Aiding Dictators

BERLIN/ADDIS ABABA | | aethiopien

BERLIN/ADDIS ABABA (Own report) - The German Bundeswehr is expanding its support for Ethiopia's armed forces, despite persistent accusations that they committed serious war crimes. As was confirmed by the parliamentary state secretary in the German Defense Ministry, Thomas Kossendey, Berlin is offering Addis Ababa a bilateral military cooperation program for 2011, which includes the training of army and air force officers. A so-called organization for development aid is also involved. Berlin has been supporting the Ethiopian regime for years, because it has made itself useful as the West's East African proxy. Over the past few years, Ethiopia, in coordination with Washington and Berlin, dispatched its troops to Somalia to overthrow forces displeasing to the West and committed grave war crimes, according to reports from human rights organizations. These organizations are also accusing the Ethiopian army of ignoring the rules of warfare in their repression of Ethiopia's domestic rebellions. In his talk with german-foreign-policy.com, Dr. Berhanu Nega, who opposes the regime in his country, raised grave accusations against Germany's policy toward Ethiopia. Dr. Berhanu considers the hope that the West would be helpful in Ethiopia's democratization process is doomed from the outset.

Regional Power

German is supporting the Ethiopian military primarily because of the country's high geostrategic importance. Ethiopia is not only considered a regional power at the Horn of Africa, enjoying particular attention from the West because of its proximity to important maritime trade routes (Gulf of Aden, Red Sea) and to the Arabic Peninsula. It is also one of those African nations, which are seeking, with a relatively well equipped army, continental prominence. It is not by accident that the African Union (AU) has its headquarters in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, which, not least of all, because of its Christian tradition, is seen as a point of departure in the midst of a traditionally Islamic environment. Ethiopia has proven itself to be a reliable proxy for Western interests. This is why Berlin, over the years, has been supporting the regime in Addis Ababa with extensive development aid and political cooperation. Also for years there have been hefty protests against Germany's Ethiopia policy. Critics accuse the Ethiopian armed forces of grave war crimes and the government in Addis Ababa of electoral fraud, brutal repression and massacres of members of the opposition in the country. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[1])

Support for the Military

Since 2002, Berlin has supplemented its political cooperation with Addis Ababa with support for its military. Soon after conclusion of the Ethiopian-Eritrean War (1998 - 2000), the German Bundeswehr initiated training for Ethiopian troops. In 2002, ten Ethiopian military personnel came to Germany to be trained by the Bundeswehr. The cooperation in training military personnel has continued - creating enhanced conditions for Ethiopia's invasion of Somalia in late 2006 and the overthrow of the government in Mogadishu disliked by the West. The war crimes committed in the process by Ethiopia's military provoked hefty protests from human rights organizations. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[2]) These protests did not deter Berlin from its continued support of the Ethiopian military. So far the Bundeswehr has trained a total 116 Ethiopian military personnel. In 2008, the German military even included, for the first time, an Ethiopian officer in the ten-month "General/Admiral Staff Duty Training Course with International Participation" (LGAI) held at the Bundeswehr's Leadership Academy in Hamburg.

150 Civilians Executed

As the Parliamentary State Secretary in the German Defense Ministry, Thomas Kossendey announced, the Bundeswehr will expand its cooperation with the Ethiopian armed forces - in spite of the fact that, once again, accusations of massive human rights violations have been raised, this time during the repression of domestic rebellions. Already in 2008, the Ethiopian army had been accused of having committed serious crimes in Eastern Somalia, where a rebel movement demanding autonomy or secession of that region of Somalia had been active. Since 2007, Addis Ababa has been cracking down on these militias with increasing brutality. As reported in 2008, by Human Rights Watch (HRW), the Ethiopian government not only had imposed an illegal economic embargo and stopped aid supplies, which also greatly affected the civilian population, but the Ethiopian military had also engaged in forced recruitment, imprisoning of civilians in prison camps and torture. According to HRW, in 2007 alone, at least 150 civilians were executed by the Ethiopian military.[3] New reports of Ethiopian war crimes were recently made public.

Officer Training

Berlin's reaction to these reports, according to State Secretary Kossendey: For 2011, Ethiopia will, for the first time, be offered a "bilateral cooperation program" comprised of "nine individual measures" covering several "blocks of subjects". These include not only health service, but the training of Ethiopian military personnel for interventions within UN missions, as well as the "transformation of the armed forces" and especially the training of Ethiopian army and air force officers. In addition, according to Kossendey, a Bundeswehr group of advisors will be sent to Ethiopia. The advisors will, by the end of 2010, support, "under the direction of the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs", the "transformation of the Military Training Center at Holeta from a civilian-military professional training facility" into a supposedly "primarily" civilian oriented facility. The military project will be carried out "in cooperation with the German Association for Technical Cooperation (GTZ), the largest of the German so-called development aid organizations.[4] All things considered, with these measures, the German government is enhancing the capabilities and leeway of the heavily incriminated Ethiopian military for future wars and projects for combating domestic upheavals.

No Force Fostering Democracy

For years, German support of the Ethiopian regime - also beyond military aid - has been provoking hefty protests. With extensive "development aid" and other means, Berlin has been supporting the regime in Addis Ababa, which has been willing to serve German East African interests. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[5]) Both human rights organizations and members of the Ethiopian opposition, forced through brutal repression into exile, have been protesting heavily against this collaboration - to no avail. Dr. Berhanu Nega is among them. He was elected mayor of the Ethiopian capital with an overwhelming majority in 2005, but was arrested by the government, along with numerous other opposition politicians. He lives today in exile - he has been condemned to death in Addis Ababa for his activities in the opposition. In his talk with german-foreign-policy.com, he describes, as an example, how the West has dropped the democratic points of departure in Ethiopia, even suppressed them, so as not to jeopardize its thriving cooperation with that dictatorial regime. According to Berhanu, there is no hope "that the West will be a force fostering democracy in Ethiopia." This opponent of the regime is demanding that the West end its support for the dictatorship: "Give us at least the chance to solve our own problems!"[6]

Please read also our Interview with Dr. Berhanu Nega.

[1] see also Human Rights in Africa (I) and Complicity
[2] see also Stabilizing Factor
[3] Human Rights Watch: Collective Punishment. War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity in the Ogaden Area of Ethiopia's Somali Regional State, Juni 2008
[4] Antwort des Parlamentarischen Staatssekretärs beim Bundesminister der Verteidigung, Thomas Kossendey, vom 22.09.2010 auf die Frage 9/162 des Bundestagsabgeordneten Christoph Strässer vom 15.09.2010
[5] see also Sonderbericht and Machtpolitisch ohne Alternative
[6] see also Inherent Racist