“Europe’s response should be to talk to Africans” – Felix Tshisekedi

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euronews

For the first time in 25 years, African economies entered a recession, as they were badly hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. The IMF estimates that the African continent needs 300 billion dollars to get out of this difficult situation. We discuss this, plus the migrant crisis, terrorist threats, good governance and more with the President of the Democratic Republic of Congo and current President of the African Union, Felix Tshisekedi.

French President Emmanuel Macron invited around 20 African heads of State and International Delegations to a summit in Paris. Are the conclusions of this summit, in a way, the first jab that was needed for African economies to bounce back?

Felix Tshisekedi, President of the Democratic Republic of Congo:

“First of all, I would like to thank French President Emmanuel Macron for this courageous and unprecedented initiative. Why was it unprecedented? Because, at last, it has managed to involve Africans in the reflection on their future. Until now, decisions were taken without Africans present and the decisions made were sent down to us. Here, we piloted this process together and I like the term that President Macron used: the New Deal.

I know that this task will be hard. But I am confident because the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, who is also committed to Africa, attended the conference. We have set ourselves a number of targets until the first half of 2022, during the French Presidential elections, when we will look at what the situation is during a European Union-African Union summit. Then we will perhaps be able to tell you whether what was done in Paris was headed in the right direction”.

The conclusions of the Paris Summit were focused on Health. Where are we at in terms of saving African economies?

Felix Tshisekedi, President of the Democratic Republic of Congo:

“The big news is the decision on the special drawing rights, which are valued at $650 billion. We were a bit disappointed at the Paris Summit because only 33 billion will be allocated to Africa at this stage, which is a very small amount for 54 countries.

So, the objective of this conference was, among other things, to raise up to $100 billion. After our discussions, we saw that it was possible and that we could even go beyond that. The other news is that the institution by which these drawing rights will be used is the African Development Bank, which knows African countries and the challenges they face very well. This would be a considerable contribution to help wipe out a part of the debts these African countries have”.

Let’s discuss the health crisis. There was a lot of talk about vaccines. What is your opinion on the conclusions drawn about health during this Summit?

Felix Tshisekedi, President of the Democratic Republic of Congo:

“It’s true that we are not going to confine Africans in Africa. They will be obliged to move around, to interact with others, and they could contract another variant of the virus that might be much more deadly, and make vaccination useless. So I believe that we have to vaccinate the largest amount of people possible. So an appeal has been made to those who own the rights to these vaccines. That will also have a positive impact on our people who have been heavily manipulated in this regard”.

If I may, Mr President, people on the African continent did not trust the vaccines.

Felix Tshisekedi, President of the Democratic Republic of Congo:

“Exactly, but the fact that Africans developed a kind of resistance to the virus led many to believe that the virus would only affect others and not us. But this is a mistake because the virus mutates. So we have to protect ourselves”.

People have often said there is a lack of communication on the African continent….

Felix Tshisekedi, President of the Democratic Republic of Congo:

“There have been some mistakes and what I’m thinking about, for example, is the decision by eleven European countries to suspend the AstraZeneca vaccine, because that has given a boost to those who hold the view that this vaccine is dangerous for Africans”.

We’ve discussed the health and economic crisis, let’s talk about the migrant crisis. Lots of migrants have arrived on Spanish coasts. As the current President of the African Union, are you discussing this with the European Union?

Felix Tshisekedi, President of the Democratic Republic of Congo:

“Not yet, unfortunately, not yet because Europe’s response is radical. They’re closing their doors. I believe that Europe’s response should be to talk to Africans. First of all to see from which countries the majority of these migrants come from and to look at how we can, by working together, prevent these migrations, hold back these young people who are leaving. The real reason for all of this is despair. Young Africans believe that Europe is an Eldorado and that by leaving their country, they can find happiness in Europe. But Europe also has its problems. We have, on the one hand, to explain this to them, but on the other hand, we have to provide them with solutions to their daily problems. Youth entrepreneurship would be an effective response to this issue”.

Let’s talk about Mozambique, where there is a serious jihadist threat. How do you deal with the jihadist threat in Mozambique?

Felix Tshisekedi, President of the Democratic Republic of Congo:

“The problem in Mozambique is similar to the problem in the east of my country. These are Islamist terrorist groups that have pledged allegiance to ISIL and this is not a problem that affects one country. The risk is that this cancer, this problem, will spread to the whole region, the whole continent.

So we must fight it now. We cannot wait. What is going on in Mozambique really attracts our attention because it is exactly the same phenomenon that we are experiencing in our country. These regions are potentially rich in minerals and other resources, so what we have to do is cut them off from that supply, because that is what’s going to fuel their activities. So we have to work quickly, efficiently and as one”.

A few months ago, the international community and the Democratic Republic of Congo suffered a heavy loss with the death of the Italian ambassador. What is the status of the investigations surrounding his death?

Felix Tshisekedi, President of the Democratic Republic of Congo:

“Investigations are ongoing. At one point, we apprehended a few suspects. I think they are being questioned because beyond these suspects, there is a whole organisation. They are bandits, that are organised into gangs and who for sure have mentors. So, I think we have to trace all of that back.

We are working in collaboration with the Italian services and we are working on it hard. It is terrible. I was really saddened by his death and that has motivated me even more to look for the suspects”.

As the current President of the African Union, you said a few days ago, regarding Chad, the transition in Chad, that it really had to be settled in a way to maintain stability in the country.

Felix Tshisekedi, President of the Democratic Republic of Congo:

“The solution that was found, that didn’t come from us but from Chadians themselves, was a military solution. So for me, if that brings stability…

I was in N’Djaména for the funeral of President Deby, I saw that the country was stable. People were calm. From the moment that there is stability, then good.

But then, we are not giving them a blank cheque. We say that because, they themselves said that there will be elections in 18 months, and we wish for this transition to be as inclusive as possible, to remove any possibility for someone to say “I was excluded, so I will settle my fate by taking arms”. So if everyone is involved, if everyone accompanies this transition, there will be free, democratic and transparent elections. In any case, we hope so, and at that point, the country will return to a definitive stability”.

Mr President, is the Democratic Republic of Congo hoping to be represented at the UN Security Council?

Felix Tshisekedi, President of the Democratic Republic of Congo:

“Yes of course, it is our ambition to make our voice heard at the highest international levels and as my country has assumed the Presidency of the African Union, it’s also an opportunity for it to get more representation in the UN”.

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