Kofi Annan was 'soft spoken but unshakeably firm', says Zim opposition leader

The focus of some of Kofi Annan's last statements was Zimbabwe, which the Nobel Peace Prize winner visited last month while urging a peaceful election.

While the vote was calm, Annan denounced the violence that erupted in the capital two days later as the military swept into the streets to disperse opposition protesters.

Opposition Nelson Chamisa is among those mourning Annan's death at age 80. "Deeply saddened by the sudden passing of the iconic Kofi Annan whom I met a few days ago," Chamisa says on Twitter. "A rare breed of diplomat; soft spoken but unshakeably firm."

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12:55

Shocked reactions are pouring in after the death of former UN secretary-general and Nobel Peace Prize winner Kofi Annan at age 80 after a short illness.

"He was a good friend whom I saw only weeks ago," says former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

"A great man, a dear brother," says the chair of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat.

"He was warm, compassionate & intelligent, exuding dignity & grace," says the new leader of Amnesty International, Kumi Naidoo.

"International leader, wise mentor, valuable adviser, good friend, role model," says UN refugee chief Filippo Grandi. "We at UNHCR — and millions of others around the world — will miss him very much."

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12:40

The Elders, an elite group of former leaders founded by Nelson Mandela, say they are "shocked and deeply saddened" by the death of their colleague and chair Kofi Annan at age 80 after a short illness.

In a statement, The Elders call the former UN secretary-general and Nobel Peace Prize winner "a voice of great authority and wisdom in public and private."

The organisation says Annan's most recent work was in visits to South Africa and Zimbabwe, where the country was preparing for a historic presidential election.

"His quiet advice on how best to defuse impending crises was in constant demand from all corners of the globe, in particular from Africa," says deputy chair Gro Harlem Brundtland.

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11:55

Kofi Annan, one of the world's most celebrated diplomats and a charismatic symbol of the United Nations who rose through its ranks to become the first black African secretary-general, has died. He was 80.

His foundation announced his death in a tweet on Saturday, saying that he died after a short unspecified illness.

Annan spent virtually his entire career as an administrator in the United Nations. He served two terms as secretary-general from Jannuary 1, 1997 to Deccember 31, 2006, capped nearly mid-way when he and the UN were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001.

During his tenure, Annan presided over some of the worst failures and scandals at the world body, one of its most turbulent periods since its founding in 1945.