Human Rights in Africa (I)

ADDIS ABABA/BERLIN | | aethiopien

ADDIS ABABA/BERLIN (Own report) - The German government is increasing its financial support for Ethiopia by 40 Percent despite strong accusations raised against that country by human rights organizations. This was announced by the foreign ministry in Addis Ababa following last week's negotiations between the governments of Germany and Ethiopia. The German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development will allocate 96 million Euros over the next three years - one of the ministry's largest development budget subventions. For years the Ethiopian government has been heavily criticized for committing crimes against humanity. After coming to power in 2005 through electoral fraud, the government ordered the shooting of hundreds of demonstrators. It is still being accused of torture and summary executions. Numerous opponents and independent journalists were forced to flee the country. Recent reports have accused the Ethiopian army of kidnappings and the murder of civilians in the East of the country. The development budget increase corresponds to Ethiopia's geo-strategic significance, which the German ambassador to Addis Ababa particularly stressed in a strategy paper. As a western ally, the Ethiopian army is also involved in the war in Somalia. Ethiopian soldiers are being trained in Germany.

40 Percent Increase

As the foreign ministry in Addis Ababa announced, the German-Ethiopian government negotiations ended last week with a new agreement on German development subventions. The German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) pledges 96 million Euros covering the next three years - one of the largest subventions granted by the ministry. Ethiopia is one of BMZ's "Priority Partner Countries". In government negotiations in March 2005, Ethiopia opened its doors to hundreds of German specialists, who have been working since, under the guidance of the BMZ and its front organizations, in key positions in the Ethiopian economy and administration, assuring Berlin substantial influence.[1] Already in 2005, Berlin pledged 80 million Euros for the following 3 year period. Only 69 million were actually paid because the European Union had imposed financial limitations because of Ethiopia being accused of crimes against humanity.[2] The subventions pledged last week amount to an increase of 40 Percent.[3]


Human rights organizations' strong accusations have overshadowed the intensification of German-Ethiopian cooperation since it began in 2005. The accusations commenced already two months after the government negotiations were ended in May 2005, when the government was only able to survive parliamentary elections by committing massive electoral fraud. The ensuing protests were suppressed with brutal force. By the end of that year, the number of demonstrators killed by Ethiopian repressive forces had been estimated at around 100 - obviously an error. An Ethiopian parliamentarian committee of inquiry discovered that 193 people were killed and 765 wounded. But in the final report, submitted in November 2006, the committee claimed it could not find evidence of the use of excessive force by the repressive authorities. This is not surprising. After having refused to sign this report in the presence of Ethiopian President Meles Zenawi, both chairmen of the committee, fearing for their lives, fled the country.[4]

Departures and Arrivals

Whereas a growing number of opponents and independent journalists are fleeing the country,[5] more and more German specialists are arriving in Addis Ababa on behalf of German development organizations. Since 2005, Ethiopia is given - by far - the highest priority job offers on the list of the Association for Technical Cooperation ("Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit," GTZ) and of the Center for International Migration and Development ("Centrum für Internationale Migration und Entwicklung", CIM). Both organizations are implementing the government accords of 2005 and are holding several hundred key positions in this East African country's economy and administration. Berlin is ignoring the human rights organizations' protests against politically motivated arrests, torture, maltreatment and summary executions at the hands of Ethiopian repressive forces. In the fall of 2005 the state financed Institute of African Affairs (IAA) in Hamburg renounced its report critical of Addis Ababa.[6] The German government is granting nearly uncontested support to the Ethiopian regime.

Cannot Be Negotiated

A complaint of the CDU/CSU caucus of the German Bundestag in March 2008 has been until now somewhat of an exception. But the complaint is not of torture, previously alleged by Amnesty International, but of the jamming of state financed Deutsche Welle and Voice of America radio stations. "The right to free speech and information is a non-negotiable fundamental right," affirmed the speaker for cultural and media policy of the CDU/CSU caucus in the German Bundestag regarding the intolerable jamming of radio programs in the service of western foreign policy.[7]

Mutual Alliance

While ignoring the issue of human rights, the German Ethiopia policy is carefully safeguarding its foreign policy interests based upon Ethiopia's strategic importance, which has been documented in detail in an October 2006 report by Claus Dieter Knoop, the German Ambassador in Addis Ababa ( reported [8]). According to the report, this East African nation is playing a "strategic role" for the precarious water supply in North East Africa: Four-fifths of the Nile's water originates from sources in Ethiopian. Given the fact that Ethiopia has a substantial number of Christians, it is also placed in the role of a front line state vis-à-vis the Arab peninsula. But it is the protection of the maritime commercial routes off the East-African coast that is of "special German interest", according to Knoop. This immense importance is underlined by the deployment of the German navy off the Horn of Africa.[9] For a year and a half, Ethiopian troops have been trying to help a pro-western "government" in Mogadishu to take control over the coastal nation of Somalia, showing that Addis Ababa seeks not only regional hegemony for itself but is also willing to serve western interests. The alliance between Ethiopia and the West - including the USA - is a sustainable mutual alliance.

