by Emma Ogao
Kofi Annan, the former United Nations Secretary General and Nobel Peace Prize winner, passed away early on Saturday morning.
A statement released by the Annan family and the Kofi Annan Foundation announced with “immense sadness” that Annan, 80, had “passed away peacefully” after a short illness. His wife Nana Maria Annan, and his children, Ama, Koji and Nina Annan were by his side.
Tributes immediately flew in from all around the world, as people paid their respects to a man regarded as one of the greatest peacemakers of our time.
At the United Nations headquarters in New York, as well as UN offices around the world, the flag flew at half-mast in his honor.
In Ghana, Annan’s home country, President Nana Akufo-Addo declared a week of mourning to honor “one of our greatest compatriots”.
President Akufo-Addo said on Twitter: “Annan excelled in various undertakings of his life, leaving in his trail most pleasant memories. His life was well lived.”
Annan was one of the most celebrated diplomats in modern history, rising through the UN ranks to become the first Black-African to be appointed as Secretary General in 1997. In his time at the United Nations, he led the world through several turbulent periods, such as the Iraq war, Rwandan Genocide, the HIV/Aids pandemic, and the trauma of the 9/11 attacks.
In 2001, Annan was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in rejuvenating the international body. When he departed the UN in 2006, he set up his own foundation, The Kofi Annan Foundation, which aimed to promote global peace, security and global sustainable development.
Current UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, said: “Kofi Annan was a guiding force for good, in many ways, [he] was the UN. He rose through the ranks to lead the organization into the new millennium with matchless dignity and determination.”
Current Director-General of the United Nations office of Geneva (UNOG) Michael Moller said: “Today is a sad day for the world. Humanity lost its strong moral voice.
“Kofi Annan was an extraordinary political leader, but his major legacy is his humanity. It infused everything he did, every decision he made, and helped him restore the trust and enthusiasm in our great organization.
“He was an exceptional human being, with an amazing balance, infallible political instinct and ever-present compassion, always caring for others, particularly the less fortunate of us”.
British Prime Minister Theresa May also sent her condolences to the Annan family, remembering him as: “A great leader and reformer of the UN, [who] made a huge contribution to making the world he has left a better place than the one he was born into.”
Once the charismatic face of the UN, Annan has left a legacy that will inspire generations.