Mali: “The question of armed German troops does not come up”

24.10.2012 - Interview

A military mission in Mali would be “a matter for the African countries from the region”, says Markus Löning (FDP).The Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid added that Germany could help stabilize the region both socially and economically. Broadcast on Deutschlandfunk on 24 October 2012.


According to the governments of the West, the situation in northern Mali is so dangerous that it can no longer be tackled without international aid.Military intervention by West African countries under a United Nations mandate is more and more likely.Germany, too, seems prepared to at least send military instructors to an EU support mission for the government of Mali’s fight against the extremists.The population of northern Mali is being terrorized by Islamist groups linked to al Qaida.Mali’s army, to the extent that it still exists, is hardly operational at this point.Police authority in the north of the country is practically non-existent, but jihadists are flooding into the area from abroad to enter the fray.

Horrific images and reports are coming out of Mali.Germany is expected to – and will – participate in the mission just mentioned, but probably not with armed soldiers.Federal Foreign Minister Westerwelle made that clear yesterday.How, then, will Germany participate?I am going to discuss this now with Markus Löning, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid.He, too, is a member of the FDP.Good morning, Mr Löning.

Good morning.

No armed German troops are to be sent to Mali – would that be the right decision?

I think that first of all we must stick to the political path there. That is the African plan, the plan of the United Nations Security Council: stick with the political path, try to talk to the various groups in northern Mali. Outsiders are coming into the country, as was just described, and there are people who are themselves from Mali and we are trying to get in touch with them and follow the political path first. We have to see how far that goes. At the moment hopes are not really high that that will work, but we have to make a serious effort. Then the African countries from the region say themselves that we must support the government of Mali if needed so that their own troops are able to maintain control over their own territory.

Should Germany rule out sending armed troops from the beginning then?

The question does not come up at all. That is a matter for the African countries of the region. They have offered to help Mali’s government, also with troops, and the only question for us is whether we are willing to help these troops with respect to training so that they can regain control of the area. The question of armed German troops does not come up.

... And the question has never been put to the European Union?

No. It is only a question for the region. At the beginning of this week I was in Côte d’Ivoire and people there are very disturbed by what is happening in Mali. On the one hand, they are afraid of the stress that refugees cause. Hundreds of thousands of people are leaving the country because of the precarious humanitarian situation and now also because of the terror there. So they are afraid of the stress caused by refugees and then on the other hand the countries of the region are also afraid of the unrest caused by the Islamists, the Salafists there, also among their own people. So they have a major interest in peace returning to Mali.

Let us look at what Germany could do there.There is talk of a training mission, of support for instructors there.Do you have an exact idea of how Germany could contribute there?

Over the past years and decades we have done much with development aid in the region and I think that is what we can do best. I think that we can help put the region back on its feet socially and economically, so that the people can live there. This is the question we have to face.

The second thing is a question of humanitarian aid. Harvests have been bad. People in the entire Sahel region are suffering from hunger. So humanitarian aid is necessary to stabilize the situation. And if we can help with training – as we have already been doing in recent years, with some Bundeswehr instructors being there – if we can help, then I think we should. Other questions do not come up.

But the question of what kind of mission this would be does of course come up and as to whether it would have to first receive the backing of a mandate from the German Bundestag.Former Bundeswehr Chief of Staff Kujat has also joined the discussion, warning against the assumption that it is possible to send unarmed assistants or soldiers there.That is to say is it not necessary from the beginning to factor in the danger that it is a question of more than just civilian training?

That’s what Mr de Maizière has said -that he thinks that a mandate from the Bundestag is necessary. I think we have to wait and see what exactly is needed when we come to that point. That will be a few more weeks. That will not happen today or tomorrow. Then we have to see how to equip the people that might go there. We have to look at what their tasks will be. We have to coordinate that with the government of Mali and with the Africans there, with ECOWAS. And then we can say that the Bundestag should provide a mandate. I think that we have to look hard at what is needed and then try to get a corresponding mandate from the Bundestag.

To what extent are you yourself active there as Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy, in the sense that you also try to find out what they want and what is needed at the moment?

That was part of what I was doing in Côte d’Ivoire – that is just south of Mali. I was talking to people and asking them how they see the situation. They are very disturbed, as I just described, by those two things. Refugees, those driven out by hunger, people who put pressure on the food supply, and also on the country, jobs and the like in the surrounding countries in West Africa, but also in other countries. On the other hand, the Salafists also cause concern. Especially in Côte d’Ivoire, people described this to me, saying that theirs was a secular society, that there were Muslims, Christians, and other religions living together peacefully so far and that religion has not given rise to conflicts. And they are very afraid that that might change if animosities are stirred up there. We should address this important concern, too.

In the end, because you mentioned the situation of the people there, would you say that more development aid from Germany would be appropriate?

When the situation has settled down, more development aid would definitely be appropriate. I also believe that humanitarian assistance in the entire Sahel region is necessary to ease the situation. You heard in that piece how people described their desperate situation. We should definitely help with humanitarian aid. But we should also help the countries in the region to ease the situation as a whole.

Markus Löning, the Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid, on the situation in Mali and the question as to what role Germany could play in the planned mission there.Thank you for talking to us today, Mr Löning.

It was my pleasure.

Questions: Bettina Klein.Reproduced here by kind permission of Deutschlandfunk.

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