Kofi Annan, the former Secretary General of the United Nations and the first black African to lead the UN, has died in Switzerland.
The Kofi Annan Foundation announced the 80-year-old Ghanaian died on Saturday after a short illness, with his wife, Nane, and three children by his side.
“Kofi Annan was a global statesman and a deeply committed internationalist who fought throughout his life for a fairer and more peaceful world,” the organization said. “During his distinguished career and leadership of the United Nations he was an ardent champion of peace, sustainable development, human rights and the rule of law.”
The Nobel Peace Laureate stepped down in 2007 but continued to pursue the cause of peace as chairman of the foundation, and as leader of The Elders, the group of global leaders founded by Nelson Mandela and launched that same year.
“In these turbulent and trying times, he never stopped working to give life to the values of the United Nations Charter,” said current UN Secretary General António Guterres. “His legacy will remain a true inspiration for all of us.”
Gro Harlem Brundtland, the former prime minister of Norway and deputy chair of The Elders, said the London-based organization was devastated to hear of Annan’s death.
“In retirement, Kofi Annan continued where he had left off at the United Nations, founding and leading the work of the Kofi Annan Foundation, based in Geneva, and maintaining a hectic international schedule,” she said. “His quiet advice on how best to defuse impending crises was in constant demand from all corners of the globe, in particular from Africa.”
Annan, born in Kumasi, Ghana, felt a special responsibility towards Africa. He was particularly committed to African development, and served as chairman of the Africa Progress Panel and leader of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).
“Wherever there was suffering or need, he reached out and touched many people with his deep compassion and empathy,” the Kofi Annan Foundation said. “He selflessly placed others first, radiating genuine kindness, warmth and brilliance in all he did. He will be greatly missed by so many around the world, as well as his staff at the Foundation and his many former colleagues in the United Nations system. He will remain in our hearts forever.”
Image: The Elders file