Minister visits Kenya to mark 50 years of aid | Africa | DW | 15.08.2012
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Minister visits Kenya to mark 50 years of aid

Germany's minister for economic cooperation and development is in Kenya on a trip that marks the 50th anniversary of German church aid to the East African nation.

Germany's two main Christian churches have been actively involved in development aid work for 50 years. To mark this anniversary, Germany's minister for economic cooperation and development, Dirk Niebel, will be taking time on his five-day visit to Kenya to visit projects run by the Catholic aid agency Misereor and its Protestant equivalent, the Evangelical Development Aid Service (EED).

German development minister Dirk Niebel

Dirk Niebel will be renewing old acquaintances in Kenya

Kenya occupies a leading position among Germany's almost 60 partner countries. Niebel has described Kenya as "an anchor of stability", a reference to the East African nation's importance on the African continent. It is no coincidence that the German minister is travelling to Kenya for the third time in the space of a year.

Drought and civil war

In August 2011 Niebel met Kenyan president Mwai Kibaki when he visited the Dadaab refugee camp. Dabaab is the world's largest refugee camp housing more than half a million inhabitants who fled not only the civil war in Somalia, but also the appalling drought in East Africa. The camp is now bursting at the seams and has far exceeded its capacity. Germany has been providing humanitarian aid in Dadaab for several years as part of a United Nations project. After seeing for himself the effects of the drought, Minister Niebel increased Germany's financial aid for the entire region, not just once but several times. Official figures put the amount of German aid for Kenya alone at 50 million euros ($61 million).

The Kenyan flag

Kenya is one of Germany's most important partners in Africa

In early February 2012 Niebel paid a visit to the Turkana region on the border with South Sudan and saw that the drought situation was still dramatic. During his present five-day visit to Kenya, the drought will undoubtedly again be a major topic. But in addition to the need for immediate humanitarian aid, Niebel is also interested in discussing ways of providing more longterm support.

Trilateral cooperation

One example is a trilateral project at Lake Victoria, run jointly by Germany, Kenya and Israel. At the center is a fish farm that was set up in 1984 which focuses on tilapia aquaculture. This is complemented by poultry farming, milk products and seeds for fruits and trees.

fisherman on Lake Victoria

The minister will visit a fish farm at Lake Victoria

A meeting is scheduled at Kisumu on the banks of Lake Victoria between Niebel, Kenyan prime minister Raila Odinga and deputy Israeli foreign minister, Daniel Ayalon. "This shows how important the cooperation is for all three countries," Niebel told DW.

In the Kenyan capital Nairobi, Niebel will visit the headquarters of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and will meet UNEP's German director Achim Steiner. Niebel sees this as a useful opportunity to exchange ideas shortly after the Rio conference on sustainable development.

Aid in many different forms

The range of topics on the minister's schedule shows how varied development cooperation between Germany and Kenya is. Much has changed since the start in the 1960s. What began as emergency food aid has grown into a wide-ranging program, enabling a swift response to new developments, such as the present drought or ethnic tensions and unrest such as the one occurred after Kenya's last parliamentary and presidential elections in 2007 which killed more than 1,000 people. Germany is supporting the difficult process of reconciliation.

Since 1962 Germany's Christian churches have also played an active role. The Evangelical Development Service works together with Kenyan partner organizations in the Kisumu area who care for people infected with HIV/AIDS. A project in Embu, north of Nairobi, focuses on rural development. This is run by the German Catholic Aid Agency Misereor. Minister Niebel will visit both projects.

Somali mothers who have just arrived at Dadaab refugee camp

After weeks on the move, a group of Somali women arrives at Dadaab

Future aid depends on political developments

Unlike non-governmental organizations, the German churches receive a global budget for their development aid work, which they can allocate as they see fit. This year they have 216 million euros at their disposal. Niebel thinks it is right that the churches have so much freedom as this makes it easier for them to be active in regions where state -level cooperation can no longer operate.

The visit by the German development minister takes place before Kenya's next elections in March 2013. A new constitution that came into effect in 2010 aims to strength the rule of law. Germany's development aid policy places high value on good governance in partner countries, coupled with a commitment to fight corruption. Future development aid from Germany will depend on Kenya's political progress. In late 2010 Germany pledged 138 million euros in aid for Kenya over a period of three years. The next round of negotiations is due to take place in the second half of 2013, after the elections.

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