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Birgitta Karlström Dorph


Dec 16, 2021

Birgitta Karlström Dorph (born 5 June 1939) is a Swedish diplomat. She is mostly known for her clandestine work in channeling funds from the Swedish government to the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa during the 1980s.

Birgitta Karlström Dorph
Märta Birgitta Karlström Dorph

(1939-06-05) June 5, 1939 (age 82)[1]

Karlstad, Sweden
Nationality Swedish
Alma mater Stockholm School of Economics
Occupation Diplomat
Children 5

. . . Birgitta Karlström Dorph . . .

Märta Birgitta Karlström Dorph grew up in Karlstad[2] where she went to the Tingvallagymnasiet. After graduating she studied in the United States, attended the Stockholm School of Economics and worked in France. She finally entered an education at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs where she remained and worked as a diplomat for 44 years.[3]

During twenty of Karlström Dorph’s years within the diplomatic corps she worked in Africa where she was stationed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and Gaborone, Botswana, among other places. In 1982–88, she worked in Pretoria, South Africa.[3]

While stationed as second in command at the Swedish legation[lower-alpha 1] in Pretoria and working as a diplomat,[5] she also had a secret mission. Her job was to get in contact with the leaders of the then prohibited anti-apartheid movement in South Africa and Namibia,[4] and find ways to transfer money from Sweden to support their cause.[3] The operation was initiated by Olof Palme and the Swedish government. These arrangements were clandestine and were not discussed in public in the Riksdag. A total sum of about SEK 1.6 billion ($200 million)[5] were transferred to the African National Congress and other organizations.[3] Karlström Dorph established a contact net of recipients and ways to transfer the money. Information about the transfers were sent as encryptedtelegrams, by couriers or as hidden messages in gifts.[5] The money came mainly from the humanitarian government agencySwedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) but could not be channeled directly since officially, Sweden was not giving any aid to South Africa.[4]

A significant part of the money was used for legal help in defending black persons accused of breaking any of the apartheid laws that were in effect at the time. This help led to a number of people escaping the death penalty, or had their jail sentences drastically reduced. Money also went to churches, newspapers, unions and women’s organizations and the United Democratic Front.[5]

“I used my ears, my eyes, all my senses, and my heart.” (about knowing who to trust during her secret mission)

Birgitta Karlström Dorph[6]

. . . Birgitta Karlström Dorph . . .

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. . . Birgitta Karlström Dorph . . .