China and AU dismiss claims of spying on the AU headquarters

China and AU dismiss claims of spying on the AU headquarters

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An article published Friday in Le Monde, quoting anonymous AU sources, reports that data from computers in the Chinese-built AU headquarters in the Ethiopian capital had been transferred nightly to Chinese servers for five years -an allegation the Chinese and the regional block strongly dismisses.

After the massive hack was discovered a year ago, the building’s IT system including servers was changed according to the french newspaper, Le Monde. During a sweep for bugs after the discovery, microphones hidden in desks and the walls were also detected and removed, the newspaper reported.

The multi-million dollar headquarters fully funded and built by China was opened in 2012. It was seen as widely as symbol of Beijing’s rising influence in Africa, and for skeptic’s, an access to the continent’s natural resources.

China’s ambassador to the AU, Kuang Weilin, called the article “ridiculous and preposterous” and said its publication was intended to put pressure on relations between Beijing and the continent.

“China-Africa relations have brought about benefits and a lot of opportunities. Africans are happy with it. Others are not.”

Asked who, he said: “People in the West. They are not used to it and they are simply not comfortable with this.”

Weilin said the report published on the eve of the summit “will undermine the image of the newspaper” but not the relationship between China and Africa.

However, the AU leadership did not address the report in their opening remarks on Sunday.

When asked about the reports, the Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn downplayed the report saying “There is nothing to be spied (on). I don’t believe it,” he told journalists.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who assumed the African Union chairmanship this year, said he did not know anything about it.

“But, in any case, I don’t think there is anything done here that we would not like people to know,” he told reporters after a meeting of African heads of state.

“I don’t think spying is the specialty of the Chinese. We have spies all over the place in this world,” Kagame said. But I will not have been worried about being spied on in this building.”

His only concern, he said, was that the AU should have built its own headquarters, instead of China.

“I would only have wished that in Africa we had got our act together earlier on. We should have been able to build our own building”, Kagame said.

At a 2015 summit in South Africa, China pledged $60 billion in aid and investment to the continent, saying it would continue to build roads, railways and ports.

Source Reuters

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