Statement by Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock prior to her departure for Nigeria
Today, we are taking a long overdue step: we are returning twenty Benin bronzes from German museums to where they belong, to their home country. This will not heal all the wounds of the past. But together with the Länder, cities and museums we are showing that Germany is taking seriously its efforts to address its dark colonial history. We are thereby also giving the affected countries back a part of their history and making it possible for schoolchildren, researchers and the general public to finally see these stolen cultural treasures in their home country – not from afar, in books or on the internet.
By addressing colonial injustice, we are opening a new chapter of intensified cooperation with Nigeria. With its population of more than 210 million, Nigeria is Africa’s largest democracy. It has a strong voice in the international community – not only as the host country of the regional organisation ECOWAS and a key pillar of the African Union, but also as an important troop contributing nation for UN peace missions. We want to work together even more closely with this important partner, especially with a view to addressing the world’s greatest challenge: containing the climate crisis. Currently, Nigeria is both a large emitter of CO2 and an exporter of fossil fuels. This makes the Government’s plans for an energy transition all the more important.
Nearly ten years ago, we witnessed heartbreaking scenes related to the kidnapping of schoolgirls by Boko Haram. Those images of desperate parents holding up signs with “bring back our girls” written on them are seared into our memories. People in Nigeria suffered terribly under Islamist terrorism – a terrorism that now threatens to return from the Sahel region in the north, further exacerbating an already fragile security situation. The fact that some 100,000 Boko Haram militants and supporters have surrendered since last year is reason for hope. Hope that an inclusive, democratic society can successfully shore up communities and the political system and thereby better repel terrorism. This becomes possible in particular when people in the affected regions are involved in these efforts. Germany stands by the side of Nigeria and the other coastal states of West Africa as they go about this. They can rest assured that we will remain engaged in the region – by providing humanitarian assistance as well as pursuing development cooperation and projects to help improve people’s economic outlook and give them a life in security.