Goodbye to Merkel: Africa Hails German Leader Who Leaves a Mixed Legacy Behind

Written by | Monday, December 6th, 2021

Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel is only the country’s third leader, after Helmut Kohl in 1998 and Gerhard Schröder in 2005, to have been honored with farewell military honors at ‘Grand Tattoo’ ceremony, the “Zapfenstreich.” On Thursday (2 December) night, in this highest military ceremony for a civilian held by torchlight, the Bundeswehr, Germany’s federal armed forces, bid farewell to Merkel. In a short, earnest speech, Merkel thanked Germans and called on them to approach life with a “lightness of heart” and be optimistic about their country’s future. She added that “sixteen years as chancellor of Germany were full of events, often very challenging — politically and as a human being.” Multiple crises have shown the importance of international cooperation while tackling the challenges that face the world, she said. Merkel was the country’s first chancellor who hailed from the former East Germany and the first chancellor of post-war Germany to be seen off in Berlin.
When asked during a visit to Washington DC in July how she envisioned her retirement, Merkel said she would first take a break and not accept any invitations. She had to accept that her previous tasks would “now be done by someone else,” she said, adding, “I think I will like this very much.” In her newfound leisure time, she wanted to think about “what really interests me.” She has had little space in which to do that during the past 16 years. With a mischievous grin, the chancellor, who had just been awarded an honorary doctorate by Johns Hopkins University, added: “After that, maybe I will try to read something, then my eyes will start to close because I’m tired, then I’ll take a little nap, and then we’ll see where I pop up.” For sure, Merkel, who turned 67 on 17 July, need not have any financial worries. When Merkel stops working, she will continue to receive her full monthly salary of €25,000 for three months and then a transitional allowance of half her pay for a maximum of 21 months. On top of that, she earns about €10,000 for her role as a member of the Bundestag, a job she has been doing for more than 30 years. It also remains to be seen if Angela Merkel will pursue a new job or an honorary office.
On the eve of Merkel’s political retirement, Donald Tusk, the former president of the European Council and leader of the European People’s Party (EPP), criticized the decision of the outgoing German government on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline linking Germany to Russia.“Angela Merkel was helpless against the lobby power of the German businessmen,” Tusk said on Sunday (28 November), adding that “she has admitted to this during one of our conversations.” According to him, “Nord Stream 2 was the biggest mistake” of the outgoing German chancellor. Nord Stream 2 is a gas pipeline linking Russia directly to Germany under the Baltic Sea, whose aim of is to bypass Ukraine as a transit country.“From the perspective of the European Union interests the Nord Stream 2 is a bad project,” Tusk said. Strategically, Germany’s readiness to continue energy cooperation with Russia is a problem, “and one of the biggest mistakes of Merkel,” according to Tusk.
Meanwhile, in contrast to the Nord Stream 2 project, Angela Merkel’s achievements when it comes to the attention she gave to Africa are widely hailed by experts. During her 16 years as German chancellor, her trips to Africa became more frequent, as did Merkel’s meetings with African heads of state. In August 2021, the chancellor invited several African presidents to the German capital for a farewell meeting — and a very pleasant one at that — for there is much praise for Merkel from Africa. Her engagement with Africa has been “noteworthy,” especially with regard to the continent’s economic development said Minenhle Nene, a researcher at the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA).”German investment in Africa has expanded moderately in recent years under her leadership. I don’t believe Africa has played a larger role in German politics than it has during her leadership,” Nene told German journalists. During her leadership, Germany’s interest shifted somewhat from East Africa to West Africa, Merkel said earlier in an interview. Germany has significantly expanded cooperation with the Sahel states of Mali, Mauritania, Chad, Burkina Faso and Niger. With the Sahel region having seen growing insecurity in recent years, it is still everyone’s guess how much importance Africa will have for Merkel’s designated successor Olaf Scholz. But there is hope that Germany will remain committed to Africa in the post-Merkel era.

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