JEDDAH: Former UN chief and Nobel peace laureate Kofi Annan died on Saturday, triggering a flood of tributes from around the world for the “diplomatic rock star.” He was 80.
Annan served two terms as head of the UN from 1997 to 2006, strove tirelessly for peace in the Middle East and led the organization through the divisive years of the Iraq war.
Current UN chief Antonio Guterres described his predecessor as “a guiding force for good. In many ways, Kofi Annan was the United Nations.”
Born in Kumasi in Ghana, Annan devoted four decades of his working life to the UN and was the first chief to rise from within the organization’s ranks.
After his second term as UN chief, he took high-profile mediation roles in Kenya and in Syria, and more recently leading an advisory commission in Myanmar on the Rohingya crisis.
Current and former world leaders voiced their admiration on Saturday.
Russian President Vladimir Putin hailed Annan’s “wisdom and courage,” and German Chancellor Angela Merkel celebrated an “exceptional statesman in the service of the global community.”
The US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, said Annan “worked tirelessly to unite us and never stopped fighting for the dignity of every person.”
Former US President Barack Obama said Annan “embodied the mission of the United Nations like few others.”
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said “Annan showed that one can be a great humanitarian and a strong leader at the same time.
“The UN and the world have lost one of their giants.”