Speech by Federal Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier at the University of Dar es Salaam

25.03.2014 - Speech

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Dear Bernard, dear Colleague,
Honourable Vice Chancellor Prof. Mukandala,
Dear Prof. Rutinwa,
Dear Prof. Wanitzek,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
And especially: dear students of the University of Dar es Salaam!

I want to thank you for this invitation. I am honored to be a guest at this prestigious institution of learning. And I am especially glad to meet the students at the Tanzanian-German Centre for East African Legal Studies.

In this environment I feel safe to admit that I myself went to law school.

So it is my particular pleasure to meet students of law. I point that out because I know from my own experience that not everybody feels that way about law students…

I remember that one of my professors when I was at university used to tell us a story. It was about three students arguing about whose subject was the oldest.

The medical student said: “Of course, medicine is the oldest subject. When God created Eve from Adam’s rib, He performed the first ever surgery. So medicine came first!”

The second student, a student of architecture, replied: “No! Before that, when God created the Earth out of Chaos, He was the first architect.”

Finally the law student said: “But where do you think all the Chaos came from?”

Germany and Tanzania share a long and eventful history.

One sturdy old witness of our common history is a ship named Liemba. It was built a hundred years ago in the Meyer docks of Northern Germany. It was the Meyer Company’s biggest and most beautiful ship ever built – or so at least thought the man who built it, Anton Rüter.

Right after its construction, the ship was dissembled and packed up into five thousand wooden boxes. These boxes made their way on three steam ships from Hamburg to this harbor of Dar es Salaam. Here they were put on the cross-country railroad that the Germans had just finished building two weeks earlier. By train, the boxes arrived at Lake Tanganyika and the Liemba was put back together. Ever since, it has been making its rounds on the world’s longest lake, and serves the people who live on its shores.

I am not telling you this story to suggest that all German ships, trains or cars last a hundred years... In fact, during these past hundred years the Liemba has sunk not only once, but twice.

I am telling this story as a mirror of the history we share. The Liemba has seen good times and bad – changing its name, color and engines. Also the state on its flag changed several times along the way.

On April 26 this year, the United Republic of Tanzania celebrates her fiftieth birthday. And on the very same day, we will complete fifty years of bilateral relations between Tanzania and Germany.

This anniversary is a moment of celebration. We value our close political ties, the bonds of trade and investment, and our development cooperation totaling over two billion Euros. We want to strengthen and increase those ties.

But this anniversary is also a moment of reflection. It is a fact of our shared history, friends, that the countries of Africa have long borne the suffering of wars fought elsewhere - the tensions of power games played elsewhere.

The very hall we are in right now was built by Western Germany in the early sixties. But when Tanganyika and Zanzibar united in 1964 and started diplomatic relations with the Communist East of Germany, the Western half stopped construction. This unfinished hall is, so to say, the Cold War set in stone.

In this year 2014, we keenly remember the outbreak of the First World War one hundred years ago. Some call it the “Great War of Europe”. How unfit a name for a war that devastated so many parts of the world!

Despite the active historical debate within Europe, not much attention is given to the War in Africa: a war that cost the lives of countless ‘Askaris’ and carriers, forced to support the European military here; a war that affected civilian populations in Africa often to a larger extent than in mainland Europe, where it was mostly fought in the frontline trenches. Thus, in this year of World War remembrance, Germans also remember the suffering and pay tribute to the victims in Tanzania and Africa.

I think that a shared future requires shared work on the past. For us as Germans, assuming responsibility starts with preserving the footprints of the past, not wiping them off. I am glad that, together with the Tanzanian National Archives, we managed to preserve documents from the colonial administration, in order to allow future generations to gain a better understanding of their past.

I have met many Tanzanians who look to the footprints of colonial times with interest, especially in the cultural legacy. To us Germans, preserving the footprints of the past also means to maintain what’s valuable, to renew it and put it to use. Germany has supported over 70 such projects. To name just one example, we are currently working on the old stone church of Kidia at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro. Besides worship, these buildings will host a local community center and Kindergarten after renovation. And my personal hope is that we can also make the old and sturdy Liemba fit to continue her service into the future.

To me personally, when I think back a hundred years to the summer of 1914 when the War broke out in Europe, the thing that shocks me most is the whirl of escalation. As if there were no alternatives, all diplomatic ties between the European capitals were cut and soon death spread its wings country over country. Within a few weeks, communication gave way to isolation. Isolation gave way to aggression.

Back to the Liemba – or rather the ‘Goetzen’, as it was called then. A few months after the ship’s arrival, the War broke out. Cannons were installed on its deck. The Goetzen became a warship. Anton Rüter, who had travelled to Tanganyika to oversee its launch, couldn’t believe that his ship was suddenly shooting at the British, who had turned from colleagues to enemies literally overnight.

In the end, after countless victims, when Germany had lost the war and the German army was retreating, Commander Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck personally ordered the Goetzen to be sunk in the waters of its lake.

Sometimes I think of this moment as a symbol of the terrible, seemingly inescapable logic of conflict. This symbol reminds us as politicians - no matter how high the tensions rise – never to refrain from taking diplomatic and political initiatives. To never stop building exits from the road of escalation. This reminder stands out especially in the situation we face in Ukraine in these very weeks.

I am aware that we are in a university. Yet I am sure that many of you agree that History is not just something stuck between the covers of a book. History shapes who we are and how we act.

When I think of what my country, Germany, has learned from the past hundred years, two lessons stand out: the belief in the rule of law and the belief in cooperating with our neighbors.

