Former United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan dies

Vastavam web: Kofi Annan, one of the world’s most celebrated diplomats and a charismatic symbol of the United Nations who rose through its ranks to become the first black African secretary-general, has died. He was 80.His foundation announced his death in Switzerland today 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. He served two terms from Jan 1, 1997, to Dec 31, 2006, capped nearly mid-way 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, one of its most turbulent periods since its founding in 1945.

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 charisma and by virtue of having negotiated with most of the powers in the world. “Kofi Annan was a guiding force for good,” current UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said.

“It is with profound sadness that I learned of his passing. In many ways, Kofi Annan was the United Nations. He rose through the ranks to lead the organization 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. The US relationship tested him as a world diplomatic leader.

“I think that my darkest moment was the Iraq war, and the fact that we could not stop it,” Annan said in a February 2013 interview with TIME magazine to mark the publication of his memoir, “Interventions: A Life in War and Peace.”  “I worked very hard I was working the phone, talking to leaders around the world. The US did not have the support in the Security Council,” Annan recalled in the videotaped interview posted on The Kofi Annan Foundation’s website. Despite his well-honed diplomatic skills, Annan was never afraid to speak candidly.

That didn’t always win him fans, particularly in the case of Bush’s administration, with whom Annan’s camp spent much time bickering. Much of his second term was spent at odds with the United States, the UN’s biggest contributor, as he tried to lean on the nation to pay almost USD 2 billion in arrears.Kofi Atta Annan was born April 8, 1938, into an elite family in Kumasi, Ghana, the son of a provincial governor and grandson of two tribal chiefs.

He shared his middle name Atta “twin” in Ghana’s Akan language with a twin sister, Efua. He became fluent in English, French and several African languages, attending an elite boarding school and the University of Science and Technology in Kumasi. He finished his undergraduate work in economics at Macalester College in St Paul, Minnesota, in 1961. The couple separated during the 1970s and, while working in Geneva, Annan met his second wife, Swedish lawyer Nane Lagergren. They married in 1984.

Annan worked for the UN Economic Commission for Africa in Ethiopia, its Emergency Force in Egypt, and the office of the High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva, before taking a series of senior posts at UN headquarters in New York dealing with human resources, budget, finance, and staff security. He also had special assignments. After Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, he facilitated the repatriation from Iraq of more than 900 international staff and other non-Iraqi nationals, and the release of western hostages in Iraq.