Subscription 790/year or 190/quarter

The mask game in Congo

POLICY / : Halle Jørn Hanssen is based on this contribution in his contribution to the new anthology The mask game in Congo – about the campaign for the release of Tjostolv Moland and Joshua French.


The news image in Norwegian media was the summer of 2009 marked by the coverage of the two Norwegian mercenaries Tjostolv Moland og Joshua french, who had been arrested in Congo for the murder of his driver. In court, Moland was sentenced to death for the driver's murder and French for participating in the murder.

Between May 2009 and November of the same year, this case received about 14 articles in the Norwegian media, and for the period May 000 to January 2009, the number is about 2019. Such coverage of a case in an African country has never occurred before so far. lands. It is unique.

Campaign for release

Family members launched a campaign for a nationwide release that gained a rare strong political influence. The foreign ministers in the period between May 2009 and October 2013, Jonas Gahr Støre and Espen Barth Eide, have stated that no single case occupied their time more than the case with the two convicts in Congo.
The campaign gradually gained an international dimension. For example, then Prime Minister and leader of the Labor Party, Jens Stoltenberg, helped France's President François Hollande address the issue in a meeting with Congo President Joseph Kabila.

Former Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik was also heavily involved in the campaign, helping US former President Jimmy Carter and his The Carter Center committed to release. So did Bondevik's Foreign Minister Knut Vollebæk, who suggested that the government seek an active support commitment from the old colonial power of Belgium. In South Africa, the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Bishop Desmond Tutu, joined the team.

Bondevik and others used their international networks, and 18 members of the European Parliament from 12 countries wrote letters to Congo's president asking for release. In the Storting there was a great commitment to the matter – and especially in the Right, KrF and Frp.

Cameron and Peres are involved

When Erna Solberg became prime minister in October 2013, she and her Foreign Minister Børge Brende stepped up their efforts. The well-known and respected top diplomat Kai Eide became a special envoy with the mission of getting the two released. But Prime Minister Solberg was not satisfied with that. During a visit to London in January 2014, she engaged British Prime Minister David Cameron on the matter.

Dan Gertler

And the Foreign Minister Børge Brende seemed to want to get the Norwegians home: In articles in VG and in Fredrik Græsvik's book Sentenced to death in Congo (2017) it is argued that Shimon Perez first played a key role in the case and brought the Israeli diamond trader and businessman Dan Gertler on request from the ambassadors Mona Juul (friend of Peres) and Tor Wennesland. Brende later followed up in January and – with opposition from the civil service – engaged Dan Gertler as a member of the Norwegian negotiating delegation.

At that time, Gertler had served as head of mining, plantation and banking operations in the Congo for many years, and was well known internationally as one of the largest financial criminals in the country.

Both the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had already warned against Gertler's activities in 2005-06. In 2018, US authorities passed sanctions on Dan Gertler, which included, among other things, freezing the money he had on accounts in banks over which the US government has influence.

How much did it cost?

On May 17, 2017, the release efforts were crowned with success. Joshua French was released the day in advance and landed in his own charter flight on Norwegian soil – on our Constitution Day. The Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister took the opportunity for a press conference on the same night in which the news was disseminated.

All this has cost the Norwegian state and the taxpayers large sums. Foreign Affairs have rejected my request for access, but that the amount for the entire period from May 2009 to May 2017 may exceed 30 and maybe 50 million, seems possible. It is also possible that part of the expenditure was charged to the aid budget – which in this case is a clear breach of the Storting's conditions for the use of money for assistance.


Edit note: According to him, Halle Jørn Hanssen has himself during the work with the book as co-author received good advice and been warned against reactions from members i right-extreme networks that have sympathy for the mercenary business going on internationally and for what Moland and French have been doing. He has therefore sent a message of concern to the Police Security Service and the police in Oslo and Bærum, concerning the security for him and the others who contributed to the book. French's lawyer, Hans Marius Graasvold, is also in e-mails (including 24.2.2020) to the publisher recently claimed that Hanssen in previous statements in the media should have used facts that are not true, and further that he may have expressed himself potentially defamatory when it comes to French and Moland. He has suggested a possible lawsuit against the publisher, the Joint Council for Africa and Hanssen himself.


anthology The mask game in Congo from Naughty Publisher (2020) deals with various aspects of this unique case complex in recent Norwegian times. Besides Marta Tveit as editor, the book has the following authors: Espen Wæhle, Sindre Bangstad, Bjørn Enge Bertelsen, Nikolaj Frobenius, Lars Løvald, Randi Solhjell, Madel Rosland, Honoratte Basemake NN Muhanzi, Irene Kinunda Afriyie, Marthelemy Boika Mahambi and Emma Woluk . Thomas Hylland Eriksen has written the afterword.
All contributors have written without any consideration whatsoever. The book can now be found at the bookstores. [Frekk Forlag's website]

ALSO READ: Peace Nation Norway: A little war, if appropriate 

VG: Dan Gertler helped the Foreign Ministry in the Congo case

Halle Jørn Hanssen
Halle Jørn Hanssen
Former Secretary General of Norwegian People's Aid, TV correspondent, politician and author.

You may also like