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Central Africa

Trump urged not to ‘double the tragedy’ of Congo deaths by cutting US aid to UN

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Father of American citizen whose body was found in DRC with that of fellow UN peacemaker calls on US to honour their memory by ‘paying its UN dues’

Professor John Sharp said his son Michael was a “warm-hearted” man who would never have taken risks or been reckless. The 34-year-old from Indiana was found dead along with Zaida Catalan from Sweden. Their Congolese interpreter Betu Tshintela and three motorbike drivers who were with them remain missing.

Part of the UN group of experts on Congo, Sharp and Catalan were investigating violence and alleged human rights violations by rebel militias when they were abducted on 12 March.

John Sharp said his family had last spoken to Michael just a few weeks before he went missing, as he was about to fly back to DRC after a trip home, to tell him he had become an uncle to a baby boy.

“We spoke to him at the time his younger sister had just given birth and as he was going back to the Congo from New York,” he said.

Sharp said his son, a Mennonite who embraced the “core conviction of peacemaking” that underpins his faith, would have taken all the necessary precautions in planning the fact-finding mission in and around Kananga, the country’s third largest city.

“Michael was meticulous, he followed protocol, he would have felt very responsible for the people working with him so he would have been doubly careful. Nothing about it would have been reckless.”

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Sharp had been working in the country for five years and had joined the UN’s panel of experts following a stint with the Mennonite Central Committee in eastern Congo.

In his peace-building role for the religious organisation he became a leading expert on the armed group, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda.

Through church networks he built trust with commanders from the rebel group, negotiating the release of soldiers and offering them paths to repatriation and demobilisation.

Catalan, his colleague, had left a promising political career in Sweden to join the panel as a humanitarian expert.

Described by friends in Goma as having a “passionate commitment to the truth”, the 36-year-old had previously worked in Afghanistan and Palestine and had extensive experience of conflict resolution and working in hostile environments.

Sharp, a bible teacher in Kansas, admitted it had at times been hard accepting his son would always live in dangerous places, but added: “We always supported him in the choices he made and we were not about to say that because of our fears he should not fulfil his passion.”

Paying tribute to his son, he said: “He had a great sense of irony and humour, could be the centre of a party and was a great story-teller. We often marvelled at his intellectual capacity combined with a warm-hearted compassion.”

He warned that if provision were not made to continue the type of specialist work Michael and his colleagues undertook in the region “it would double the tragedy and the loss”.

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“I just hope the tragedy of these deaths will not be compounded by a lack of resolve to continue the peace-building work that the UN has been doing there. Further, I would hope the US government would pay its UN dues so their work can continue.”

The Trump administration has vowed to “reduce or end funding for international organisations whose missions do not substantially advance US foreign policy interests”.

US cuts will fall hard on the DRC, adding pressure to President Joseph Kabila’s government, which is presiding over an an increasingly chaotic landscape. The DRC’s UN mission is among the leading recipients of foreign aid globally.

Parts of the country, particularly the east, have suffered insecurity for decades but violence in Kasai is a new expansion of tensions.

The conflict has escalated since last August, when security forces killed militia leader Kamwina Nsapu. Clashes between government groups and rebel forces have claimed 400 civilian lives and forced 434,000 people from their homes.

The mounting violence included the beheadings of more than 40 police officers whose bodies were found towards the end of last month. On Tuesday, 13 new mass graves were discovered in central Congo, bringing the total to 23.

It is believed the UN investigators planned to research the structural organisation of the relatively new militia group and investigate allegations about the use of child fighters.

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They had met with local people, government and military officials in Kananga before heading south of the city on motorbikes as part of plans to meet the militia group. It was then, in Dibaya territory, they went missing.

After villagers discovered their bodies in shallow graves near a river, a government official reported: “The woman was beheaded.”

The UN has launched an inquiry into the killings as the search continues for the three other Congolese nationals.

