The former UN secretary general Kofi Annan has died at the age of 80 after a short illness on 18 August 2018. He was born in Kumasi, Ghana, on 8 April 1938
The Ghanaian was the seventh secretary-general and served for two terms between 1997 and 2006. He was awarded the Nobel peace prize for his humanitarian work jointly with the UN as an organisation in 2001.
Annan joined the UN system in 1962 as an administrative officer with the World Health Organization in Geneva. He later served with the Economic Commission for Africa in Addis Ababa, the UN Emergency Force in Ismailia, the UN high commissioner for refugees in Geneva and in several senior posts at its headquarters in New York.
Before becoming secretary-general, he was under-secretary-general for peacekeeping and also served as special representative of the secretary-general to the former Yugoslavia between 1995 and 1996.
The UN peacekeeping operation faced two of its most criticised incidents under Annan’s leadership for its conduct during the Rwanda genocide in 1994 and the massacre in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica in July 1995.
In both cases, the UN had deployed troops under Annan’s command, but they failed to save the lives of the civilians they were mandated to protect. After becoming secretary-general, he ordered UN reports on both debacles that were highly critical of his management.
His tenure as secretary-general, which began six years after the collapse of the Soviet Union and also covered the 11 September 2001 attacks and subsequent US-led war against Iraq, was one of the UN’s most turbulent periods since its founding in 1945.
Annan used his final speech as secretary general in December 2006 to deliver a parting shot at the administration of George W Bush, accusing the US of committing human rights abuses in the name of fighting terrorism.
“When power, especially military force, is used, the world will consider it legitimate only when convinced that it is being used for the right purpose – for broadly shared aims in accordance with broadly accepted norms,” he said.
He acknowledged more recently that the UN still had its faults. “The UN can be improved, it is not perfect but if it didn’t exist you would have to create it,” he told the BBC in an interview for his 80th birthday in April. “I am a stubborn optimist, I was born an optimist and will remain an optimist.”