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German Press Review: Same Victims, Different Problems

The German press was divided on debates at home and abroad with discussions surrounding the effect of reforms on German citizens and the future of African nations after the exile of despotic leaders.


Idi Amin never faced a court for his crimes, will Charles Taylor escape trial by fleeing into exile?

The Saarbrücker Zeitung wrote that if Germany’s conservative Christian Democratic state government chiefs have their way, all state premiers will soon meet with Chancellor Gerhard Schröder for a “reform summit”. The paper continued by saying that as the conservatives could block many changes in the Bundesrat, the upper house of parliament; such a meeting might indeed help to find compromises that are acceptable at federal and state level, as well as for Chancellor Schröder’s Red-Green government and the opposition conservatives.

Munich’s Süddeutsche Zeitung wrote that it is now characteristic of the reform debate going on in Germany that where saving money is concerned the zeal of the politicians is increasingly consistent. However, the paper added that the burden on business is eased while the general population is expected to make more and sacrifices. In other words, reforms are introduced where it hurts, targeting citizens, but not where powerful lobby groups are able to defend themselves.

The Nordkurier in Neubrandenburg, eastern Germany, criticized the fact that Idi Amin, who died in exile in Saudi Arabia at the weekend, is not the only ex-dictator whose crimes have not been punished, and points out that particularly in Africa, but elsewhere too, former despots enjoy a carefree and luxurious life in exile. Only last week, the paper recalled, Liberia’s ex-president was flown to Nigeria to take up exile. It said that, should Taylor be put on trial, he might reveal the names of his partners in crime.

Another eastern German paper, the Mitteldeutsche Zeitung, also referred to Charles Taylor’s departure and expressed fears that a temporary power vacuum had been created and that things may deteriorate even further, as in Somalia, which sank into total anarchy following the overthrow of its own tyrant Siad Barré. The daily said the central question was whether the peacekeeping troops in the country would be able to change the situation and establish rules so that the applicant with the better arguments will have a chance to become president.