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African experts reject German claim blaming China for worsened famine, drought in Horn of Africa

08-03-2011 15:06 BJT Special Report:Drought, famine plague horn of Africa |

NAIROBI, Aug. 3 (Xinhua) -- Two African experts said a German official's latest allegation that China's "large-scale land purchases" in the Horn of Africa have deteriorated drought and famine there was groundless and "like a case of sour grapes."

"It is a bit disingenuous on the part of the German official to claim that the Chinese are responsible for the drought in the Horn of Africa," Munene Macharia, a professor on international relations at Nairobi-based United States International University, told Xinhua in a recent interview.

He called the German official's claim as "a superficial statement," saying the drought and food shortage are caused by "changing environmental conditions" and "poor planning and mostly lack of foresight."

Germany's Africa policy coordinator Guenter Nooke claimed Thursday that China has been involved in "large-scale land purchases" in the Horn of Africa, which have contributed to the devastating drought there.

He even told a sensational story by claiming Chinese investments were focused on farming for export, which he said can lead to "major social conflicts in Africa when small farmers have their land and thus their livelihoods taken away."

Drought and famine have affected over 11 million people in the Horn of Africa, a peninsula in East Africa, where Eritrea, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Somalia are located, according to a UN figure.

Macharia said "Germany is the leading European economy, and, like other Western powers, it is not happy to see Chinese global economic penetration whether in Africa or Europe."

"It sounds like a case of sour grapes," he stressed.

"Chinese land investment in Africa is positive as it could lead to increased investment in agriculture," he said, adding "any help to relieve suffering is welcome as an emergency."

Refuting accusations from the German official, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said Friday that "China has never bought up large quantities of land in Africa. It has provided food assistance to African countries."

He said China has established 10 agricultural demonstration centers in Africa and sent nearly 1,000 agronomists and technical personnel there to help locals cope with food security issues.

Ma also announced China would provide a total of 90 million yuan (14 million U.S. dollars) worth of emergency food assistance to countries in the Horn of Africa.

In a recent interview with Xinhua, Gerishon Ikiara, a lecturer on international economics at University of Nairobi, said, "I don't support what the German said," adding the main reasons behind drought in the Horn of Africa are poor planning, lack of adequate resources and very rapid population growth.

"Chinese land investment is introducing new techniques and methods of farming that Africans can adopt to improve productivity of their small-scale farms," said Ikiara, who was former permanent secretary of Kenya's transport and communications ministry.

"China has been very helpful in fighting drought generally in the Horn of Africa," he said.

He cited roads and dams built by Chinese companies in the Horn of Africa as examples, saying the infrastructure projects will link more farmers to markets and provide more efficient irrigation for locals.

"The projects also help create small urban centers. This relieves pressure on farmland as more Africans can move into towns and get other sources of livelihood," he said.

Editor:Wang Xiaomei |Source: Xinhua

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