Merkel kicks off West Africa tour pledging support in fight against terrorism

Boosting counter-terrorism support for countries in West Africa has become one of Angela Merkel's main priorities on the continent. The chancellor has now pledged millions to improve security in the Sahel region.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel started her tour of West Africa on Wednesday, a trip that will see her visit Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger for key talks over the next three days.

Politics | 28.03.2019

Merkel pledged millions in financial support for the restive Sahel region on Wednesday evening, shortly after meeting with Burkina Faso's President Roch Marc Christian Kabore in the capital, Ouagadougou.

Germany will give an additional €20 million to Burkina Faso and over €35 million to Niger ($22.4 million and $39 million, respectively) to support development projects as well as the outfitting and training of police officers in each country, she said.

"We talked about the deteriorating security situation and we want to be on the side of Burkina Faso, especially in terms of cooperation on security," Merkel told reporters after a meeting with Kabore.

"This is necessary because in the east and north of the country there is a situation where children cannot go to school, where populations seem to live in insecurity. We need to end these problems as quickly as possible."

€60 million to G5 Sahel

Berlin also pledged an additional €60 million to the merger of the so-called G5 Sahel countries — which include Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Mauritania and Chad.

The chancellor added that the German government has been working to secure investments in the region, to make sure that private-sector investments from German firms were possible.

"Africa needs a self-supporting economic boom," she said.

The bulk of Merkel's visit will focus on security and supporting counter-terrorism efforts in the Sahel region.

Earlier, her spokesman Steffen Seibert said that the region "has become the main focus of Germany's Africa policy" and that Berlin was committed to helping tackling the rising number of terror attacks.

Terrorism, migration in focus

Later on Wednesday, she met with the leaders of the G5 Sahel countries where they were expected to discuss the G5's counter-terrorism forces and how they can work more efficiently in the region.

Although the counter-terrorism force was formed in 2014, it has not yet become fully operational, with observers saying that the 5,000-soldier force still has a lot of work to do to establish itself in the region.

Germany and the European Union have taken in an increased interest in West Africa in recent years, and are pushing to improve the security situation and improve the economic situation in the Sahel region.

Poverty and conflicts in the area have displaced millions of people and are some of the main drivers of migration to Europe.

"If we don't solve the problems in Africa, they will come to us," Development Minister Gerd Müller told the Passauer Neue Presse newspaper on Wednesday.

He praised Merkel's West Africa trip as "a clear signal that we won't forget the poorest of the poor and that we stand by their side."

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Mali: German soldiers 'to be guardians of human rights'

Merkel to visit troops

On Thursday, she will travel to Mali to meet with around 850 German soldiers who are stationed in the northern part of the country as part of a United Nations peacekeeping mission and an EU training mission.

The German military's mission in Mali is the second-largest foreign mission and is regarded as the most dangerous.

During her stop in Mali, Merkel will also attend a discussion with university students.

Merkel will also visit the site where a women's shelter is being constructed in Niger on Friday before heading back to Germany.

Where do African refugees go?

Refugee numbers in Africa

There are over 30 million migrants in Africa: that includes refugees, internally displaced persons and returnees. The numbers increased in recent years, and DW found out that those leaving their home countries tend to go to the same destination. The South Sudanese child pictured here is one of many who found shelter in a refugee camp in Uganda.

Where do African refugees go?

South Sudan

As of the end of January 2019, 2.28 million people from South Sudan had fled their country, via an international border. That is the highest number for any African country. Their main destination: neighboring Sudan. The South Sudanese refugee crisis is the largest in Africa and the third largest in the world, after Syria and Afghanistan. Many South Sudanese refugees are children.

Where do African refugees go?

A long way to go

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is one of the most ethnically diverse nations in the world. This remains a cause of tension and contributes to ongoing violence, which drives the displacement of people. Civilians suffer under the attacks of armed groups as well as from intercommunal clashes. Most are reported in North and South Kivu, Ituri, Tanganyika, Haut-Katanga, and Haut-Lomami.

Where do African refugees go?

DR Congo

Hundreds of thousands of people fled the country up until 2019. While DR Congo has to deal with millions of internally displaced persons, many found refuge in neighboring countries. Uganda is their main country of refuge, and currently hosts some 2.3 million refugees from DR Congo. The reasons are also geographical, as Uganda shares borders with many crisis-torn regions.

Where do African refugees go?

Somalians flee to Kenya

Somalia is troubled by ongoing civil strife which caused thousands to flee to neighboring Ethiopia and Kenya, and pushed many Somalis to the brink of starvation.The country lacks a unified central government. The extremist al-Qaeda affiliate al-Shabab controls much of southern Somalia, although African Union troops have seen major victories against the group.

Where do African refugees go?

Somalia

The number of Somali refugees is almost as high as that of DR Congo refugees. But, the main destination for Somalians is Kenya. The Dadaab camp, a complex of three settlements, is one of the world's largest refugee camps. It was built to house 90,000 people but is now home to more than 200,000 people.

Where do African refugees go?

One of the world's largest refugee camp

Across Africa, migrants are seeking a safe haven. Some find it in refugee camps like the world's biggest refugee settlement at Dadaab, Kenya, where they can stay for years and start new lives and families. This contributes to the rise in refugee numbers and explains how children can be born with refugee status.

Where do African refugees go?

Central African Republic

The Central African Republic (CAR) has been unstable since its independence from France in 1960. Muslim Seleka rebels seized power in the majority-Christian country in 2013. Under international pressure, Seleka handed power to a transitional government in 2014 but months of violence followed and the CAR was effectively partitioned.

Where do African refugees go?

Struggling to emerge

Burundi is one of the world's poorest nations. After a 12-year, ethnic-based civil war, the country is still struggling to recover. The usually-dominant Tutsi minority and the Hutu majority have failed to overcome tensions since the country gained independence in 1962. In 1994, a civil war between the two ethnic groups made Burundi the scene of one of Africa's most persistent conflicts.

Where do African refugees go?

Burundi

Burundi has been in another crisis since April 2015 after President Nkurunziza’s announcement that he would run for a third term. The economy has declined significantly due to political instability and insecurity. Human rights violations such as kidnappings and torture by the police, military, and the ruling party’s youth league persist.

Where do African refugees go?

Between life and death

In Africa's most populous country, Nigeria, thousands of people have died in recent years in communal attacks led by the Islamist terror organization Boko Haram. At the same time, separatist aspirations grew and the imposition of Islamic law in several northern states has embedded divisions and caused thousands of Christians to flee, sometimes undertaking a dangerous journey across the desert.

Where do African refugees go?

Nigeria

Conflict is the major driver of the humanitarian crisis in Nigeria. In the northeast, Boko Haram has affected more than 14 million people. The group carries out attacks against the military and civilians in Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa states. Conflict between herders and farmers in Nigeria’s Middle Belt and southern states has been growing increasingly violent, killing and displacing thousands.

rs/jm (dpa, epd, AFP)

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