It has been reported that former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, one of the world's most celebrated diplomats, died at the age of 80 at a hospital in Bern, Switzerland on Saturday (local time). The cause of his death has not been revealed.
Kofi Annan was the first black African and U.N. staffer to become the organization's chairman. During his 10 years in the position, he led the organization successfully with his great leadership and arbitration skills, working hard to end poverty and HIV-AIDS, and promote global peace. In 2001, his contributions made him become the first incumbent UN secretary-general to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
In 1938, Mr. Annan was born in Kuma, southern Ghana, which was under the British rule. He made his way into the United Nations as an administrative and budget officer of the World Health Organization. It was during the Gulf War in 1990 when he gained attention as a special envoy by the secretary general after helping free 900 detainees in Iraq. Mr. Annan was surprisingly nominated under-secretary-general of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, later becoming the 7th Secretary General of the United Nations in 1997.
One of his legacies is the spread of humanitarian intervention by the U.N. in human right infringements in any part of the world. Before that, it had not been part of the U.N.’s basic principles to intervene in domestic matters of any U.N. member state. However, when he served as under-secretary general, the U.N. came under fierce criticism for failing to take preventive measure against a series of shocking tragedies such as the Rwandan genocide in 1994 and the Srebrenica massacre in 1995 – the mass killing of around 8,000 Muslims by the Serb forces during the Serbian War. To put an end to the occurrence of such horrible killings, he called for a change of the U.N.’s position.
A series of unprecedented events occurred during his tenure including the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001, and the United States’ invasion to Iraq in 2003. In particular, he stated the U.S. attack on Iraq as an illegal act. He tried hard to stop war, being at odds with the U.S. government. However, it was a failed attempt. He told in multiple interviews after he left office that he felt regrettable most excruciatingly about failing to stop the U.S.-led war against Iraq.
Later in his tenure, the U.N. chief was embroiled in a scandal regarding the United Nations Oil-for-Food Programme, which left his reputation with massive scars. After he retired in 2006, he founded the Kofi Annan Foundation in 2007 in Switzerland, a motherland of his wife. He worked strenuously to promote peace across the globe until he died.