The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres opened the floodgates of tribute for one of his predecessors, Kofi Annan, who died yesterday aged 80 after a short illness in Geneva, Switzerland.
Guterres described Annan, who won the Nobel Peace prize in 2001, as a guiding force for good.
Guterres in his tribute 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 organisation into the new millennium with matchless dignity and determination.
“Like so many, I was proud to call Kofi Annan a good friend and mentor. I was deeply honoured by his trust in selecting me to serve as UN High Commissioner for Refugees under his leadership.
“In these turbulent and trying times, he never stopped working to give life to the values of the United Nations Charter. His legacy will remain a true inspiration for all of us.
“My heartfelt condolences to Nane Annan, their beloved family, and all who mourn the loss of this proud son of Africa who became a global champion for peace and all humanity.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin said he “sincerely admired his wisdom and courage, his ability to make informed decisions even in the most complex, critical situations. His memory will live forever in the hearts of Russians.”
Putin said he was “fortunate” to be in personal contact with Annan while he was leading the United Nations between 1997 and 2006.
“For many years the life of this remarkable man and great politician was devoted to the service of the United Nations,” he said.
“He led the UN in a difficult period… strengthening its central role in world affairs, building the UN’s peacekeeping capacity and resolving a number of regional conflicts.”
Indian PM Narendra Modi said “the world has lost not only a great African diplomat and humanitarian but also a conscience keeper of international peace and security”.
Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairman of the African Union (AU) Commission, described him as “a great man, a dear brother.”
The Elders, an elite group of former leaders founded by Nelson Mandela, said they are “shocked and deeply saddened” by the death of their colleague and chairman Kofi Annan.
In a statement, The Elders called the former UN secretary-general “a voice of great authority and wisdom in public and private.”
The group said Annan’s most recent work was in visits to South Africa and Zimbabwe, where the country was preparing for a historic presidential election.
“His quiet advice on how best to defuse impending crises was in constant demand from all corners of the globe, in particular from Africa,” Gro Harlem Brundtland, The Elders Deputy Chairman said.
Annan was the second African to head the UN after Egyptian Boutrous Boutrous Ghali, who was in charge between January 1992 to December 1996.
His tenure as UN secretary-general coincided with the Iraq War and the HIV/Aids pandemic.
After serving for 10 years at UN, Annan served as the UN special envoy for Syria, leading efforts to find a peaceful solution to the conflict.
Kofi Annan described his greatest achievement as the Millennium Development Goals which – for the first time – set global targets on issues such as poverty and child mortality.
Annan was born in Kumasi, Ghana on 8 April 1938. After studying at Kwame Nkrumah University, he went on to study economics at Macalester College, international relations from the Graduate Institute Geneva and management at MIT.
He joined the UN in 1962, working for the World Health Organisation’s Geneva office. He went on to work in several capacities at the UN Headquarters including serving as the Under-Secretary-General for peacekeeping between March 1992 and December 1996.
He was the first UN Secretary General to be appointed from within the organisation’s bureaucracy.
His first marriage was to Nigerian Titi Alakija, from 1965 to 1983. After the marriage collapsed, he married Nane Maria Lagergren in 1984.
He is survived by his wife, Nane and three children, Kojo, Ama and Nina.