Norway mourns death of Mandela

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Nelson Mandela’s “special relationship” with Norway was prompting an outpouring of tributes on Friday, following the death of the freedom fighter and Nobel laureate. King Harald, Norwegian leaders and the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo were among those hailing the former South African president, who always had recognized Norwegians’ early and firm opposition to apartheid.

Prime Minister Erna Solberg visited South Africa's embassy in Oslo on Friday, to sign the protocol of condolence on the death of Nelson Mandela. Photo: Statsministerens kontor

Prime Minister Erna Solberg visited South Africa’s embassy in Oslo on Friday, to sign the protocol of condolence on the death of Nelson Mandela. PHOTO: Statsministerens kontor

The Nobel Peace Center immediately unveiled plans for a memorial wall remembering the life of the anti-apartheid hero, who died Thursday at the age of 95. Norway’s prime minister mourned the loss of “the world’s greatest political role model,” while King Harald V said he had received news of Mandela’s death “with great sadness” and felt extremely fortunate to have met with Mandela on several occasions.

“Nelson Mandela has been a role model for me,” the Norwegian monarch said in a statement released by the Royal Palace. “I have admired his leadership, courage and wisdom.” King Harald said that Mandela managed “to bring out the best” in people: “He has shown the world that it is possible to choose reconciliation over revenge, and that which builds things up instead of tearing them down.”

Nobel Center officials referred to Mandela as “the great South African freedom fighter,” and planned various memorials in his honor. “Nelson Mandela was a giant in world history and in the history of the Nobel Peace Prize,” said Bente Erichsen, executive director at the Nobel Peace Center. “His untiring struggle against apartheid, for democracy, equality and justice has had a global impact. He was a great leader and a source of inspiration for all who work for peace and reconciliation.”

Nelson Mandela visited Norway many times, here outside the Nobel Center with the leader of the Nobel Committee at the time, Ole Danbolt Mjøs. PHOTO: Nobel Peace Center/Håkon Mosvold Larsen

Nelson Mandela visited Norway many times, here outside the Nobel Center with the leader of the Nobel Committee at the time, Ole Danbolt Mjøs. PHOTO: Nobel Peace Center/Håkon Mosvold Larsen

Just days before the Norwegian Nobel Committee will award its next peace prize in Oslo, the center devoted to Nobel laureates will make available a memorial wall and a memorial protocol for mourners to sign.

Former Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg of the Labour Party (Arbeiderpartiet) wrote a special tribute to Mandela that was released on Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) Friday, lauding the equality campaigner. Stoltenberg noted that Mandela felt a special connection to Norway, and visited the country many times.

“He often said there was an especially warm and close relationship between South Africa and Norway because of the support the anti-apartheid movement got from the Norwegian people, non-governmental organizations and the Norwegian government,” Stoltenberg wrote.

“When Mandela received the Nobel Peace Prize in the Oslo City Hall in 1993, South Africa was facing its first free, democratic elections ever,” Stoltenberg noted. “He concluded his Nobel lecture by saying ‘let a new era begin.’ That’s what happened. Mandela won the election, and managed the impossible: To gather and unite, where there was only division. To bring about reconciliation where hatred and bitterness simmered.”

Mandela made his last visit to Norway in 2005, to raise awareness of the struggle against HIV/AIDS.

“Time stood still when Nelson Mandela ended his speech to 20,000 people in Tromsø,” writes Stoltenberg. “At Nelson Mandela’s death, we see that he was bigger than the world he was born in. He was the greatest leader of our time.”

Solberg added her voice to the chorus of condolences following the death of Nelson Mandela. “The world has lost its biggest political role model,” said Solberg of the Conservative Party (Høyre) in a government press statement. “It is with deep sorrow I have received the message that Nelson Mandela is dead. He was not only a leader for the country (South Africa), but for the whole world. He was the greatest symbol of hope, freedom and democracy. We will remember him for fighting against apartheid, working for reconciliation and a strong effort in the battle against poverty and HIV/AIDS. Now Mandela is gone, but his values live on.”

The prime minister has sent letters of condolence to Mandela’s widow, Graça Machel, current South African President Jacob Zuma, and the Nelson Mandela Foundation Chief Executive, Sello Hatang.

newsinenglish.no/Emily Woodgate