WATCH: The United Nations mourns former Secretary-General Kofi Annan

United Nations/MGN

The United Nations is mourning the death of former Secretary-General and Nobel Peace Prize Winner Kofi Annan, who passed away peacefully after a short illness, on Saturday, August 18, 2018. The renowned Ghanaian diplomat was 80 years old.

On Saturday, Annan’s foundation announced his death in a tweet stating, “Wherever there was suffering or need, he reached out and touched many people with his deep compassion and empathy.”

He was the seventh man to take the helm of the United Nations and the first Secretary-General to emerge from the ranks of its staff.

Annan had a Minnesota connection. He graduated from Macalester College in St. Paul in 1961 and returned to the campus numerous times for speaking engagements, most recently in May of this year for the dedication of the Kofi Annan Institute for Global Citizenship.

The current UN Chief, Antonio Guterres hailed Annan as “a guiding force for good” and a “proud son of Africa who became a global champion for peace and all humanity.”

“Like so many, I was proud to call Kofi Annan a good friend and mentor. I was deeply honored by his trust in selecting me to serve as UN High Commissioner for Refugees under his leadership. He remained someone I could always turn to for counsel and wisdom — and I know I was not alone,” Guterres said in a statement.

“He provided people everywhere with a space for dialogue, ” continued Guterres, “a place for problem-solving and a path to a better world. In these turbulent and trying times, he never stopped working to give life to the values of the United Nations Charter. His legacy will remain a true inspiration for all us.”

Annan was born in Kumasi, Ghana, on April 8,  1938. He served as UN Secretary-General for two consecutive five-year terms, beginning in January 1997. Annan joined the UN system in 1962 as an administrative and budget officer with the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, rising to hold senior-level posts in areas such as budget and finance, and peacekeeping.

As Guterres noted: “In many ways, Kofi Annan was the United Nations. He rose through the ranks to lead the organization into the new millennium with matchless dignity and determination.”