Press Releases

    29 October 2002


    NEW YORK, 28 October (UN Headquarters) -- This is the text of remarks by Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the memorial service for the late Joseph Nanven Garba of Nigeria:

    When Joseph Nanven Garba first took his seat on the podium as President of the General Assembly 13 years ago, the world looked very different than it does today. The cold war was still in its final throes. Nelson Mandela was still in prison. And apartheid had yet to be dismantled.

    During that challenging period, Joseph Garba was a credit to his country, to Africa and to the United Nations. He led the General Assembly with aplomb and authority. Although still a young man, he was able to make use of diplomatic and political skills acquired over the course of a distinguished career, including five years as Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations.

    And he was able to draw on many years of experience and commitment as a leading figure in the international movement for majority rule in South Africa, including as Chairman of the United Nations Committee Against Apartheid.

    Allow me to read to you from his first speech to the General Assembly in September 1989 as President, and I quote: "As we mark this opening of the forty-fourth session, we are cognizant of the remarkable changes taking place in our world… Where hitherto there existed a climate of fear and mutual suspicion, there is now emerging an atmosphere of trust; where hitherto there existed unilateral action in pursuit of narrow national interests, there now seem to be real possibilities for a concerted approach in the interests of regional and global peace".

    Joseph Garba was blessed, for he lived to see many of the things he hoped for, many of the things that were important to him, come true. Africa and the world are no longer held captive by a power struggle not of their own making. South Africa’s multi-racial, multi-party democracy has become an inspiration to the world. And the United Nations functions with greater freedom and flexibility than ever before.

    Death took Joe away too soon; but we are all fortunate in what he was able to accomplish here. As I express my condolences today to Joe’s family, and to the people and Government of Nigeria, I join many of his friends, colleagues, and fellow Africans in giving thanks for his life.

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