Friday, 2 October 2009


GERMANS world over will this week be celebrating 20 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall. It is the Day of German Unity. The fall of the Berlin Wall symbolized the unification of East and West Germany which transformed Germany into Europe's largest economy, writes BENEDICT TEMBO

WEBBY KALIKITI was watching television in his apartment in Paris when people begun to climb the Berlin wall and begun breaking it.

It was spontaneous, the way German politicians on either side of the wall reacted, Dr. Kalikiti recalls. He was a student of history at Paris7 University in France in 1989 when the enduring symbol which divided the two Germans – East and West on ideological grounds, started crashing like the walls of Babylon.

Dr. Kalikiti, now a lecturer of European history at the University of Zambia’s Great East Road campus in Lusaka, said the collapse of the wall meant that Germany had once more become a unified power after the second world war.

“Since the collapse of the wall, Germans are now free to engage in world affairs in the attempt to bring world peace,” Dr. Kalikiti said, pointing to Germany’s contribution to troops in the Balkans (former Yugoslavia) and in Afghanistan as part of NATO.

He said Germany plays a very important role in European Union (EU) politics.

“They have been the largest contributor of the resources to the EU,” Dr. Kalikiti said.

The Berlin Wall was a physical blockade constructed by the German Democratic Republic (GDR) or East Germany completely surrounding West Berlin, separating it from East Germany, including East Berlin.

Prior to the Wall's erection, 3.5 million East Germans had been tempted to escape into West Germany, many over the border between East and West Berlin.

During its existence from 1961 to 1989, the Wall stopped most such migration and detached East Germany from West Germany for more than a quarter of a century.

Dr. Kalikiti said Germany unification was achieved during a revolutionary ripple sweeping across the Eastern Bloc.

“It was a change that came with breaking up of the Soviet Union empire. It precipitated events,” he said.

He said it was a reflection of what was happening when the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics started disintegrating as people got fed up with communism.

“East Germans saw what had happened in Poland, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Romania. It was a general collapse of the communist bloc. The collapse of the wall symbolised the end of the cold war between the East and the West,” Dr Kalikiti said.

After many weeks of civil agitation, the East German government was forced to proclaim on November 9, 1989, that all GDR citizens could visit West Germany and West Berlin.

The announcement prompted crowds of East Germans to go up and cross the wall, joined by West Germans on the other side in a celebratory atmosphere.

According to Dr Kalikiti, “Germany is a leading economy in the world, third after the United States and Japan.

The collapse of the wall has given Germany the possibility of playing a greater role in international affairs. A unified Germany moderates extremist policies of the USA.”

He cited the Iraq war in which Germany and France took a stance which was different from the US by refusing to participate in the invasion.

“Even over Afghanistan, the US has been pushing for an increase in the troops but Germany has been reluctant. Germany plays a limiting role for the US. A bigger and unified Germany is of interest in world peace because it tries to limit the extent to which the US can exert its will in world affairs,” he said.

He added, “A united Germany is of great benefit to Africa and Zambia in particular.”

Dr. Kalikiti said Germany has had privileged relations with Africa, citing Zambia as one country which benefited from both the East and West Germany.

For countries like Zambia, there is technical assistance through GTZ (German Technical Cooperation).

At UNZA, the schools of mines, economics, and development studies have benefited from training in Germany.

“Where Germany has helped, it is of high quality,” UNZA lecturer of history, Friday Mulenga, said, citing GTZ projects in rural areas.

Mr. Mulenga said a united Germany is good for the economy of the world.

“Through out history, Germany has had a very strong economy, not just in Europe but the whole world,” he said.

Nigerian journalist and artiste Olayinka Oyegbile whose birthday coincides with the day of German unification says, “I think the unification of Germany is a testimony to the fact that the human race is one.

You may be German, British or African, the one uniting force is that we are all human. As an artiste the unification for me represents the power of arts. German writers such as Gunther Grass signify this.”

Mr. Oyegbile who was in Berlin in 2007 said, “My memory of the city is that Africa has a lot to learn from it.

