The President of the Federal Republic of Germany, Joachim Gauck, visited Ethiopia and spoke at an open session of the Permanent Representatives Council of the African Union (AU)
on Monday, March 18th 2013. The President arrived last Sunday for an official four-day visit.
An official state banquet was held in his honor at the National Palace shortly after his arrival and he held discussions with Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn on bilateral relations between the two countries.
Speaking at the open session, the President expressed his admiration for the efforts of the AU and its upcoming 50th anniversary.
“The challenges and the changes are immense. The African Union is playing a central role in ensuring the continent can rise to these tasks. I have great respect for your efforts to set standards for democracy, the market economy and human rights all across the continent,” he said.
In his speech, he also underlined the need for politicians to be neutral on ethnic issues. “I know what tensions politicians encounter here when they are expected to give preferential treatment to their own ethnic group, just as previously other politicians gave preferential treatment to their groups. That applies not only in Africa. I therefore want to make it all the more clear that those who want to reduce ethnic tensions on a durable and sustainable basis must ensure that public finances, in particular, are dealt with transparently and in compliance with rule-of-law standards,” he suggested.
The President also met with representatives of the Ethiopian civil society as well as religious leaders, acknowledging the tradition of tolerance among the various religious communities in Ethiopia, despite new challenges. He stated that the majority of society feel powerless and think they are insignificant. He stressed that this could present a danger to Ethiopian society and underlined the importance of human rights and democracy for sustainable development.
Germany has been supporting the African Union for some time. Since 2006, the country has supplied USD 220 million in funding for AU development projects. The funding was provided for projects such as support for the development of the African peace and security building, for the planned AU Pan-African University and for the Pan-African agricultural program.
Before leaving on Wednesday, 20 March, Gauck paid a visit to Addis Ababa’s oldest TVET-Institute, Tegbare-id, which is being supported by the German Development Cooperation.
“Africa gets you right here, in the depth of your heart. On the one hand you see poverty, but on the other, there are enormous opportunities for success and a great number of highly motivated young people. This is where we can work together, the African Union, Ethiopia and Germany, to the extent that you want us to,” he expressed, before he wrapped up his visit.
The President reaffirmed that Germany and the African Union would continue to work together on issues of shared benefit in order to make development and good governance at the forefront in Africa.