Kofi Annan, former UN secretary general, dies at 80

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AFP

GENEVA — Kofi Annan, one of the world’s most celebrated diplomats and a symbol of impeccable integrity of the United Nations who, despite all odds, made it to become the first black African secretary-general, has died. He was 80.

His foundation in Switzerland announced it on Saturday in a tweet, saying that he died after a short unspecified illness.

“Wherever there was suffering or need, he reached out and touched many people with his deep compassion and empathy,” the foundation said in a statement.

Annan spent virtually his entire career working as an administrator in the United Nations. His aristocratic style, cool-tempered stylishness and political shrewdness helped guide his rise to power in the inner caucus of the United Nations.

He served two terms from Jan. 1, 1997, to Dec. 31, 2006, capped nearly mid-way when he and the U.N. were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001.

His enduring moral prestige remained largely unblemished, however, both through charisma and by virtue of having negotiated with international powers.

On the other hand, Mr Annan is not immune to criticism. His critics blamed him failure to halt the genocide in Rwanda in the 1990s when he was in charge of the UN peacekeeping operations.

Kofi Atta Annan was born April 8, 1938, into a well-to-do family in Kumasi, Ghana, the son of a provincial governor and grandson of two tribal chiefs.

He was chancellor of the University of Ghana, a fellow at New York’s Columbia University, and professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore.

In his memoir, Annan recognized the costs of taking on the world’s top diplomatic job, joking that “SG,” for secretary-general, also signified “scapegoat” around U.N. headquarters.

Annan is survived by his wife and three children. Funeral arrangement is yet to be announced.