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uni'alumni 2013_ENG

Until July 2012, Egon Kochanke served as Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany to Namibia. Now he is regional director for sub- Saharan Africa and the Sahel at the headquarters of the Federal Foreign Office in Berlin. Annette Kollefrath- Persch spoke with him about his years as a student in Freiburg and his experi- ences as a diplomat. uni’alumni: Mr. Kochanke, you have assumed many positions in various countries in the course of your career. What was the biggest challenge? Egon Kochanke:My time in Israel was one of the highlights of my career so far. I will never forget conferring a Fed- eral Cross of Merit on a survivor of Auschwitz. I had tears in my eyes, and I stuttered during my address, while the recipient was proud to receive an order from his country of birth by a representative of the Federal Republic. What were your responsibilities as ambassador to Namibia? I represented Germany in my host coun- try. This was a very interesting job to have in a country that still has a lot of German influence, but it was also politi- cally awkward at times. The extensive program of the German development cooperation makes Namibia the number one per capita recipient of public bene- fits in all of Africa. It’s money well spent, and I often witnessed the will to spur the country’s development. My four years there were full of highlights. Successful visits by government officials were cer- tainly among these highlights, but what also stick out in my mind are events per- taining to the German colonial past in Namibia. We at the Federal Foreign Office are very supportive of a repatria- tion of human remains from public col- lections to Namibia. I am thus happy that the University of Freiburg has declared itself prepared to return skulls from its archaeological collection that have been identified to be of Namibian provenance. You began your studies in Bonn. Why did you switch to the University of Freiburg? A good friend of mine from school was already studying in Freiburg, and I decided to move into an apartment with him and another student from Brühl dur- ing my first weekend visit in the Breisgau. What memories do you have of your years as a student? It was an exciting time that helped to shape my life in many ways. My studies in Freiburg had a major influence on my choice of career. I made friends there whom I still see today and who are still very important to me. In particular, I’m still in contact with several fellow students who went with me on study trips to Rome, Sicily, and Provence or- ganized by the Roman History Depart- ment. It was an easygoing time in a beautiful, lovable town with plenty of recreational opportunities that I enjoyed partaking in – from skiing on Schauin- sland to wine festivals on Kaiserstuhl. What did you learn at the university that helped prepare you for your profession? The fields I studied were of course a big help for my training as an attaché. Many basic study skills were also im- portant for my later work: analytical and conceptual thinking as well as the abil- ity to judge and communicate well. In addition, my student jobs in Freiburg restaurants were also useful because they taught me how to be a good host, particularly in foreign countries, who can also tell you a thing or two about Baden wines. INTERVIEW Study Trips, Student Jobs, Analytical Thinking The diplomat Egon Kochanke learned a lot in Freiburg for his career in the Federal Foreign Office Egon Kochanke was born in Brühl on 28 March 1952. Starting in 1972, he studied history, political science, sociology, and law at the universities of Bonn and Frei- burg. In 1977 he passed the First State Teachers Examination. He then completed his civil service at EIRENE, International Christian Service for Peace, in Neuwied. In 1980 Egon Kochanke began training to become an attaché at the Federal Foreign Office. After completing the course, he served as a diplomat in Ottawa, Canada; Monrovia, Liberia; Bonn, Germany; Lon- don, England; Washington D.C., USA; Tel Aviv, Israel; and Berlin. In 2008 Kochanke was named Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany to Namibia. Since July 2012 he has served as regional direc- tor for sub-Saharan Africa and the Sahel at the Federal Foreign Office in Berlin. He is married and has two sons. The photograph shows Kochanke (right) with the Namibian Minister of Environment and Tourism Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah at the ground- breaking ceremony for a park ranger station in the Caprivi region in June 2012. Photo: Federal Foreign Office