mantan UN Secretary General and famed diplomat Kofi Annan, 80, passed away in a Swiss hospital on Saturday, succumbing to a “short illness,” according to his family.
The statesman passed away peacefully, surrounded by his wife and three children, Annan’s family and foundation announced in a statement praising him for fighting for a “fairer and more peaceful world.” His family asked for privacy in their time of mourning.
The current UN chief, Antonio Guterres hailed him as “a guiding force for good” and a “proud son of Africa who became a global champion for peace and all humanity.”
“Like so many, I was proud to call Kofi Annan a good friend and mentor. I was deeply honored by his trust in selecting me to serve as UN High Commissioner for Refugees under his leadership. He remained someone I could always turn to for counsel and wisdom — and I know I was not alone,” Mr. Guterres said in a statement.
A renowned diplomat, Annan was born in 1938 in the British Crown Colony of Gold Coast, which later became the independent nation of Ghana. Starting his career in the World Health Organization, Annan then served as Ghana’s director of tourism.
He went on to hold several high-ranking offices within the United Nations. In the early 1990s, as the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping, Annan led a UN mission to war-torn Somalia and was the organization’s special envoy to former Yugoslavia.
In 1997, Annan was elected UN Secretary General – a position he held until 2006. His tenure coincided with several international crises, such as the 1999 NATO bombing campaign in Yugoslavia, the US invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, and an escalation in Israeli-Palestine violence known as the Second Intifada.
In 2001, “for their work for a better organized and more peaceful world,” Annan and the UN became co-recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize.
After stepping down from his position as secretary general, he established the Kofi Annan Foundation and focused on humanitarian work.
In 2012, he was briefly recalled by the UN and the Arab League to lead a peace mission during the early stages of the civil war in Syria. He proposed a six-point peace plan to end the conflict, but his suggestions were never implemented, and he resigned.