NATIONAL TRIBUTE TO EDEM KODJO
Tribute from Prof. Robert DUSSEY,
Minister of Foreign Affairs, African Integration and Togolese Abroad
Lomé, August 20, 2020
Mr. Prime Minister, Madam President of the National Assembly,
Messrs the former Prime Ministers of Togo, of the DRC and former President of the National Assembly,
Monsignor Archbishop of Lomé and Monsignors of Togo, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Presidents of the institutions of the Republic, Mr. Special Envoy of the President of the Congolese Republic, President Denis Sassou Nguessou,
Mr. Ibn Chambas, Special Representative of SG / UN in West Africa and the Sahel,
Ladies and Gentlemen, Heads and members of the Delegations of Benin, ECOWAS and BCEAO,
Ladies and Gentlemen, Members of the Government,
Reverend Father Curé of the Sacred Heart Cathedral of Lomé,
Ladies and Gentlemen, Ambassadors and Heads of Diplomatic and Consular Missions,
Ladies and Gentlemen, Representatives of International Organizations accredited to Togo,
Mr. Head of State General of the Togolese Armed Forces,
Mr. Directors General of the Togolese Gendarmerie and National Police, Ladies and gentlemen,
Dear guests, any protocol observed,
If someone asks me what tributes are for, I will answer: to bury great men. Marcel PAGNOL said: “The first quality of a hero is to be dead and buried”. This week, the whole Nation buries a national hero. On this occasion of individual and collective emotion, I would like, on behalf of the government, to pay homage and gratitude to our fallen hero. But until when will wicked and vampire death continue to tear away our great men, the beings who are dear to us and whose disappearance saddens us, maddens us, destabilizes us? Who are you to challenge us? Who are you to challenge a nation, a people, a continent?
Who are you to snatch Edem Kojo, former Prime Minister and former Secretary General of the OAU from us?
Are you death?
Are you God Man knows he is mortal, but his death remains to him, at every moment of historical time, a mystery, the most absolute unknown, and a scandal to others. On April 11, 2020, while the Christians of the world, were preparing to celebrate Easter, the feast of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ between the dead, Edem Kodjo, fervent Christian (disciple of Christ), after having lived with him the suffering of the cross of Good Friday by his illness, was called to the eternal feast by God. This is a symbol of his attachment to the Lord. Tragic and unforeseeable death tore this worthy son of the Republic from our affection.
Man is a being-for-death, Martin HEIDEGGER tells us, but every death is a distressing, painful experience; a moment when we humans experience and reiterate our finiteness in time. The tragedy of tragedies is time which, in its mad rush, well described by Alphonse de LAMARTINE in “The Lake”, leads us inexorably towards our finitude.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The human condition of finitude is very cruel, hopeless, paralyzing and sometimes revolting. But, unfortunately, she is our common, human condition. Everything passes and no one, according to the law of generation and of corruption, the great law of living, remains infinitely in an identical state. Just as day passes and gives way to night, life passes and gives way to death. Life and death are the two essential facets of human reality. “Death is a way of being that human reality assumes” (HEIDEGGER).
How to talk about the death of Edem Kodjo without talking about his life when we know that death is inseparable from the experience of life?
That the death of Edem Kodjo marks the end of a life lived under the sign of greatness?
If Mr. Edem Kodjo were the light, his glow would be synonymous with a sunny day, if he was a flower, his greenery would symbolize hope. But he preferred to be a national hero.
He has a very polysemic profile. Edem Kodjo, the former secretary general of the OAU, the pedagogue, the writer, the essayist, the collector of African arts, the diplomat, the mediator, the man of sub-regional integration, the Pan-African, the political, and what else do I know?
Oh Edem Kodjo! That you are a gift from God following the Leibnizian principle of sufficient reason and I understand why your whole life has been synonymous with a categorical gift of self. You have to be cruel as death to get the better of a man of many qualities like you.
Grandeur and elegance, vision and anticipation, insight and generosity are among other qualities intrinsic to the personality of the illustrious deceased. A man of extreme elegance, he was the one who accomplished everything he undertook with passion.
“Nothing great has been accomplished in the world without passion”, said Friedrich HEGEL. By living their passions better, by working for the realization of their passions, great men contribute to the achievement of noble causes in history.
