Tributes flow for 'Mr UN' Kofi Annan
ACCRA, Ghana (AP):
Tributes flowed in from around the world yesterday as official confirmation came that Kofi Annan, a charismatic global diplomat, and the first black African to become United Nations secretary general, had died at age 80.
His foundation announced his death in the Swiss capital, Bern, after a short and unspecified illness. The statement remembered the Nobel Peace Prize winner as "radiating genuine kindness, warmth and brilliance in all he did".
He died "peacefully in his sleep", the president of Ghana, where Annan was born, said after speaking to his wife.
At United Nations (UN) headquarters in New York, the UN flag flew at half-staff and a bouquet of flowers was placed under Annan's portrait.
Reflecting the widespread regard that won him a groundbreaking uncontested election to a second term, leaders from Russia, India, Israel, France and elsewhere expressed condolences for a man Bill Gates called "one of the great peacemakers of our time".
Annan spent virtually his entire career as an administrator in the United Nations. His aristocratic style, cool-tempered elegance and political savvy helped guide his ascent to become its seventh secretary general, and the first hired from within.
His two terms were from January 1, 1997, to December 31, 2006, capped nearly midway when he and the UN were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001.
During his tenure, Annan presided over some of the worst failures and scandals at the world body. Challenges from the outset forced him to spend much of his time struggling to restore its tarnished reputation.
His enduring moral prestige remained largely undented, however, both through charm and by virtue of having negotiated with most of the powers in the world.
When he departed from the United Nations, he left behind a global organisation far more aggressively engaged in peacekeeping and fighting poverty, setting the framework for its 21st-century response to mass atrocities and its emphasis on human rights and development.
"In many ways, Kofi Annan was the United Nations," current UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said. "He rose through the ranks to lead the organisation into the new millennium with matchless dignity and determination."
Even out of office, Annan never completely left the UN orbit. He returned in special roles, including as the UN-Arab League's special envoy to Syria in 2012. He remained a powerful advocate for global causes through his eponymous foundation.
Annan is survived by his wife and three children. Funeral arrangements weren't immediately announced.