David Gressly, the UN’s deputy special representative for DRC, meets with security officials in Kananga
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David Gressly, the UN’s deputy special representative for DRC, meets with security officials in Kananga. Photograph: Laurent Sam Oussou/Courtesy of Monusco

The NGO community has been left shaken by the deaths. Michael Sharp’s friend Rachel Sweet, of the Congo Research Group, said the deaths were unprecedented.

She said sources in Kananga claimed it would be unusual for Kamwina-Nsapu to kidnap people in this way, adding that it is not yet clear who is responsible.

“We have no clear proof in any given direction so we must wait for answers from the investigations team,” she said.

She added: “Michael is someone who at this moment would remind us of peace and not vengeance as the solution. Both he and Zaida would be the first to situate their own deaths within the broader context of what is happening in Congo.

“They would want us to organise the same effort to understand the deaths of all the hundreds of Congolese who have been killed, even just in the past few weeks since their kidnapping.”

 

Ambazonia

US Diplomat Decries Abandonment of Ambazonia, Urges Anglophone Support,

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US Diplomat Tibor Nagy

Tibor Nagy, a former US Assistant Secretary of State for Africa and long-term US diplomat, has recently expressed his concern over the abandonment of Ambazonia by England and Anglophone countries. In a tweet posted on a micro blogging platform, Nagy argued that if the situation in Ambazonia were reversed, and a majority Anglophone government was brutalizing a Francophone population, France would not hesitate to support the Francophones.

Ambazonia, also known as Southern Cameroon, is a region that has been facing a crisis for several years. The conflict in Ambazonia stems from the marginalization and neglect of the Anglophone minority by the Francophone majority in Cameroon. This has led to calls for independence from the Anglophone community, and the situation has escalated into a full-blown conflict, with reports of human rights violations and atrocities being committed by both sides.

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Nagy, who has served as the US Ambassador to Guinea and Ethiopia, as well as a Professor Emeritus at Texas Tech University, believes that the lack of support from Anglophone countries for the Ambazonian people is a major problem. He argued that if the situation were reversed, and a Francophone country was brutalizing an Anglophone population, France would not sit idly by and watch. This, according to Nagy, is a clear indication of the double standards that exist in the international community when it comes to supporting marginalized communities.

Nagy’s tweet has sparked a heated debate on social media, with many people agreeing with his argument and others disagreeing. Some people have pointed out that the situation in Ambazonia is not as simple as Nagy has portrayed it, and that there are many complex factors involved that cannot be ignored.

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Regardless of the differing opinions, Nagy’s tweet highlights the need for the international community to pay more attention to the crisis in Ambazonia and to provide more support for the Ambazonian people. The situation in Ambazonia is a clear example of how neglect and marginalization can escalate into a full-blown conflict, and it is the responsibility of the international community to prevent this from happening.

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In conclusion, Nagy’s tweet serves as a wake-up call for Anglophone countries to pay more attention to the crisis in Ambazonia and to provide more support for the Ambazonian people. The international community must not sit idly by and watch as a marginalized community is brutalized, and it is time for Anglophone countries to take action and to support the Ambazonian people in their struggle for justice and equality.

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Ambazonia

Ambazonia – Cameroon’s denial of Canadian mediation criticized

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Tibor Nagy, a former US Assistant Secretary of State for Africa and a long-term US diplomat, has expressed his disappointment at the government of Cameroon’s denial of authorizing Canadian mediation in the Ambazonia crisis. In a tweet, Nagy wrote that the denial shows a split in the Biya regime and indicates that both sides are positioning for a post-Biya government.

Nagy’s statement comes amid growing concerns about the ongoing conflict in the Ambazonia region of Cameroon, which has resulted in widespread human rights abuses, displacement, and political unrest. The conflict, which began in 2016, has been fueled by decades of marginalization and neglect of the English-speaking regions of the country by the predominantly French-speaking government in Yaoundé.

