Celebrated United Nations Leader Kofi Annan Dead at 80

Kofi Annan dead
Getty

Celebrated United Nations diplomat Kofi Annan has died. He was 80. 

Annan's foundation announced his passing in Switzerland on Saturday.

"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 statement read in part. 

Annan held the position of secretary-general from Jan. 1, 1997, to Dec. 31, 2006. A native of Ghana, he was the first black African to ever rise to the intergovernmental organization's top job.

During his tenure, he and the U.N. were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001.

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

Among the events that took place while Annan served as secretary-general were the 9/11 attacks and the subsequent U.S.-led war in Iraq.

"Perhaps if we had persevered a little longer Iraq could have been disarmed peacefully, or, if not, the world could have taken action to solve this problem by a collective decision endowing it with greater legitimacy and therefore commanding wider support than is the case now," said Annan, who also explicitly called the war in Iraq illegal, in 2003. "But let us not dwell on the divisions of the past, let us confront the realities of the present, however harsh, and look for ways to forge stronger unity in the future. My thoughts today are with the Iraqi people who face yet another ordeal."

Annan died surrounded by loved ones including his wife, Nane, and their children Ama, Kojo, and Nina.

RELATED STORIES

Winnie Mandela, Who Was Married to Nelson Mandela During His Imprisonment, Dies at 81

Nelson Mandela Passes Away

Celebrities We Lost in 2018