The Federal Government Commissioner for Africa Günter Nooke compared Cold War and colonialism in an interview and portrayed African societies as different.
It is not the first time that the former East German civil rights activist rashly expresses controversy.
Specialists in the Bundestag accuse him of racism and historical revisionism and demand his resignation.
Nooke is not aware of any guilt and complains about the criticism.
Sadly, a child from Africa looks down from the screen at the white man in a gray-brown suit and red tie. He stands in the TV studio and says he can not deny that "in some African states, authoritarian ones sometimes have to be governed."
The man is Günter Nooke, who speaks in the ZDF morning magazine to Angela Merkel's visit to Niger. Nooke is the African Commissioner of the Federal Government. For some days, there are voices that want to change that.
The trigger is not his statement about authoritarian regimes on ZDF. Nor is it triggered by the conversation in which he finds that EU countries have "given enough lectures to African governments on modern democracy, the rule of law, administrative law and so on." The trigger for vehement criticism from members of parliament and activists is an interview with Nooke a few days ago by B.Z. has given. The two main allegations: historical revisionism and racism.
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"Experts, including Africans, say: The Cold War has done more harm to Africa than the colonial era," said the former GDR civil rights activist in the interview. After all, "the colonial period helped to solve the continent from archaic structures".
"His statements about the colonial era are presumptuous and dangerous," comments Social Democrat Ute Vogt. The left Helin Evrim Sommer is "stunned". The FDP leader Olaf in the Beek mocks: "If it was Mr. Nookes goal finally to get some attention, then you may well congratulate." The three deputies sit on the Development Committee of the Bundestag. The Central Council of African Communities in Germany and the Black People Initiative in Germany also respond with indignation, according to the Tagesspiegel.
Nooke himself feels misunderstood. "It is far from me, in any way to relativize the crimes of the colonial era," he says noticeably angry SZ. "After the colonial era, the Cold War had a negative impact on development in many African countries." The comparison does not come from him, he has referred to the British-Sudanese entrepreneur Mo Ibrahim, without making it his own. He had seen, for example, in Africa, that he was proudly shown a German-built railway bridge from the colonial era. But that, Nooke emphasizes, is really the only positive thing about time. "Personalization and manslaughter arguments like 'racism' do not allow factual debate and should not be repeated because they are not true."
Further outrage was Nookes statement that Europe's solutions therefore could not be Africa because "the societies there" worked differently. "This has to do with clan structures, the role of tribal leaders, the multitude of ethnicities and traditional behaviors," said Nooke in the B.Z. interview. "In Niger women get on average 7.3 children, the men would like eleven!"
"I want a fact-based debate out of the middle"
Nooke does not understand that these quotes are to be considered as racism. "When I travel through Africa, I see differences on the ground," he comments. "That does not mean that one company should be better or more valuable than the other." In Germany, people wanted smaller families and therefore could not understand Niger's wealth of children. "But there's a lot of traditional thinking behind it, and you have to know that in order to understand population growth or the political use of contraceptives there." The fact that women in Niger on average wanted nine children and men eleven, he had learned at government meetings in Africa.
"I want a fact-based debate from the middle out," he complains. "I do not want to relativize crimes of the past or use racist stereotypes, which should not be criticized for me, even if you look at my biography."
Nooke was born in Lusatia, when Otto Grotewohl was Prime Minister of the GDR and Walter Ulbricht First Secretary of the SED. He was active as a civil rights activist and co-founded the Democratic Revolution. After the turn, he was short at Alliance 90, since 1996 Nooke is a CDU member. He was a member of the People's Chamber, the Brandenburg Landtag and the Bundestag. At the beginning of Merkel's time as fraction leader, he was her deputy. In 2006, he became the Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid of the Federal Government. In 2010, the Chancellor named the physicist and occupational physician as her personal Africa representative.