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Emnet Assefa

During his four day official visit to Ethiopia from March 17th – 20th, Dr. Joachim Gauck, President of Federal Republic of Germany, held official bilateral talks with Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn and the following day with President Girma Woldegiorgis at the National Palace. The highlight of his visit was, however, his meeting with Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Chairperson of the African Union Commission, on Tuesday March 19th.

During a presser after their meeting, both have said that economic, peace and security cooperation between Germany and the AU as well as the 50th anniversary of the AU was their main focus during their meeting.

The two have also discussed the current political situation in the Western African nation of Mali.  According to Chairperson Dlamini Zuma, German’s support in troops isn’t needed but other supports to the African troops in Mali are something that the AUC will welcome and accept.

President Gauck’s also held talks with different civil society organizations operating in the country, which, he said, “display a great courage in defending themselves against authoritarian control and oppression in their countries.”

The president has also attended talks with the Permanent Representatives’ Council of the African Union (PRC). In a 45minutes long speech during his meeting with members of the PRC, President Gauck said the new building under construction for the peace and security department of the AUC funded entirely by the German government was a symbol of the partnership between Germany and the AU.

Germany, who is the second largest bilateral partner to the AU according to the president, will keep supporting the Union indifferent areas mainly development. “We want to be on your side,” he said, but also added Africa has already managed to strengthen itself in many areas, including peace and security.

President Gauck further went in appreciating African states which have held peaceful elections and witnessed peaceful power transitions.  “In African democracies, there is still much to do and indeed, much is being done. It is good for democracy that the freedom of press and freedom of assembly are gaining ground on the continent. That makes it all more difficult to silence any critical voice.”

The other highlight of the President’s itinerary in Ethiopia was a visit to the famous churches of Lalibela, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, following which the he was quoted as saying, “Here the people carved the rocks to express their faith”.

According to a statement from Embassy of Germany in Addis Ababa, before taking-off on Wednesday, 20 March 2013, President Gauck paid a visit to Addis Ababa’s oldest TVET-Institute, Tegbare-id, which is being supported by the German Development Cooperation, and exemplary to Germany’s support in the field of vocational training in Ethiopia.

“Africa gets you right here, in the depth of your heart, on the one hand you see poverty on the other hand there are enormous success opportunities 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.”

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