Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Tributes pour in for UN’s Annan



Tributes pour in for UN’s Annan

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Arab League Special Envoy for Syria Kofi Annan listens to questions during a press conference at the United Nations in Geneva on June 22, 2012. AFp

Tributes pour in for UN’s Annan

From his native Africa to the United States, tributes poured in from top leaders around the world Sunday after UN chief, Nobel peace laureate, and “diplomatic rock star” Kofi Annan died at the age of 80.

The Ghanaian national was a career diplomat who projected quiet charisma and was widely credited for raising the world body’s profile in global politics during his two terms as head of the UN from 1997 to 2006.

The first secretary-general from sub-Saharan Africa, Annan led the United Nations through the divisive years of the Iraq war and was later accused of corruption in the oil-for-food scandal, one of the most trying times of his tenure.

Annan “astutely guided the United Nations organisation into the 21st century defining an ambitious agenda that had made the UN truly indispensable to peace, prosperity and human dignity around the world”, Annan’s successor as UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, said in a statement.

Annan’s family said he had passed away peacefully on Saturday after a short illness.

Annan, who lived not far from the UN European headquarters in Geneva, died in hospital in the German-speaking part of the country, Swiss news agency ATS reported.

Current UN chief Antonio Guterres described his predecessor as “a guiding force for good”.

“In many ways, Kofi Annan was the United Nations,” he said.

“He rose through the ranks to lead the organisation into the new millennium with matchless dignity and determination.”

The UN said it would fly flags at half mast at all of its locations around the world until Tuesday.

And Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo announced a week of mourning for “one of our greatest compatriots”.

‘Diplomatic rock star’

In 2001, as the world was reeling from the September 11 attacks in the United States, Annan was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize jointly with the world body “for their work for a better organised and more peaceful world”.

Another Nobel laureate, retired South African archbishop Desmond Tutu, described Annan as “an outstanding human who represented our continent and the world with enormous graciousness, integrity and distinction.”

Born in Kumasi, the capital city of Ghana’s Ashanti region, Annan devoted four decades of his working life to the UN and was the first chief to rise from within the organisation’s ranks.

In 1993, he took over as peacekeeping chief – a position he held through two of the UN’s darkest chapters: the Rwandan genocide and the Bosnian war.

His tenure as UN chief was tarnished by a 2005 investigation of Annan and his son over the oil-for-food scandal, seen by some as payback for his comments that the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq was “illegal”.

An inquiry cleared Annan of any serious wrongdoing, but found ethical and management lapses linked to his son Kojo’s ties with a Swiss firm that won lucrative contracts in the oil-for-food scheme.

Annan later admitted the scandal had sorely tested his mettle not only as secretary-general, but as a father.

Despite the lows, he left the post as one of the most popular UN leaders ever, and was considered a “diplomatic rock star” in international diplomatic circles.

After ending his second term as UN chief, he kept up his diplomatic work, taking high-profile mediation roles in Kenya and in Syria, and more recently leading an advisory commission in Myanmar on the crisis in Rakhine state.

He enjoyed some success in ending post-election turmoil in Kenya in 2007, and on Saturday the two main players in that crisis, former president Mwai Kibaki and his opposition rival Raila Odinga celebrated his efforts.

Annan resigned from the peace mission for Syria in 2012 after just a few months, saying a Security Council stalemate had turned it into a “mission impossible”.

He also set up his foundation devoted to conflict resolution and joined the Elders group of statesmen which speaks out on global issues.

But he had recently spoken of his despair at the state of global leadership and the lack of will to engage in resolving crises.

“Honestly speaking, we are in a mess,” he said last December, warning that “today, leaders are going in the wrong direction . . . leaders are withdrawing”.

Despite his criticism, current and former world leaders voiced their admiration for Annan.

Russian President Vladimir Putin hailed his “wisdom and courage”, while German Chancellor Angela Merkel celebrated the “exceptional statesman in the service of the global community”.

Former US president Barack Obama earlier said Annan “embodied the mission of the United Nations like few others”.

MOST VIEWED

  • Purging Sihanoukville’s past with a new masterplan

    Amid illicit activities, haphazard development and abandoned projects, the coastal city of Sihanouk province needs a reset to move forward. A new masterplan might be the answer to shake off its seemingly mucky image to become the Shenzhen of the south Gun toting, shootouts, police

  • Chinese may be first in tourism revival: PM

    Cambodia's tourism industry is gearing up to roll out the red carpet for Chinese travellers after Prime Minister Hun Sen on September 17 indicated that the Kingdom could soon throw open its doors to international holidaymakers vaccinated against Covid-19 – starting with guests from China. Cambodia Chinese

  • 'Pursue your goals, reach out to me': Young diplomat tapped as envoy to South Korea

    Chring Botum Rangsay was a secretary of state at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation before being designated as the new Cambodian ambassador to South Korea. According to her official CV published on the foreign ministry’s website, she started her first government

  • Tourism concerns laid bare

    To ensure the success of plans to reopen the tourism market for international visitors, Cambodia must pay utmost attention to two primary determinants – the ongoing paradigm shift in domestic tourism services towards the ‘new normal’, and the factors influencing choices of destinations among foreign holidaymakers.

  • Covid jab drive for 6-11 age group to begin Sept 17

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has permitted Covid-19 vaccinations for over 1.8 million children aged 6-11 across the country from September 17 in order for them to return to school after a long hiatus. Hun Sen also hinted that vaccinations for the 3-6 age group will follow in

  • No ‘Crown Prince’ exists to buy France football club: ministry

    The Ministry of the Royal Palace has denied media reports that a Cambodian “Crown Prince” had purchased the AS Saint Etienne football club of France’s top-flight LIGUE 1 at the cost of €100 million ($117 million). In a press statement on September 19, the ministry stressed that Cambodia