Kofi Annan, a former United Nations secretary-general, died at the age of 80 early Saturday at a hospital in Bern, Switzerland, following a short unspecified illness.
The Kofi Annan Foundation confirmed the death of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, who was born in Ghana in 1938.
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… pic.twitter.com/NDOy2NmAAs
— Kofi Annan Foundation (@KofiAnnanFdn) August 18, 2018
“His wife Nane and their children Ama, Kojo and Nina were by his side during his last days,” the foundation named after him wrote.
Annan became the seventh U.N. secretary-general (and its first black African one) in 1997, after rising through the system’s ranks from his first role at the World Health Organization of administrative and budget officer in 1962.
He remained in the top secretary-general position for two terms, until 2006. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001, jointly with the U.N., for “revitalizing” the body and giving “priority to human rights.”
But as the Reuters news agency noted, Annan was criticized during his earlier time as head of the U.N.’s peacekeeping forces for failing “to halt the genocide in Rwanda in the 1990s.”
“The international community failed Rwanda and that must leave us always with a sense of bitter regret,” Annan said, on reflection, in 2004. “I believed at that time that I was doing my best. But I realized after the genocide that there was more that I could and should have done to sound the alarm and rally support.”
The U.N. Oil-for-Food scandal also occurred on his watch. During his tenure, Annan campaigned against the second Iraq War. After leaving the top role, Annan later served as U.N. special envoy for Syria.
The Kofi Annan foundation has hailed Annan as “a global statesman and a deeply committed internationalist who fought throughout his life for a fairer and more peaceful world.” It called him “an ardent champion of peace, sustainable development, human rights and the rule of law.”
“He will be greatly missed by so many around the world, as well as the staff at the Foundation and his many former colleagues in the United Nations system,” it added. “He will remain in our hearts forever.”
Current U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres described Annan as a “guiding force for good,” “a good friend and mentor” and “someone I could always turn to for counsel and wisdom.”
“He provided people everywhere with a space for dialogue, a place for problem-solving and a path to a better world,” Guterres said via a statement shared online. “In these turbulent and trying times, he never stopped working to give life to the values of the United Nations Charter. His legacy will remain a true inspiration for all of us.”
Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo praised Annan for bringing “considerable renown to our country by this position and through his conduct and comportment in the global arena.” “He was an ardent believer in the capacity of the Ghanaian to chart his or her own course onto the path of progress and prosperity,” he added on Twitter.
The U.N.’s Migration Agency paid tribute to “visionary” Annan with this post:
Hundreds of tributes have also flooded in for the diplomat, including one recalling his humble reaction after being mistaken for Hollywood actor Morgan Freeman.
We’re extremely saddened by the demise of Kofi Annan, an exemplary humanitarian, a nobel laureate & a champion of peace around the world. The world will miss his presence, our thoughts & prayers are with his family. pic.twitter.com/SCacINQHfz
— Congress (@INCIndia) August 18, 2018
Former U.N. Secretary and Nobel Peace Prize winner Kofi Annan has passed at age 80. The world needs visionaries of peace more than ever, and his life is an example of the possible. Thank you for your service to us all, sir. Rest now, in peace.
— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) August 18, 2018
After retirement, Kofi Annan went for a vacation in a resort in Italy. One day he went to buy newspapers at nearby town. He was mobbed by crowds wanting autographs. They confused him with Morgan Freeman. He didn’t want to let them down. He signed the name Morgan Freeman and fled. pic.twitter.com/N0kY7D0zsz
— January Makamba (@JMakamba) August 18, 2018
Sad to hear of the death of Kofi Annan. A great leader and reformer of the UN, he made a huge contribution to making the world he has left a better place than the one he was born into. My thoughts and condolences are with his family. pic.twitter.com/P0SWagShJM
— Theresa May (@theresa_may) August 18, 2018
We express our profound sorrow at the passing away of Nobel Laureate and former UNSG Mr. Kofi Annan. The world has lost not only a great African diplomat and humanitarian but also a conscience keeper of international peace and security.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) August 18, 2018
Kofi Annan was a great champion of peace, development ,human rights and a formidable leader of the @UN. With serene calm and determination, he consistently stood up for the value and necessity of international cooperation.The best tribute we can give Kofi Annan is to do the same.
— Jan Eliasson (@JanKEliasson) August 18, 2018
The world has lost a great man in Kofi Annan. I will miss him.
— George Soros (@georgesoros) August 18, 2018
.@KofiAnnan dedicated his life to working for peace and to ensure that we strive to maintain the highest possible moral standards while confronting our greatest challenges collectively. My heart goes out to Nan and his entire family.
— Al Gore (@algore) August 18, 2018
The world has lost a great humanitarian, leader, and self proclaimed “stubborn optimist”. Rest in peace, Kofi Annan.
— Jacinda Ardern (@jacindaardern) August 18, 2018
To educate girls is
to reduce poverty.
May his noble soul rest in peace. Ameen
— Ziauddin Yousafzai (@ZiauddinY) August 18, 2018
He lived and worked for global peace, security and sustainable development in very challenging times. A proud son of Ghana and Africa.
RIP Kofi Annan. pic.twitter.com/xevF6TZdOu
— John Dramani Mahama (@JDMahama) August 18, 2018
TB: I’m shocked and distressed to hear the news about Kofi. He was a good friend whom I saw only weeks ago. Kofi Annan was a great diplomat, a true statesman and a wonderful colleague who was widely respected and will be greatly missed. My deepest sympathy to Nane and his family
— Tony Blair Institute (@InstituteGC) August 18, 2018
Kofi Annan was not just a great breaker of glass ceilings, he was a leader and a visionary, who worked to foster international cooperation and a more united world. pic.twitter.com/1MNSPhWuuR
— David Lammy (@DavidLammy) August 18, 2018
A leader of leaders, a titan amongst world statesman, a wonderful humanitarian and the most compassionate and caring of individuals. Kofi Annan will be sorely missed.
— Gordon & Sarah Brown (@OfficeGSBrown) August 18, 2018
Kofi Annan dedicated his life to building a more just and peaceful world.
His efforts in support of conflict resolution and human rights will be remembered. He looked for a peaceful path when others looked for war.
My thoughts are with his family and loved ones.
— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) August 18, 2018
I have no words to express the shock and sorrow I experienced on learning about Kofi Annan’s passing. A remarkable leader and great human being, he will be sorely missed, particularly by fellow members of the @OneYoungWorld family. pic.twitter.com/l3cR15RKAe
— Prof Thuli Madonsela (@ThuliMadonsela3) August 18, 2018
Deeply saddened by the passing away of Kofi Annan. One of the true global leaders of our age. A man of courage, wisdom and friendship. I’m honored to have had the privilege of working for him. pic.twitter.com/a9pTv0cdF1
— Carl Bildt (@carlbildt) August 18, 2018
Saddened to hear that Kofi Annan has passed away. His warmth should never be mistaken for weakness. Annan showed that one can be a great humanitarian and a strong leader at the same time. The UN and the world have lost one of their giants.
— Jens Stoltenberg (@jensstoltenberg) August 18, 2018