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Former UN Sec. General Kofi Annan Dies 08/18 12:11

   Kofi Annan, one of the world's most celebrated diplomats and a charismatic 
symbol of the United Nations who rose through its ranks to become the first 
black African secretary-general, has died. He was 80.

   GENEVA (AP) -- Kofi Annan, one of the world's most celebrated diplomats and 
a charismatic symbol of the United Nations who rose through its ranks to become 
the first black African secretary-general, has died. He was 80.

   His foundation announced his death in Switzerland's capital, Bern, on 
Saturday in a tweet, saying he died after a short unspecified illness. It did 
not give details and remembered the Nobel Peace Prize winner as "radiating 
genuine kindness, warmth and brilliance in all he did."

   The president of Ghana, where Annan was born, said in a tweet that "I am ... 
comforted by the information, after speaking to (Annan's wife) Nane Maria, that 
he died peacefully in his sleep."

   Annan spent virtually his entire career as an administrator in the United 
Nations. His aristocratic style, cool-tempered elegance and political savvy 
helped guide his ascent to become its seventh secretary-general, and the first 
hired from within. He served two terms from Jan. 1, 1997, to Dec. 31, 2006, 
capped nearly mid-way when he and the U.N. were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace 
Prize in 2001.

   During his tenure, Annan presided over some of the worst failures and 
scandals at the world body, one of its most turbulent periods since its 
founding in 1945. Challenges from the outset forced him to spend much of his 
time struggling to restore its tarnished reputation.

   His enduring moral prestige remained largely undented, however, both through 
charisma and by virtue of having negotiated with most of the powers in the 
world.

   When he departed from the United Nations, he left behind a global 
organization far more aggressively engaged in peacekeeping and fighting 
poverty, setting the framework for the U.N.'s 21st-century response to mass 
atrocities and its emphasis on human rights and development.

   "Kofi Annan was a guiding force for good," current U.N. Secretary-General 
Antonio Guterres said. "It is with profound sadness that I learned of his 
passing. In many ways, Kofi Annan was the United Nations. He rose through the 
ranks to lead the organization into the new millennium with matchless dignity 
and determination."

   Even out of office, Annan never completely left the U.N. orbit. He returned 
in special roles, including as the U.N.-Arab League's special envoy to Syria in 
2012. He remained a powerful advocate for global causes through his eponymous 
foundation.

   Annan took on the top U.N. post six years after the collapse of the Soviet 
Union and presided during a decade when the world united against terrorism 
after the Sept. 11 attacks --- then divided deeply over the U.S.-led war 
against Iraq. The U.S. relationship tested him as a world diplomatic leader.

   "I think that my darkest moment was the Iraq war, and the fact that we could 
not stop it," Annan said in a February 2013 interview with TIME magazine to 
mark the publication of his memoir, "Interventions: A Life in War and Peace."

   "I worked very hard --- I was working the phone, talking to leaders around 
the world. The U.S. did not have the support in the Security Council," Annan 
recalled in the videotaped interview posted on The Kofi Annan Foundation's 
website.

   "So they decided to go without the council. But I think the council was 
right in not sanctioning the war," he said. "Could you imagine if the U.N. had 
endorsed the war in Iraq, what our reputation would be like? Although at that 
point, President (George W.) Bush said the U.N. was headed toward irrelevance, 
because we had not supported the war. But now we know better."

   Despite his well-honed diplomatic skills, Annan was never afraid to speak 
candidly. That didn't always win him fans, particularly in the case of Bush's 
administration, with whom Annan's camp spent much time bickering. Much of his 
second term was spent at odds with the United States, the U.N.'s biggest 
contributor, as he tried to lean on the nation to pay almost $2 billion in 
arrears.

   Kofi Atta Annan was born April 8, 1938, into an elite family in Kumasi, 
Ghana, the son of a provincial governor and grandson of two tribal chiefs.

   He shared his middle name Atta --- "twin" in Ghana's Akan language --- with 
a twin sister, Efua. He became fluent in English, French and several African 
languages, attending an elite boarding school and the University of Science and 
Technology in Kumasi. He finished his undergraduate work in economics at 
Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1961. From there he went to 
Geneva, where he began his graduate studies in international affairs and 
launched his U.N. career.

   Annan married Titi Alakija, a Nigerian woman, in 1965, and they had a 
daughter, Ama, and a son, Kojo. He returned to the U.S. in 1971 and earned a 
master's degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Sloan School of 
Management. The couple separated during the 1970s and, while working in Geneva, 
Annan met his second wife, Swedish lawyer Nane Lagergren. They married in 1984.

   Annan worked for the U.N. Economic Commission for Africa in Ethiopia, its 
Emergency Force in Egypt, and the office of the High Commissioner for Refugees 
in Geneva, before taking a series of senior posts at U.N. headquarters in New 
York dealing with human resources, budget, finance, and staff security.

   He also had special assignments. After Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, he 
facilitated the repatriation from Iraq of more than 900 international staff and 
other non-Iraqi nationals, and the release of western hostages in Iraq. He led 
the initial negotiations with Iraq for the sale of oil in exchange for 
humanitarian relief.

   Just before becoming secretary-general, Annan served as U.N. peacekeeping 
chief and as special envoy to the former Yugoslavia, where he oversaw a 
transition in Bosnia from U.N. protective forces to NATO-led troops.

