After The Mourning

After the mourning: A personal reflection on Kofi Annan by Caroline Kende-Robb, Secretary General at CARE International


“The question is the morning after.” 


The late Kofi Atta Annan said these words in the context of civil war and bombing in Iraq, as he urged leaders to think about impacts in the region.  Now that he is gone, the question is indeed about the morning after. This “giant of Africa” has left his indelible mark on the world with an infinite list of achievements and accolades that included United Nations Secretary General, Nobel Peace Prize winner, author, and humanitarian.


I read the many words and heard the tributes expressed, standing as one of the many at his State Funeral service in Accra. The tributes were about this impressive dignitary; they were also about my dear friend and mentor. 


When I worked for Kofi Annan, as the Executive Director at the African Progress Panel, I was struck by his gentle yet powerful belief in peace, unity and humanity. But he was also simply a kind and compassionate human being. He had a way of connecting with everyone of any age and background. When my three little girls first met him, they were extremely shy. But within minutes, he had them all giggling and smiling. What warmth.

Legacies are more than memories. They call on us to revisit our values, challenge the “status quo”, and dare to hope most when things seem hopeless. Kofi Annan was an eternal optimist and he believed with a passion that the world could be a better place. 

The legacy he leaves holds up a mirror to the world and stirs us to improve what is reflected there. In just one example, Kofi Annan urged us to recognise that “gender equality is more than a goal in itself,” calling it “a precondition for meeting the challenge of reducing poverty, promoting sustainable development and building good governance.” A steadfast advocate of girls’ education, he never let us forget that girls make up most of the millions of children who are not in school. 


As CARE International’s Secretary General, I cannot imagine a more fitting avenue for contributing to righting the balance between rich and poor, to ensuring equal opportunities for all, and as a first step to these goals, seeing that all people are equal, regardless of gender. I am honoured that Kofi Annan was such a large part of my life. May his humility and compassion continue to guide us all.

Follow Caroline @CarolineKende


CARE works around the globe to save lives, defeat poverty and achieve social justice.  CARE puts women and girls at the heart of our work because we know that we cannot overcome poverty until all people have equal rights and opportunities.