Beneficiary of Repression


CAIRO/NOUAKCHOTT/TRIPOLI/BERLIN (Own report) - The Egyptian population's revolt against the government of President Mubarak is continuing. Along with the other western powers, who had financed this dictatorship for decades, Berlin is seeking to have people forget its support for the authoritarian elites ranging from Egypt, Libya and extending even to Mauritania and is now appealing for respect of democratic rights. A large proportion of the technical means of repression, as they had already been used in Tunisia, were furnished by the Federal Republic of Germany. German arms exports to Egypt and other North African countries has steadily increased reaching a total volume of 175 million Euros in 2009, including the delivery of submachine guns to Egypt. The Egyptian secret service, notorious for its unbridled brutality, benefits from the close cooperation with its German counterparts. In at least one case, a prisoner held by the CIA was flown from a German airport to Cairo, to be tortured into "confessions" that in settings under rule of law could not have been obtained. German financing of repression seeks to also stem the growing movement of the poverty-stricken to prevent them from reaching the borders of the EU, while German companies are benefiting from the low wage workforce of Egypt, Tunisia or Morocco.

Very Worried

Ever since the overthrow of the Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali regime in Tunisia, Berlin has been trying to make the world forget that it has systematically supported the authoritarian North African regimes. "Civil rights" must also be respected in Egypt,[1] says the German foreign minister. He is "very worried" and insists imperatively that there "be no violence."[2] Other high-ranking German politicians, as well as officials in the Foreign Ministry, have expressed themselves identically and sought to publicly awaken the impression that they have nothing to do with the teetering regimes, when in fact - just as in the case of Tunisia - the contrary is true. Berlin has been working closely for years, in one way or another with North African dictatorships.

Consolidated Leadership Role

The foreign minister's demand that civil rights must now also be respected in Egypt, is in direct contradiction to Berlin's previous policy, which had always been aware of and accepted the dictatorial character of the regime. The reactions to the recent Egyptian elections are exemplary. Before the elections were held, the CDU-affiliated Konrad Adenauer Foundation considered the results to be already known: "a distinct weakening of the parliamentary presence of the Muslim Brotherhood can be anticipated." This weakening was achieved "on the one hand, through manipulation, intimidation and electoral fraud," and on the other through the "deliberate (...) reinforcement of the quarreling opposition."[3] This "balanced opposition" of course would "neither alter nor challenge the balance of power in Egypt, but rather further consolidate the leadership role of the governing party." From Berlin no objections have been heard to the Egyptian government's long established procedures, particularly used to repress the recalcitrant Muslim Brotherhood. Not until the Tunisian government, hard pressed by demonstrations, began to falter and Cairo came under heavy pressure, did the German government find it necessary to readjust its public standpoint on a possible change of power in several North African countries.


Berlin is also not seriously criticizing the Mauritanian government. Recently a Mauritanian committed self-immolation in protest of corruption and social grievances. In his internet message, he explicitly demanded that several anti-slavery militants be released from prison.[4] Experts estimate that slaves comprise 20% of the Mauritanian population. Unlike his predecessor, the current president, who came to power in a putsch in 2008, is not a decisive opponent of slavery. Major German companies, such as BASF and RWE prospecting for oil in Mauritania, are not the only ones cooperating with that government. The German government also has relations with the Nouakchott government, to thwart boats of migrants from setting out for the Canary Islands. According to a new accord between Germany and Mauritania, Germany will also be "engaged" in the Mauritanian deep sea fishing industry.[5] EU fishing fleets are catching so many fish off the coast of Mauritania, that the natural fish reserves are threatened with depletion. A few years ago, the German development policy began to take steps to prevent this depletion, which would also signify the end of a very lucrative fishing ground for EU countries. The new development accords with the Mauritanian government were signed January 25 - just a few days after the man committed self-immolation in protest against corruption and the lax government policies against slavery.

Migration Defense

That Berlin and Brussels, as a rule, enjoy good cooperation with the authoritarian regimes of North Africa can be seen with the example of Libya. That country is also notorious for its brutal repression of migrants and refugees, either being held in desert internment camps or vegetating in illegality within its cities. German government cooperation with Tripoli has been as close as that with the recently overthrown government in Tunis, according to the German business press. Since 2008, the EU has been engaged in discussions with Tripoli over a "basic framework agreement," which is supposed "to settle questions of political relations, as well as questions of energy and commerce." But the main question is that of "defending Europe from migration." Once the long-planned deportation agreement takes effect, "undesirable migrants from all over Africa will be able to be deported back to Libya in the future."[6] Particularly because of Libya's ignorance of human rights of refugees, this provides a perspective that makes cooperation with the Libyan government seem as useful and advisable as the profitable cooperation with the low-wage regime of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia.[7]

Arms Exports

The North African regimes are being opulently rewarded for their willingness to cooperate in questions of repression and economic plunder - with arms exports "Made in Germany". Not only instruments, such as speed boats and night vision instruments, used to ward off migrants are being supplied, but also the usual combat equipment. German arms exports to Egypt swelled from 16 million Euros in 2006 to 77.5 million Euros in 2009; to Morocco from 10 million Euros in 2007 to more than 37 million Euros in 2009. The export of goods requiring official authorization to Algeria fluctuates around the 9 million Euro mark, while Libya having imported 24 million Euros worth of goods in 2007, took in more than 53 million Euros worth last year. German exports to Egypt are comprised mainly of communications equipment for the Egyptian military and spare parts for tanks and armored vehicles. The Egyptian police are equipped with German Heckler and Koch produced MP5 model submachine guns. In 2009 alone, Germany furnished Egypt with nearly 900 submachine guns and spare parts worth more than 800.000 Euros. These weapons are being used also in the current suppression of the protests.

[1] Aufruf zu Gewaltverzicht und Demokratie in Ägypten; 27.01.2011
[2] Westerwelle fürchtet Eskalation; 26.01.2011
[3] Länderbericht: Parlamentswahlen in Ägypten; Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, Auslandsbüro Ägypten, 24.11.2010
[4] Bouazizi's Self-Immolation Spreads to Mauritania; 19.01.2011
[5] Germany, Mauritania sign financial accord; 25.01.2011
[6] Warum Brüssel Despoten hofiert; 24.01.2010
[7] see also Ein ausgezeichneter Partner