Former United Nations Secretary General and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Kofi Annan died Saturday after a short illness at the age of 80, his foundation announced.
“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 foundation said in a statement.
“His wife Nane and their children Ama, Kojo and Nina were by his side during his last days,” it said.
Current UN chief Antonio Guterres voiced deep sadness at the news, describing his predecessor as “a guiding force for good”.
The Ghanaian national, who lived in Switzerland, was a career diplomat who projected quiet charisma and is widely credited for raising the world body’s profile in global politics during his two terms as UN chief, from 1997 to 2006.
He was the first secretary-general from sub-Saharan Africa.
Annan was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize along with the UN in 2001 “for their work for a better organised and more peaceful world”.
In his statement Saturday, Guterres said that “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,” Guterres said.
“Like so many, I was proud to call Kofi Annan a good friend and mentor.”
Theresa May paid tribute to the “great leader and reformer” in a post on Twitter.
“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,” she said.
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.”