German Chancellor Angela Merkel kicks off a three-day visit to Africa this weekend, a tour that will take her, first, to the West African nations of Mali and Niger, and ends in protest-hit Ethiopia.
The visit comes at the time when the European Union (EU) is struggling to cope with a large number of sub-Saharan African migrants risking their lives to get to Europe via the Mediterranean Sea.
Apart from being a migrants’ transit route to Libya, both Niger and Mali have also been hit hard by international terrorism.
Deutsche Welle (DW) reports that Germany wants to recast its relations with Africa in the wake of the refugee crisis, and sending more German troops to the continent to help shore up stability is part of its plan.
“In concrete terms, we will have to focus on Africa in a new and different way,” Merkel was quoted by DW as saying in the run-up to the African visit.
An increasingly unpopular Merkel who was recently booed and jeered in Dresden during the ceremony marking the country’s reunification said the stability of the EU was dependent on the pace of African development.
“Much more development aid was needed, a new development policy was essential, investment in the continent had to be stepped up and more emphasis placed on good governance,” she told the audience at the Federal Association of German Wholesalers and Exporters in Berlin.
The visit to Ethiopia, a ‘valuable’ trading partner of the EU, could prove controversial at this period when the country is being hit by a wave of protests against massive human rights violations and imprisonment of journalists.
Rights activists are hoping Merkel will discuss the issue of human rights violations with the Ethiopian government, and persuade its leaders to allow protestors exercise their democratic rights.
(Source: DW, additional reportng and final editing by Issa Sikiti)
Photo: Angela Merkel, German Chancellor. courtesy of DW/DPA