Speech by Minister of State Michael Roth at the debate in the German Bundestag on sending the Bundeswehr to the Central African Republic (EUFOR RCA)

08.04.2014 - Speech

– verbatim report of proceedings –

Mr President,
Ladies and gentlemen,

When I spoke of a “continent of opportunity” in my last speech on Africa policy, I had the impression that a good number of my fellow members of this house shared that positive approach.

(Dagmar Freitag (SPD): We do!)

It is hard to have to remind ourselves once again that parts of Africa are beset with terrible violence. We have a duty to show solidarity there too.

Here in the German Bundestag last Friday, we remembered the victims of the genocide in Rwanda, which happened at this time 20 years ago. An act of remembrance was held in Rwanda itself yesterday. The United Nations Secretary-General described the situation very pertinently. Permit me to quote him directly: The shame still clings, a generation after the events. We could have done much more. We should have done much more. The genocide in Rwanda is one of the darkest chapters in human history. When you see people at risk of atrocity crimes, do not wait for instructions from afar; speak up, even if it may offend. Act

I am pretty sure that we in the house are agreed that there must be no second Rwanda.

(Applause from the SPD, the CDU/CSU and members of ALLIANCE 90/THE GREENS)

What that means though, dear colleagues, is that it is not enough to shout, “never again!”. Only if our concerned words are followed by resolute deeds will we be properly shouldering our foreign policy responsibilities. I certainly do not want to draw any inappropriate or inadequate comparisons here, but I am sure we are all asking ourselves the same question right now: has the international community been doing enough in the Central African Republic, and has it been doing the right thing, to prevent further pointless bloodshed?

Catherine Samba-Panza has been the interim President of the Central African Republic since January of this year. The security situation in the capital, Bangui, is a little calmer than it was – but what we are seeing in the Central African Republic overall remains catastrophic. The United Nations and numerous aid agencies are painting a picture of a country in free-fall. Brutal violence is perpetrated against civilians on a day-to-day basis. We are talking about extreme violations of human rights: killings, rape, pillaging and burning, and the recruitment of child soldiers. The situation is disastrous. Two and a half million people have been made dependent on humanitarian assistance, with 1.6 million of them living on emergency food aid. More than 600,000 people have fled, have been driven out, have lost their homes. There are 200,000 refugees in Bangui alone. But as long as the country remains in the grip of violent unrest, the international aid organisations have little chance of getting to those places where help is most urgently needed.

Although they have officially returned to service, the Central African Republic’s security forces – the police, the military, the gendarmerie – are currently not in a position to do anything about the violence. There is not enough manpower, not enough funding; the infrastructure is not there; they need more equipment and training. The national security forces are unlikely to be ready for action in the medium term.

As Defence Minister von der Leyen just outlined, MISCA, the African Union’s multinational peace missions, has 6000 soldiers deployed, and France’s Operation Sangaris is there too, with another 2000 soldiers. The question now is whether we can get another mission under way. That European Union mission is only a stop-gap measure, though. The focus for us is on a United Nations operation, and we hope to see the Security Council reach a decision soon so that the UN mission can start work – hopefully in autumn.

We are well aware that lasting stabilisation in the Central African Republic can only come from within. Given the extreme situation the country has been in for over a year now however, we cannot expect particularly rapid solutions. We know that we will need stamina for the long haul. We in the German Government are obliged to take a comprehensive and far-sighted approach in foreign policy though. A not insignificant part of that, for us, is civilian crisis prevention, humanitarian aid and a focus on development policy. Under the aegis of the EU and the UN, we have furthermore committed ourselves to that approach bilaterally. The German Government has provided 6 million euros to date; the EU has earmarked 45 million euros, and other specific pledges have been made.

The interim government in the Central African Republic has taken office in order that stability and security might at long last be reestablished. It was good for this topic to be raised once again at last week’s EU-Africa Summit, and it was good that ways forward were raised which envisage Europeans too taking greater responsibility. President Barroso put it succinctly when he said, “Your peace is our peace too; your prosperity is our prosperity too.” These are tentative initial efforts towards more stability and security in the Central African Republic. We really should do all we can to support them; the unsettling news arriving day by day from Bangui clearly shows that the country is in urgent need of international help. We should not turn a blind eye.

We therefore want to make a limited but important contribution in the Central African Republic alongside our European partners through the EU mission EUFOR RCA, in order to protect the lives of civilians in that country. On behalf of the German Government, I beg you to support the motion.

Thank you very much.

(Applause from the SPD, the CDU/CSU and ALLIANCE 90/THE GREENS)

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