The city was divided for several years under two ideologically opposed powers and yet it is now united without any difference between East and West Germans. This is a big lesson that we can also be one as Africans.”

a Kenyan journalist who visited Berlin for the first time 2000 said, “It was one huge construction site, but with desolate empty houses standing all over the city, empty deserted land fills separated the newly-united East and West Berlin.

There was no HauphBan Hof (biggest train station in Berlin), half of Potsdamer Platz (shopping mall) was still under construction, the wall Berlin wall still standing in most places but with tourists still chipping away at it for a piece of history.”
She said politically, there were still strong divisions of Leftists, Conservatives, Liberals and everything in between.
”There was a vibrancy to the city, with ever increasing numbers of tourists visiting the half-closed-for-renovation historical buildings dotting the city from the parliament buildings, to the
Museums Island.
She said politically, it was also the time that the seat of government had just moved from
Bonn to Berlin.

“This added to the flurry of buildings coming up as most foreign missions rushed to construct embassies and High Commissions.
Socially, the country itself was just adjusting to its central location in
Europe, with an influx of foreigners from around the world, music concerts by foreign performers was the order of the day.

But beneath all this also were the media reports of Xenophobic attacks of foreigners in predominantly neo-Nazi neighbourhoods.

As visiting foreign students, my group was well warned to avoid such neighbourhoods, always walk in groups, especially at night and not to get into any altercation with aggressive individuals or groups of people. So deserted U-Bahns and bus stops were out of the question.
On her second visit to
Berlin in 2007, she noticed Berlin, the capital of the united Germany had come of age.

“New sparkling buildings, almost all foreign embassies were now in Berlin. The grand coalition of Christian Democratic Union (CDU) / Christian Social Union (CSU) and Social Democratic Party (SPD) government was in power, working together in parliament.
The coalition government concept was heavily borrowed by
Kenya after the election fiasco of December 2007 that took the country to the brink.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has who swept back to power in after the September 27 election, will now open talks with the liberal Free Democrats (FDP).

She believes a coalition between them and her centre-right CDU/CSU bloc offers the best chance for recovery.

Her previous coalition partners, the Social Democrats (SPD) suffered their worst election performance for decades.

Ms Bakata suggested the German mission in Nairobi was very influential in behind the scenes negotiations between the incumbent President Mwai Kibaki and then opposition leader Raila Odinga.
She said this went on to prove that
Germany was still a force in African politics, being a crucial development partner in Kenya. It should also not be lost on observers that Raila Odinga received his university education in Germany and speaks fluent German.
”This means the policies of the old German and the new German had not changed much, since the government of the day still had the same influence in countries such as Kenya,”

”By 2009, on my third visit to
Berlin, it was like a breath of fresh air. The first thing I noticed was that more people spoke English on the streets, in the trains, and even attendants in shops. It’s amazing how a society can open up in merely 10 years.

In 2000, hardly any German wanted to speak English, even after we were assured that the language is well understood and spoken, and that we would have no problems communicating in public.
In 2009, most of the talk in trains, shops, restaurants and even bars was in English!
The city itself had acquired younger inhabitants, there were always groups of young happy people, going about their business, new foreign stores had come to town to add to the already high quality German stores.
UNZA lecturer of history, Friday Mulenga, said the unification of Germany was unique because it entailed bringing two different systems together.

“It is not good to divide people who are the same like the case of Korea: North and South. Everywhere people want to be united because when people are united, it lessens problems. The unity of Germany was inevitable,” said Mr. Mulenga.

As the Germans toast their unification, they will be doing so knowing that some countries in Europe did not want to see the two Germans re-united because of the First and Second World wars which the country ignited.

But it is history and Germany has been transformed from a bully to promoting peace, regional and international integration as well as economic empowerment in the world.

Germany ambassador to Zambia, Frank Meyke said Zambia is continues to have a reputation of a democratic country that is stable and peaceful.

“Our special commitment to Zambia over the years is because both countries have been through periods without freedom,” ambassador Meyke said.

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