Germany and the militarization of West Africa

BERLIN/N’DJAMENA/BAMAKO (October 14) – Berlin is using today’s visit of Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari, to enhance its rapidly growing military influence in West Africa. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s trip to Africa early this week has already revealed Germany’s growing military importance on the African continent. According to reports, a “change” can already be noted, particularly in Mali. Traditionally within France’s exclusive sphere of influence, the EU, “fundamentally under German leadership,” is now increasingly determining that country’s development. The German government is also expanding the Bundeswehr’s activities and the supply of military hardware to Niger and Chad, along with the construction of a military base in Niger’s capital Niamey. Berlin is also seeking to obtain influence in the war against Boko Haram in Nigeria. The first agreements on support measures had already been reached with Nigeria last year. Germany is enhancing its network of influence in West Africa by increasing the deployment of expeditionary troops, the establishment of military bases and by supplying military aid. This could possibly reduce France’s traditional political and military predominance in its former colonies.

France’s waning influence

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s trip to Africa, early this week, has clearly demonstrated Germany’s rapidly growing influence on military policy in West Africa – beginning with Mali, where several foreign countries are engaged in military and police operations.

France, in the framework of Operation Barkhane, is fighting against – primarily jihadi – insurgents in the north of the country. The UN’s MINUSMA troops are also stationed in Northern Mali. In the framework of EUTM Mali, the EU is training Mali’s armed forces, primarily still in the South, while EUCAP Sahel Mali is training and advising the country’s police, gendarmerie and National Guard.

“With the exception of France’s anti-terror unit,” all other operations “are significantly supported and equipped by Germany,” according to a report published on the occasion of Chancellor Merkel’s visit to Mali.[1] “Instructors, reconnaissance, case officers and specialized police experts” from nearly twelve EU countries are demonstrating a “basic transformation of their own activities.”

“For the first time” they form “a long-termed European security mission” in a “region bordering on Europe, which had exclusively been an area of France’s influence and interests.” France’s waning security policy resources” in connection with jihadi terrorism and massive migration have “created a new situation.” “The sort of answer the EU – fundamentally under German leadership – is seeking to provide can be seen in Mail.”

From Mali to neighbouring countries

France’s waning, and Germany’s growing influence was reported in detail by a German daily close to the government. Given the fact that Mali, along with numerous other West African countries, use French as their official language, the region’s “French imprint” remains “decisive” in this respect, the daily writes.[2] However, the training staff “as well as the content of the training” is no longer predominated “today by France.”

“In the future, the entire training system of Mali’s army will be based on the European experience and will no longer bear a French imprint,” the author continues his report. “Now the European training approach is beginning also to be applied in Mali’s neighbouring countries.”

In the training camp Koulikoro, EUTM Mali is now also training staff officers from Chad, Niger, Burkina Faso and Mauritania. “The Eucap Sahel Mission, under the command of the German diplomat Albrecht Conze,” is preparing its expansion “even more energetically into the neighbouring countries.” The increase in troops deployed in West Africa can soon be expected and Germany will “probably have to mobilize more forces.”

Military instead of business

Even beyond Mali, the German government is systematically expanding its military influence. The Bundeswehr has established a military base in Niger, to the east of Mali. Germany will supply Niger’s armed forces military hardware. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[3]) Germany will also provide military equipment to Chad, situated on Niger’s eastern border, where France maintains an important military base, as it does in Niger.

On Wednesday, Chancellor Merkel welcomed Chad’s President Idriss Déby and suggested an increase in support for the war on Boko Haram and an enhancement of business relations. Déby’s visit to Berlin was the first visit of a Chadian president to the Federal Republic of Germany. Chad has particularly been under intensive French influence. German-Chadian business relations are virtually non-existent. During his visit to the German capital, President Déby met with German business leaders to also economically open his country to German influence. However, the development in recent years has shown that Berlin’s ambitious efforts to boost trade relations and investments in African countries have not been very successful, whereas, particularly the People’s Republic of China has been able to systematically enhance its economic position on the continent. Germany is trying to increase its influence in the field of military policy because its economic power is currently insufficient for achieving a predominant position in Africa.

In the war against Boko Haram

Today, Friday, during her talks with Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari, Chancellor Merkel will continue her military policy efforts. The focus will also be on war against Boko Haram. So far, primarily French troops have taken part. Paris had supported Chad’s army’s combat efforts and, more recently, had reinforced its bilateral military cooperation with Nigeria – which is outside of France’s sphere of influence.

The EU is now, also, expanding its activities in this conflict. In May, alongside the presidents of Niger, Chad and Cameroon, EU representatives participated in a summit held in Nigeria’s capital Abuja on combating Boko Haram. The four African countries have been waging war together against Boko Haram within the framework of a Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF).

On August 1, the EU’s foreign policy chief, Frederica Mogherini promised €50 million to the African Union (AU) for the MNJTF, which also includes the establishment of a headquarters in Chad’s capital, N’Djamena and command centers in Niger and Cameroon. These funds are also to be used to finance the procurement of means of transportation and communication. Similar to Mali, the EU is systematically penetrating France’s traditional spheres of influence in Chad – and is strengthening its positions in Nigeria.

War assistance

In Nigeria as well, EU activities appear to be paving the way for increasing German influence.

On Monday, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier visited the Nigerian capital Abuja. Already during the G7 Summit in Elmau (Germany), where Nigeria attended as a guest, a “support program” had been agreed upon, “with which we can help Nigeria’s security forces in their struggle against Boko Haram,” the foreign minister recalled.[4] He promised to increase Germany’s contribution to the struggle against the jihadi organization.

Today, Friday, Chancellor Merkel has the opportunity to agree on supplementary measures – to enhance Berlin’s military influence in West Africa.

[1], [2]   Johannes Leithäuser: In französischem Einflussgebiet. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 11.10.2016.

[3]           See Besetzen und abschotten (I) and Besetzen und abschotten (II).

[4]           Außenminister Steinmeier in Nigeria. http://www.auswaertiges-amt.de 07.10.2016.

Source: german-foreign-policy.com

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