BEIJING (Reuters) – The African Union does not have any secret dossiers and nothing to spy on, a senior official said in Beijing on Thursday, rejecting a report in French newspaper Le Monde that Beijing had bugged the regional bloc’s headquarters in Addis Ababa.
Le Monde, quoting anonymous AU sources, reported last month that data from computers in the Chinese-built building had been transferred nightly to Chinese servers for five years.
After the massive hack was discovered a year ago, the building’s IT system including servers was changed, according to 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.
Speaking to reporters with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at his side, head of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat said the allegations in the paper were false.
“What I can assure you of is that the relations between China and Africa, as I described, are unwavering. No manoeuvres of this type can distract us from our objectives,” Faki said.
“The African Union is an international political organisation. It doesn’t process secret defence dossiers. We are an administration and I don’t see what interest there is to China to offer up a building of this type and then to spy,” he said.
“So these are totally false allegations and I believe that we are completely disregarding them.”
The $200 million headquarters was fully funded and built by China and opened to great fanfare in 2012. It was seen as a symbol of Beijing’s thrust for influence in Africa, and access to the continent’s natural resources.
Wang said that he appreciated Faki’s comments, and called the headquarters a symbol of China-Africa friendship.
“It cannot be tarnished by any person or any force,” Wang said.
China-Africa relations had withstood decades of ups and downs and changes in the international arena, he added.
“Perhaps some people or forces are unwilling to help Africa themselves and have a feeling of sour grapes about the achievements of China’s cooperation with Africa,” Wang said.
“Any rumours are powerless, and any sowing of discord won’t succeed.”
As in the Ethiopian capital, China’s investments in road and rail infrastructure are highly visible across the continent. At a 2015 summit in South Africa, Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged $60 billion (£43.3 billion) in aid and investment to the continent, saying it would continue to build roads, railways and ports.
Separately, Wang announced that China would hold another summit with African leaders this September, in Beijing.