As a seasoned diplomat with years of experience in African affairs, Nagy is well-acquainted with the complexities of the Cameroonian conflict. His statement reflects the views of many observers who believe that the government’s denial of Canadian mediation is a disappointing and concerning development in the ongoing crisis.

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The denial of Canadian mediation is particularly significant because it demonstrates the government’s unwillingness to engage in a constructive and meaningful dialogue with the people of Ambazonia. It also indicates that the government is not interested in finding a peaceful resolution to the conflict and is instead opting for a more confrontational approach.

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Nagy’s statement also highlights the importance of international pressure in bringing about change in Cameroon. He suggests that without significant pressure, the regime is unlikely to make any voluntary changes. This highlights the crucial role that international actors can play in promoting peace and stability in the region.

In conclusion, Nagy’s statement serves as a wake-up call for the international community to pay closer attention to the Ambazonia crisis and to take action to support the people of the region. As a former US diplomat, Nagy’s perspective carries weight and serves as a powerful reminder of the need for the international community to take a more proactive role in addressing the ongoing conflict in Cameroon.

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Conflicts

Islamic State-affiliated ADF kills 15 in DR Congo

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Soldiers fighting in DR Congo

Bunia, DR Congo – A series of violent attacks on villages in eastern DR Congo, believed to be carried out by Islamic State-affiliated ADF rebels, have left at least 15 people dead, according to local officials. This latest round of violence comes just one week after a similar attack that resulted in the deaths of over 20 people.

“There were simultaneous attacks this Sunday between 4:00 and 5:00 am on three villages…,” said local official Dieudonne Malangai. “In Manyala village we found seven bodies… at Ofay, there were eight dead, including seven women,” Malangai reported to the press, and indicated that the final death toll might be higher. A humanitarian source confirmed seven fatalities in Manyala and “at least eight” in Ofay.

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Despite the efforts of local security forces, these attacks have continued to occur on a regular basis in the region. Many local residents have grown increasingly frustrated and tired of the ongoing violence, with Malangai stating, “We are tired of giving the death toll day after day.”

ADF fighters have also been blamed for last week’s raids in the neighboring province of North Kivu, which cost at least 23 lives. In the same province, at least 14 people were killed in a bomb blast at a pentecostal church.

Islamic State portrays the ADF, which has its roots in Rwanda, as its central African incarnation. In an attempt to stem the violence, the government in May 2021 declared a state of alert in North Kivu and Ituri, replacing civil administrators with police and troops. However, despite these efforts, the attacks continue to occur with regularity, leaving local residents feeling vulnerable and unprotected.

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In addition to the loss of life, the attacks have also had a devastating impact on the local economy, with many businesses and farms being destroyed. This, in turn, has led to widespread poverty and food insecurity in the region.

The ADF, which has been active in the region since the 1990s, is known for its brutality and indiscriminate attacks on civilians. The group’s tactics have been widely condemned by the international community and human rights organizations, but the government’s efforts to combat the group have so far been ineffective.

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The continued violence in eastern DR Congo is a tragic reminder of the urgent need for a sustainable solution to the ongoing conflict. The government must take immediate action to protect civilians and bring an end to the violence. The international community must also provide support to help stabilize the region and provide aid to those affected by the conflict. Only by working together can we hope to bring peace and stability to this troubled region.

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DR Congo

Pope Francis to brings message of hope to war-torn DRC

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Pope Francis

Pope Francis is visiting the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and South Sudan, where two of the world’s most neglected crises are ongoing.

Marie Louise Wambale, a conflict survivor from DRC, will be among the Congolese faithful chosen to meet Pope Francis in the capital, Kinshasa.

She hopes that the Pope could bring a message of hope at a time when the M23 rebels are posing their greatest threat to the country since 2012.

Wambale feels disappointed that the Pope could not visit the volatile east and live the suffering of people who have fled the war.

