Ladies and gentlemen,
For many weeks now the public debate on Germany’s Africa policy has been dominated by one issue: Will German servicemen and women be deployed to tackle the political crises in Central Africa, Mali, South Sudan and Somalia?
Yet restricting the discussion to the question of military operations is not only factually incorrect. It also demonstrates a deeply distorted perception of our neighbouring continent. We have to get away from the simplistic view of Africa as a continent of perils and dangers. Despite all the problems and difficulties that remain, the developments of recent years show that we Europeans have every reason to look towards Africa with rather more optimism. We gain a more realistic picture when we acknowledge that Africa is also a continent of hope, opportunity and potential.
Today, therefore, when we decide on extending the mandate for deploying German military personnel to participate in the EU Training Mission in Somalia, let us not just focus on the security aspect. This mandate is a small but significant component of a comprehensive Africa policy.
In the past few years Africa itself has changed much more rapidly than our view of Africa from outside. Yet we must be aware that developments on the continent, in its countries and regions are not only gathering momentum, but are also moving in very different ways and at very different speeds. We have to learn to identify these developments and their potential at an early stage and to recognise their particular characteristics. Our responses need to be tailored to the complexity of the situations. If we want to be successful, we need to employ all the foreign policy instruments at our disposal.
After all, policy and security issues, economic and social questions are inextricably linked. Peace and security are vital prerequisites for economic development and prosperity. The growth in Africa in the last few years presents considerable economic prospects for many countries. But we must also ensure that the people eventually profit from the impact of the economic upswing. At the end of the day more jobs, a fair distribution of income and guaranteed access to food, water, energy and health services are the best stability programme for the entire continent.
Yet there are also down sides. The Federal Government is perturbed to see how women and ethnic, religious and sexual minorities are victims of oppression and political persecution in many African states. We cannot and will not remain silent in the face of this injustice!
Our relationship with Africa must not become fragmented into a debate on security policy today, a debate on development policy tomorrow and a debate on economic policy the day after. The many facets of our engagement for and in Africa need to be dovetailed if we want to play a responsible role in fostering greater political and economic stability.
The fourth EU‑Africa Summit, due to take place in Brussels in April 2014, is a good opportunity to meet with our African partners to take stock and formulate new ideas for our Africa policy. One of the greatest projects for the EU over the coming years will be to develop a joint strategy which finally acknowledges the significance of our neighbouring continent. One of our key concerns is the further integration of Africa and the promotion of ownership in the area of security policy. The African Union (AU) will play a central role in this regard. Our support is not restricted to crisis management in the form of financial support for AU mission troops in Somalia or assistance in building an African peace and security architecture.
To safeguard peace and security in the long term we need more than reactive crisis management. Much more important is forward‑looking crisis prevention, which will ideally stop political crises and violent conflicts from arising in the first place. There are several successful examples of this – such as the establishment of early warning systems and the African Union Border Programme, which is designed to prevent conflicts about borders through joint border demarcation. However, promoting restrictive controls on small arms in West Africa and the Sahel is also a form of crisis prevention.
In Mali, too, we are not only concerned with training military personnel. We are helping the country with a comprehensive security sector reform. At this point I would also like to cite Mali as a positive example of why it makes sense for us to focus our engagement on individual countries. Many years of experience, familiarity with the local situation and mutual trust are, as we can see in the case of Mali, a good basis for ensuring that our activities are ultimately successful.
Many states and societies in Africa are becoming increasingly stable. The rule of law, access to education and a strong civil society are crucial requirements for this. A functioning state under the rule of law is a significant factor in protecting human and civil rights and creating a good economic and entrepreneurial framework. African states face very different problems and obstacles on the way to achieving this goal, and we want to help them overcome these hurdles with advice and practical assistance. One good example of this is the German‑Tanzanian cooperation on training rule of law representatives in Dar es Salaam. These little success stories are encouraging. Let us continue to build on them in the future.
The comprehensive Africa policy approach I have just outlined forms the basis for our decision today. Today’s Bundestag vote in favour of the continued participation of German service personnel in the EU‑led training mission EUTM Somalia will send an important message about German and European engagement in the Horn of Africa. This message comes at the right time for various reasons.
Since 3 March 2014 troops from the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) have been fighting the radical Islamist group al‑Shabaab together with units from the Somali armed forces. The heart of the Somali armed forces comprises around 3600 Somali soldiers who were trained as part of the EU mission until the end of 2013.
This military offensive, however, must be followed by additional, non‑military steps. Only in this way can we manage to hold on to the liberated territory in the long term and permanently improve living conditions for the local population. Here, too, Germany is providing support, for example in the form of KfW loans to finance quick impact projects. Through these projects we can offer rapid and targeted assistance to the people in the region.
Yet it is also vital that we actively help the Somali Central Government to rebuild functional administrative and federal structures. Only then will it be able to shape and control the country’s stabilisation process as stipulated by the transitional constitution of 2012. However, to perform this task the Central Government urgently requires a functioning security apparatus, the structures and capabilities of which are currently only in their infancy. This is where EUTM Somalia is stepping in. Yet we are well aware that we cannot expect to see progress over night. We and our partners in Somalia have a long marathon and not a short sprint ahead of us.
One important initial step along this path was to extend the training mission to incorporate advisory services for Somalia’s defence ministry and military leadership structures. Now is also the right time to gradually transfer the mission from Uganda (where the training has taken place to date) to Somalia. The mission is now continuing to build on this foundation directly on the ground. Our Somali partners have shown great appreciation for this support – one reason for this is the fact that it is now finally taking place in their own country.
It is clear that the risks to the mission in Mogadishu are undoubtedly higher than they have been so far in Uganda. The Federal Government has therefore assessed the security situation very carefully. Although the situation in Somalia will remain very fragile for the foreseeable future, the renewed involvement of German service personnel is, in view of the protection measures already implemented, not only right from a security policy perspective, but also viable. Given the instability in Somalia, a residual risk of setbacks must nonetheless always be reckoned with. The Federal Government and the EU are aware of this. We are constantly assessing the threats and if necessary will adapt the protective measures accordingly.
The scope of Germany’s involvement in EUTM Somalia will for now be relatively minor, initially comprising one permanent advisor stationed locally and the deployment of three trainers for limited periods. However, the Somali Government and our European partners have warmly welcomed this important demonstration of our support for Somalia. The mandate provides for an upper limit of up to 20 service personnel to allow for a flexible response to personnel requirements articulated by the mission in future.
German and EU engagement in supporting the security institutions in Somalia is rooted in a comprehensive approach designed to strengthen Somalia’s civil society and state structures, develop its economy and provide humanitarian assistance for the Somali people.
With its renewed participation in the EUTM Mission in Somalia, Germany is sending a message of solidarity and concrete support. Our military engagement is a modest but necessary aspect of an Africa strategy dedicated to promoting peace, stability and security.
I ask you, dear colleagues, for your active support in this venture.