GERMAN Chancellor Angela Merkel has called for arms exports to countries in Africa’s Sahel region days after 13 French soldiers were killed pursuing terrorists in northern Mali.
Merkel lamented Germany’s restrained weapons sales policy and said countries like Russia or China could step in to arm African countries fighting extremism.
Speaking to the German parliament, she said the instability in the Sahel was ‘one of the most serious problems we face at the moment.’
Germany supports a French-led operation in the Sahel alongside regional countries – Mali, Chad, Niger, Burkina Faso and Mauritania – and has had troops stationed there since 2013, with more than a thousand soldiers currently in Mali.
‘I don’t think we can encourage stability and peace in Africa, yet refuse to supply any arms,’ Merkel said.
‘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 added.
She questioned if ‘it is in our interest if Africa is armed’ by countries including Russia and China.
Merkel said earlier this month that Africa is ‘a continent with more opportunities than risks but there’s still a lot to do.’
Russian leader Vladimir Putin has in particular courted African leaders and in October launched the first ever Russia-Africa summit.
Earlier this year, at the G7 summit in Biarritz, France and Germany agreed to launch a security initiative in the Sahel.
A French statement after the summit said ‘the region currently faces acute risks of destabilisation, with security crises fuelled by multiple factors of fragility.’
It added that these issues weakened institutions and were ‘reinforced’ by inequality, extreme poverty and a lack of access to basic services – especially for young people and women.
France has some 4,500 personnel in West and Central Africa as part of its largest overseas military mission.