The German coalition government is systematically working to increase the country’s economic, political and military weight in Africa. Currently, Chancellor Olaf Scholz (Social Democratic Party, SPD) is visiting Senegal, Niger and South Africa with a high-level business delegation.
Scholz’s trip centered on a visit to Bundeswehr soldiers in Niger on Monday. This was the Chancellor’s first troop visit abroad. “The Bundeswehr is doing extraordinary things here and has also achieved extraordinary things under very difficult conditions,” Scholz said at the Tillia military base.
Officially, 200 German soldiers are deployed in this resource-rich and geostrategically important country. The Bundeswehr is training Nigerian special forces under Operation Gazelle, which has been running since 2018 and is part of the EU’s EUTM mission.
Last Friday, the Bundestag (federal parliament) decided to extend the German war missions in the Sahel. Niger is playing an increasingly central role in this, with the EUTM mission being transferred almost entirely from Mali to Niger. “Niger is at the center of Germany’s participation in EU capacity building in the Sahel,” reads the motion adopted by the federal government.
According to the new mandate, up to 300 Bundeswehr soldiers are supposed to help improve the “operational capabilities of the security forces of Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania and Niger and the Joint Task Force of the G5 Sahel States “. This involves “military advice and training, including pre-deployment training” and “support”. In other words, German war policy extends to the entire Sahel via Niger.
Scholz made it clear to Tillia that German troops were here to stay. The mission should also continue beyond the mandate that has just been extended, he said. The task now was to identify “a good follow-up project”.
“Seeing the motivation of our soldiers,” Scholz said, he had the feeling that they were all looking forward to it. So far, the mission had been “very successful and conducted with great passion”.
Crimes committed by the Malian army in cooperation with Russian units are cited by Berlin as the reason for shifting attention to Niger. In this way, the German government also wants to conceal the criminal character of its own intervention. In reality, the massacres of the civilian population are being perpetrated by the same troops that the Bundeswehr has been training for years. The imperialist occupying forces are directly or indirectly implicated in these crimes and have engulfed the entire region in terror and war.
Berlin also plans to continue cooperating with the publicly criticized coup regime in Mali. It was “devastating that Russian mercenaries are now in Mali,” Scholz said during a joint press conference with Senegalese President Macky Sall on the first day of his trip to Dakar. Germany would continue to “live up to its responsibility” and had “therefore also decided that we would continue to support the UN mission MINUSMA”.
In fact, the Bundeswehr is increasing its MINUSMA troops in Mali from 1,100 to 1,400 troops, preparing for an escalation in fighting. According to the text of the mandate, even more troops could be mobilized “for the redeployment phases as well as within the framework of troop rotations and in emergency situations”. In doing so, MINUSMA was “authorized to take all necessary measures, including the use of military force, to accomplish the mission”.
The offensive in Africa is not, as the official propaganda would have it, about “the fight against terrorism” or “human rights” and “democracy”. These are naked imperialist interests. Already during the debate in the Bundestag on the extension of the mandate, many speakers stressed that Germany must also militarily assert its interests in the region.
Germany’s presence in the Sahel is “a sign of new responsibility, a response to geostrategic challenges,” said Greens MP Merle Spellerberg. “When French troops withdraw from Mali at the end of the summer, we will be the largest troop contributor to the global North.” With “300 new soldiers”, Germany “fills the void left by the French”.
Prominent members of the government, such as Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens), have explicitly stressed that the aim is to contain other powers, first and foremost Russia. “If MINUSMA were to withdraw from Mali, the vacuum would be filled even more by other forces,” Baerbock warned in the Bundestag. This applied “to Islamist fighters”, but “also to Russian forces”.
The reason why Germany wants to fill the void is clear. Mali and Niger are not only geostrategically important, but also rich in raw materials. Niger is the largest producer of uranium in Africa and the fifth in the world. Since 2011, the country has also been among the oil exporting states. The other raw materials extracted and transformed locally are phosphate, gypsum and limestone. Mali is Africa’s third-largest gold producer after South Africa and Ghana, and it has significant deposits of bauxite, phosphate and iron ore, among other minerals.
Scholz’s visit to Senegal highlights Germany’s hunger for African mineral resources and raw materials, which has been intensified by the conflict with Russia. In Senegal, it is above all the country’s gas fields that Germany wants to secure as quickly as possible.
“I want to be very clear about this,” Scholz stressed in Dakar. “Of course, we want to cooperate with Senegal in particular not only on the issue of future generation of energy from renewable sources… but we also want to do so with regard to the issue of LNG and the production of gas here in Senegal”. The two countries had begun to “exchange views on this”, he said, and “will pursue this very intensively at the technical level after these talks”.
In South Africa too, where Scholz was welcomed with military honors by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday in Johannesburg, energy interests are at stake. The trip included a visit to Sasol. The transnational oil and chemical company is South Africa’s second largest industrial company, with over 30,000 employees and 17 factories in different countries. Sasol is known for the construction of gas to liquid plants, especially in Qatar. A few days ago, Scholz entered into a comprehensive energy partnership with the emirate and the world’s largest exporter of liquefied gas.
Another motive for the German offensive in Africa is undoubtedly the fear of revolutionary unrest. We face “dramatic global challenges”, Scholz warned in Dakar. The COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine and the climate crisis would have “devastating consequences for African states” and “on the reality of our lives”. They endangered “the social and economic achievements for which the Global South has worked”. In order for “these crises not to fan new flames”, he said, Germany must “act decisively”.
Scholz’s brash posture in Africa, like NATO’s proxy war on Russia, which Berlin fully supports, is in the tradition of Germany’s murderous colonial and global power policies. The warmongers in the media say so openly and demand an even more aggressive display by Germany in the new scramble for Africa, at the expense of the nominally allied imperialist powers.
“Germany must catch up,” headlines a comment by Nikolas Busse in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. “Although Germany itself was once a colonial power”, “other Western countries [were] willingly privileged, above all France”, he enthused. This can no longer be tolerated “if we want to be a leading European power”.