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His long-awaited visit was postponed last year due to health reasons, but insecurity has increased since then, so the Pope is limiting his visit to Kinshasa.

The Vatican’s ambassador to DRC, Archbishop Ettore Balestrero, says that the security requirements to protect people at a papal mass would be hard in the east, where there is already danger.

An estimated two million Congolese are expected to attend the mass at Kinshasa airport on February 1, which will be the largest crowd event in DRC’s recent history.

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Fighting in the eastern DRC has involved more than 120 armed groups and has increased since the resurgence of the M23. The rebels have captured land and have been accused of committing atrocities against civilians.

The violence has displaced approximately half a million people and has triggered a diplomatic spat with Rwanda, which has been accused of backing the M23.

The region is also grappling with violence linked to ISIS and al-Qaeda affiliates. Earlier this month, ISIS claimed responsibility for a bomb explosion at a church, which killed at least 14 people and injured dozens while they were praying.

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In DRC, the Catholic church mediated rising tensions in 2016 and led to the 2018 elections. Ferdinand von Habsburg-Lothringen, a peace-building expert and former adviser to the South Sudan Council of Churches, says that the church has enormous power and moral authority, and people in countries with entrenched problems need a message of eternal hope to lift them out of a generational sense of dread and anxiety.

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Ambazonia

Cameroon – Ambazonia Silent War May Escalate -JIHA

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Dead bodies of Ambazonians killed by Cameroon soldiers

The Anglophone crisis in Cameroon is one of Africa’s newest struggles for liberation. The crisis emerged from legal and education grievances in 2016 and rapidly escalated into a secessionist political conflict that is threatening the unity of the country, with the potential to degenerate into a complex emergency. The crisis has been intensifying and has raised concerns about the potential for it to evolve into a “Complex Disaster Emergency” (CDE) in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon.

In an exploratory, qualitative, analytical, and descriptive case study research tradition involving document/content analysis, the Robert Strauss Centre’s complex emergency framework was applied to investigate the potential of the Anglophone crisis. The research found that 72.5% of the variables in all the complex emergencies fall within the relevant to extremely relevant ranking criteria. Furthermore, the establishment of a nexus between the Anglophone crisis and a natural hazard-induced disaster suggest an escalation of the crisis to an unbearable level.

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The Anglophone crisis has been compounded by the high probability of a novel eruption at Mt. Cameroon coupled with the eminent threat of the spread of the COVID-19 virus. This further heightens the potential for the crisis to cumulatively evolve into a CDE in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon. The existential challenges in providing humanitarian assistance in the conflict region are immense, and by applying the Robert Strauss Centre’s complex emergency framework, this article concludes with an early warning for an impending CDE that could heighten humanitarian challenges unless there is foresight and goodwill by relevant actors to immediately commence a process of adequate contingency planning.

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In conclusion, the Anglophone crisis in Cameroon is a complex and rapidly evolving situation that has the potential to degenerate into a “Complex Disaster Emergency” (CDE) in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon. The crisis has been intensifying and has raised concerns about the potential for it to evolve into a CDE. It is important for relevant actors to take immediate action and begin adequate contingency planning to mitigate the potential humanitarian challenges that may arise.

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Cameroon

President Biya’s incapacity at US Africa Leaders Summit raises concerns in Cameroon

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Paul Biya at US Africa Summit

Cameroon’s President, 89-year-old Paul Biya, recently attended the US Africa Leaders Summit, but it appears that he was completely unaware of his surroundings. This has raised concerns about his ability to effectively lead the country, particularly given the fact that he mostly lives in Switzerland.

Paul Biya has been the President of Cameroon since 1982, and before that, he served as the Prime Minister from 1975 to 1982. He has been in power for over four decades, and during this time, he has implemented a number of policies and initiatives that have helped to shape the country. However, despite his many achievements, there are now growing concerns about his ability to continue to lead Cameroon effectively.

