26 Jul 2011

Norway’s lost leaders

As police begin officially naming the Utoya shooting victims, Channel 4 News looks at the leading figures in Norwegian youth politics who lost their lives as they “camped out with their buddies”.

Simon Saebo photographed with Norwegian PM Jens Stoltenberg (taken from Dagbladet)

Many of the 68 young people targeted on the island of Utoya were leading lights in Norway’s youth Labour party, the AUF.

Some were already confident speech-makers and regular bloggers, emerging as potential key figures in European politics.

Simon Saebo, 18, dead

Known to his friends as “JFK” because of his confidence and charisma, Simon was a keen student politician who was photographed with Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg. Like many at the Utoya camp he was already a talented public-speaker. Simon died three days before his 19th birthday.

More from Channel 4 News: Police publish names of Norway dead
Tore Eikeland. (Photo: Tore Eikeland's blog)

Tore Eikeland, 21, missing

Seen by many as the Labour party’s chief rising star, Tore Eikeland was leader of the youth wing of the Labour party in Hordaland Province. He spoke at the party’s main conference in 2009 and 2011 (see video) and was followed by Barack Obama on Twitter.

Jens Stoltenberg, Norway’s prime minister, said that Eikeland had been given a standing ovation from the entire auditorium.

The PM paid tribute to the young speaker, saying: “One of the most talented youth politicians. Now he is dead. Gone forever. It’s incomprehensible.”

The 21-year-old was also a supporter of Newcastle United FC and had written for the Norwegian branch of the club’s fan site.

In his most recent blogs Elkeland discussed the fall-out from the phone-hacking scandal, compared Danish prime minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen to Gordon Brown and reviewed Lady Gaga’s new album.

Havard Vederhus

Havard Vederhus, 21, missing

Student politician Havard Vederhus was leader of the AUF in Oslo. He worked for the Welfare Council in Oslo and was a representative in the Norwegian Church. It appears that the 21-year-old initially escaped gunman Anders Breivik.

In Havard’s Twitter and Facebook updates, displayed on the AUF website, his last posting reads: “Vi gjemmer oss og lever” – it means “we hide and live”.

Previous updates show that he had keenly attended a speech by Gro Harlem Brundtland, Norway’s former prime minister who is known as the “Mother of the Nation”. It has since emerged that she was the killer’s key target. Brundtland made a speech on Utoya a few hours before the shootings but left before the rampage began.

A tribute to Vederhus on his Facebook page reads: “You must be the dear and the kindest person I ever met. The born leader and good at all!”

Hanne Fridtun

Hanne Fridtun, 20, dead

AUF activist Hanne Fridtun was well known in her local town of Stryn, western Norway.

The local mayor Nils P Stoyva, told broadcaster NRK: “I know Hanne Kristine very well. We have had a close political co-operation … so for me it is now completely unreal that she is missing.”

Like Eikeland, she had addressed the Labour Party conference (see video below) and spoken with authority and confidence about her beliefs and ambitions.

She said: “We want the right to live in the best possible world. We want openness, better work conditions and better conditions for pensioners.”

As the terror of Utoya unfolded the 20-year-old sent a message via her mobile phone, before jumping into the water to try to escape the bullets. “We are 20 people hiding at the water’s edge,” she wrote. “We are talking quietly so as not to be heard.”

Tarald Mjelde

Tarald Mjelde, 18, missing

Tarald Mjelde was Tore Eikeland’s deputy and another emerging talent in Norwegian liberal politics.

Fellow youth activist Erik Dale said: “All the people who wish they had your energy. Your eagerness. If you hadn’t been such a great little politician, I am sure you could have been an athlete.”

Mjelde was vice-chairman of the Norwegian Youth Labour Party in Hordaland and Nordhordland.

He has been described by a friend as “the little boy with an enthusiasm that infects everyone around you.”

Sondre Dale

Sondre Dale, 17, dead

Dale had been chairman of Haugaland AUF since he was just 11. His blog posts show a hunger for political change, as well as a love of rock music and Norwegian football.

The teenager wrote: “My political interests are education, culture and inclusion.

“Otherwise, I play guitar and bass in two bands and the breadth of culture is a matter that is incredibly important to me.”

Utoya gathering ‘like a festival’

A party as much as a rally, the Utoya camp had become a key date in the political calendar with future leaders using the gathering to meet allies and to hone their skills in debating, delivering speeches and policy-making.

Norway’s Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg described how Utoya had been his “childhood paradise” that had been “transformed into hell” by gunman Anders Behring Breivik.

On the night before the shootings, Norwegian electro band Datarock played a gig to hundreds of fans at the AUF meeting, telling the crowd “Together, Datarock and AUF save the world”.

Datarock perform at the AUF camp on Utoya. (AUF)

(Pictured: Datarock perform at the AUF camp on Utoya. Courtesy: AUF)

Singer Fredrik Saroea told Channel 4 News the crowd was “having fun, singing along, dancing and jumping on stage”.

He explained that he and his bandmates had spent time on the island that day, but left late on Friday.

“Some of us were hanging out at Utoya all afternoon. Some were talking with the kids for hours after the show. The atmosphere was close to any standard festival camp.

These were just innocent, defenceless kids spending summer socialising, getting new friends and camping out with their buddies. Fredrik Saroea, singer, Datarock

“We’re talking hundreds of kids from 14 and up, from Norway and abroad, camping out at a tiny island to talk about how they could help make the world a better place.

“It was a political camp, alright, but more than anything these were just innocent, defenceless kids spending summer socialising, getting new friends and camping out with their buddies.”

Datarock will play a free memorial festival at Landmark in Bergen “in memory of the ones who passed away” on Friday 29 July.