On Friday, 16 August, while on holiday in his native Ghana, Secretary-General Kofi Annan was awarded the traditional honorary title of “Busumuru” by the Ashanti people in his birthplace of Kumasi. He is the first non-royal to receive that title, in recognition of his service to humanity, dedication to the cause of development and his role in promoting world peace. “Busumuru” signifies “a most respected and admired person who is reliable and ever dependable and prepared to offer his wisdom and knowledge to the needy”. Mr. Annan promised to bear the title “with pride and honour”.
Upon arrival in Kumasi that day, the Secretary-General paid particular tribute to the women of Ghana, praising their dynamism, incredible strength, initiative and leadership qualities.
While in northern Ghana, Mr. Annan also took the opportunity to visit development projects where, in advance of the World Summit on Sustainable Development, beginning in Johannesburg on 26 August, he was able to see first-hand how people can take charge of improving their own living conditions.
Upon arrival in Tamale on Saturday, 17 August, he said he was encouraged to hear of efforts to establish a university and so he hoped to give “whatever encouragement” he could. He said he was also keen to see the advancement of education, particularly girls’ education and the empowerment of women. “Our women play important roles but behind the scenes”, he said. “They will do much better”, he added, “if they were to be given their rightful role in all aspects of our lives.”
On Sunday, the Secretary-General and Nane Annan visited the Nwodua Community project in the north, supported by Ghana’s Government as well as the United Nations Development Programme, United Nations Children’s Fund and other donors, where they saw a vocational training centre, a day care centre, a water system and an agro-forestry project. The Secretary-General received a smock and cap from the local people, whom he praised for trying to take the lead to improve their own conditions.
He told them, “Without that initiative and that determination to improve your economic and social conditions, I don’t think you’d be where you are today.”
On Monday, he and Mrs. Annan visited the Sirigu Women’s Organization for Pottery and Art, a group devoted to helping women by encouraging them to weave baskets and make pottery. He said of the women participating in the project, “These are people who have not given up, despite the difficulties.”
They also visited the University for Development Studies campus at Navrongo and a water project at Salvelugu. At the University Mr. Annan stressed that it was important to “respect each other and accept that we are all one people and need to work together in peace”. He added that “The message of peace, sustainable development and human dignity, which I carry around the world, is equally important in my own country.”
The Secretary-General’s holiday ended on the weekend of 24 August, when he flew to Côte d’Ivoire for a meeting and lunch with President Laurent Gbagbo. From there he would visit five more southern African countries, winding up in South Africa and the World Summit on Sustainable Development.