   The U.N. peacekeeping operation faced two of its greatest failures during 
his tenure: the Rwanda genocide in 1994, and the massacre in the Bosnian town 
of Srebrenica in July 1995.

   In both cases, the U.N. had deployed troops under Annan's command, but they 
failed to save the lives of the civilians they were mandated to protect. Annan 
offered apologies, but ignored calls to resign by U.S. Republican lawmakers. 
After became secretary-general, he called for U.N. reports on those two 
debacles --- and they were highly critical of his management.

   As secretary-general, Annan forged his experiences into a doctrine called 
the "Responsibility to Protect," that countries accepted --- at least in 
principle --- to head off genocide, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing 
and war crimes.

   Annan sought to strengthen the U.N.'s management, coherence and 
accountability, efforts that required huge investments in training and 
technology, a new whistleblower policy and financial disclosure requirements.

   In 1998, he helped ease a transition to civilian rule in Nigeria and visited 
Iraq to try to resolve its impasse with the Security Council over compliance 
with weapons inspections and other matters. The effort helped avoid an outbreak 
of hostilities that seemed imminent at the time.

   In 1999, he was deeply involved in the process by which East Timor gained 
independence from Indonesia, and started the "Global Compact" initiative that 
has grown into the world's largest effort to promote corporate social 
responsibility.

   Annan was chief architect of what became known as the Millennium Development 
Goals, and played a central role in creating the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, 
Tuberculosis and Malaria and the U.N.'s first counter-terrorism strategy.

   Annan's uncontested election to a second term was unprecedented, reflecting 
the overwhelming support he enjoyed from both rich and poor countries. Timothy 
Wirth, president of the United Nations Foundation, which disburses Ted Turner's 
$1 billion pledge to U.N. causes, hailed "a saint-like sense about him."

   In 2005, Annan succeeded in establishing the Peacebuilding Commission and 
the Human Rights Council. But that year, the U.N. was facing almost daily 
attacks over allegations about corruption in the U.N. oil-for-food program in 
Iraq, bribery by U.N. purchasing officials and widespread sex abuse by U.N. 
peacekeepers --- an issue that would only balloon in importance after he left 
office.

   It emerged that Annan's son, Kojo, had not disclosed payments he received 
from his employer, which had a $10 million-a-year contract to monitor 
humanitarian aid under the oil-for-food program. The company paid at least 
$300,000 to Kojo so he would not work for competitors after he left.

   An independent report criticized the secretary-general for being too 
complacent, saying he should have done more to investigate matters even if he 
was not involved with the awarding of the contract.

   World leaders agreed to create an internal U.N. ethics office, but a major 
overhaul of the U.N.'s outdated management practices and operating procedures 
was left to Annan's successor, Ban Ki-moon.

   Before leaving office, Annan helped secure a truce between Israel and 
Hezbollah in 2006, and mediated a settlement of a dispute between Cameroon and 
Nigeria over the Bakassi peninsula.

   At a farewell news conference, Annan listed as top achievements the 
promotion of human rights, the fighting to close the gap between extreme 
poverty and immense wealth, and the U.N. campaign to fight infectious diseases 
like AIDS.

   He never took disappointments and setbacks personally. And he kept his view 
that diplomacy should take place in private and not in the public forum.

   In his memoir, Annan recognized the costs of taking on the world's top 
diplomatic job, joking that "SG," for secretary-general, also signified 
"scapegoat" around U.N. headquarters.

   Former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Richard Holbrooke called Annan 
"an international rock star of diplomacy."

   After leaving his high-profile U.N. perch, Annan didn't let up. In 2007, his 
Geneva-based foundation was created. That year he helped broker peace in Kenya, 
where election violence had killed over 1,000 people.

   He also joined The Elders, an elite group of former leaders founded by 
Nelson Mandela, eventually succeeding Desmond Tutu as its chairman after a 
failed interlude trying to resolve Syria's rising civil war.

   Annan "represented our continent and the world with enormous graciousness, 
integrity and distinction," Tutu said Saturday in a statement, adding that "we 
give great thanks to god" for him.

   As special envoy to Syria in 2012, Annan won international backing for a 
six-point plan for peace. The U.N. deployed a 300-member observer force to 
monitor a cease-fire, but peace never took hold and Annan was unable to 
surmount the bitter stalemate among Security Council powers. He resigned in 
frustration seven months into the job, as the civil war raged on.

   Annan continued to crisscross the globe. In 2017, his foundation's biggest 
projects included promotion of fair, peaceful elections; work with Myanmar's 
government to improve life in troubled Rakhine state; and battling violent 
extremism by enlisting young people to help.

   He also remained a vocal commentator on troubles like the refugee crisis; 
promoted good governance, anti-corruption measures and sustainable agriculture 
in Africa; and pushed efforts in the fight against illegal drug trafficking.

   Annan retained connections to many international organizations. He was 
chancellor of the University of Ghana, a fellow at New York's Columbia 
University, and professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in 
Singapore.

   His homeland of Ghana was shaken by his death. "One of our greatest 
compatriots," President Nana Akufo-Addo said, calling for a week with flags at 
half-mast. "Rest in perfect peace, Kofi. You have earned it."

   Annan is survived by his wife and three children. Funeral arrangements 
weren't immediately announced.


(KA)

 
 
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