Kofi Annan, Former United Nations Secretary-General, Dead At 80

Kofi Annan, a former United Nations secretary-general, died at the age of 80

Kofi Annan, a former United Nations secretary-general, died at the age of 80 early Saturday at a hospital in Bern, Switzerland, following a short unspecified illness.

The Kofi Annan Foundation confirmed the death of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, who was born in Ghana in 1938.

“His wife Nane and their children Ama, Kojo and Nina were by his side during his last days,” the foundation named after him wrote.

Annan became the seventh U.N. secretary-general (and its first black African one) in 1997, after rising through the system’s ranks from his first role at the World Health Organization of administrative and budget officer in 1962.

He remained in the top secretary-general position for two terms, until 2006. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001, jointly with the U.N., for “revitalizing” the body and giving “priority to human rights.”

But as the Reuters news agency noted, Annan was criticized during his earlier time as head of the U.N.’s peacekeeping forces for failing “to halt the genocide in Rwanda in the 1990s.”

The international community failed Rwanda and that must leave us always with a sense of bitter regret,” Annan said, on reflection, in 2004. “I believed at that time that I was doing my best. But I realized after the genocide that there was more that I could and should have done to sound the alarm and rally support.”

The U.N. Oil-for-Food scandal also occurred on his watch. During his tenure, Annan campaigned against the second Iraq War. After leaving the top role, Annan later served as U.N. special envoy for Syria.

The Kofi Annan foundation has hailed Annan as “a global statesman and a deeply committed internationalist who fought throughout his life for a fairer and more peaceful world.” It called him “an ardent champion of peace, sustainable development, human rights and the rule of law.”

“He will be greatly missed by so many around the world, as well as the staff at the Foundation and his many former colleagues in the United Nations system,” it added. “He will remain in our hearts forever.”

Current U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres described Annan as a “guiding force for good,” “a good friend and mentor” and “someone I could always turn to for counsel and wisdom.”

He provided people everywhere with a space for dialogue, a place for problem-solving and a path to a better world,” Guterres said via a statement shared online. “In these turbulent and trying times, he never stopped working to give life to the values of the United Nations Charter. His legacy will remain a true inspiration for all of us.”

Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo praised Annan for bringing “considerable renown to our country by this position and through his conduct and comportment in the global arena.” “He was an ardent believer in the capacity of the Ghanaian to chart his or her own course onto the path of progress and prosperity,” he added on Twitter.

The U.N.’s Migration Agency paid tribute to “visionary” Annan with this post:

Hundreds of tributes have also flooded in for the diplomat, including one recalling his humble reaction after being mistaken for Hollywood actor Morgan Freeman.

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