We are devastated to hear of the passing of former Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan. On behalf of the chairman of our Board of Trustees, the Board, our chief executive and the staff of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, we send our deepest condolences to his wife, Nane, and their children, Ama, Kojo and Nina.
We regarded him as a friend and he enjoyed a close relationship with Nelson Mandela over many years. In the foreword he wrote to Mandela: The Authorised Portrait, Annan wrote: "Throughout the years of our friendship, Nelson Mandela has been a source of support and inspiration to me – both personally and as secretary-general."
In the same text, Annan recalled the speech Madiba gave to the United Nations General Assembly in 1998 (Address by President Nelson Mandela at the 53rd United Nations General Assembly). "We had been chatting in a private room beforehand, and, as ever, he was making everyone around him feel completely relaxed through his unique mix of humour, warmth, informality and dignity." The two leaders developed profound mutual respect as they worked together on numerous projects and interventions, including the Burundi Peace Process in the late 1990s and the early 2000s. Friendship blossomed from there.
In 2007, Annan delivered the Fifth Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture. Later he became part of The Elders initiative, together with Madiba and Mrs Graça Machel.
He was an honoured guest at the 16th Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture, delivered by former President Barack Obama in July 2018. It is during this visit that Nelson Mandela Foundation Chairman Professor Njabulo Ndebele and Chief Executive Sello Hatang handed Annan his Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture Bust in recognition of his support for Madiba's work and as past lecture speaker.
Speaking of Annan in 2002, Madiba called him a “courageous leader”. “Your vision," he went on to say to him, "and ability to link the well-being of children and the security of the international community is a source of inspiration."
The Nelson Mandela Foundation mourns the loss of a friend and an advocate for peace and human rights. Africa and the world has lost a special human being. May he rest in peace.