When Chancellor Olaf Scholz starts his trip to East Africa in Ethiopia on Thursday (May 4th), it will not just be about shaking hands. For Jürgen Coße, who sits in the Bundestag for the Chancellor Party SPD, there is no question about that. “The fact that you not only write down that you want to support a sustainable peace process, but also go to this country sends a strong signal,” Cosse told DW. For him this means: “To say it very clearly: we stand by the side of the people who want peace and stability where they were born.”
The fact that Ethiopia’s prime minister and former hope Abiy Ahmed waged a two-year war against insurgents and soldiers in the breakaway Tigray region and also got support from neighboring Eritrea had placed an extremely strain on relations with Germany. After the most important parties to the conflict concluded a peace agreement in November, the signs now point to relaxation.
Ethiopia: Restart of relations hoped for
This is crucial for the government in Addis Ababa, human rights activist Befekadu Hailu told DW: “Germany was one of the biggest donors and relations were mostly very good.” This was also reflected in trade relations, where Germany emerged as the most important importer of Ethiopian coffee. “The Ethiopian government wants to take advantage of these opportunities again.”
In a Bundestag debate on Ethiopia on Thursday, left-wing MP Kathrin Vogler criticized the fact that the European Union and the United Nations had lifted their arms embargoes on neighboring Eritrea shortly before the start of the Tigray conflict.
For Germany, there is now another point on the agenda in the country on the Horn of Africa: the meeting with Abiy and President Sahle-Work Zewde will also be about regional and international security, especially the situation in Sudan, like the federal government announced on Friday.
Sudan blows up the agenda
The freshly flared up conflict in Sudan, where a power struggle broke out in mid-April between army and putschist leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and the RSF commander, General Mohammed Hamdan Daglo, at the expense of the population, surprised many, says SPD man Cosse , who is also the rapporteur for East Africa. But there are still many ways to exert influence: “It starts with the issue: Can we ensure that no more weapons are delivered to this country?” It is also about talking to the parties to the conflict and always bearing in mind that there is also a civil society in Sudan that needs to be supported.
Peacekeeping in the region will also be a topic when Chancellor Scholz speaks to Moussa Faki Mahamat – the President of the Commission of the African Union, which is also based in Addis Ababa. And that will also play a role at the last station in Kenya – because Kenya is considered an anchor of stability in the region and has often distinguished itself as a mediator in conflicts.
Germany must act with caution
However, the behavior of the federal government in international conflicts is not only observed closely by the opposition in the Bundestag. According to activist Befekadu Hailu, African partners are also concerned with setting the right tone: “European countries like Germany always have to first listen to what the Africans say and must not give the impression that they are the suppliers of solutions.” They would have to act as mediators, as partners – not as saviors saving people from themselves.
However, the worrying state of affairs in Sudan allows Kenyan political analyst Chacha Nyaigotti-Chacha to draw a completely different conclusion. Chacha told DW that pushing the conflicting parties to talks shouldn’t be seen as interference in internal affairs. “It’s not internal affairs when people are killed.” After all, citizens of other countries were also among the dead. “And the Sudanese also have a right to be protected – first by their country and then also by the neighboring countries in the Horn of Africa – together with our friends like Germany.”
Kenya: Energy partnership with a stable foundation
In addition, Olaf Scholz should be sure of a pleasant end to his trip to Africa in Kenya. Because this is where Kenya’s new President William Ruto presented: It was only a month ago that Ruto made his inaugural visit to Berlin. A visit that has a good tradition overall – despite interim upheavals when the International Criminal Court also initiated investigations into Ruto and Uhuru Kenyatta – his predecessor – for violence surrounding the 2008 elections. The investigations into then-Vice President Ruto were dropped in 2016 due to insufficient evidence.
After meetings at the COP27 in Egypt and in Berlin (pictured), Scholz is now visiting the Kenyan President in Nairobi
But that is no longer the case. In March, both sides emphasized the 60-year relationship between the two countries: Germany was the first country to set up an embassy in independent Kenya in 1963. The fact that William Ruto is distancing himself from his economic partner China and has also expressly opposed Russia’s war in Ukraine could also have served as a glue. Kenya – as one of the few African countries – has also emphasized this in the UN Security Council. Chancellor Scholz is coming – with a large business delegation – at Ruto’s express invitation, also to confirm a new energy partnership. A visit to a German-funded geothermal plant in the Rift Valley, which is particularly suitable for this purpose, should make this visible.