Merkel Aims to Stem Migration Flows from Africa

German-Ethio relations stretch back many years, whether it be through culture, quality import products, research or medical facilities. With Chancellor Merkel paying a visit to Ethiopia this week, the focus, however, will be on stemming the flow of migrants from Africa to the EU. Though Merkel herself has become known for extending her hands to welcome migrants by the million, a couple of unfortunate events have led to many opposing her open door policy.

These days, when countries host visiting heads of state, it has become almost a fashion to use words that express the long relationships the two nations have had. In many cases, speech writers refer to the archives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and look for some tangible data.

In the case of Ethio-German relations, however, not much deep digging is necessary -unless one wants to mention names and dates. With health matters being of importance for everybody, let me start with doctors and hospitals where all men and women are treated. The late emperor had doctors from Germany; the old hospital by the side of Patriot Street – formerly known as Hakim Bora before being renamed after the famous “Ras Desta” – is a standing witness of the German Legacy, not to mention the Lambert Institute, where veterinary services were given.

As far as water supply goes, I am a personal eye witness of the German project of deep water wells dug at Aleta Wondo, supplying fresh clean water for Hawassa and its environs. On the socio-cultural side, few foreigners, other than Professors like Ullundorf, have studied Geez literature and its origins.

Thousands of Ethiopians went to Germany at least three decades ago and have assimilated there extremely well by any scale. Some Ethiopians, including my own oldest son, Amen, have been married to a German, and I am a grandfather of three with the oldest studying for her PhD.

Ethiopian cultural and religious ceremonies are celebrated in different cities with colour and full heat, just like in Ethiopia if not more. Recently too, the grandson of Emperor Haile Selassie has been awarded one of the highest accolades in German Academia.

Having said a little about our cultural relations, it would be inexcusable if I skip one big monumental legacy, which is functioning perhaps more than any other of its kind – the German Cultural Centre. It is not without any substantial reason why the German government has been able to scale up the Institute to render its services to the people of Africa as a whole – not restricting it to one country only.

On the economic side too, it should be mentioned here that the “Made in Germany” brand has for a long time been the stamp of quality. From school pens to the shaving razors in many households, from prestigious automobiles to telecommunications transmission equipment, including the “A” and “B” standard Earth Satellite dishes, the best in Africa are all made in Germany.

Even at our social partying sessions on the weekends, many of the various beer brands we enjoy have their origin in Germany. The old saying that quality promotes itself without much-ado-about-nothing applies well here.

I want to mention a little bit about the German contributions in the mining sector too. One may pay a short visit to the libraries of the Ministry of Mines and refer to old documents and geological maps of surveys made from time immemorial about places where different mines may be further explored. A typical example that comes to mind is the platinum at Yubod. Gold along the western border in the Benishangul Gumuz Regional State around Kurmuk can be cited as well. There are bits of information that these days there is a rush for gold towards that vicinity, which is good news to me as long as Ethiopians are profiting.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to some African countries, including Ethiopia, is known to be concerning migration – a controversial issue that has gained perhaps some discontent among her supporters, even among her own party.

By some historical coincidence, Angela Merkel is from Eastern Germany and became Chancellor after the historic reunion of the two Germanys. The irony lies in the fact that she has stretched her hands of benevolence to host as many as a million people, but unfortunately her hands have been bitten by a few migrants with links to terrorism. This shook most members of the EU with terror and brought threats to the establishment itself. Great Britain’s Brexit phenomenon was little more than a reaction to this very issue.

Another point in mind is the fact among the migrants from Africa, particularly those from Eritrea and Ethiopia fleeing their respective nations, pay human traffickers if they can or walk or hitch across the desert and float across the Mediterranean Sea at any cost. Some may be crammed onto a fishing boat, risking their lives. Merkel, being aware of these facts, could not turn away her hands.

The irony not to be ignored is the fact that she comes from a reunited Germany to visit, among other countries, Ethiopia – a country of one of the oldest civilisations globally. This is also the “Land of Origins” be they endemic wild animals, human beings or coffee, which is cherished and consumed by Germans more so than anybody else in the world, including the Chinese.

By Girma Feyissa

Published on Oct 18,2016 [ Vol 17 ,No 859]



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