Annan, Kofi Atta 1938–, Ghanaian diplomat, secretary-general of the United Nations (1997–), b. Kumasi. The scion of a family of Fante chieftains, he studied at Macalester College, St. Paul, Minn. (grad. 1961) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.A., 1972). Annan began working for the United Nations in 1962 (with the World Health Organization) and has been with UN bodies ever since, except for a stint as head of Ghana's tourist ministry (1974– 76). He has special expertise in the areas of refugees and peacekeeping and in 1990 negotiated the release of UN staff and Western hostages held by Iraq following the invasion of Kuwait. Named (1993) undersecretary-general for peacekeeping operations, he was a special representative to Yugoslavia (1995–96), overseeing the transfer of peacekeeping duties from UN forces to NATO. In 1997, Annan succeeded Boutros Boutros-ghali as secretary- general, becoming the first sub-Saharan African to hold the office. Accessible and affable, he has been a consensus- builder and has also worked to streamline the UN bureaucracy and improve strained relations with the United States.