Bundeswehr’s Passion for Africa

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Germany is ready to use force in the battle for minerals

Bundeswehr’s Passion for Africa

Originally appeared at VPK, translated by Elmo Goof exclusively for SouthFront

The participation of the German troops in the settlement of international conflicts on the Balkan supported by NATO-partners, which was consistent with the aspirations of the German politicians in that strategic region, paved the way to the desired Africa. The black continent with its huge territory and more than a billion people, its natural resources, reaching 30-40% of all the mineral planet reserves, always appealed to the German military-industrial circles.

In 1872, the German adventurer Ernst von Weber advised to take over the colonies in Africa. The first trading post was founded by Adolf Lüderitz on the South-West of the continent. This historical event was inaugurated on the 1st of May 1883 with the purchase of some tens of square miles of land from the African leader for 80 pounds sterling and 200 old rifles. Soon, Lüderitz increased his possessions to 900 square miles. After a year, the German battle ship ‘Nautilus’ anchored on his coasts. And a few months after that, the German ambassador in Cape Town, performing Bismarck’s assignments, officially announced the taking of Lüderitz’s possessions under protection. This is how Germany got its first African colony. At the end of the 19th century, Kenya, Rwanda and Burundi were included in the so-called German East Africa. Today these countries are full-fledged members of the pro-western East African community, of which the area of influence is assumed to be extended to South-Sudan.

The market of remote access

Germany’s attention for African countries, which expresses itself in establishing contacts and expanding the network with national governments, including providing of financial, cultural and military help, can be explained quite prosaically: the aspiration to provide a reliable path to the mineral resources of the continent. The economy and the national security rely upon the stability of deliveries. The country became a long time ago Europe’s biggest importer of African products. Hydrocarbons arrive from Libya, Algeria, Nigeria, Angola, Gabon, the Republic of Congo, Tunisia and Egypt. Germany acutely needs cobalt from Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (former Zaïre), bauxite from Guinea, copper from Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, phosphates from Morocco, Senegal and Togo, iron ore from Liberia and Mauritania, cacao beans from Côte d’Ivoire, Cameron, Nigeria and Ghana. The permanent suppliers of sisal are Madagascar, Tanzania, and Kenya. Germany imports coffee from Kenya, Tanzania, Cameron, Côte d’Ivoire, cotton is imported from Egypt, Sudan, Mali, Chad and Uganda, tin ore is imported from Rwanda. Tropical wood is made in Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Liberia, Cameron and Gabon. And the valuable strategic raw materials like uranium, vanadium, manganese ore, rough diamonds, chrome, platinum and nickel are imported to Germany from South-Africa.

In its turn, the German business circles consider the continent as a perspective market for the production sales of the leading sectors of the industry. Traditionally, a prominent place in the trading structure of the German export to African countries is occupied by cars and transport modes, equipment for food, pulp and paper and mining industry and agriculture, and also sea and river craft, planes, railway equipment.

Germany demonstrates in all possible ways a friendly spirit in the trading-economic and cultural relations with the countries from that continent. Germany participates with enthusiasm in many social-economic programs to help the African population, the cumulative volume of which is approximately one billion dollars a year.

Many German advisors, experts and consultants develop formal and informal contacts with officials from civilian agencies and authorities of African countries intrigue them with perspectives of beneficial cooperation, preparing and strengthening in this way a basis for the expansion of its further presence. ‘Loyal’ local officials become within a period of time active guides of the interests of the German military and industrial circles.

A typical German product

A characteristic and quite colorful example of cooperation with the African elite is given in an article by the monthly magazine of Germany’s Ministry of Defense, Y – Das Magazin der Bundeswehr, about the Mali army colonel Nuhume Mamadou Traoré who arrived to the duty station in the barracks of Koulikoro on the right bank of Niger in a shining BMW with a Hamburg license plate. In an interview for the edition, the Commander of the Education Center, colonel Traoré said, in perfect German, that Germany is his second birthplace, where he spent more than ten years, in the beginning studying in the Bundeswehr’s university in Hamburg and afterwards in the Bundeswehr’s Academy of Management. Traoré confessed to the correspondents of Die Welt that he sees himself as a typical German product, an officer with the emblem ‘made in Germany’.

The Mali government, following the example of other African countries, eagerly sends its soldiers to developed states for training. There are a lot of officers in the Armed Forces of the country who got a free military education in prestigious educational centers in Western countries thanks to the assistance programs. According to Die Welt, “the Mali government practically doesn’t invest in the Armed Forces. The salary of the soldiers is very small, the weaponry is bad. The transferred resources from the international organization for the purchase of modern equipment, gets into the hands of corrupted officials”. This is why the obtained education in the West is considered among soldiers of the African armies as a successful continuation of the career.

From the statements of distinguished German politicians appears a quite clear aspiration for the expansion of relations with African countries. Former Minister of Defense of Germany, Peter Struck, pointed out the special responsibility of Germany in relation to that continent. These words are conformable with the demand to not leave the continent without supervision made by an American general, David M. Rodriguez, the head of the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM), created by the USA especially for the supervision of the development and the transport of the recoverable natural resources, and also the organization of opposition for the competitors from Europe and Asia. The Secretary of State of the Ministry of Economy of FRG, Johann Homann also reminded of the great economic potential of African countries.

