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Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has died following a short illness

He was 80 years old.

Image: Liewig Christian/ABACA

Updated Aug 18th 2018, 2:05 PM

THE FORMER SECRETARY General of the United Nations Kofi Annan has died.

Annan, who led the UN from 1997 to 2006, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001. He was the first black African secretary of the organisation.

The Ghanaian diplomat died in hospital in Bern, Switzerland, in the early hours of this morning, Reuters reports. He was 80 years old.

His foundation announced his death in a tweet, saying that he died after a short unspecified illness.

“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,” the Kofi Annan Foundation said.

Current UN chief Antonio Guterres voiced deep sorrow at the news, calling his predecessor “a guiding force for good”.

“Kofi Annan was a guiding force for good,” Guterres said in a statement shortly after the news broke.

In many ways, Kofi Annan was the United Nations. He rose through the ranks to lead the organisation into the new millennium with matchless dignity and determination.

The UN Migration Agency said: “Today we mourn the loss of a great man, a leader, and a visionary: Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. A life well lived. A life worth celebrating.”

President Michael D Higgins said Annan left “an indelible legacy on the global community”.

“He will in particular be remembered for his tireless efforts to increase the commitment of governments and businesses alike in the vital efforts to eradicate poverty and violent conflict. His inspirational leadership led to the articulation of the Millennium Development Goals, which galvanised countless new global solidarity initiatives.”

“He was a voice constantly reminding us of the importance of protecting the instruments for multilateral action, and of urgent action to tackle climate change and to assist those vulnerable communities who are experiencing its effects most acutely.

“He was a great representative of his country Ghana and of the African continent, and his wisdom, empathy, humour and insights will be greatly missed by all.”

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney, also paid tribute to Annan, describing him as a “dear friend to Ireland”.

“Kofi Annan was a dear friend of Ireland and continuously demonstrated strong support for our own peace process and in particular the Good Friday Agreement, which was signed during his leadership of the UN,” he said.

“Mr Annan maintained a dedicated interest to Ireland and the maintenance of peace on this island, commentating as recently as April 2018 on the GFA and its legacy.”

‘Humanity’s best example’

Born in Kumasi, the capital city of Ghana’s Ashanti region, Annan was the son of an executive of a European trading company, the United Africa company, a subsidiary of the Anglo-Dutch multinational Unilever.

After ending his second term as UN chief, Annan went on to take high-profile mediation roles in Kenya and in Syria.

He later set up a foundation devoted to conflict resolution and joined the Elders group of statesmen which regularly speaks out on global issues.

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.”

Annan is survived by his wife, Nane, and their children Ama, Kojo and Nina, who were by his side when he died.

With reporting by AFP © – AFP 2018

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Ceimin Burke

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