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Mauritanian President: Europe must see Africa in a new light


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Mauritanian President: Europe must see Africa in a new light

The upsurge in instability and violence in parts of Africa was high on the agenda of a conference in early April involving leaders from the continent and their European counterparts.

The EU-Africa Summit in Brussels dealt with a range of common concerns, but much of the focus was on efforts to end fighting in the Central African Republic. The President of Mauritania, Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, whose country holds the African Union presidency, spoke to Euronews’ François Chignac about this and other key issues affecting EU-Africa relations.

François Chignac
“The African continent is forecast to see largely positive growth rates in the years to come. Today the average is around 5%. Should this new economic reality be the basis for a new relationship with the European Union?”

Mohahamed Ould Abdel Aziz
“Relations must be maintained but we have to improve them so that it’s win-win for both sides. And I think that this will benefit both continents. I believe one side still needs the other. You know, one continent compliments the other.”

Francois Chignac
“Do you think that the EU or the rest of the world understands that we’re now seeing an emerging Africa, an economic development?.”

Mohammed Ould Abel Aziz
“I think they are beginning to understand, because it’s visible – an average growth of 5%. We have to support the evolution of this world. And we’re doing it slowly but surely.”

Francois Chignac
We really have to act now!

Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz
“In this decade there have been enormous problems, as much in Europe as in Africa… instability, insecurity, economic crises, natural disasters, which have not allowed leaders to put their policies into practice. But the will is there.”

Francois Chignac
“The situation in the Central African Republic is very delicate. Do you think the EU should increase its troops on the ground, or should the African Union, Africans themselves, re-establish order in the country?”

Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz
“Africans should take on this mission. It’s true that it is our mission. Africa is preparing to send special forces there. A number of countries are willing to participate.”

Francois Chignac
“Which countries?”

Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz
“There are around ten countries willing.”

Francois Chignac
“Is security one of the top priorities for you, as president of the African Union and in your dealings with the EU?”

Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz
“I think we can’t talk about development without talking about security. We can’t invest in a region where there is instability. It’s true that in the Sahel belt we’ve seen enormous security problems. It’s not just recent months, it’s almost a decade. This insecurity is largely caused by the massive presence of terrorists who’ve settled in this area and who continue to move around uninhibited. Terrorism knows no borders.”

Francois Chignac
“Every year 11 million young people enter the job market in Africa. They don’t all find jobs and very often this problem radicalises them and pushes them into extremism.”

Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz
“All those ingredients push young people towards extremism, towards desolation, it’s effectively that… “

Francois Chignac
“Are you as African Union president going to address these issues?”

Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz
“I’ve already addressed them. The best way to prevent young people from falling into terrorism, is to ensure that they’re not continually excluded from the development of Africa. We’ve got to get them qualified. The education system has to respond to these needs. And Africa has huge potential. We export enormous amounts of raw materials which, processed on the ground, can enable us to create jobs, to develop and profit, and employ young people.”

Francois Chignac
“The EU is often asking African countries, their leaders, to take on and give good leadership?”

Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz
“I think it’s not up to the EU to ask Africa to ensure good leadership. I think Africans are aware of that, that a country can’t develop without democracy and good leadership, without also respect for all and integration for all. And we can’t develop a country in which some are excluded. I think it’s not up to the EU to tell us that, it’s a decision we must take for ourselves.”

François Chignac
“On this issue of leadership, Mr President, some question your rise to power. How do you respond to them?”

Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz
“There were 10 candidates and Mauritania can only have one elected leader. So the nine candidates who didn’t succeed, who didn’t go forward last time around felt frustrated. They said the elections weren’t transparent. But it’s always like that. They’re not satisfied. But there are elections next June and it’s up to them to stand in these elections that will be as transparent as previous elections.”

Francois Chignac
“So you’re rather optimistic about the elections in June in your country?”

Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz
“I’m optimistic for my country. In my country democracy is becoming as deeply rooted in the spirit of the people as in the country itself.”

Francois Chignac
“There’s been criticism of the International Criminal Court from some countries and from the African Union before you took the presidency.”

Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz
“There’s a perception that Africans have of the Court, because most of the people on trial are Africans. That’s what makes Africans think it’s a court that specialises in judging Africans. We’re discussing this problem at the movement. It’s desirable, however, that Africans take charge, just as they should for security.”

Francois Chignac
“Are you calling for an ‘African Criminal Court’?”

Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz
I’m calling for a court… I don’t see why we send our residents to be judged abroad. We can judge them here, we can imprison them here, we can at least do that. We have very competent magistrates who can do it.”

Francois Chignac
“Will we see and ‘African Criminal Court.’”

Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz
“That’s my greatest wish.”

Francois Chignac
“Is it also the wish of other African Union countries?”

Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz
“Effectively…”

Francois Chignac
“Do you think Africa has become the train pulling the European Union, or could become the train?”

Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz
“I think so and wish for it. We have the means and the ambition. I think it’s the ambition that really counts.”

Francois Chignac
“How would you summarise your hopes for the African continent in the coming years?”

Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz
“Africa for me would be prosperous, stable, secure and united.”

Francois Chignac
“And we’ll see that?”

Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz
“And contribute to the development of the world and play a part on the world stage, and play a role in world politics and security.”

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