German President Horst Koehler (left) welcomes Rwandan President Paul Kagame at the Bellevue Palace in Berlin, April 22.(Michael Gottschalk/AFP/Getty Images)
German President Horst Koehler (left) welcomes Rwandan President Paul Kagame at the Bellevue Palace in Berlin, April 22.
(Michael Gottschalk/AFP/Getty Images)

Germany Plays Hardball in Africa

April 29, 2008  •  From
To counter rising Chinese hegemony in Africa, Germany looks to establish military relations with one of the continent’s most controversial military regimes.

German ambition is not confined to Europe. In fact, Berlin is looking far afield to extend its interests. On April 22, German President Horst Köhler received Rwandan President Paul Kagame in Berlin with military honors. Kagame’s trip, his fourth official visit to Germany, came only two months after Köhler visited Rwanda.

What was Kagame doing in Berlin? He had two main objectives: first, to woo German businesses to invest in Rwanda; second, to meet with German Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung and other officials to discuss establishing military relations.

Germany already provides financial backing and military manpower to African Union peacekeeping forces in Darfur, a large portion of which are Rwandan. But the deal under consideration would bypass the African Union to establish a bilateral security policy directly between Germany and Rwanda.

So why is Germany seeking closer ties with Rwanda, of all nations?

It has to do with strategy and resources.

In addition to fighting the Sudanese government in Darfur, Rwandan troops have also invaded the Democratic Republic of the Congo twice in the past decade. Both of these enemies of Rwanda are allies of China.

Beijing has a strong interest in Africa’s natural resources. Berlin is looking to counter that.

China invests in African nations in return for African resources—and makes it a point to avoid meddling in its clients’ internal affairs and human rights abuses. This gives China a trade advantage over European countries, which supposedly confine their trade relations to African nations that meet certain human rights standards. But Germany is starting to play dirty. By increasing its investment and military support for Rwanda, Berlin is empowering a traditional enemy of a China-aligned nation and is looking to stake its own claim in the region.

In doing so, Germany finds itself aiding one of Africa’s most controversial military regimes.

During his stay in Berlin, Kagame praised Germany as one of the first nations to reopen its Rwandan embassies after the 1994 Rwandan genocide, in which up to 800,000 Tutsis were killed by Hutu militia using clubs and machetes over the course of 100 days. In addition to this history, according to Amnesty International, Rwandan officials have detained thousands of their own people without trial over long periods of time under “extremely harsh” conditions tantamount to “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.” Several government critics have disappeared without a trace, and human rights groups accuse officials of torture and extra-judicial executions. On paper, the European Union may criticize China for engaging in a “trade only, no politics” approach to Africa, but in practice, Germany, at least, is willing to support brutal African regimes that engage in horrendous human rights abuses if it means gaining a foothold against China.

As Germany makes more aggressive African inroads, the stage is being set for an all-out resource war between the Berlin-led European Union and the nations of Asia. For more information on how this coming conflict will develop, read “The Battleground” by Joel Hilliker and Robert Morley.

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