May 26, 2022


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Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary-General, dead at age 80


UN Secretary General Kofi Annan waves after delivering his final speech to the 61st session of the UN General Assembly in New York in 2006. Picture: AFP

TRIBUTES are flowing for the United Nations’ high-profile and well-respected former Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, who has died.

Mr Annan, 80, died in the early hours of Saturday in Switzerland after a short illness, according to a statement issued by his family.

The Nobel Peace Laureate was the seventh Secretary-General of the UN from January 1997 to December 2006, and became the first black African man to take on the top job as the world’s top diplomat.


He was founder and Chairman of the Kofi Annan Foundation, which issued a statement on social media, saying: “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…”

“His wife Nane and their children Ama, Kojo and Nina were by his side during his last days,” it said.

“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.”


Business magnate Sir Richard Branson also tweeted that the world will be a “poorer place” without Annan.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel says Annan “inspired me and many others with his ideas, his firm convictions and, not least, his charisma.”

Ms Merkel said in a statement that Annan shaped the United Nations “like hardly anyone before him” and said that “he knew how to spark enthusiasm, particularly among young people.”

She added that “in our present time, in which the common search for solutions to global problems is more urgent than ever, we will greatly miss Kofi Annan’s voice.”

Former US president Barack Obama said that Annan “embodied the mission of the United Nations like few others,” breaking barriers and rising through the ranks to become the first black African secretary-general in 1997.

Mr Obama added that Annan’s “sense of our common humanity always informed his outreach to the community of nations.”

Kofi Annan was a popular and unifying figure who quickly became a familiar face on television and in newspaper headlines. He was a sought-after guest at gala events and New York dinner parties.


The UN high commissioner for human rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said he was grief-stricken over Annan’s death.

“Kofi was humanity’s best example, the epitome, of human decency and grace. In a world now filled with leaders who are anything but that, our loss, the world’s loss becomes even more painful,” he said.

“He was a friend to thousands and a leader of millions.”

His home country of Ghana has now declared a week of mourning after his death.

Describing Annan as a “consummate” diplomat, Ghana’s Presdient Akufo-Addo said in a statement that Ghana was “deeply saddened” by news of his death.


Mr Annan was born in Kumasi, Ghana, on April 8, 1938. He studied at the University of Science and Technology in Ghana and completed his undergraduate work in economics at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1961.

From there he did his graduate studies at the Institute of International Affairs in Geneva, and in 1972 earned a Master of Science degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management.

He is fluent in English, French and a number of African languages. He went on to meet his wife, Nane, and they had three children Ama, Kojo and Nina.


He was the first Secretary-General to be appointed from within the organisation’s ranks. He first joined the UN in 1962 as an administrative and budget officer with the World Health Organisation in Geneva,

He later served with the Economic Commission for Africa in Addis Ababa, the UN Emergency Force (UNEF II) in Ismailia, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Geneva.

Before he went on to be Secretary-General, he was Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping. Mr. Annan also served as Special Representative of the Secretary-General to the former Yugoslavia (1995-1996), and facilitated the repatriation from Iraq of more than 900 international staff and other non-Iraqi nationals (1990).



Mr Annan pushed for reform to rebuild the United Nations and make it more effective.

He made sure that UN peacekeepers had more resources. In 2005, Member States established two new intergovernmental bodies: the Peacebuilding Commission and the Human Rights Council.

Mr Annan also had a pivotal role in setting up the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the adoption of the UN’s first-ever counter-terrorism strategy, and the acceptance by Member States of the “responsibility to protect” people from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.