World leader: Former UN secretary-general and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Kofi Annan died on Saturday at the age of 80, triggering a flood of tributes from leaders around the world. Picture: AFP
World leader: Former UN secretary-general and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Kofi Annan died on Saturday at the age of 80, triggering a flood of tributes from leaders around the world. Picture: AFP

Geneva — From his native Africa to the US, tributes continued to pour in from around the world on Sunday after former UN chief, Nobel peace laureate and "diplomatic rock star" Kofi Annan died aged 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 UN 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 nine-year tenure.

Annan "astutely guided the UN 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.

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

Annan, who lived not far from the UN European headquarters in Geneva, died in a Bern hospital, media reported.

UN chief Antonio Guterres described his predecessor as "a guiding force for good. In many ways, Kofi Annan was the UN," 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 through Tuesday.

Former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan has died in Switzerland after a short illness. Annan was 80 years old. Subscribe to TimesLIVE here:

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

In 2001, as the world was reeling from the September 11 attacks in the US, 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 Peace Prize recipient, archbishop emeritus Desmond Tutu, described Annan as "an outstanding human being 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 that the scandal had sorely tested his mettle not only as the secretary-general, but as a father.

Despite the lows he experienced, he left the post as one of the most popular UN leaders, 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 the 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 Annan’s efforts.

Annan resigned from the peace mission for Syria in 2012 after just a few months, saying that 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 that 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 told AFP in December 2017, warning that "today, leaders are going in the wrong direction … leaders are withdrawing".

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

Russian President Vladimir Putin hailed Annan’s "wisdom and courage", while German Chancellor Angela Merkel celebrated him as an "exceptional statesman in the service of the global community".

President Donald Trump has as yet made no comment, but secretary of state Mike Pompeo on Sunday hailed a life spent "advocating for peace and human dignity".

And US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said Annan "worked tirelessly to unite us and never stopped fighting for the dignity of every person".

Former US president Barack Obama earlier said Annan "embodied the mission of the UN like few others".

"Kofi Annan was a truly great UN secretary-general," former US president Bill Clinton and his wife, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, said in a joint statement.