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Germany

Opinion: Is Germany Fit to Lead Peacekeepers in Congo?

Even as German President Köhler weighed into the debate of sending German troops to Congo, Deutsche Welle's Africa correspondent Ludger Schadomsky argues that the Germans might be biting off more than they can chew.

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Would an EU mission in Congo do more harm than good?

Clearly, a European presence in the Democratic Republic of Congo makes sense.

Mission Artemis proved this in the east of the country in 2003. Within 24 hours the French Foreign Legionnaires managed to do what UN-peacekeepers from Uruguay had failed to accomplish in weeks: The legion disarmed militia groups in the Ituri province and protected civilians from rebel attacks.

Concerns over malaria tablets and child soldiers

But whether Germany of all countries has the knowledge and experience to be the lead nation of EU-troops in DRC is questionable.

Kindersoldaten in Kongo

Some German politicians are worried that peacekeepers might be up against child soldiers

The German army is currently more concerned about the side effects of malaria tablets and some conservative politicians only care about German resource interests in the DRC. The debate becomes even more ridiculous when German parliamentarians fret about whether German soldiers might have to shoot child soldiers.

It’s more than likely though that no child soldier will be seen in the command-center in Potsdam in eastern Germany, nor in safe Gabun, where most of the troops will be deployed.

The question that is most pressing is whether there are enough German soldiers in Potsdam who actually speak well enough French in order to discuss a possible evacuation in Kinshasa with French troops.

And what happens if riots break out, before the four-month mission ends? According to EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, it’s up to the lead nation to decide about an extension of the mission ---that’ll be up to Germany then.

One can only imagine the scene if all hell breaks loose: coordinators get stuck at Kinshasa airport, even though they should be at the Hindukush in Afghanistan, defending German interests there.

Germany in a sticky position

Once again: A European rapid reaction force is all very well. But 1500 soldiers who will be mainly deployed in a neighboring country simply are a farce and an embarrassment for the self-proclaimed super-power EU.

Deutschland Frankreich Ministerrat Merkel Chirac

Merkel has bowed in to Chirac's desire to see Germany take a leading role in Congo

German Chancellor Angela Merkel who has little to no knowledge about Africa has been tricked by the cunning fox Jacques Chirac into taking over the role as lead nation. Chirac who of course still plays colonial master in some parts of Africa, now has Germany to do the donkey work for him there.

A withdrawal from the mission is hardly possible anymore.

More harm than good?

Let’s take a look back. 43 years ago was the last time a German soldier fought in the Congo: The legendary mercenary soldier Siegfried Müller, also known as Congo-Müller, of course was a disgrace -- he drove around with the scull of a rebel on his jeep.

However, experts have long been discussing the option of using mercenaries. Because one thing is clear: An overstretched and inexperienced German lead nation can do more harm than good. DRC already has enough problems, it doesn’t need the so-called help of foreign troops who will barely be able to help

themselves.

Maybe it wasn’t a coincidence that on his last visit to Germany the DRC’s foreign minister Raymond Baya said he didn’t know anything about a planned EU mission to Congo.

Maybe he was just trying to give a broad hint.

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