In both of these areas, there is a lively dynamic here in Tanzania. And I am convinced there is a lot of work we can do together in both areas.

Your country is currently going through a comprehensive constitutional review process. It is a defining moment for Tanzania. I wish the Constitutional Assembly in Dodoma success in this important task. And I am sure that you as law students will find plenty of opportunity to study and benefit from this defining moment.

Germany is following this process with great interest and we are glad that, vice-versa, there is great interest from your side in the laws and practice of our democracy. Just on our way here on the plane, I read a report by Chris Maina Peter, who is a law professor at this university and who travelled to Germany to observe our elections last year. There he met with the first two German-African politicians who entered our Federal Parliament in this same election.

Prof. Peter writes that every citizen he met at a polling station in Berlin on election day had, I quote, “great respect and trust in the law”. I think that the root of this trust lies in the success of our constitution. Established in 1949, after two world wars and the crimes of Nazi rule, this constitution has been the bedrock of stability and prosperity in my country.

Our experience and belief in the rule of law is a principle of our foreign policy, also in our work with our partners in Africa – for example with the African Union, whose headquarters I visited yesterday.

I am glad to hear that our constitution seems to stand in good reputation here in Tanzania. About this, I have to tell you a story. Two weeks ago, our German Embassy here in Dar es Salaam posted on Facebook about the sixty-fifth anniversary of the German constitution. A Tanzanian citizen named Bernard commented the following: “All 'Made in Germany' last longer, both the Constitution and the Liemba!” You see: This old ship still shapes the good image of Germany!

But more importantly, Bernard and our embassy staff agreed: Only a rule-based, transparent and accountable state allows people and businesses to build a prosperous country.

Besides, what I like about this Facebook-story is that it proves that our old Foreign Office has arrived in the digital age!

The second lesson that we took from our history is: Cooperation instead of confrontation! Today, the European Union has twenty-eight member states who share countless economic, political and personal ties. Neighbors have become friends.

Regional integration is also gaining momentum here in Africa. Tanzania is a leader of this momentum. We appreciate Tanzania’s contributions to stability in a volatile region – for example to the peace-keeping missions in Congo and Darfur.

Tanzania is located at the crossroads of major interest spheres. As a key member of several regional organizations it extends her positive influence towards East Africa, Southern Africa, and the Great Lakes Region.

Its vision is a prosperous, competitive, secure and politically united Africa – a vision that Germany shares and will continue to support.

The East African Community has already gone a good part of this way. Its economic plans are ambitious. Germany works to increase the business we have with EAC countries, and Germany will continue to support the EAC’s path as a Common Market, and to overcome the barriers to trade and cooperation that remain.

In a week from now, we are meeting for the EU-Africa Summit in Brussels. The European Union is looking for partners who will share in a multilateral foreign policy based in the two principles I mentioned: the rule of law and the logic of cooperation. Tanzania is a welcome emerging partner in this vision.

By strengthening the regional organizations of Africa, Europe and Africa follow two shared objectives: First, to enable Africa to take care of its own security. Second, to build structures through which Europe, Africa and other parts of the world can work together on the global challenges we all face: like migration, the fight against terrorism and climate protection. After all, these global challenges affect us all and yet no country and no region can solve them alone.

The rule of law and a logic of cooperation in a fast-changing, fast-growing, fast-connecting world – These are very big tasks.

When I look around this hall, I look into the faces of the people who will have to do that work. Without you, without your skills, your creativity and your international ties – without that, all hopes for these big tasks are worth nothing.

I am glad that an institution like the Tanzanian-German Law Centre is training the future leaders for these tasks – not only as students of law, but also as friends and partners across the East African countries and towards Europe. I am proud that the German Academic Exchange Service and the German University of Bayreuth are partners in this endeavor.

I want to end with a more personal story about this idea of international cooperation.

I grew up in a village in Western Germany – a very small village indeed. That one day, I would travel the world as Germany’s Foreign Minister, I wouldn’t have dreamt of as a boy.

The first time I ever came in touch with the big wide world was in primary school. I was around ten years old. This first point of contact – it did not come through American movies or images of France or stories from China. It came from Africa.

My primary school teacher had travelled to many African countries, as a volunteer with the Lutheran church. Back in our school, he closed the curtains of the classroom windows, he showed us his picture slides and told us stories of far-away countries and people. In this class room, it dawned on us that there is work to do together, even far beyond our borders.

This was in the early sixties. It was a time when people in Germany spoke of Africa as the “dark continent”.

I don’t know if Joseph Conrad ever was right. But today, fifty years later, Africa is a continent of opportunity. It is a continent where societies develop fast and in manifold ways, thanks to their creativity, optimism, and modern technologies.

It is a continent that international investors race to. A continent of progress – but progress often ridden with conflict, fragility and inequality.

Sometimes I feel that Africa is developing much more quickly and much more diversely than our German view on Africa can keep up with. Maybe, as our former President Horst Köhler said last week, our view on Africa even says more about ourselves than it says about Africa.

That is why the German government has been working on a new approach. We need to adapt to the dynamics and the diversity of Africa. We are taking stock of the entire arsenal of our policies –economics, security, development, culture— and bring them together under a common strategy.

This strategy will be a strategy that builds on the old and valuable ties that we share – for which the sturdy Liemba stands as a symbol.

It is a strategy that brings us, Germans and Tanzanians, Europeans and Africans, together to cooperate on the challenges and conflicts of today.

And most importantly: It is a strategy that enables you, the generations to come, to make the most of the opportunities we share – to build the new Liembas, the new ships of prosperity and peace in the 21st century.

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