German Chancellor Angela Merkel started a five-day tour of Africa by urging African nations to enforce human rights and offering to help Ethiopia and Eritrea resolve a long-running border dispute.
Ethiopia has been involved in a tense border stand-off with Eritrea
After meeting with Ethiopian Premier Meles Zenawi, on Thursday, Oct. 4., Merkel said transparency, respecting human rights and freedom of the press were all ingredients that not only helped to stabilize nations but also helped economic development.
Human rights were a key issue on the first day of Merkel's visit as she visited Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital. Ethiopia has been heavily criticized by human rights organizations monitoring events there since the 2005 elections, when unrest broke out over suspected vote rigging. A number of people were killed and many more arrested.
Merkel and Zenawi
Amnesty International estimated the number of political prisoners at 200. The press in Ethiopia is still largely state controlled two years after the violence.
After his discussions with Merkel, Zenawi pledged renewed efforts and said his government was working toward a separation of powers between the government, parliament and judiciary. But he said Ethiopia's path towards a democracy meeting Western standards was a difficult one.
Merkel confident of peaceful end to border dispute
For her part, Merkel said that the talks with Zenawi had been "constructive," and the chancellor added that she was confident the acrimonious border dispute between Ethiopia and neighboring Eritrea would be peacefully settled since Ethiopia had accepted the ruling of an impartial border commission. She also pledged Germany's help in achieving stability in the region.
"It seems that the problems are mainly in the implementation [of the border commission's recommendations]," she said. "Wherever we can be of any assistance, Germany will certainly be ready to do so."
She did not specify how Germany could help.
Merkel called on Europe to do more for Africa
At the same time, the German leader called for stronger European efforts for Africa. Saying that "Europe must do more," Merkel conceded that Europeans had neglected Africa in recent years, but Europe had done some introspection, she added self-critically. It was "in Europe's own best interest to intensify relations," she said.
In a speech she later gave to the African Union (AU), Merkel reassured her audience that promises to increase development aid by 2015 would be kept. As current president of the Group of Eight leading industrial nations, Merkel explained that for the promises to be kept industrial nations would have to donate 0.7 percent of their economic power.
Combined AU and UN force to protect Dafur
Merkel said she saw Africa as a whole "in motion." One trend, she said, had been clear for years: "Fewer conflicts, more democratic elections and peaceful transitions of power. Economic growth has increased significantly," Merkel told the AU.
The African Union should join with the UN to protect Sudan
She also spoke of a "reform partnership" with Africa based on "shared values, such as the respect for universal human rights, democracy and constitutionalism" and reiterated her recent appeal for a "common spirit" between Africa and the developed world to reduce poverty, ensure respect for human rights, fight disease and improve education.
The chancellor concluded by calling for the rapid deployment of a joint peacekeeping force to war-ravaged Sudan. Logistical and financial hurdles must be overcome, she said, in a bid to send a joint African Union-United Nations force into Darfur.
"The UNAMID mission must come to action quickly and will hopefully lead to the desired success," she said, while emphasizing "the central responsibility for peace, stability and security lies within Africa itself."
Merkel traveled on to Johannesburg, South Africa, on Thursday evening and is to meet President Thabo Mbeki on Friday. She concludes her visit with a short stop-over in Liberia on Sunday before returning to Berlin.