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Merkel promises millions in aid to stem migrant flow on Africa tour

© Boureima Hama / AFP | Angela Merkel with Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou on October 10, 2016.

Video by Leela JACINTO

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2016-10-11

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday announced a €27 million aid package for Niger, her second stop on a three-nation Africa tour aimed at fighting terrorism and stemming the migrant flow to Europe.

The German leader said the army of the arid West African country, one of the world's poorest, would receive €10 million in equipment next year. Niger is a key transit point for people from sub-Saharan Africa who try to cross the Mediterranean to enter Europe.

Merkel also promised €17 million in development aid for Niger's desperately impoverished Agadez region, which she said can no longer subsist on its once-thriving tourism industry.

"What compensation can we offer to the people of Agadez to help them survive?" she asked.

"While these people fight smugglers and illegal immigration, they need revenue. Earlier they lived off tourism, and that is something they cannot do now," she said.

Unrest in the region, including jihadist attacks and tourist kidnappings, have led to a sharp fall in the number of visitors.

But Merkel said efforts to stall the influx of migrants into Europe would be futile without real economic development.

‘Brain drain’

Merkel began her three-nation tour in Mali on Sunday, where she underscored the need to "establish coherent cooperation" in development policy and military support for the country.

"The military cannot alone bring security and peace," she said, addressing a news conference with Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.

“It is important that Africa does not lose its best minds," she added, a reference to an International Monetary Fund report published this month that said skilled workers were leaving sub-Saharan Africa in rapidly increasingly numbers, producing a "brain drain" that could cause long-term social damage.

Keita pledged to try and limit the number of migrants leaving for Europe.

"We want our youths to remain here rather than drown in the Mediterranean," he said, adding that the area had "become an open cemetery".

Last stop Ethiopia

Merkel arrived in Addis Ababa on Tuesday to meet with Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn for talks expected to focus on political unrest and other issues, including migration.

The East African country, one of Africa's best-performing economies, declared its first state of emergency in a quarter-century on Sunday after months of protests demanding wider freedoms.

German government spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer said Merkel will also "clearly address human rights" in Ethiopia.

The deaths of more than 50 people last week in a stampede after police tried to disperse protesters led to a week of more demonstrations. One American was also killed in a rock attack.

At least 400 people have been killed in anti-government protests over the past year, human rights groups and opposition activists have said. The protesters have been demanding more freedoms from a government that has been accused of being increasingly authoritarian.

On Monday Ethiopia's president announced during a parliamentary session that the country's election law would be amended to accommodate more political parties and opposing views.

Speaking in Addis Ababa on Tuesday, Merkel said public protests must be allowed and that any police response should be proportionate.

She also said opposition groups should be included in the political process.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)

Date created : 2016-10-11

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