The chancellor, who was addressing the German parliament, the Bundestag, on Wednesday, made the case for more engagement in Africa’s Sahel region, where the threat of destabilization by terrorists is real.
It is “one of the most serious problems we face at the moment,” she said, linking it directly to Germany’s own security.
According to German media, the Chancellor outlined her vision for an expanded German presence in the broader Sahel region, beyond Mali, where Germany has deployed troops since 2013.
The German army has contributed about 1,100 troops to the 15,000-strong UN Mali peacekeeping mission, known as MINUSMA.
MINUSMA has been deployed in the West African country since 2013 to support stabilization and a 2015 peace accord between the Malian government and rebels. German troops also advise Mali’s defense ministry and senior military commanders.
Germany cannot continue to train and encourage African forces fighting terrorists but not arm them, she argued, urging the lawmakers to reconsider their restrictive arms export stance.
“I ask myself, is it in our interest if Africa is armed by Russia, or perhaps China or Saudi Arabia? I don’t think we can encourage stability and peace in Africa, yet refuse to supply any arms,” she said, adding, “We cannot train people who have to fight terrorists, only to say it’s up to them to see where they get their weapons,” she was quoted by the German media as saying.
The Chancellor also stressed the urgency of preventing Libya from becoming a proxy war like Syria.
Merkel made her address before the Parliament two days after France lost 13 soldiers in two helicopters collusion on Monday while battling terrorists in Mali. It was the worst loss of life in a single day by French troops in nearly four decades.