Stabilizing Factor

ADDIS ABABA/BERLIN | | aethiopiensomalia

ADDIS ABABA/BERLIN (Own report) - The German government's reaction to serious war crimes committed by the Ethiopian Army is to intensify its collaboration with the Ethiopian government. On October 4, the German chancellor had extensive talks in Addis Ababa, also initiating new business deals for German enterprises. Government circles in Berlin consider Ethiopia as a "regional stabilizing force" in Eastern Africa and the two countries have been closely co-operating since 2005. The Ethiopian army is heavily criticized for its war conduct in Somalia, which it invaded at the end of 2006. Ethiopian troops are not only accused of attacking hospitals and executing civilians. They are also accused of using the occupation of their neighboring state to hunt down Ethiopian opponents, who fled to Somalia. From Ethiopia Angela Merkel continued her trip to South Africa (Oct. 5) and to Liberia (Oct. 6). This Africa trip is to reaffirm German claims to military control of the continent and a privileged share of its resources.

German Interests

This four day trip is embedded in the wide-ranging German engagement in Africa, directed particularly in opposition to Beijing's growing influence.[1] At Berlin's initiative, Africa policy was placed on the G8 summit meeting agenda in Heiligendamm, last summer. Together with the Portuguese EU Counsel Presidency, Berlin is preparing the next EU-Africa-Summit - for the first time again since years - scheduled for the beginning of December. Last May, Chancellor Merkel held extensive talks with enterprises interested in business in Africa. The German economic minister is planning a G8 investor conference, for the end of the year, that will also focus on Africa. "German interests in Africa" is the topic of a conference to be held October 10, in the German capital. The conference, organized by the German-African Business Association, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation (CDU) and the Deutsche Welle international German radio station, is oriented toward "political, business and the medial decision makers."[2] As the former managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Germany's President, Horst Koehler, is familiar with Africa and has declared the African continent, which he has visited on several occasions, one of his presidential priorities.[3]

Natural Resources, Military

During her visit to Addis Ababa last Thursday, Chancellor Merkel announced that the German Africa policy will soon be supported by an EU Africa strategy. The strategy, drafted during the German EU Counsel presidency, is scheduled for adoption at the EU summit in December. Besides avowals to development policy, it focuses on the struggle for resources ("energy policy") and military projects ("war on terrorism"). "Today we have the opportunity to reshape the cooperation between the EU and Africa" - "far beyond classical development aid", declared Merkel yesterday.[4] She emphasized, that more than half of the so-called development funds for Africa originate from the European state budgets, a clear hint at Africa's financial dependence on Europe. This continuing dependence is creating commitments, even though several African governments have recently received billions in credits from Beijing.


Berlin and Brussels' close cooperation with the African Union (AU) is also targeting the People's Republic of China ( reported [5]). According to government circles, this cooperation will be expanded. The objective of this cooperation is the use of local soldiers to control African wars. Darfur and Somalia currently serve as models. African troops are already stationed in Darfur, limiting the margin of maneuver of the Khartoum government, which has close economic relations with China. Yesterday, Chancellor Merkel summoned incumbent AU chairman, Ghana's President, John Kufuor, to come to in Addis Ababa, where the AU has its headquarters, for talks on military policy. John Kufuor is presently trying to raise enough troops for deployment in Darfur. Berlin, using its influence in the AU, wants to maintain its control over this deployment. Ethiopia just promised to send 5,000 soldiers to Darfur.


This is reinforcing Addis Ababa's already strong military position in the East African war zones. Ethiopia, that only a few years ago, had been engaged in a border war with Eritrea, and whose relations with Asmara are still strained, is considered by government circles in Berlin to be a "regional stabilizing force". In fact, the Ethiopian government is attempting to enhance its position by sending troops into Somalia at the end of last year. This intervention was to bring the "Transitional Federal Government" - formed in exile and dependant upon Addis Ababa - to power in Mogadishu. The US-Army supported this intervention and Berlin has also recognized the "Transitional Government". Today experts see this government a failure.[6] The Ethiopian troops are coming under strong criticism since the beginning of the year. They are accused of having violated international law, "by massive and arbitrary shelling with rockets, mortar and artillery of densely populated urban areas of Mogadishu" and "deliberately shooting down civilians".[7] They also used the invasion to hunt down Ethiopian opponents living in exile in Somalia. According to reports, numerous refugees in Somalia were imprisoned and lynched by Ethiopian troops.[8]

Key Positions

Already for several years, accusations have been raised against Ethiopian security forces. Two years ago, several hundred protesters were killed, while demonstrating against the obviously fraudulent elections in Addis Ababa. The opposition has since been exposed to massive repression.[9] In spite of this, the German government has been relentlessly pursuing its offensive, begun in 2005, to attain influence in Ethiopia. For the past two years, German development agencies have been placing German personnel in "key positions" in Ethiopia's "industry and administration".[10] Prime Minister Meles Zenawi regularly attends German government meetings discussing Africa.[11] Zenawi, heavily criticized for the murder of opponents and war crimes in Somalia, attended the G8 Summit in Heiligendamm. On Oct. 4, Angela Merkel met him again.

"Very, Very Good"

"The relations between Germany and Ethiopia (...) are very, very good", the Chancellor said following the meeting with Zenawi, "and our visit will contribute to intensifying them".[12] As a next step, Berlin is planning to strengthen the German Ethiopian economic relations. At present, they are relatively insignificant and German businesses are threatened to loose ground to their Chinese rivals. Angela Merkel was present as the German Commerzbank opened a representative office in Addis Ababa yesterday. Even though the local financial market is still closed to foreign banks, German government circles consider it very important, to have "a foot in the door" in this East African country, the "regional stabilizing force". The Commerzbank is to also support German business deals in Ethiopia. This credit institution also has "ample experience (...) in the financing of the medium-sized enterprises", the Chancellor declared [13] and announced government guarantees for exports into belligerent Ethiopia. In return, she is demanding "openness" also in reference to infrastructure projects. "We have specialists in the water and sewage branch with us", Angela Merkel said, pointing to the business delegation in her entourage. Dieter Ernst, chairman of board of the "Berlinwasser International" was on hand in Addis Ababa. That company is making profits in numerous countries around the globe, but not yet in Ethiopia.

[1] see also Advisor in Angola, Aufmerksam verfolgen, Handfeste Interessen and Auf gleicher Augenhöhe
[2] Deutsche Interessen für Afrika, Berlin;
[3] see also Glücksfall, Mr. Horst Koehler, Managing Director, In direkter Konkurrenz and Big Push
[4] Merkel vor der Afrikanischen Union: "Afrika ist in Bewegung"; Presse- und Informationsamt der Bundesregierung 04.10.2007
[5] see also Vor unserer Haustür, Leere Versprechen and Big Push
[6] Somalia's President Yusuf Loses His Grip on Power; Power and Interest News Report 03.10.2007. See also Interests of the Superpowers and Adequate Persistence
[7] Somalia: Kriegsverbrechen in Mogadischu; Human Rights Watch 13.08.2007
[8] Oromo refugees in Somalia made an impassioned plea for help; American Chronicle 17.01.2007
[9] see also Berater, Unveräußerliche Rechte and Governance Aspects
[10] see also Key positions
[11] see also Unveräußerliche Rechte
[12] Pressekonferenz Bundeskanzlerin Merkel und Premierminister Zenawi, Addis Abeba, 4. Oktober 2007
[13] Rede von Bundeskanzlerin Merkel bei einer Wirtschaftskonferenz in Addis Abeba, 4. Oktober 2007