Merkel Visit to Focus on Political Openness, Stability

Chancellor Merkel will also meet with some opposition leaders

Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel will use her brief visit to Addis Abeba next week to reinforce a message by the international community that Ethiopia needs a broader political openness, which will ensure long term stability in a region of turmoil.

The Chancellor will make her second visit to Ethiopia in nine years to inaugurate the ultramodern complex built for the African Union’s Peace & Security Department. Named after Julius Nyerere, the late Tanzanian president, the building took five years to be completed and close to 32 million euros in investment.

It is designed by the architecture firm, Schuster Architekten, a Dusseldorf based German company, to house 360 staff. It incorporates a modern equipped hall for the Peace & Security Council, a situation room, a continental early warning system and a library.

Erected on a 15,000sqm plot located inside the Union’s headquarters on Roosevelt St., the complex was fully financed by the German government after the AU signed an agreement with Germany in 2007. This came after the latter launched the “Africa Initiative” at the G8 Summit held there in the same year. However, the launching of construction was delayed for a further four years; in February 2011, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn laid the cornerstone, alongside Jean Ping, secretary general of the AU at the time. The actual construction began three months later.

The Germans see the complex as a “shining example of cooperation” with the continent, which deals with a larger portion of the global inter and intrastate conflicts. In the words of Frank W. Steinmeier (PhD), foreign minister of Germany, the building will serve as a seat for the “common goal of silencing the guns on the African continent by 2020”.

The Minister will not accompany her, however; nor will there be any German dignitary. No more than six of Merkel’s aides will arrive with her in Addis Abeba on Monday after midnight, sources disclosed.

Addis Abeba is part of Merkel’s Africa tour, also comprising Mali and Niger. On Tuesday, she will inaugurate, along with Prime Minister Hailemariam, the opening of the complex before she addresses African diplomats inside the Chinese-financed and built complex a few metres from the Julius Nyerere Building. Her address to Africa is likely to focus on the concerns it shares with Europe, such as violent extremism, migration and human trafficking.

Merkel will neither address Ethiopia’s Parliament nor pay a courtesy visit to President Mulatu Teshome (PhD), sources disclosed to Fortune. There will also be no business delegation, while the customary bilateral agreements visiting heads of state see their ministers sign will not happen, disclosed these sources.

“It won’t be a business as usual visit,” said a person knowledgeable of the affair.

Germany appears to be troubled with the political crises unfolding in Ethiopia, where government forces have killed over 500 people in the Amhara and Oromia regional states since popular protests began in November 2015.

Merkel’s meeting, scheduled the same day, with Prime Minister Hailemariam is anticipated to be held in a tense environment. She is likely to deliver her message of the need for Ethiopia’s government to broaden the political space and respect human rights while dealing with dissidents and political opponents, according to sources.

Tewelde Mulugeta, spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, however, looks forward to a cordial talk between the two leaders, focusing on “issues of sustainable development, Ethiopia’s role in ensuring peace and security in the Horn of Africa region, illegal migration and the development of industrial parks”.

Hailemariam has won a major concession last month from United Kingdom government and the World Bank as well as the European bank to build two industrial parks in Ethiopia in a bid to absorb no less than 100,000 workers. Projected to cost half a billion dollars, these parks will be committed to offer 30pc of the labor opportunity for refugees coming from Eritrea and South Sudan.

Perhaps in her bid to hit her message home, Merkel is scheduled to see close to six Ethiopians from non-governmental organisations and opposition leaders hours before her departure, late in the afternoon on Tuesday. Among the latter are Beyene Petros (Prof.) and Merera Gudina (PhD), who are both veteran opposition leaders from Medrek. Both have declined to comment on the planned meeting when approached by Fortune.

So too did the spokesperson from the Foreign Office refrain from making any statement on this unprecedented meeting of a foreign head of state with members of the opposition.



By Tamrat G. Giorgis
Fortune Staff Writer

Published on Oct 11,2016 [ Vol 17 ,No 858]



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