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One of the main concerns is that President Biya mostly lives in Switzerland, and it is thought that he spends very little time in Cameroon. This has led to criticism that he is not fully engaged with the country and its people, and that he is out of touch with the reality on the ground. Additionally, there are concerns that his advanced age means that he is no longer able to make important decisions and that he is unable to fully understand the complex issues facing Cameroon.

Another major concern is that President Biya’s recent appearance at the US Africa Leaders Summit, where he appeared to be completely unaware of where he was, has raised serious doubts about his mental and physical capabilities. This has led to calls for him to step down, as many believe that he is no longer fit to lead the country.

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Despite these concerns, it is worth noting that President Biya has a strong support base in Cameroon and that many people still have faith in his leadership. However, it is clear that there are now significant questions about his ability to continue to lead the country effectively, and it remains to be seen how this situation will play out in the coming months and years.

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Cameroon’s President Paul Biya’s recent attendance at the US Africa Leaders Summit where he seemed to be completely unaware of his surroundings, along with the fact that he mostly lives in Switzerland, has raised concerns about his ability to continue to lead the country effectively. There are calls for him to step down, as many believe that he is no longer fit to lead the country, but it remains to be seen how this situation will play out in the coming months and years.

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Ambazonia

Ambazonia agrees to negotiate with Cameroon, Younde Disagrees

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Paul Biya and Ambazonia map

Ambazonia, a separatist movement in southern Cameroon, has announced its acceptance of negotiations with Cameroon as part of a peace process. This development was made known in a statement posted online, which was well-received by the international community.

The United Nations was reportedly present during the four-month pre-talks held in Canada, which were aimed at laying the groundwork for the upcoming negotiations. Twitter user Mark Bareta wrote that it is time for all parties involved to unite around the peace process and move towards a resolution of the conflict.

Additionally, religious leaders from southern Cameroon have publicly endorsed the peace process and the role of Foreign Policy Canada in championing a peaceful resolution to the conflict. Unfortunately, Cameroon and its president, Paul Biya, have reportedly declined to participate in the mediation process.

Despite this setback, Ambazonia is said to be continuing to stand strong and is committed to finding a peaceful resolution to the conflict through the negotiation process. The international community is encouraged by this development and is hopeful that the talks will lead to a peaceful resolution for all parties involved.

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This is a positive step forward in the long-standing conflict in southern Cameroon, and the world is eagerly awaiting the outcome of the negotiations. The role of religious leaders in endorsing peace and the involvement of the United Nations and Foreign Policy Canada in the peace process bode well for the future and offer hope for a resolution to the conflict.

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Central Africa

Mass graves of 49 civilians found in DR Congo

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Congolese mass grave of 49 civilians

UN peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of Congo have uncovered mass graves containing the bodies of 49 civilians following a series of attacks blamed on a local armed group, Cooperative for the Development of Congo (CODECO). The graves were found in two villages in northeastern Ituri province, about 30km (19 miles) east of the town of Bunia.

Farhan Haq, deputy spokesperson for the United Nations, told reporters in New York on Wednesday that 42 victims, including six children, were discovered in a mass grave in the village of Nyamamba, while the bodies of seven other men were found in another village, Mbogi.

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“Peacekeepers launched a patrol to the area immediately after receiving reports of attacks on civilians by the CODECO militias over the weekend. This is when they made the gruesome discoveries,” he said. The UN is calling for an investigation to establish if the mass graves and the attacks are linked. The UN regional peacekeeping operation, MONUSCO, is also supporting the Congolese judicial system to investigate the attacks and called for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.

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Ituri, a restive province bordering Uganda, has seen a spate of violence in recent weeks, after the killing of a teacher belonging to the Lendu community triggered reprisal attacks from CODECO, which claims to represent the ethnic group. The Lendu and Hema communities have a longstanding feud, which led to thousands of deaths between 1999 and 2003 before an intervention by a European peacekeeping force.

