Subscription 790/year or 190/quarter

Will write the story himself

Hilde Frafjord Johnson has set a ten-year clause for access to his archive on the peace process in Sudan.


[archive case] On one of her last days at work as development minister in the Bondevik II government, Hilde Frafjord Johnson sent a letter to the National Archives. In the letter dated 13 October last year – written on the Foreign Ministry's official letter sheet for the Minister for Development Aid – she asks the National Archives to "secure my private archive covering my involvement in the Sudan process".

Frafjord Johnson's terms and conditions are "that a clause be made against the opening of this material ten years from today, with the exception of applications which I personally approve".

At the same time, she demands that she herself be guaranteed the right to still unlimited access to the material.

The Prime Minister's letter raises questions once again about whether politicians' hunger to create their private archives impedes access

in what has actually happened in peace processes Norway has participated in. In January, Ny Tid confronted former bureau chief at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mona Juul, that the documents from the Oslo process, where Juul was a key player, have disappeared from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


- We struggle with the politicians wanting to keep as much private as possible. I see that Frafjord Johnson had a relationship of trust with many during the Sudan process. But it was as a public figure, not as a housewife, Mrs Johnson, that she mediated in Sudan, says national archivist Jon Herstad.

Now he announces that the National Archives before the summer will address the problem of politicians' private archives with the Ministry of Culture.

Own notes not private

Historian Hilde Henriksen Waage is also not enthusiastic about Frafjord Johnson's archive plans:

- This is as hopeless and untidy as it gets.

Frafjord Johnson, in turn, rejects the criticism, pointing out that there are only private notes and notebooks, as well as some email correspondence that can be found in her archive.

The problem of the former Minister of Development, however, is that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs also defines its own notes as public documents.

In a letter to Mona Juul and Jan Egeland at the end of March this year, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs writes the following in connection with the attempt to find out where the documents from the Oslo process have taken the lead:

"We note that meeting minutes and notes are also considered management documents in this context."

- The important question is what is archived at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and what is in her private archive, Henriksen Waage points out.

The historian believes that it is a major cross of thought that the government spends so much money on Norwegian participation in peace processes, without the will to simultaneously provide independent and systematic analyzes of the processes.

- That is why it is so important that Norway has its public archives in order. In this context, there is no such thing as private papers, says Henriksen Waage.

Hilde Frafjord Johnson herself says in several emails to Ny Tid that the Sudan process is by all accounts "the best documented of all the peace processes Norway has been involved in".

Want to write book

She therefore believes that Ny Tid will find everything we need in the Foreign Ministry's archive about the process. Furthermore, she claims that her private archive – a total of three shelf meters, according to her mentioned letter to the National Archives – is not much to talk about. In the letter she writes:

“The same and different are placed in cardboard boxes, so that the National Archives can eventually sort it out. Much material has not yet been transferred there, because I myself sit and structure and work on it (by agreement with the National Archives). I consider using my own material (and UD's material) myself, and write a book about the process. If I choose not to do this, only historians I trust will be allowed to enter the material, and only after a few years (depending on developments in the SPLM and in the peace process). It will not be relevant to let the media / press work on the material. ”

- Frafjord Johnson thereby prevents everyone other than the researchers she likes from accessing her archive. Thus, she sits with the bay and both ends when it comes to the storytelling of the peace process in Sudan. This is an outing, and can be misused to promote one's own career, says Henriksen Waage.

Ten year clause

Ny Tid has checked the Foreign Ministry's archives in relation to the Sudan process, and there is no doubt that the archives are rich in documents from this peace process. Ny Tid has also applied for access to a number of these documents. In some cases access has been granted, in other cases access has been denied.

Frafjord Johnson writes in his e-mails that "most" is filed with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The exception is her own private notes and notebooks, and her private mail correspondence.

But when Ny Tid points out to Frafjord Johnson that it will be impossible for the public to know what is actually in which archive, when she herself controls who gets access to her private archive for the next ten years, she answers:

"All material relevant to the Sudan peace process and understanding of it, which I deal with, is available now – or will be made available. This also applies to my so-called private archive, which is currently only two unsorted boxes with copies of old ungraded UD documents (the originals are in the archive) and unsystematized personal notes and notebooks, as well as some email correspondence. "

She also writes about transparency:

“The ten-year clause is important for the sake of the peace process, with the referendum on self-determination for the South taking place in six years. The exception for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is, of course, graded material, which must follow normal procedures for the sake of public law. ”

- A problem

Hilde Frafjord Johnson is not the only retired politician who has recently delivered private records.

According to the National Archives, former Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik has delivered his private archive to them. But this is currently only deposited for safekeeping and is not yet arranged and available to the public.

Former Foreign Minister and Balkan mediator Thorvald Stoltenberg has in turn supplied his private archive from the years 1962 to 1993 to the archives of the Labor Movement. But the more than 14 shelves of documents are disorderly and currently unavailable to the public.

- It is also a problem that the politicians themselves choose which archive they send their documents to, says national archivist Jon Herstad.

As it is now, a politician's "private" archive can end up not just in the National Archives or the Labor Movement archives, but virtually anywhere.

- Everything you do as a minister, I want to define as public, says Herstad.

You may also like