Opposition parties in Germany have criticized a proposal that German army trainers be sent to Somalia as part of an EU mission. It's part of a debate on whether Germany should boost its military engagement in Africa.
German defense ministry planning for a potential deployment of Bundeswehr military trainers to Mogadishu prompted demands on Monday from opposition parties that the question be debated in parliament.
The opposition Left party's foreign relations spokesman Stefan Liebich said "for weeks" planning had apparently been taking place on the "implementation of a political doctrine of more Bundeswehr in Africa" - without consulting parliament.
Germany's national lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, has the final say on deployments abroad.
The opposition Greens' security spokeswoman Agnieszka Brugger said Chancellor Angela Merkel's grand coalition needed to explain "why the government had changed its opinion on the security situation [in Somalia]."
"Then we will examine the mandate," Brugger told the Berliner Zeitung newspaper.
The chairman of parliament's defense committee, Hans-Peter Bartels of the Social Democrats (SPD), who are partners in Merkel's coalition, said: "It is in any case appropriate to train Somali military personnel."
"Our approach is helping [people] to help themselves," Bartels told the Mitteldeutsche Zeitung newspaper.
SPD defense expert Rainer Arnold said Germany could not opt out when "our other European partners" were involved. "We're not talking about combat operations, but instead about training," Arnold said, adding that German intentions for Africa involved "small, temporary modules."
EU mission relocated to Mogadishu
Until December, some 20 German military personnel were located in Uganda to train Somali soldiers as part of the EU Training Mission (EUTM).
In January that mission was relocated to Mogadishu, where Islamist insurgents often try to disrupt reconstruction efforts. The Somali capital has been guarded since 2011 by African Union troops, serving with a UN mandate.
The German news magazine Spiegel reported on Sunday that the German Defense Ministry intended to finalize the number of trainers intended for Somalia by early March. After that the proposal would be submitted to the German parliament.
Last week, Germany's new Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen of Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) visited German military trainers and logistics personnel involved in an EU mission in western Africa to overhaul Mali's army.
Her recent remark that Germany should boost its international military engagement in the world's trouble spots "within the framework of our alliances" triggered debate in a country still doubtful about its post-World War Two role.
Survey shows Germans doubtful
A survey conducted for the German news agency DPA in late January showed that 45 percent of Germans believed the country's military was already too active abroad, while an additional 30 percent thought the current extent of foreign deployments was just right.
Only 12 percent of those polled thought that Germany's military was not doing enough abroad.
Those results were published shortly after a Berlin visit by UN chief Ban Ki-moon who urged Germany to show more global leadership.
At January's Munich Security Conference, German President Joachim Gauck said Germany should consider the use of military force only as a measure of last resort and under UN authorization when crimes against humanity took place.
Germany currently has nearly 5,500 personnel abroad, mainly in Afghanistan, Kosovo and in naval patrols off Syria and the Horn of Africa.
ipj/msh (AFP, AP, dpa)