By Addis Getachew and Seleshi Tessema
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia
Africa’s prosperity is in the best interests of Europe, said German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Ethiopia Tuesday after inaugurating the new headquarters of the African Union’s Peace and Security Council.
“Germany has been supporting the African Union in its peace and security architecture and early warning system,” said Merkel.
The four-story, state-of-the-art, and environmentally friendly building was built with technical and financial support from the German government.
The Peace and Security Council, the African Union’s standing organ for the prevention, management and resolution of conflicts, was established to be a collective security and “early warning” arrangement with the ability to facilitate timely and efficient responses to conflict and crisis situations, according to the union’s website.
The chancellor said the continent’s various conflicts such as in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Great Lakes region, among others, should be resolved through dialogue and compromise.
“Sustainable development will drain the swamp of terrorism and extremism,” she said, adding that its lack is one cause for migration and human trafficking.
She said that under the 2015 La Valletta plan, 1.8 billion euros were earmarked to help African countries tackle the problem of young people migrating.
-Tolerant and peaceful example
Speaking at the occasion, African Union Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma thanked Germany for what she called “a donation” that would facilitate for the work of the African Union’s Peace and Security Council.
“Germany has learned from history to be tolerant and peaceful,” Zuma said. “No surprise it has become a hope for migrants and refugees.”
She called for continued dialogue on migration between Africa and Europe.
“Contrary to popular belief, only 1 in 10 people who migrated to Europe are from Africa,” she said, adding that this only constitutes 0.9 per cent of Africa’s population.
-‘Vibrant civil society needed’
Merkel earlier met and held discussions with Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn.
They discussed issues related to refugees and regional security, with particular focus on African peacekeeping, which has had the support of Germany’s government. They also discussed the current situation in Ethiopia.
“We have been following violent conflicts in your country. We made a case to get in dialogue with people who have problems and are dissatisfied,” she said.
She said, “Ethiopians must be allowed to have a vibrant civil society, and people must be allowed to express their opinion.”
“We discussed with the prime minister the proportionality of measures by security forces,” she told a news conference after meeting Desalegn. “We can help in de-escalation and mediation so as to solve problems peacefully.”
Desalegn, for his part, said that as a nascent democracy Ethiopia still suffers from shortcomings.
“We are committed to go further to open up the political space,” he pledged.
This is the second time Merkel has visited Ethiopia, following up on a 2007 visit.
Later Tuesday afternoon she is scheduled to meet with officials from Ethiopia’s major opposition parties.
Before arriving in Ethiopia, she visited Niger and Mali.