Wolrd leaders mourn the loss of Kofi Annan: He was a leader, but also a friend

Former United Nations secretary-general and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Kofi Annan has 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.

Annan was the first black African secretary-general of the United Nations. He spent virtually his entire career as an administrator in the United Nations. He served two terms as secretary-general from 1 January 1997 to 13 December 2006, capped nearly mid-way when he and the UN were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001.

After stepping down from the United Nations, Annan continued his humanitarian efforts as chairman, Kofi Annan Foundation and chairman, The Elders, the group founded by Nelson Mandela.

Kofi Annan is married to Nane and has three children.

As news of his death became public, tributes poured in from across the world.

“Kofi Annan’s significant contribution to the MDGs (Millenium Development Goals) will always be remembered. My thoughts are with his family and admirers in this hour of grief. May his soul rest in peace,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted.

British Prime Minister Theresa May said her “thoughts and condolences are with his family”. “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,” she said on Twitter.

Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said that “today we lose a great humanist”. “Annan… has left us but his legacy remains to keep working for peace, security and to strengthen the defence of human rights,” Sanchez tweeted.

Current UN chief Antonio Guterres voiced deep sadness at the news, describing his predecessor as “a guiding force for good”. “In many ways, Kofi Annan was the United Nations,” he added. “Like so many, I was proud to call Kofi Annan a good friend and mentor.”

The UN high commissioner for human rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said he was grief-stricken. “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.”

Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo declared a week of mourning, saying the national flag will fly at half-mast at home and in the country’s diplomatic missions around the world in honour of “one of our greatest compatriots”