Kofi Annan, who served as the Secretary-General for the United Nations from 1997 to 2006, has died. He was 80.
In a statement released on Saturday from the Nobel Peace Laureate’s family and the Kofi Annan Foundation, it was confirmed that he “passed away peacefully on Saturday 18th August after a short illness.”
“His wife Nane and their children Ama, Kojo and Nina were by his side during his last days,” the statement continued. “Wherever there was suffering or need, he reached out and touched many people with his deep compassion and empathy. He selflessly placed others first, radiating genuine kindness, warmth and brilliance in all he did.”
“The family kindly requests privacy at this time of mourning. Arrangements to celebrate his remarkable life will be announced later,” the statement concluded.
The BBC reported that Annan, who had been living near Geneva in the years before his death, died at a Switzerland hospital.
“I’m deeply saddened by the passing of Kofi Annan, a true global statesman and man of integrity,” she wrote. “Like many others, I will remember him for his kindness, his grace, and his calm strength of purpose. My thoughts are with his wife and family.”
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Annan, who was born in Ghana, has the distinction of being the first black African to hold the honored UN position, according to CNN.
While he was awarded a joint Nobel Peace Prize with the UN in 2001 for “their work for a better organized and more peaceful world,” he has also faced criticism over his leadership during the 1990s, during the genocide in Rwanda, reported the BBC.
Since stepping down from his post, Annan has been a member of The Elders, a humanitarian group formed by Nelson Mandela. He was appointed chairman in 2013.
Annan’s death has been mourned by many humanitarians and world leaders, including British Prime Minister Theresa May, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, and current UN Secretary-General António Guterres.
In a statement from The Elders, Deputy Chair Gro Harlem Brundtland wrote, “The world has lost an inspiring figure – but one whose achievements will never be forgotten, and whose commitment to peace and justice will endure to inspire future generations.”
During one of his last interviews in April, Annan also shared with BBC’s HARDtalk that despite all the difficult situations he’d faced throughout his career, “I was born an optimist and will remain an optimist.“