There are so many Ghanaian personalities who have brought change and influence to people. One of such notable personalities who has been a pacesetter is Mr. Alexander Quaison Sackey.
He is a relatively unknown personality today who by dint of hard work and dedication, was recognized and finally became the first African President of the United Nations General Assembly.
Background of Mr. Sackey
1924, the world was licking its wounds from the First World War and economic activities were reeling back to how they had been beyond the war. In the home of a family in Winneba, Alex was born.
His parents were well known and were quite vocal in political activities happening during the times. The family was a politically active one.
They resolved to get him a good education as far as they will have the strength to. He went through his primary education and got admission to the Mfantsipim School for his secondary education. He passed with flying colors and finally had admission to Achimota College for his 6th Form and “O” Levels.
By the time he was In Achimota, he had developed a knack for politics owing to his background. He made some friends who had similar dispositions, and this spurred him on to study more about diplomacy and politics.
In Achimota School he was able to study under the best tutors in the country which provided solid foundations in preparation for the work that lay ahead of him.
The school’s emphasis on community service and leadership also provided a solid backbone for his later career. After graduating from Achimota College in 1948, Mr. Sackey obtained admission to study Philosophy, Politics and Economics at the Oxford University where he graduated with an honours degree.
While in the United Kingdom, his thirst for knowledge as well as world events at the time led him to pursue International Relations and International Law at the London School of Economics.
Practicing law in the United Kingdom
He was called to the Bar in Lincoln’s Inn in 1952 in London which enabled him to practice law as a Barrister in the United Kingdom. He later pursued his Masters in Law and had a postgraduate diploma in International Relations from the University of Stockholm in 1960.
Mr. Sackey was so good at what he did that he caught the attention of Ghana’s first President, Kwame Nkrumah. He became a diplomatic trouble-shooter for Nkrumah right from 1957 when Nkrumah became the president of Ghana.
He was a secretary at the Ghana High Commission to the United Kingdom from 1957 to 1959. He later had the opportunity to represent Ghana at the United Nations from 1959 to 1965. From 1964 to 1965, Mr. Sackey made history to be the first African to be elected as the President of the United Nations General Assembly.
Presidency of the United Nations General Assembly
A lasting legacy was left by Mr. Sackey at the United Nations General Assembly during his tenure as President. He was a strong advocate for human rights, and he believed that everyone should be treated with dignity and respect.
He worked to promote the rights of all peoples, including those in developing countries, and supported the establishment of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) to promote economic cooperation among developing countries.
Because he believed that the UN was a vital tool for promoting peace and security around the world, and he worked to ensure that all member states were treated fairly and with respect. He worked hard to foster a spirit of collaboration between member states by promoting dialogue and cooperation.
Causes Mr. Sackey supported and advocated for
He also went ahead to contribute to the strengthening of the United Nations by advocating for the expansion of the security council and the creation of a permanent UN Peacekeeping force, and he worked hard to ensure that the UN had the resources to keep that alive.
He also advocated African unity and he played a key role in the establishment of the African Union. He also became an example and role model to several people most importantly, future generations of leaders and diplomats.
Cold war and Apartheid tensions
His tenure at the United Nations did not happen problem-free. Alex had some major issues he had to address. With the Cold War nearing its peak during his tenure, tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union often spilled over into UN meetings.
Quaison-Sackey worked hard to maintain balance and to the best of his ability tried to be as fair as he could be. The 1960s were a major period of decolonization of which Quaison-Sackey was a strong proponent. He played a key role in the establishment of a special committee against Apartheid, which helped bring an end to the Apartheid regime in South Africa.
He also faced racial discrimination during his tenure as President of the United Nations General Assembly both within and outside the UN. He was subjected to racist comments and attitudes, but he remained committed to his work and worked diligently.
The United Nations faced budgetary constraints during the tenure of Quaison-Sackey which made it very difficult to address all the important issues facing the organization. He however made sure to prioritize the organization’s work and ensure that resources were allocated effectively. Since members had many differing opinions, he often during debates helped participants find a common ground from which work is done.
The aftermath of the United Nations General Assembly
Following his stint with the United Nations, Mr. Quaison-Sackey was appointed as Ghana’s Ambassador to Cuba and Mexico in the following years. In his lifetime, he got married to Elsie Annie Blankson and they had 6 children.
He died at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra at the age of 68 from a case of Pulmonary Embolism. Quaison-Sackey wrote and published a book, a collection of his experiences as a diplomat and with the UN. He called this book:” Africa Unbound: Reflections of an African Statesman.” This was published in 1963.
Some years after his death, the family in collaboration with Ghana’s Council on foreign Relations released another book with the title: “The Making of a Diplomatist: Memoirs of Ambassador Alex Quaison-Sackey”. Digitized versions of this book can be purchased online.
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