Kofi Annan (266901)

Oneof the most recognized names in international politics, Kofi Annan,

has died atthe age of 80. Millions around the world are mourning the

death of thesoft-spoken diplomat from Ghana who was the seventh

secretary general of theUnited Nations. He died in Bern, Switzerland,

after an unspecified shortillness. Annan won the Nobel Peace Prize in

2001 and was the first Black Africanto head the United Nations. He

held two successful five-year terms beginning in1997. He held his

position during 10 years of turmoil that challenged the U.N.itself and

redefined its place in a rapidly changing world. During his

tenure,Al-Qaeda hit New York City and Washington, D.C., the U.S.

invaded Iraq andWestern policymakers turned their sights from the cold

war to globalization andthe struggle with Islamic militancy, reports

the New York Times. Annan wascredited with revitalizing the United

Nations’ institutions, shaping what hecalled a new “norm of

humanitarian intervention,” particularly in places wherethere was no

peace for traditional peacekeepers to keep. And he was lauded for

persuadingWashington to unblock arrears that had been withheld because

of the profoundmisgivings about the United Nations voiced by American

conservatives. Histenure was rarely free of debate, however. In 1998,

Annan traveled to Baghdadto negotiate directly with Saddam Hussein

over the status of United Nations weaponsinspections, winning a

temporary respite in the long battle of wills with theWest but raising

questions about his decision to shake hands — and even smokecigars —

with that dictator. In fact, Annan called the 2003 invasion of

Iraqillegal and suffered an acute personal loss when a trusted and

close associate,the Brazilian official Sérgio Vieira de Mello, his

representative in Baghdad,died in a suicide truck bombing in August

2003 that struck the United Nationsoffice there, killing many

civilians. The attack prompted complaints that Annanhad not grasped

the perils facing his subordinates after the ouster of Hussein.While

his admirers praised his courtly, charismatic and measured

approach,Annan was hamstrung by the inherent flaw of his position as

what many peoplecalled a “secular pope” — a figure of moral authority

bereft of the means otherthan persuasion to enforce the high standards

he articulated. Most of Annan’sworking life was spent in the corridors

and conference rooms of the UnitedNations, but he told the author

Philip Gourevitch in 2003, “I feel profoundlyAfrican, my roots are

deeply African, and the things I was taught as a childare very

important to me.”