29 January 2018

Africa: China Rejects 'Preposterous' African Union Headquarters Spying Report

Photo: Albert González Farran/UNAMID
Built by China - the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa.

A report by a prominent French newspaper has alleged China of spying on the African Union headquarters. The Chinese-funded building in Addis Ababa is currently hosting the 30th summit of the pan-African body.

A Chinese official on Monday dismissed as 'preposterous' a report by French newspaper Le Monde alleging that Beijing spied on the Addis Ababa-based headquarters of the African Union (AU).

Le Monde on Friday published an investigative story claiming that technicians at the Chinese-funded building discovered last year that the data from their computers had been regularly copied to servers in Shanghai since 2012, the year the soaring building was inaugurated.

The newspaper said it spoke to a number of anonymous AU sources for the story.

"I think the report is not only a sensationalist story, but also preposterous and absurd," Chinese envoy Kuang Weilin said on the sidelines of the AU summit in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.

The almost 100 meter (330 feet) brown marble and glass tower is currently hosting the twice-yearly meeting of the African Union member countries.

China sees the $200-million (€162 million) structure as a "monument" of its friendship with Africa, where it has been investing heavily in recent years.

"Everyone at the AU is grateful for the building that China built. Maybe some people want to undermine this kind of relationship. I'm very suspicious of the intention," Kuang told reporters.

Le Monde said the servers in the building were changed and its IT systems redone once the spying was discovered in January last year.

The newspaper said Ethioipian cyber security experts were hired to sweep the entire building for potential bugs. They removed microphones hidden in the desks and walls of the headquarters.

The AU leaders taking part in the summit did not mention the report in their opening remarks on Sunday.

"There is nothing to be spied (on). I don't believe it," Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn told journalists, downplaying the report.

(dpa, AFP)

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