by Chris Johnston via theguardian.com
The former United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan, has died at the age of 80 after a short illness, his family and foundation announced on Saturday.
The Ghanaian was the seventh secretary general and served for two terms between 1997 and 2006. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his humanitarian work jointly with the UN as an organisation in 2001.
He died in hospital in Bern, Switzerland in the early hours of Saturday with his wife, Nane, and three children Ama, Kojo and Nina, by his side. He had retired to Geneva and later lived in a Swiss village.
Annan’s foundation issued a statement on his Twitter account on Saturday that described him as a “global statesman and deeply committed internationalist who fought throughout his life for a fairer and more peaceful world.”
It is with immense sadness that the Annan family and the Kofi Annan Foundation announce that Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations and Nobel Peace Laureate, passed away peacefully on Saturday 18th August after a short illness… pic.twitter.com/42nGOxmcPZ
— Kofi Annan (@KofiAnnan) August 18, 2018
The statement added that Annan, who succeeded Boutros Boutros-Ghali as UN leader, was a “son of Ghana and felt a special responsibility towards Africa”.
The current UN secretary general, António Guterres, whom Annan appointed to lead its refugee agency, said: “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.”
The former UK prime minister Tony Blair said on Twitter that he was shocked and distressed by Annan’s death. “He was a good friend whom I saw only weeks ago. Kofi Annan was a great diplomat, a true statesman and a wonderful colleague who was widely respected and will be greatly missed. My deepest sympathy go to Nane and his family,” he said.
Annan was chair of The Elders, an independent group of global leaders working for peace and human rights founded by Nelson Mandela. Gro Harlem Brundtland, the former prime minister of Norway and the body’s deputy chair, said she and her colleagues were devastated by Annan’s death.
“Kofi was a strong and inspiring presence to us all, and The Elders would not be where it is today without his leadership. Throughout his life, Kofi worked unceasingly to improve the lives of millions of people around the world,” she said.
Kumi Naidoo, Amnesty International’s secretary general, said the world had lost a great leader: “Kofi’s dedication and drive for a more peaceful and just world, his lifelong championing of human rights, and the dignity and grace with which he led will be sorely missed in a world which needs these characteristics more than ever.”
Born in Kumasi, Ghana, on 8 April 1938, Annan joined the UN system in 1962 as an administrative officer with the World Health Organization in Geneva. He later served with the Economic Commission for Africa in Addis Ababa, the UN Emergency Force in Ismailia, the UN high commissioner for refugees in Geneva and in several senior posts at its headquarters in New York.
Before becoming secretary general, he was under-secretary general for peacekeeping and also served as special representative of the secretary general to the former Yugoslavia between 1995 and 1996.
The UN peacekeeping operation faced two of its most criticised incidents under Annan’s leadership for its conduct during the Rwanda genocide in 1994 and the massacre in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica in July 1995.
In both cases, the UN had deployed troops under Annan’s command, but they failed to save the lives of the civilians they were mandated to protect. After becoming secretary general, he ordered UN reports on both debacles that were highly critical of his management.
His tenure as secretary general, which began six years after the collapse of the Soviet Union and also covered the 11 September 2001 attacks and subsequent US-led war against Iraq, was one of the UN’s most turbulent periods since its founding in 1945.
His tenure at the UN was tarnished by a 2005 investigation of Annan and his son over the “oil-for-food” scandal, seen by some as retribution for his condemnation of the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq as “illegal”.
An inquiry cleared Annan of any serious wrongdoing, but found ethical and management lapses linked to his son’s ties with a Swiss company that won lucrative contracts in the oil-for-food scheme. Annan later admitted that the scandal had sorely tested his mettle not only as secretary general, but as a father.
Annan used his final speech as secretary general in December 2006 to deliver a parting shot at the administration of George W Bush, accusing the US of committing human rights abuses in the name of fighting terrorism.
“When power, especially military force, is used, the world will consider it legitimate only when convinced that it is being used for the right purpose – for broadly shared aims in accordance with broadly accepted norms,” he said.
He acknowledged more recently that the UN still had its faults. “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 in an interview for his 80th birthday in April. “I am a stubborn optimist, I was born an optimist and will remain an optimist.”