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Late UN Secretary-General had whirlwind visit in 2005

Whirlwind visit: the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, is shown at Langton Hill, in 2005 with then Governor of Bermuda, Sir John Vereker, and their wives, Nene Annan and Lady Judy (File photograph)

Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations, was yesterday remembered as a statesman and a gentleman.

Mr Annan, a Ghanaian diplomat and Nobel Prize laureate, died on Saturday at the age of 80 after a short illness.

Mr Annan and his wife, Nane, visited the island briefly in 2005.

The couple attended a tree-planting ceremony at Government House with Governor Sir John Vereker.

Mr Annan and Sir John frequently worked together when Sir John was Permanent Secretary for International Aid and Development in the UK, the post he held before becoming Governor.

Sheilagh Head, a local painter, said she was shocked to have Mr Annan come to her studio while he was on the island.

She said: “I got a call from the UN in New York and they asked if I was available for a visit from the Secretary-General.

“I took it as some artist friend having a joke. They said they were serious, but I still didn’t really believe it. I said I’m still not going to clean up my studio.

“About an hour later two guys show up with Bermuda policemen and said they were here for the visit from Kofi Annan.”

Ms Head described Mr Annan as a true gentleman and a statesman.

She said: “I was honoured to meet him, and honoured to chat with him for an hour.

“I followed his career like everyone else. I think he was one of the last true statesmen.”

Ms Head added: “I remember he had the most incredible eyes. I suppose as a painter I look for peoples eyes.”

Mr Annan was appointed the seventh Secretary-General in 1997, and his achievements in the post won him a Nobel Peace Prize in 2001.

He was re-elected to the post in 2006 and served until the end of his second term in 2007.

He later served as a special UN envoy for Syria, working to end the conflict there.

Glenn Fubler of Imagine Bermuda said Mr Annan was an exemplary global leader.

Mr Fubler said Mr Annan was critical in keeping the UN out of the second Iraq War, and that his calm presence counterbalanced the hysteria after the September 11 attacks.

Mr Fubler added: “In retirement, he continued to play an important role in the global community — notably along with the group called ‘The Elders’ which was started by Nelson Mandela and included a number of important personalities including Jimmy Carter and Desmond Tutu.”

An One Bermuda Alliance spokesman said last night Mr Annan was a “giant of a man” admired around the world.

The spokesman said: “Even through his tribulations, he continued to fight with the strongest moral convictions towards helping underdeveloped countries prosper and the ultimate goal of world peace.”