“Neighbors at heart”

On visit to Ethiopia, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock sought to strengthen Germany’s waning influence in that country and drive a wedge between Addis Ababa and Moscow.

BERLIN/ADDIS ABEBA (Own report) – The German government is renewing its attempt to consolidate its waning influence on the African continent. Together with her French counterpart, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock visited Ethiopia at the end of last week to pursue a rapprochement with that country. In alliance with other Western states, Berlin had openly opposed Addis Ababa during the war in northern Ethiopia and – following the conclusion of a peace agreement brokered by the African Union – is trying to restore its standing in Ethiopia's capital. Baerbock now declares Ethiopia “a neighbor at heart” that Germany considers “a friend, not a sales market.” These ludicrous statements are accompanied by the attempt to drive a wedge between Ethiopia and Russia, using a Ukrainian grain donation. Addis Ababa has, for years, not only been cooperating closely with Beijing, but has also significantly intensified its relations with Moscow during the war.

Cooperation with Moscow

Russia has systematically enhanced its relationship with Ethiopia over the past few years. It had supported Addis Ababa in the war against the regional government in Tigray in the country's north, thus also opposing the West, which exerted massive pressure on Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's central government. Moscow prevented resolutions directed against Addis Ababa in the UN Security Council. On July 12, 2021, Russia and Ethiopia signed a military cooperation agreement.[1] On March 2, 2022, Ethiopia in turn abstained in the UN General Assembly vote on the Russian intervention in Ukraine. At a meeting in Ethiopia’s capital on July 27, 2022, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his Ethiopian counterpart Demeke Mekonnen agreed to continue strengthening their bilateral relations.[2] In early December 2022, both sides also agreed to increase their cooperation in the field of Ethiopia's digital technology and information network security.[3] Economic and energy cooperation between both countries will also be intensified – albeit still at a low level.[4]

Berlin on a Rapprochement Course

Berlin is trying to regain influence in Ethiopia. Already last year, when the peace agreement for the country's north was drafted and officially adopted, the German government was seeking a cautious rapprochement with Addis Ababa. Late last week, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock visited Ethiopia – together with her French counterpart Catherine Colonna, to project greater weight and demonstrate unity between the EU’s two major powers. Ethiopia does not belong to France's special sphere of influence in its former colonies („Françafrique”), where Paris continues to seek a dominant position. Prior to her visit, Baerbock had already announced – in view of the fact that Germany is increasingly lagging behind in the struggle for influence on the African continent – that it is “important for Europe to swiftly show a presence in Ethiopia and offer a close partnership” following the conclusion of the peace agreement.[5] Berlin is also using the judicial accountability for war crimes to exert pressure on Addis Ababa: accountability is “very important” Baerbock lectured her Ethiopian hosts.[6]

The consequences of Sanctions

The main instrument of Berlin’s political PR is currently Ethiopia’s grain shortage, caused by several factors: the first being drought; the second, the war in the north of the country that has just ended; and third, the war in Ukraine, respectively the western nations’ economic war against Russia. Ukrainian grain shipments to Africa, had been temporarily halted by a Russian blockade, while Russian grain deliveries have been prevented by Western sanctions until the Turkey-mediated UN initiative succeeded in restarting deliveries in July. Western sanctions continue to pose problems, particularly for deliveries of fertilizers to Africa, upon which next year’s harvest is dependent. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[7]) The complex correlations including the Russian sanctions’ impact on third countries are well known to Africa.

Grain as a Propaganda Instrument

However, Western states are attempting to shift the blame for the grain supply shortage on the African continent solely to Russia. During her visit to Ethiopia, Baerbock was repeating that allegation – also perhaps in an attempt to drive a wedge between Addis Ababa and Moscow. To increase the pressure, Baerbock had herself photographed standing in front a high pile of sacks of grain – part of a 25,000-ton grain delivery from Ukraine, made possible with German financing. The German foreign ministry noted the expenses at €14 million.[8] Germany’s foreign minister was quoted to have said that it is “remarkable” that “Ukraine, as the country under attack” is donating grain. One must “help,” so that “the people in Ethiopia do not also become victims of Russia’s war of aggression.”[9] In Berlin, the German-Ukrainian donation campaign is considered necessary because Russian companies have recently donated over a quarter of a million tons of fertilizer to African countries. The West now fears a bad image in comparison to Russia.[10]

The Sales Market as “Friend”

Baerbock and Colonna were also in Addis Ababa to attempt to establish closer cooperation with the African Union, which is headquartered in Addis Ababa. “Europe” wants “Africa as a friend, not as a sales market,” Baerbock was quoted to have said, in grotesque contradiction to Berlin’s actual Africa policy.[11] Following talks with Moussa Faki Mahamat, Commission Chair of the African Union, the minister declared: “We, as Europeans, need the support of our friends and partners around the world, in these times when our peaceful order in Europe is under attack by the Russian war of aggression.” “We are not only geographically neighbors, we are neighbors at heart, as well.” These ludicrous statements are aimed at strengthening Berlin’s influence within the African Union, at a time, when particularly in the west of the continent, resistance to the former colonial powers is gaining momentum and is forcing their military contingents to withdraw – already with success in Mali, in the next step, possibly in Burkina Faso. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[12])

“Africa’s Wisdom and Capability“

In Africa, and especially in Ethiopia, Germany is having to deal not only with the growing – albeit still overall moderate – influence of Russia, but also in particular with China’s long-standing considerable influence. Immediately prior to Baerbock, China’s new Foreign Minister Qin Gang had visited Addis Ababa – as his first stop on a nearly week-long visit to Africa, which was also his first foreign visit since taking office. Qin promised Ethiopia China’s support for upcoming reconstruction measures following the devastation of the war in the north of the country. In reference to the war, Qin, said China “believed in the wisdom and ability of the Ethiopian people to independently resolve internal differences.” Beijing supports “Africans in solving African problems in African ways.”[13] Qin’s statements stand in stark contrast to the customary German or western policy of interference.


[1] Ethiopia, Russia sign military cooperation agreement. military.africa 14.07.2021.

[2] Birhanu Abera: Ethiopia, Russia Agree to Strengthen Bilateral Relations. waltainfo.com 27.07.2022.

[3] News: Russia to increase cooperation with Ethiopia in info network security, digital skills. addisstandard.com 02.12.2022.

[4] Russia, Ethiopia to intensify cooperation in mineral development, energy, other areas. interfax.com 15.12.2022.

[5] Außenministerin Baerbock vor ihrer gemeinsamen Reise mit der französischen Außenministerin Catherine Colonna nach Äthiopien. auswaertiges-amt.de 11.01.2023.

[6] Matthias Wyssuwa, Christian Meier: Nach dem Krieg. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 13.01.2023.

[7] See also Die Hungermacher (III).

[8] Baerbock reist nach Äthiopien. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 12.01.2023.

[9] Matthias Wyssuwa, Christian Meier: Nach dem Krieg. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 13.01.2023.

[10] See also Die Hungermacher (III).

[11] Matthias Wyssuwa, Christian Meier: Nach dem Krieg. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 13.01.2023.

[12] See also In Westafrika gegen Russland.

[13] China pledges support for reconstruction efforts in war-torn Ethiopia. finance.yahoo.com 12.01.2023.