Few remember that Germany once had several African colonies.
Berlin is seeking to revise its constitutional restraints on its pacifism and absenteeism in military engagements by increasing its troops to Mali. It seeks no longer to remain on the side-lines of world politics
On 6 February, 2014, Ursula von der Leyen, the German Defense Minister, stepped into the Sahel’s crisis with a more assertive German ambition in world security hotspots. Laying to rest, at last, Berlin’s unremitted knee-jerk pacifism and constitutional restraint, she came to Mali to announce the boosting of German peacekeeping forces from 180 to 330 soldiers. Far from being a symbolic figure, Germany is coming out all the way from its long retreat into security policy passivity and absenteeism. Finally, Berlin has come to agreement with the compelling necessity to trade the relics of its cold war military for a modern professional striking force as a prerequisite to playing a meaningful engagement in the international defence community.
BERLIN SEEKING TO FLEX ITS MILITARY ROLE IN AFRICA
Thus far, from the Balkans to Afghanistan, and footing its military training fields all the way to the Horn of Africa, Sudan, and Congo, Berlin has been stretching its foreign policy frontiers from central Africa to the Sahel region. The Bundeswehr had been deployed since the end of 2008 in a large counter-piracy contingents off the coasts of Somalia. As an important benchmark of German foreign policy credentials, Berlin contributed in May 2012, up to 1400 troops along with the German warship Frigate Bayern to the first EU aero-naval operation “Atalanta” in the Horn of Africa. Germany pledged a total of 35 millions euros to support humanitarian aid for Somali refugees. In Mali, the Bundeswehr has been training the Malian security forces and provided air support for the UN force (Minusma) from its support base in Senegal. German troops of the Franco-German Brigade are likely going to be dispatched to Mali to serve the EU mission training Malian army. Military establishment is advocating for EU battle groups to be tested in combat. Since 2007, these combat units have been on stand-by and never tested into action. The Bundeswehr has so far dispatched at least 6000 troops on world security zones.
GERMANY LAYS PACIFISM TO REST
The siren songs of Germany’s security predicaments have just begun to play out a new global security tune. Indeed, in a series of carefully orchestrated public statements, Berlin’s foreign policy establishment has recently voiced a call for reassessing Berlin’s roadmap for shaping actively world order and diplomatic outreach. A trio of German new foreign policy hawks has perked up a sea change in Berlin’s security predicaments for the years to come. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier observed that a mantra of military restraint is not an agenda for shirking from responsibility, nor an ersatz of non-participation. He strongly made the point that “Germany is really too big to only sit on the sidelines and comment on world politics.” German President Joachim Gauck is calling for a greater role in Germany’s military engagement on world stage. For Ursula von der Leyen, “to sit and wait is not an option.”
GERMANY ONCE POSSESSED COLONIES IN AFRICA
So to speak, it will be rather simplistic to assume Berlin is wishfully bartending Paris in the Sahel region for the sake of servicing French ceremonial liberation ribbon cutting. Berlin will use its military assistance mission in Mali to downgrade France’s exclusive influence in West Africa in order to rewrite a new diplomatic chapter on a continent where it has always been too familiar. Germany is not a novice military explorer on African frontiers. Before World War I, Berlin’s security umbrella stretches up to a few African colonies, namely, Cameroon, Togo, Namibia, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, as well as some areas of Kenya, Papua New-Guinea, and Mozambique. The tone is now set for Berlin’s African new odyssey: expanding its military and diplomatic engagement on the continent. Needless to state that Germany has de facto returned to its African new frontiers. And this time around, Berlin’s national interests and security frontiers will be expanding from the Horn of Africa to Western Sahara.
*Narcisse Jean Alcide Nana, International Security Studies
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