Immigration crisis topped Angela Merkel’s African agenda

Saturday October 15 2016

When Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel’s plane touched down at the Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa on the last leg of her first African tour, all eyes in diplomatic and human rights circles were on her as Ethiopia’s state of emergency was unfolding.

Ms Merkel’s visit was important because Ethiopia is one of the world’s largest source countries for Africans migrating to Europe.

The state of emergency could not have come at a worse time. The Oromo protest that has gained traction and led to hundreds of deaths, has exposed suffering, marginalisation and brutality beneath Ethiopia’s rhetoric of development and revival.

Migration experts say, the suffering Oromia people form the majority of those fleeing their country and Ms Merkel’s visit would have served as the best international pressure to see a reversal in this trend. Ms Merkel pushed Addis to allow protests, noting that the police response should be proportionate.

“In a democracy, there needs to be an opposition that has a voice — in the best case, in parliament,” Ms Merkel said, pushing Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn to not only admit that the voices of nearly half the population have not been heard in the country’s parliament but also to announce that it would call for an amendment to the election law to allow alternative voices to be heard.

READ: Ethiopia PM seeks to 'reform electoral system' after protests


Economic package

Ms Merkel didn’t publicly announce any economic package for Ethiopia but with the exception of Eritrea, regional countries including Ethiopia have in the past year received part of the $1.95 billion promised by the European Commission in Brussels, on aid package to foster political stability and equal economic opportunities, especially for the youth, in countries that are a source of illegal migrants.

In April, Mr Hailemariam and EU vice-president Federica Mogherini signed a deal that will see Addis immediately receive $2 billion aid in return for tackling migrant smuggling and support the reintegration of returned Ethiopian migrants.

For Germany and other European Union countries, the migration problem has been escalating as the deaths in the Mediterranean Sea continue to climb with little or no support to the African countries as promised earlier by Europe forthcoming.

Ms Merkel has described Africa as “the central problem” in the migration issue in Europe. Last month, she called for an immigration deal between the EU and North African countries.

During her visit to Niger, Germany promised $86 million in aid and military vehicles support to help Niger fight human traffickers.

In Mali, German Development Minister Gerd Mueller said the migration pressure will increase in coming years if the EU does not generate economic prospects in African countries.