Farewell dear fellow combatant, Tor Sellström!

A Swedish fellow combatant for the liberation of the people of Southern Africa, including ourselves, Tor Sellström, has passed away after a long illness. In many respects Tor personified the outstanding and principled dedication of the people of Sweden to stand with the peoples of Africa and our liberation movements to end the blight of colonial rule and the apartheid crime against humanity. A few weeks before he passed away, Tor wrote to our Patron and said:

“As a therapy during repeated visits to the hospital here in Uppsala, I have with my grand-children in mind written my memoirs. The text is in Swedish, which sometimes is unfortunate as I recall special moments with you and other comrades in Southern Africa. 

“One such moment came to me with extraordinary force as I watched the news this morning. It was when after the (Olof) Palme assassination you came to visit me at my house, known as Mpandlane’s Retreat, in Harare one afternoon. You wanted to double-check some information on Palme’s life and Sweden’s foreign policy. We were sitting at the pool, and we did not break up until long after the setting of the sun, having discussed fundamental concepts, such as the right to self-determination, non-alignment, active neutrality etc. For me, it was a magic night, a night which confirmed my identity in the world.”

Our Patron, the Board and our entire Foundation say a fond but very sad final farewell to our Swedish fellow combatant for liberation, the inestimable Tor Sellström. We convey our humble condolences to his dear wife Angela, his son Eric, the rest of the Sellström family, as well as the great Swedish people who stood with us until we won our freedom, and continue to be by our side as we grapple with the challenges of the day.

May the gentle giant, Tor Sellström, rest in eternal peace.

None among us will ever remove him from our memories.

As part of our Special Salute to Tor, we are honoured to publish below excerpts from a heartfelt tribute by his dear wife, Angela Muvumba Sellström, which is also his biography.

A Farewell by Angela Muvumba Sellström:

It is so that my beloved husband, Tor Sellström, died in the early afternoon of 27 August 2022 in Uppsala after a long illness.

Tor was born on 17 November 1946 in Västerås, Sweden. Tor studied at the University of Stockholm, Sweden, the University of Barcelona, Spain, and the Institute of Political Science in Paris, France. As a result, he was fluent in Swedish, French, Spanish, and English.

In the late summer of 1973, Tor travelled to Chile and was arrested by the military just before the coup (on suspicion of support to the Revolutionary Left Movement and small farmers and the Mapuchi population). His field notes and research on development and agrarian reform were confiscated, and Tor had to flee the country.

He then put aside his studies to carry out solidarity work with the people of Chile, both in Sweden and Latin America. He married the late Lilian Indseth and became stepfather to her son Yan. He and Lilian also had a son together, Erik Sellström, born in 1977.

That same year, Tor began a lifelong commitment to Africa, national liberation, and peace and development. In Angola (1977-79), Tor was responsible for the relations and assistance to the South West African People’s Organization (SWAPO) of Namibia at the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Later from Zambia (1979-82), Mozambique/Swaziland (1982-83) and Zimbabwe (1986-90), he was a Planning Economist with the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).

He coordinated official Swedish support to the Patriotic Front (ZANU/ZAPU) of Zimbabwe, SWAPO and to the African National Congress (ANC) of South Africa. After Namibian independence, Tor was Senior Researcher and Deputy Director at the Namibian Economic Policy Research Unit (NEPRU) from 1991-1994.

Tor joined the Nordic Africa Institute (NAI) in Uppsala, Sweden, and until June 2001, coordinated its research and documentation project on National Liberation in Southern Africa: The Role of the Nordic Countries. He authored three volumes, Sweden and National Liberation in Southern Africa I and II and Liberation in Southern Africa – Regional and Swedish Voices. These books are still cited, used in teaching, and serve as a resource for countless scholars and experts of that era.

In 2002, he took up the position of Counsellor (Economist) for development cooperation at the Embassy of Sweden in Pretoria, South Africa. Seconded by Sida, in 2006, Tor joined the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD) in Durban, South Africa, as a Senior Advisor. We worked together there between 2008 and 2010.

Tor published other books, including Chile: Massmobilisering och Folkmakt 1970-1973 (Mass mobilization and people power in Chile 1970-1973) and with Mvula ya Nangolo, Kassinga: A Story Untold. In 2015, he published the book ‘Africa in the Indian Ocean: Islands in Ebb and Flow’, based on a final research project at the Nordic Africa Institute.

In 2000, he was awarded the gold medal Illis Quorum by the Swedish government, and in 2002 the annual FUF Prize by the Swedish NGO Development Forum. In 2011, Tor was awarded an honorary doctorate at Uppsala University by the Faculty of Social Sciences on the proposal of the Department of Peace and Conflict Research.

Tor and I met at the end of 2006 and built together a beautiful life filled with work in peace and conflict, but also travel, friends, books, art, music, gardening, and watching sports. His boundless energy and his strength sustained us through many challenges and trials. Tor gave me a wonderful gift, the knowledge that change and action for good, however incremental, is better than cynical bystander-dom. Tor believed in doing things based on facts and knowledge.

He also championed young activists, principled leaders, women at the frontlines, artists and musicians, and hardworking everyday people, and was inspired by their ability to act on their principles. Tor’s humour, his capacity to make friends everywhere he went, and his commitment to living ‘until he died’ all enriched my life.

Tor had no fear of dying. He was ready. He was courageous, without bitterness. He harboured only gratitude for the life he had lived and the experiences he shared with so many fine people.

He died at our home in Uppsala.

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