Officials mourn loss of UN’s Kofi Annan

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Prime Minister Erna Solberg and her predecessors were all mourning the death over the weekend of former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. He was a frequent visitor to Norway and said he “cleared his head” by going hiking in the mountains.

Kofi Annan and the UN won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001. It was presented to him in Oslo by the Nobel Committee leader at the time, Gunnar Berge. PHOTO: United Nations

“It’s a loss for the whole world,” Solberg said after Annan died on Saturday after a sort illness. “He was a leader with a mild voice, a clear message and an inexhaustible contribution to an international world, characterized by international law and humanism.”

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, a former Norwegian prime minister, has lost several people close to him this summer, including his father Thorvald. With Annan’s death, Stoltenberg said the world had lost one of its champions. Stoltenberg wrote that it was sad to hear of Annan’s death, noting that Annan’s warm manner could never be misunderstood as weakness. Annan showed that it was possible to be both a great person and a strong leader at the same time, Stoltenberg stated.

Former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, who went on to head the World Health Organisation, called Annan “irreplaceable.” They met many times and served together in the international group of elder statesmen and women known as The Elders.

“A whole world can thank Kofi Annan for what he was and everything he created and stood for in his long, impressive work for peace, sustainable development and human rights,” Brundtland said. She said he would be deeply missed by all his friends, also in Norway and Sweden, his wife’s homeland.

Those friends included yet another former Norwegian prime minister, Kjell Magne Bondevik, who told state broadcaster NRK that Kofi Annan was “a great international leader and a good friend.” Bondevik was prime minister when Annan was secretary general and they were in agreement over the Iraq crisis in 2003, that the US bombing was not a good idea.

“Kofi was exhausted by all the disagreement within the Security Council,” Bondevik recalled. “I invited him therefore to go walking in Norway, and together with our wives, we had several relaxing days hiking in the mountains of Lofoten.” Both later worked together for peace and democracy in Kenya after they’d left public office.

Annan died in Switzerland at an age of 80. His homeland of Ghana declared a week of mourning, while government leaders all over the world ranked Annan as among the United Nations’ most important leaders.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund