Tributes flowed in from around the world after 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.
In this file photo taken on January 29, 2008 Former UN Chief Kofi Annan (C) pauses as he and Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki and Kenya's opposition leader Raila Odinga (not pictured) participate in the first formal dialogue in Nairobi since the widely-contested December 27 election. (Photo: VCG)
At U.N. headquarters in New York, the U.N. 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 Jan. 1, 1997, to Dec. 31, 2006, capped nearly midway when he and the U.N. 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.
Former Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan was at the Nobel Peace Awards being held at Oslo City Hall, Norway 10 December 2001. (Photo: VCG)
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 organization 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.
His homeland of Ghana was shaken by his death. "One of our greatest compatriots," President Nana Akufo-Addo said, calling for a week with flags at half-staff. “Rest in perfect peace, Kofi. You have earned it.”
Annan is survived by his wife and three children. Funeral arrangements weren’t immediately announced.