China’s ambassador to the African Union has described as “absurd” the result of an investigation by the French newspaper Le Monde, according to which Beijing has spied, at least from 2012 to 2017, on the seat of the Union in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.
“I think this is a sensational story, but it is also completely false and absurd,” Chinese Ambassador to the AU Kuang Weilin told Journalists on the sidelines of the organizations summit that takes place on Sunday and Monday.
According to the ambassador, the article in question, published Friday by La Monde, will “damage the image of the newspaper”, but not the relationship between China and Africa.
Citing several sources internal to the African Union, Le Monde assured that the computer scientists of the institution have realized about a year ago that the content of the servers of the AU was transferred to other servers in Shanghai, in China.
The same sources say that these transfers would have taken place since 2012, when the construction of the brand new building of the African Union, offered by China, was completed. The AU servers were changed in 2017, when this system flaw was discovered, and a new IT architecture was deployed.
Le Monde finally argues that after the discovery of data transfers to China, Ethiopian cybersecurity experts inspected the AU building rooms, and flushed out microphones placed under the desks and walls.
AU Commission Chairman Moussa Faki reacted to the accusations by assuring the press that he had seen “no evidence of espionage in this building”.
Others, like the Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, preferred to emphasize the importance of the “strong” and “strategic” relationship with China, Africa’s leading partner, with $149.2 billion in trade in 2016 (according to Beijing), and many donations and loans at very low rates on the African continent.
“There is nothing to spy on, I do not believe it,” Desalegn said.