Schroeder Africa trip to boost influence

16th January 2004, Comments 0 comments

16 January 2004, BERLIN - German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder will use an upcoming visit to Africa to boost German influence in the region and to underline the necessity of successful reform programmes in order to receive future aid, a senior German official has told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa. "Africa is a continent whose problems can swiftly become our problems," said the source, speaking on condition of anonymity. Schroeder's 18 to 24 January trip to Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa and Ghana was thus par

16 January 2004

BERLIN - German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder will use an upcoming visit to Africa to boost German influence in the region and to underline the necessity of successful reform programmes in order to receive future aid, a senior German official has told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.

"Africa is a continent whose problems can swiftly become our problems," said the source, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Schroeder's 18 to 24 January trip to Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa and Ghana was thus partly about development but also strongly aimed at security issues, the official said.

Germany, stripped of its African colonies in 1918 after defeat in World War I, was no longer content to play a lesser role in Africa than other former European colonial powers, said the official.

"We want to play a role as a middle-ranking European power," the official insisted.

Germany has the biggest economy in the European Union and the third biggest in the world after the US and Japan.

Countries to be visited on Schroeder's first extensive African tour were picked because they were seen as hopes for the future, the official said, adding the trip was starting in Ethiopia because it was the home of the African Union (AU), which Berlin strongly backs.

Founded in 1999, the AU project is based loosely on that of the European Union and aims to promote peace, security and solidarity among its 53 member states.

"The Chancellor wants to show support for reform oriented states," said the official.

Talks in Ethiopia will centre on development issues such as providing clean water and sewage treatment, while Schroeder will also urge the country's leaders to push forward with market economy reforms. Ethiopia is one of Africa's most impoverished nations.

The German leader will be accompanied by a 23-member delegation of business leaders and bankers.

"Ethiopia's problem is that the state is very strongly involved in the economy," said the official, adding that Schroeder would urge cutting bureaucracy.

Regarding the failure to demarcate a frontier between Ethiopia and Eritrea - a border war killed some 70,000 people until a ceasefire four years ago - the official insisted Germany did not have any role to play as a mediator.

Reports Germany might send troops to neighbouring Sudan to aid moves toward a peace accord to end the country's civil war were also sharply denied.

"German troops will most certainly not be deployed in southern Sudan," said the official adding that at the most Germany could send "one or two" officers to help administer any final truce.

Schroeder's visit to Kenya is aimed at spotlighting the country's progress toward reform, the official said.

"The Chancellor wants to found a privileged partnership with Kenya," said the official, adding that aid will be doubled to EUR 50 million for 2004 and 2005.

Kenya is experiencing a renaissance since the departure of former president Daniel arap Moi but still labours under the "old burdens" left by the previous administration, the official said.

The country's leadership urgently needed not only strong anti-corruption moves but also to sack police and judges left over from the old regime, the official noted.

Germany wants to provide police training for Kenya, both to deal with terrorist threats - the 1998 bombing of the US embassy in Nairobi killed almost 300 people - and to help the fight against violent crime.

South Africa remains Germany's most important friend in the region and a major trade partner. Some 450 German firms in South Africa employ up to 70,000 people.

Schroeder will meet current South African President Thabo Mbeki and former leader Nelson Mandela.

The German leader plans to discuss South Africa's HIV/AIDS crisis and the worsening situation in Zimbabwe, the official said.

Mbeki faces criticism from some quarters for his handling of both situations. He is said to maintain contacts with a minority group of scientists who say HIV is not the cause of AIDS and has taken a quiet, diplomatic approach to Zimbabwe's economic and political collapse.

South Africa's northern neighbour, politically dominated by president Robert Mugabe in the face of international condemnation, has been engulfed in strife in recent years and threatens the stability and development of other African nations.

In West Africa, Ghana is viewed by Berlin as one of the major beacons of hope.

Aside from its relatively robust economy, Ghana is seen as an example of progress due to its constructive role in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

DPA
Subject: German news

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