Ex-UN Secy Gen Kofi Annan dies aged 80
Sayeed Muhammad: Former UN secretary-general and Nobel laureate Kofi Annan has passed away at the age of 80.
Originally from Ghana, the diplomat, breathed his last in the Swiss city of Geneva, where he had been living for several years, reports BBC.
He “passed away peacefully on Saturday after a short illness”, the foundation named after him announced yesterday.
The octogenarian was the first black African to take up the role of the world’s top diplomat, serving from 1997 to 2006.
He later worked as the UN special envoy for Syria, leading efforts to find a peaceful solution to the conflict.
In a statement announcing his death on Twitter, the Kofi Annan Foundation described him as a “global statesman and 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.”
He was awarded the Nobel Peace Price in 2001 for helping to revitalise the international body, while his tenure as UN secretary-general coincided with the Iraq War and the HIV/Aids pandemic.
Annan termed his greatest achievement the Millennium Development Goals which – for the first time – set global targets on issues such as poverty and child mortality.
However, Annan was not immune to criticism. His critics blamed him for the UN’s failure to halt the genocide in Rwanda in the 1990s when he was head of the organisation’s peacekeeping operations.
Later, after the US-led invasion of Iraq, he and his son were accused of being involved in the “oil for food scandal” that led some to call for his resignation, though he was later exonerated.
In April, he acknowledged the UN’s shortcomings, saying it “can be improved, it is not perfect but if it didn’t exist you would have to create it”.