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Haq also warned of a “significant deterioration of the security situation” in Ituri, saying that at least 195 civilians have been killed, 68 wounded and 84 people abducted since December during attacks attributed to the CODECO and Zaire militias. More than 1.5 million people in Ituri province have also been displaced by the fighting. The UN is urging for the protection of civilians and for all parties to respect human rights.

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Central Africa

Police disperse Goma protest against slow M23 rebel pullback

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Police have fired tear gas to disperse demonstrators in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s eastern city of Goma. Protesters on Wednesday were calling for authorities to enforce an agreed withdrawal of M23 rebels from occupied territory in the region. Regional leaders brokered a ceasefire in November, under which the Tutsi-led M23 group – which launched a fresh offensive last year – was meant to pull out of recently captured positions. The deadline for this was January 15, according to the DRC’s presidency.

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But M23 has been accused of flouting the deal and occupying territory elsewhere to compensate for withdrawals that critics have argued were mainly ceremonial. President Felix Tshisekedi made similar accusations on Tuesday. The M23 has denied the claims and in turn, accused DRC authorities of breaching of the agreement.

Civil society groups called protests in Goma on Wednesday to denounce delays in implementing the M23 withdrawal. City authorities had banned the march, but hundreds still took part, chanting and holding signs denouncing the East African Community (EAC), which set up a regional military force last year to end the unrest. Police fired tear gas at the demonstrators and arrested about a dozen people, including three journalists, according to a Reuters reporter on the scene.

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Entertainment

China and Gabon strengthen cooperation and collaboration

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Ali Bongo Ondimba, and Qin Gang

Ali Bongo Ondimba, the President of Gabon, met with Qin Gang, the Foreign Minister of China, on Thursday in Libreville, the nation’s capital. The meeting was an opportunity for the two leaders to discuss the current state of the relationship between Gabon and China and to explore ways in which they can strengthen cooperation and collaboration between their countries.

During the meeting, Qin Gang sent the President of Gabon the heartfelt congratulations of Chinese President Xi Jinping. He emphasized that the China-Gabon relations, which were created in tandem by the leaders of the two countries’ older generations, have weathered the test of time and remained steadfast. He also stressed that China and Gabon stand firmly in support of one another on matters pertaining to their respective core interests and main concerns, and that they uphold the fundamental principles guiding international relations.

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Qin also emphasized that the Chinese side is prepared to cooperate with Gabon to put into practice the significant consensus reached by the two presidents of state, strengthen shared strategic trust, expand practical collaboration, and raise the China-Gabon comprehensive cooperative partnership to a new level. He also emphasized the importance of China’s continued support for Gabon in determining a development path appropriate to its national circumstances, enhancing the sharing of governance experience and synergizing development strategies, jointly building the Belt and Road Initiative with high quality, and assisting Gabon in moving forward with the Strategic Plan for an Emerging Gabon to realize win-win cooperation and common development goals.

The President of Gabon, in turn, urged Qin to send his warm welcomes to President Xi Jinping and expressed his gratitude to China for its unwavering support of Gabon’s socioeconomic growth. He praised China for standing up for justice in the international arena and accepting responsibility as a major country, and said that Gabon strongly agreed with China’s development philosophy and looked forward to deepening cooperation with China to create more benefits for the people of both countries.

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The President of Gabon also emphasized that the two nations’ alliance has grown stronger as they work to advance shared development and protect shared interests. He said that Gabon has consistently been a dependable ally of China and is eager to strengthen cooperation with it in order to jointly defend the legitimate rights and interests of developing nations and strengthen Africa’s voice in international governance.

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Qin Gang also spoke with Michael Moussa-Adamo, the Foreign Minister of Gabon, during his visit. The two parties decided to maintain their mutual support, explore opportunities, and increase their cooperation’s high points. This meeting highlights the strong relationship between Gabon and China and the willingness of both countries to continue working together for the benefit of their people and for the international community as a whole.

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