Kofi Annan, the First Black U.N. Secretary General, Dies at 80

Kofi Annan, who was described by his own foundation colleagues, as “strong and fit” while “he worked until the very end, without giving himself a break,” succumbed to a short illness on Saturday at age 80. His foundation made the announcement on Twitter.

The former U.N. Secretary-General and Nobel Peace Prize laureate had been living in Geneva for a decade, running a non-profit, and had recently returned from Zimbabwe “a little weakened, but all those working closely with him day in and day out did not see this coming,” said Bijan Farnoudi, a spokesman for the Kofi Annan Foundation.

For decades, Annan, a native of Ghana, championed efforts to try to end conflicts in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

He triumphed in many cases, like persuaded Saddam Hussein to comply with weapons inspections, East Timoor’s independence and stability, his commitment to fighting HIV in Africa, and, in times, where he was not triumphant, his grace showed.

After the Rwanda crisis where the U.S. government was slow to intervene, and in Bosnia where UN forces withdrew and he was accused of failing, “Annan felt that the very countries that had turned their backs on the Rwandans and Bosnians were the ones making him their scapegoat,” Samantha Power, former UN ambassador during Obama’s administration, wrote in 2008.

“But he knew that his name would appear in the history books beside the two defining genocidal crimes of the second half of the 20th century.”

Annan expressed regret: “The international community failed Rwanda, and that must leave us always with a sense of bitter regret and abiding sorrow.”

Annan also addressed environmental issues. In one of his last arguments in December, before the major climate conference in Paris, he said:

“In the past when we went through this sort of crisis, you had leaders who had the courage and the vision to want to take action, to understand that they needed to work with others. Today, leaders are going in the wrong directionLeaders are withdrawing.”

One of Annan’s predecessors had referred to his role as “the most impossible job on Earth.”

Leaders have expressed their sentiments for Annan:

NATO leader Jens Stoltenberg: “His warmth should never be mistaken for weakness. Annan showed that one can be a great humanitarian and a strong leader at the same time.”

UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein: “Kofi was humanity’s best example, the epitome, of human decency and grace. In a world now filled with leaders who are anything but that, our loss, the world’s loss becomes even more painful.”

Barack Obama said he “embodied the mission of the UN like few others. His integrity, persistence, optimism and sense of our common humanity always informed his outreach to the community of nations. “

Ghana has declared a week of national mourning. Funeral plans to be announced. Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo called Annan “one of our greatest compatriots.”

Latest News

Three BASF Women Leaders Honored at the Manufacturing Institute’s 2021 STEP Ahead Awards

Originally published at BASF ranked No. 12 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2021.   Three BASF leaders in manufacturing were among 130 women recognized nationally at The Manufacturing Institute’s ninth annual STEP Ahead Awards. Focusing on science, technology, engineering and production (STEP), the program recognizes women…

Wells Fargo Pledges $1 Million to the Thurgood Marshall College Fund for HBCU Seniors

Originally published at Wells Fargo ranked No. 25 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2021.   Wells Fargo and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) are teaming up to help close the graduation gap for college seniors attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). The $1 million Thurgood Marshall…

Hershey Employees and Retirees in the US and Canada Pledged More Than $900,000 in 2021 To Support Nonprofit Organizations

Originally published on LinkedIn. The Hershey Company ranked No. 10 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2021.    Each year, our Season of Giving campaign encourages Hershey employees to make a difference by supporting nonprofit organizations which they find to be meaningful. Employees and retirees in…

Creating Windows and Mirrors: Hershey’s Amber Murayi on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at the ‘World’s Top Female-Friendly Company’

Amber Murayi is the Hershey Company’s Senior Director of Enterprise Strategy & Business Model Innovation & Co-lead of the Women’s Business Resource Group. The Hershey Company ranked No. 10 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2021.    My position affords me a unique view of DEI…

book banning

American Library Association Documents 155 Attempts at Banning Books About POC or LGBTQ Issues in the Last 6 Months

In a depressing turn for anyone who thought society may have outgrown book burning or censorship of books over the last 100 years, it appears the hate-filled phenomenon is back on the rise, increasing with alarming frequency across the country. CNN’s Nicole Chavez has reported the American Library Association “has…