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German defense minister expresses support for Mali rebuilding

Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen has reaffirmed Germany's support for Mali's new government. During a visit to Bamako, she expressed "great respect for the method and manner" the country has rebuilt its democracy.

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German defense minister visits troops in Africa

On Thursday, von der Leyen said that Germany

wanted to help Mali

get back on track as it rebuilds following an internal conflict that ended last year with French military intervention.

"This is above all important for the young generation," she told reporters after meeting with Malian Defense Minister Soumeylou Boubeye.

"The principle has to be help people help themselves, because this young democracy can only be stable if Mali has secured the skills for itself," said von der Leyen, who traveled to Mali a day after

meeting with German soldiers

in Senegal.

Troop mandate 'clearly defined'

Germany has had about 100 Bundeswehr troops

stationed in the country

since last summer as part of the European Union's EUTM Mali mission. Von der Leyen, who is on her first trip to Africa since taking office last month, reiterated Thursday that their job was to train Malian soldiers and provide medical support.

"Our mandate is clearly defined," she said.

Following her reception in Bamako, von der Leyen traveled to meet with soldiers at the German military's camp in Koulikoro, about 50 kilometers (30 miles) northeast of the capital.

Boubeye said the Malian military's cooperation with the Bundeswehr had been "exemplary and fruitful."

"The German instructurs play an essential role," he added.

'Potential for danger' remains

In January 2013, French troops intervened in the Malian government's fight against Islamist insurgents in the country's restive northern region. France helped to largely defeat the rebel fighters, though Mali continues to struggle for stability.

Though the country is now in a state of relative security, von der Leyen said the "potential for danger is still there."

"We have to stay vigilant, and pushing back [the rebels] doesn't mean that the problem is solved," she said.

dr/mkg (AFP, dpa)

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