Kochanke: ″The AU is taking its responsibility seriously“ | Africa | DW | 24.05.2013
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Kochanke: "The AU is taking its responsibility seriously“

The African Union is redefining its security policy, the German foreign ministry 's regional director for Africa told DW. He says the organization also needs institutions with a clear mandate and secure funding.

DW: Does the African Union have a reason to celebrate on May 25th?

Egon Kochanke: The African Union in Addis Ababa will have a joyous celebration. It is rightly proud of the many things it has accomplished. Many goals that were set 50 years ago - making Africa more visible, developing politically and economically and creating a region subject to the same laws - have been met, but there is still much to be done. Currently, the strength of the African Union lies in it being very active in discussing and agreeing on foreign and security policies. It has to be acknowledged that Africa, through the energetic new chairperson of the AU Commission, Ms Dlamini-Zuma, is highly committed and is in the process of creating a culture of peace and security which has succeeded in bringing about change in many African conflicts.

Ms Dlamini-Zuma took office with the avowed intention of "making the AU more effective." What concrete action does she need to take so that the AU loses its reputation of being a toothless tiger?

What needs to be done here, as in many other areas in Africa, is to work on capacity building. An appropriately equipped institution has to be created. The European Union as a whole, and Germany as an individual nation, want to help here. We hope that through this cooperation, a greater economic as well as social and legal integration can be established in the long term. We are on the right path. We also want to help the Africans in the areas of good governance and democratization. It is, of course, important for such institutions to be able to work properly. That is why we have invested 26.5 million euros ($34 million) in a building for the Peace and Security Department.

Nigeria soldiers, part of the African-led international support mission to Mali (Photo:AP/dapd)

It was not the AU but ECOWAS which sent African troops to Mali (here, Nigerian soldiers)

Let's take a closer look at the security and peace structure. Germany is involved in the planned African Standby Force, which is intended to be a swift intervention force. But the issue has been discussed for years and there is still no task force ready to intervene in a crisis like the one we are now seeing in Mali and which is a test case for the AU.

That is correct. But there are also problems of financing and that's why this Standby Force, which consists of five brigades that still have to be set up, is still not fully developed. In my opinion, one solution would be to work together with regional organizations during specific operations. For example, the West African economic community ECOWAS has to be mentioned foremost when talking about the crisis in Mali. But also the Southern African Development Community (SADC) has clearly moved forward. That is just the beginning, in the long run, of course, better funding will be necessary. That is why it is important to have the United Nations play a different role in Mali in the future because there are other methods of funding there. What is important, however, is that the troops should come from Africa.

We saw, however, that the Ethiopians, together with the Kenyans, took care of a difficult situation in Somalia on a bilateral basis, while the AU mission in Somalia (AMISOM) amounted to nothing more than a better bodyguard force for a barely authorised Somali transition government.

The security situation in and around Mogadishu and in parts of South and Central Somalia has clearly improved during the past months, especially thanks to the AU mission. But support from other African partners has also contributed. The growing readiness of Africans to take on responsibility is clearly shown in Somalia. One of the main demands coming from Africa is to have African solutions for African problems. It remains a key task of the AU to seek solutions for crisis regions or for individual countries.

Andry Rajoelina who came to power in Madagascar in a coup in 2009 (c) dpa - Bildfunk

The AU suspended Madagascar after Andry Nirina (left) came to power in in a coup in 2009.

One indication of how seriously this is taken is the lack of acceptance for illegal changes of government. The AU is energetically working against that and either imposes sanctions or suspends membership as was the case with Madagascar. That is a huge step forward since the time when the AU's predecessor, the OAU, was formed, when the principles of national sovereignity and non-interference were taken very seriously.

The late Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi achieved the exact opposite of that with his special vision of a "United States of Africa" - he split the continent into a pro-Gadhafi and an anti-Gadhafi faction. The antagonisms were later reflected in the election of the AU Commission chairperson Dlamini-Zuma. There was a francophone and an anglophone bloc and South Africa was basically viewed with suspicion by all. During your discussions, do you see signs that these divisions are evening out again?

I am sure that the Ms Dlamini-Zuma will be able to unite the African Union even more. One of the positive developments that she has brought about in the past year is that this confrontation no longer exists. Of course there will always be differences in Africa, for example, between the anglophone and francophone countries. In this case we have to create proportional representation through diplomacy and inclusion.

Let's take a look at Germany's role. Africans often demand a much stronger German presence. Critics here and abroad point to the lack of a coherent Africa policy. Is this impression misleading or is much of Germany's Africa policy made up from separate elements and generally crisis-driven?

The Africa policy of the federal government was laid out clearly and in accordance with the Africa concept of 2011. This placed the focus on several areas: The philosophy behind this is a partnership of equals. We are ready to support the Africans, to build capacities and also to speak about African self-responsibility. The issues that we cover in our concept - peace and security, good governance, rule of law and democracy, as well as human rights - are also included in the African charta. It is always necessary to conduct talks on equal terms - which is an enormous task with 48 sub-Saharan states.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle being welcomed in Ghana in April 2013 (Photo: Michael Kappeler/dpa

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle on his arrival in Ghana in April 2013

The so-called 'African renaissance' began during the late 20th century. High hopes were pinned on people like Meles Zenawi from Ethiopia, Isaias Afewerki from Eritrea or Paul Kagame from Rwanda - who all later turned out to be authoritarian and incapable of embodying the concepts of good leadership and democratization. In which political figures do you now place your hopes for the future of the African continent as it grows economically?

I don't want to award grades and select specific people. It is encouraging to see that now, compared to the past, we have multi-party constitutions in over 40 African countries. The opposition can play their part and a change of government is possible, as happened recently in Ghana. Even German Foreign Minister Westerwelle made it clear during his recent visit to Africa that we do not want only to see an Africa beset by crises but also an Africa full of chances and opportunities.

Egon Kochanke is the regional director for Africa in the German foreign ministry. Before that he was Germany's ambassador to Namibia.

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