The head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of FRG, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, doesn’t exclude the possibility of Bundeswehr’s military operations in Africa, under a seemingly well-intentioned preposition of protection of European interests. In an interview for the newspaper Frankfurter allgemeine Zeitung he seriously talks about the expediency of military activities, which will help to overcome the instability in crisis regions and to prevent the spread of new immigrant waves in Europe. The 7th summit of EU-Africa, which announced an opening of a new chapter in the relations, pushed Germany to the utilization of all possibilities for the strengthening of positions on the continent. The care of keeping the image of a European leader on the international arena also demands this from Germany. After the 7th summit EU-Africa the European Union announced the beginning of an armed mission in CAR. Up till now, Bundeswehr was limited to an indirect participation in the military operation. Luftwaffe planes carried out the transport of people and freights to neighboring countries. Now the transporting aviation of German Armed Forces is heading directly to the capitol of CAR, Bangui. The participation of Bundeswehr in land operations is not mentioned yet.

Court-martial novel

Bundeswehr’s progression to Africa in NAVO’s military contingent gets the support from local governments which are loyal to EU. The president of Côte d’Ivoire, Allasane Ouattara, executer of the duties of the president of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), announced that the North of Mali is a shelter for terroristic groups and sent 3300 soldiers from the inter-African forces under the command of ECOWAS for a land operation against Islamists. And the president of Benin, Boni Yayi, urged NAVO to send a military contingent for the participation in the military operation against terrorists, sanctioned by UN.

“Africa would like to learn a lot from NAVO”, said Ramtane Lamamra, commissioner of the African Union for Peace and Security. Angela Merkel called this organization a decisive force for a political solution of the problems on the continent and an important factor for the creation of architecture of peace and security.

Bundeswehr’s press informs the private staff of Germany’s Armed Forces more concrete and less diplomatic about the government’s intentions in relation to Africa. Department of Defense’s weekly newspaper, Aktuell, openly announced in August that the continent becomes more attractive. The concrete confirmation of the message about the intensification of the relations between Bundeswehr and the South-African army was the agreement for strategic partnership signed by Bundeswehr’s Lieutenant General Bruno Kasdorf and the South-African military commander Vusumuzi Ramakala Masondo in Pretoria. The main goal was the development of a practical cooperation of armies, including the exchange of experts, information, directing observers to military training etc. “These are our first concrete steps to a long-term, intensive partnership,” resumed Lieutenant General Bruno Kasdorf.

The passionate love affair between Bundeswehr and the South-African army gains quickly momentum and gets a concrete outline. The possible perspectives for cooperation even impress high ranked German officers. During the visit of a German delegation to a training camp in the Kalahari Desert, the commander of an educational center in Leipzig, Major-General Walter Spindler, didn’t hide his admiration for what he has seen: “The education ground with great possibilities is a doubtless interest for the army.” Because only the area of this training center, equipped with various spaces for special training and rifle tracks for all types of guns, contains 158 000 hectares. This is twice as big as the area of Berlin. Somewhat earlier, the weekly magazine Aktuell released material about the work of German instructors in Somali, relocated to that place from Uganda full of enthusiasm ‘to repeat the success of last year’.

The explanation for the warlike statements made by top officials of the government is superficial. The politicians are forced to react on demands made by the representatives of the German business circles, which are openly formulated by the head of the Federal Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce, Martin Wansleben. He stated expressly that the task of Merkel’s government is the security of access for the German business to the resources and minerals in Africa. Wansleben expressed, in front of press representatives, his anxiety, caused by the transmission of exclusive rights for the mining of rare-earth metals exclusively to Chinese companies. Professor Helmut Asche, who worked more than 10 years as an advisor of social-economic affairs for the governments of Burkina Faso, Rwanda and Kenya, explained in an interview for the Deutsche Welle the content of the German concept about the progression to the African continent. “We will not keep in mind firstly ministration and the eradication of poverty. A reliable foundation for our own economy is a more solid partnership with countries which possess minerals”.

Traveling salesmen with rifles

The German government also experiences a certain pressure from the producers of rifles, who perceives Africa already a long time as a profitable market and not as a crisis and explosive area. The words said by Georg Wilhelm Adamowitsch, executive director of the Federation of German Security & Defense Industries, were placed as a header in a Berlin newspaper, Berliner Morgenpost. He said: “the gun industry expects help from the government in the gun export”. Herewith, the list of the German air and marine transport is quite extended; from rockets to firearms and tear-gas. The countries of the African continent are very well-informed about the production of such manufacturers as Rheinmetall (antiaircraft and artillery systems, armored vehicles, tank guns and rifles), Krauss-Maffei Wegmann GmbH & Co KG (tracked and wheeled armored vehicles), Kieler Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft GmbH, which is a part of ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (naval vessels and non-nuclear submarines).

The timid criticism of the parliament opposition about the deliveries of patrol ships to Angola stumbled upon a harsh recommendation from the German Ministry of Defense to t to dramatize the situation, since it’s only about the help in the strengthening of the Navy for the protection of maritime borders. And still, Angela Merkel got a caustic nickname from the leader of a left winged party, Gesine Lötzsch: ‘an around the world traveling salesman with rifles’. The scandal caused by accusations against Germany, which illegally delivered guns to Africa, hasn’t still faded away. The fact of the discovery of assault rifles G36, fabricated by the German firm Heckler&Koch in Oberndorf, during the taking of Kaddafi’s residence in Tripoli still doesn’t have any comprehensible, official explanation.

Bundeswehr already takes part in four African UN missions and three EU missions. “We have to be occupied with Africa,” peremptorily said Lieutenant General Hans-Werner Fritz to the magazine Die Welt, “the development of these countries is in our interests”. In particular, Fritz advised the FRG Minister of Defense, Ursula von der Leyen, to send the troops to Mogadishu and to extend the mission in Mali.

Currently, 519 Bundeswehr’s soldiers in Africa, in addition to the operation Atalanta near Cape Horn, are participating in missions in South-Sudan (UNMISS), Sudan (UNAMID), Senegal and Mali (MINUSMA), West-Sahara (MINURSO), Somali (EUTM SOM) …

Outsiders anxiously note Bundeswehr’s gradual transformation into an occupying army.

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