Ghana’s Kofi Annan, whose death at the age of 80 was announced on Saturday, was the first black African to serve as secretary-general of the UN, between 1997 and 2006. He shared the Nobel Peace Prize with the UN in 2001, though his most noteworthy mediation was in brokering a settlement in violence-stricken Kenya in 2008. During his 10-year tenure, Annan courageously, but perhaps naïvely, championed "humanitarian intervention". After a steep decline in the mid-1990s, peacekeeping increased again by 2005 to about 80,000 troops, with Africa the main beneficiary. Annan also moved the UN bureaucracy to embrace views and actors from outside the system. At the time of his appointment, the diplomat was widely regarded as a competent administrator who had climbed up the UN system in a 30-year career.He was soft-spoken and unflappably calm. He seemed, at first, painfully shy and somewhat uncomfortable in the glare of the media cameras. Annan appeared better suited to the discreet role of a f...

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