Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan dies aged 80

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Kofi Annan, the former UN secretary-general has died aged 80, international diplomats say.

Mr Annan, was the first black African to take up the role of the world’s top diplomat, serving two terms from 1997 to 2006.

He later served as the UN special envoy for Syria, leading efforts to find a peaceful solution to the conflict.

Mr Annan, of Ghanaian nationality, died in hospital in Bern, Switzerland, in the early hours of Saturday, two close associates of Annan said.

Born Kofi Atta Annan in Kumasi on April 8 1938 along with his twin sister Efua Atta, he attended Mfantsipim School, and the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology before going for a Bachelor’s degree in Economics at Macalester University in Minnesota, USA.

Subsequently, he did post-graduate courses in France and the USA. He grew up in a wealthy family in a country still under British rule, but two days before Kofu’s 19th birthday, the country finally won its independence, becoming Ghana.

He later said: “I walked away as a young man convinced that change is possible, even radical revolutionary change.”

Mr Annan played a key role in the crises which have shaped the world, from the HIV/Aids pandemic, to the Iraq War and climate change, which won him a Nobel Peace Prize for humanitarian work.

His first job was with the UN as a budget officer with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and by 1993 he had risen to the post of under secretary-general and head of peacekeeping. But while in these roles, he faced the biggest scandal of his career.

In 1994, up to 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus were massacred in 100 days in Rwanda and the following year, up to 8,000 Muslims were executed by Serbian forces in a so-called UN safe area in Bosnia.

Mr Annan and his department came under fire for both incidents, particularly when it was revealed that his department had ignored information that had been passed to them, warning that the Rwandan genocide was being planned.