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Martti Ahtisaari fondly recalls his departed friend Kofi Annan

Published on Sunday, 19 August 2018

Former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan participated in a seminar held in honour of Martti Ahtisaari’s 80th birthday at the Finnish National Theatre in Helsinki in May 2017. Photo: Riku Isohella

Former President of Finland and founder of CMI Martti Ahtisaari has been deeply saddened by the news of the death of the former Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan. The two were colleagues since the 1970s, and over time they had also become close friends. According to Ahtisaari, Kofi Annan was the most successful secretary-general in the history of the United Nations, and was always exceptionally committed to every position he held.

The two men worked closely together when Ahtisaari was helping to steer Namibia towards independence from South Africa as the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Namibia in the 1970s and 1980s. In 2005, as UN Secretary-General, Annan appointed Ahtisaari as special envoy for negotiations on the status of Kosovo. Most recently, Annan and Ahtisaari have worked closely with The Elders, an independent group of global leaders working together for peace and human rights.

The group was founded by former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela (1918–2013), and was chaired by Kofi Annan for five years. In July 2018, Annan led the Elders on a group trip to South Africa and attended the 100th anniversary celebrations of Mandela’s birth. Martti Ahtisaari and his wife, Eeva, also attended Kofi Annan’s 80th birthday celebrations in Geneva in April.

Read The Elders’ statement on the passing of Annan here.