Sun. Sep 15th, 2019

Kofi Annan dies at 80: First African to take role of UN Secretary-General

In many ways, Kofi Annan was the United Nations

Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has died at the age of 80 after a short illness.

The Ghanaian national was the first black African to be appointed as the world’s top diplomat and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his humanitarian work during his eight years in the role.

He died in hospital in Bern, Switzerland, in the early hours of Saturday morning.

His death was announced by his family and the Kofi Annan Foundation, which said he had “passed away peacefully” following a short illness.

In a statement, the foundation said: “Kofi Annan was a global statesman and a deeply committed internationalist who fought throughout his life for a fairer and more peaceful world.

“Wherever there was suffering or need, he reached out and touched many people with his deep compassion and empathy. He selflessly placed others first, radiating genuine kindness, warmth and brilliance in all he did.”

Mr Annan spent virtually his entire career at the UN, where he served two terms as secretary-general between January 1997 and December 2006.

His tenure was capped by winning the Nobel Peace Prize, awarded jointly to Mr Annan and the UN in 2001 for “their work for a better organised and more peaceful world”.

“In many ways, Kofi Annan was the United Nations. He rose through the ranks to lead the organisation into the new millennium with matchless dignity and determination,” said current UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres, who described his predecessor as “a guiding force for good”.

“It is with profound sadness that I learned of his passing,” Mr Guterres added.

As head of UN peacekeeping operations, Mr Annan was criticised for the world body’s failure to halt the genocide in Rwanda in the 1990s.

“The UN can be improved, it is not perfect but if it didn’t exist you would have to create it,” he told the BBC’s Hard Talk during an interview for his 80th birthday last April, recorded at the Geneva Graduate Institute where he had studied.

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