In the “city of African public opinion”, Edem Kodjo has a reputation worthy of his greatness and excellence. The man is no less known and recognized in “homeland”, Togo, as one whose existential journey was not an adventure of rest. A man of principle, exceptionally rigorous, hard worker and attached to noble spiritual, political and humanist values, he had played a major role in the creation of political groups in Togo:
– The Togolese People’s Rally (RPT) in 1969,
– The Togolese Union for Democracy (UTD) in 1991,
– The Pan-African Patriotic Convention in 1999.
He has, actively and as best he can, assumed and exercised his Togolese citizenship. The worthy citizen is, according to ARISTOTLE, the one who assumes citizenship in its double dimension, to be governed and then to govern. In the side of Edem Kodjo’s civic life linked to participation in the management of public affairs, he was several times Minister and twice Prime Minister. This is also the opportunity to thank once again the President of the Republic for the brilliant intuition (in other words the intuitive vision) he had by appointing him as the 1st Prime Minister of his supreme magistracy in 2005.
If it is up to everyone to appreciate the political heritage of Edem Kodjo, it remains true, beyond the conflicts of appreciation and interpretation, that he was a statesman for whom political commitment rhymes with the gift of oneself for the affairs of the Republic.
For him, the search for compromise is a cardinal political value. He is the man of GREAT FORGIVENESS. Edem Kodjo’s concern for forgiveness in human affairs reflects his confidence in man and his well-tempered humanism. Edem Kodjo believed in forgiveness as one of the conditions for the regeneration and permanent humanization of human societies. His faith in the power of forgiveness oriented towards peace is part of his vision for Africa and his desire for a peaceful and united continent. He is the man of the indispensable African unity.
Many say today that the future of the world is in Africa without knowing that they are speaking under the authority of Edem Kodjo who published in 1985 a premonitory book Et Tomorrow Africa. Edem Kodjo believed in Africa and, during his lifetime, made Pan-Africanism a struggle, a horizon that calls all the peoples of Africa. He is part of the inner circle of African personalities, who without being naive, have had the audacity to hope for the best future of Africa in history. He was convinced, as he himself says in And Tomorrow Africa, that “the substantial human and material resources of Africa, the possibility of using them to fertilize a strong and generous civilization, within the framework of ‘indispensable unity, give […] Africans reasons for hope ”(1985, p. 60). He is gone today and leaves us as a legacy the Pan-African ideal which has been the dream of his life.
The author of the masterpiece And tomorrow Africa had the fate of great men. Great men are destined to be misunderstood. “The personalities of great men are made up of their misunderstandings” (André GIDE). Great men are so far ahead of their times because their lives are projected into the future. They live in the present while having in view the horizon of the future which impacts their work in history. If the present history, the fragmented one of everyday life in the process of being made is often very ungrateful towards great men, History in the global sense with its triple dimensionality (the past, the present and the future) ends up giving them back justice. As Victor HUGO underlined in his tribute to Honoré de BALZAC during the latter’s funeral, “great men make their own pedestal; the future takes care of the statue ”.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The recognition due to the heroes grows as they move away from us. Edem Kodjo is moving away from us now and forever. But his name will remain engraved in our collective memory and in our hearts. Because, as André MALRAUX says, “the tomb of heroes is the heart of the living”.
To the parents and family of the deceased, the experience of the death of a loved one is always an outrage, especially when it comes to such a brave man as the illustrious departed. Have the courage to dry your tears. Thank you for this precious gift you have made to the Republic, to Africa and to the entire human community. But before concluding, because we have asked a series of essential questions from the start of this tribute, we have to answer so that we finally find ourselves.
To the answer to the existential and daring question, who are you? Finally, we respond with humility:
I am God the Father, creator of heaven and earth, of the visible and invisible universe,
I am God the son who died and rose from the dead on the third day,
I am the Holy Spirit, appeared to the apostles on the day of Pentecost,
Yes… I am the trinity. I am the way, the truth, and the life. Whoever believes in me will never die. Ladies and Gentlemen, Madam Valentine Kodjo, very tender and sweet widow, Dear Mum, beloved brothers and sisters of the Kodjo family, Uncle Edouard is not dead, he has returned to the eternal glory of the Father. He joined the world of silence, silence, silence.
Thank you for your attention.