It was with extreme sadness that my family and I received the news of the passing away of Thorvald Stoltenberg of Norway.
Stoltenberg served as the Minister of Defence and Foreign Affairs. He also served as the Norwegian Ambassador to the UN between 1989-90.
Though belatedly, we offer our condolences to the family as well our gratitude to him for saving me, my family and other Kenyans from possible death, when some of us were charged with treason in October 1990. When I was a refugee in Norway, he was the Foreign minister and risked the closure of the Norwegian embassy in Nairobi by saving us from the gallows.
When I first arrived in Norway, expecting little support from a government that could have been just like the one we were running away from, it was Stoltenberg who was our key government supporter, when we were most likely the weakest group in the social ladder.
When our right to speak against President Daniel Moi’s one-party dictatorship from exile was challenged by some of his supporters in Norway, Stoltenberg stood up to defend us and our right of free speech at a time when we were used to being governed through fear and silence. To me, Stoltenberg’s defence was the best proof that social democracy was indeed the heaven on earth, which was what we were fighting for.
And when our right to exile was challenged by the Moi dictatorship, demanding that we be deported back and by putting pressure on the Norwegian government to silence us, it was Stoltenberg who publicly expressed Norway’s international solidarity with refugees and Kenyans who were fighting for democracy without which our independence meant absolutely nothing.
Above all, when I was taken to a kangaroo court in Nakuru and charged in October 1990 with others such as Rumba Kinuthia and Mirugi Kariuki with a fabricated case of treason — whose sentence would have been death if found guilty — Stoltenberg asked Ambassador Niels Dahl to come from Nairobi to Nakuru to express support. This was not just for me and my co-accused, but also for principles of fair trial, justice and rule of law for all Kenyans. When Ambassador Dahl was expelled from Kenya seven days after his appearance in court, the late Ambassador Christian Danbolt continued his support for justice.
Primarily because of Stoltenberg, Norway today features in the hearts of Kenyans as one country that supported us in our fight for democracy and in the Second Liberation. Without this support, our struggle would have been very difficult, costly and much longer. For this we thank Stoltenberg and others like him.
When such a stalwart of the fight for international solidarity, democracy and rule of law passes on, we must all bow in respect for him.
Of course, our tears will not bring him back. However wherever he is, we can console his soul that for as long as we live, we shall fight to perpetuate the democracy, justice and the rule of law he championed, lived and died for.
Given that every Foreign minister of every other country has not been an ally of democracy in Kenya, especially during the Cold War, we cannot take Stoltenberg’s solidarity with us for granted.
Though Norway is a small country, her towering political and ideological leaders such as Stoltenberg made her a moral giant in the world.
Finally, I say my few words to Stoltenberg, not just because he has left us with an indelible mark of selfless service but also write to remind Kenyans that we did not fight alone for the Second Liberation. His incredible contribution to our freedom is ample proof that people of goodwill from other countries chipped into our struggle and the democracy we enjoy is a result of their solidarity.
Rest in Peace, Thorvald Stoltenberg, and may your good deeds enshrine your legacy forever. Our gratitude for your support and solidarity will live forever.