Conspiracy of Silence

The fact that human rights organizations have been strongly criticizing the Ethiopian army's warfare for months seems to be of little importance. Already last fall, Human Rights Watch declared that "by widely and indiscriminately bombarding highly populated areas of Mogadishu with rockets, mortars and artillery" Ethiopian troops were violating international law and have been "deliberately shooting and summarily executing civilians."[10] Human Rights Watch recently published a new report that is strongly criticizing the Ethiopian army's activities in the eastern part of the country. In its battle against rebels in that region, Ethiopian troops have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity, subjected civilians to torture and executed at least 150 of them, the organization writes. The West is guilty of a "conspiracy of silence around these crimes."[11]

Threatening to Ban

It is not yet clear how long human rights organizations can continue their research in Ethiopia therefore breaking this silence. President Meles is preparing a law aimed at heavily restricting NGO activities with a threat of being banned. If the law is passed after the parliamentary summer recess, "the activities of aid organizations would be restricted if not made impossible," a speaker of Caritas International said in a discussion with This would also apply to human rights organizations. In the course of the recently concluded negotiations, the German government objected to this projected law but still pledged new subventions - a clear sign to Meles that Berlin will not seriously resist.

Arms Exports

Despite Ethiopian war crimes, Germany will not only continue furnishing financial development subventions, but also maintain the training program for the Ethiopian military, which began in 2002. The most recent example is the participation of an Ethiopian staff officer in the current "Training course for general/admiral grade staff with international participation" (LGAI) at the Bundeswehr's Leadership Academy in Hamburg. According to the most recent arms export report, not only small arms but even, for the first time, communication equipment is being exported - with official approval - to Ethiopia, despite the war the Ethiopian army is waging not only in Somalia but against rebels at home. It is not yet known whether there is direct contact between the Ethiopian invading army in Somalia and the German war ships cruising off the Somali coast. In any case, both serve the Western maritime hegemony off the East African coast.

Please read also on Germany and Ethiopia: Key positions, Indispensable Rights, Governance Aspects, Interests of the Superpowers, Adequate Persistence, Stabilizing Factor and Military Aid for Africa (I).

[1] see also Key positions and Berater
[2] Vorrang für Menschenrecht und Meinungsfreiheit in Äthiopien; Pressemitteilung der CDU/CSU-Bundestagsfraktion 17.03.2008
[3] Germany pledges 96 million euro to Ethiopia; Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia 18.06.2008
[4] amnesty international Deutschland: Jahresbericht 2007. Äthiopien. amnesty schreibt über die Proteste: "Die meisten Opfer waren von Kugeln der Armee oder der Polizei getroffen worden. In einigen Fällen hatte man ihnen in den Rücken geschossen, als sie zu fliehen versuchten, andere waren offenbar von Heckenschützen ins Visier genommen worden. Mindestens 17 Insassen des Kaliti-Gefängnisses, überwiegend wegen gewöhnlicher Straftaten einsitzende Untersuchungshäftlinge, aber auch einige politische Gefangene, waren im Zuge der Ereignisse wegen mutmaßlicher Unterstützung der Demonstranten oder wegen Fluchtversuchs in ihren Zellen erschossen worden."
[5] Dies dokumentieren ausführlich die Jahresberichte von Amnesty International und Human Rights Watch sowie viele Berichte weiterer Menschenrechtsorganisationen.
[6] see also Indispensable Rights
[7] Vorrang für Menschenrecht und Meinungsfreiheit in Äthiopien; Pressemitteilung der CDU/CSU-Bundestagsfraktion 17.03.2008
[8] see also Sonderbericht
[9] see also Deutsche Marine steht vor Kommando im Indischen Ozean, Ölversorgung, Sonderbericht and Seemacht (I)
[10] Somalia: Kriegsverbrechen in Mogadischu; Human Rights Watch 13.08.2007. See also Stabilizing Factor
[11] Ethiopia: Army Commits Executions, Torture, and Rape in Ogaden; Pressemitteilung von Human Rights Watch 12.06.2008