their respects to the former UN secretary general Kofi Annan, as his body lay in state in the capital of his native Ghana.
The diplomat’s body was flown back from his home in Switzerland on Monday ahead of a state funeral and private burial in Accra on Thursday.
Nobel peace laureate Annan, who was the world body’s first leader from sub-Saharan Africa, died aged 80 on August 18 after a short illness.
His coffin, draped in Ghana’s red, green and gold flag, was guarded by senior military officers in ceremonial uniform at the Accra International Conference Center.
A choir sang hymns and traditional dances were performed as the public got their chance to say farewell to one of the country’s most famous sons.
Fritz Kitcher, who spent his career working for the United Nations in Geneva in human rights, said he saw Annan rise through the ranks.
Now retired and back living in Ghana, he said Annan taught him “the benefit of humility, the benefit of honesty, the benefit of decisiveness, and diplomacy from the grassroots.”
His role at the UN’s first black African leader was “an honor for Ghana,” he said.
“It was marvellous in our eyes, it was one of these things that we can only dream... he lifted Africa and showed that we are also able to do great things,” Kitcher told AFP.
Most of those who queued to pay their respects wore black and red mourning clothes and passed under large posters of Annan to the sound of pulsating drums.
Cleaner Akwo Kwame Johnson, from neighboring Ivory Coast said he wanted to pay his last respects to “our great father.”
Whenever he saw Annan in the news, Johnson said he felt like he was watching a family member.
“He was a president to all the world,” he added
Pensioner Joyce Atiase said she was mourning the loss of a “great man.” “We all loved him. He played a major role for our country, he did his best,” she said.
Scores of world leaders past and present, as well as royalty, are expected in Accra for Annan’s funeral on Thursday.
A private burial service will then be held in the city’s military cemetery.


Far-right shuts French rapper out of Bataclan attack site

Updated 21 September 2018
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Far-right shuts French rapper out of Bataclan attack site

  • Medine, a Muslim, insists his opponents are trying to divide France
  • The father of an attack victim joined protests against the concerts

PARIS: A popular French Muslim rapper said Friday he is canceling sold-out October concerts at the Bataclan music hall in Paris, a target of the deadly 2015 terror attacks, due to pressure from far-right groups who claim he promotes a radical ideology and is desecrating a now-sacred site.
The statement by Medine came as far-right activists announced plans to try to keep concert-goers from entering the hall for his shows. The father of an attack victim joined them, stressing he was apolitical but wanted action. Patrick Jardin said later that canceling the concert avoided the risk of violence.
Since June, the right and far-right have waged a campaign to shut down Medine’s shows.
The singer said on his verified Facebook and Twitter accounts that the far-right activists’ goal was “to divide” the nation, and “they don’t hesitate to manipulate and reawaken the pain of the families of victims.”
He said he was canceling out of respect for victims’ families and out of concern for fans’ safety. Medine said he would perform, instead, in November at another major Paris music venue.
“It’s a decision of good sense,” said Jardin, the father of Nathalie Jardin, a Bataclan lighting engineer who was among 90 people killed on Nov. 13, 2015, when extremists invaded the music hall, one of several targets that night in which 130 people were killed.
“I think they avoided blood running again at the Bataclan,” he said, noting that “very determined” people were expected to show up ahead of the concerts.
Jardin said he wrote twice to Medine but never received a response from him or from the police chief.
A 2005 album by Medine, “Jihad,” with a picture of the singer with a saber, was posted on social media in June, melded to a poster of his upcoming Bataclan show, spurring rancor and leading some to believe he would sing about jihad, or holy war. Medine has noted the album’s subtitle is “The Biggest Combat is Against Yourself.”
In a 2015 album “Don’t Laik,” evoking French secularism in a play on words, he sings, “Crucify (secularists) like in Golgotha,” or Calvary, the site of Jesus’ crucifixion.
“We can’t allow victims to be assassinated a second time,” said activist Richard Roudier of the League du Midi.