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

  • Would you like fries with that? US burger chain makes Phnom Penh debut

    California-based The Habit Burger Grill restaurant chain is all set to serve up a delicious array of charbroiled burgers and sides at its newest international location in the centre of Phnom Penh. The Habit is “renowned for its award-winning Charburgers grilled over an open flame,

  • Angkor provides ‘valuable’ water storage

    The Apsara National Authority (ANA) has stored millions of cubic metres of water at reservoirs in the Angkor area after Cambodia experienced a series of rainstorms over the last few days. The storing of the water, besides serving temple conservation, will also be used to

  • Banteay Meanchey flood victims receive aid

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday provided aid to more than 10,000 families affected by flooding in Banteay Meanchey province’s Mongkol Borei district and offered his condolences to the 18 victims who drowned in the province over the past week. He said flooding had occured in

  • PM urges caution as Polish man tests positive for Covid

    The Ministry of Health on Wednesday reported that a 47-year-old Polish man tested positive for Covid-19 after arriving in Cambodia on Monday. There are a total of six Covid-19 patients currently in the country, all of whom are being treated at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital

  • Banteay Meanchey floods kill one more as death toll reaches 15

    As floodwaters start to recede in Pursat, Battambang and Pailin provinces and Phnom Penh, Banteay Meanchey continues to bear the brunt as one more person was killed on Monday, bringing the total number of flood-related deaths to 15 in the province this month. Banteay Meanchey provincial

  • Serving coffee with a side of robots

    The eye-catching glass building surrounded by greenery at the intersection of Streets 371 and 2002 in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district is more than just another coffee shop where you can while away a few hours. UrHobby House cafe is filled with robots and characters from