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REEM LEILA | Sunday,03 September, 2017 | Al-Ahram Weekly
President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi completes a tour intended to signal a new role for Egypt in Africa, writes Reem Leila
President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi’s African tour ended on 18 August with bilateral talks with Idriss Déby, the president of Chad. Al-Sisi arrived in the Chadian capital N’Djamena on 17 August. His tête-a-tête with Déby was followed by an expanded session of talks attended by the two countries’ delegations and a joint press conference.
During the press conference Al-Sisi underlined Egypt’s commitment to advancing relations with Chad and stressed that the two countries shared common challenges. He highlighted prospects for closer economic cooperation and trade, particularly in the areas of livestock, health, agriculture, irrigation, infrastructure and energy.
Al-Sisi confirmed Egypt would continue with capacity-building projects covering civilian and military specialisations currently offered by the Egyptian Agency of Partnership for Development (EAPD).
Déby told those attending the press conference that Chad was keen to encourage Egyptian investment and pointed out Egyptian businessmen had been exempted from acquiring entry visa. He stressed that both he and Al-Sisi “condemned all terrorist crimes, most notably the latest terrorist attack in Burkina Faso”.
Déby went on to praise the firm stand Al-Sisi had taken in the face of terrorism and extremism.
The two leaders discussed recent developments in Libya. Déby commended Egypt’s efforts to secure a political settlement to the Libyan crisis and confirmed the importance of continuing efforts to support dialogue among Libyan factions.
Al-Sisi’s visit to Chad was the last leg of a tour that included Gabon and Rwanda. He arrived in Gabon on 16 August and headed straight to the presidential palace where Gabonese President Ali Bongo hosted a formal reception.
During his visit to Gabon, the current chair of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) Al-Sisi congratulated Bongo and the people of Gabon on the occasion of Gabon’s National Day and lauded the national dialogue that President Bongo has initiated to reinforce Gabon’s stability.
In bilateral talks Al-Sisi said Egypt was keen to advance political, economic, security and military cooperation so as to strengthen development and stability. The two presidents discussed ongoing regional crises and the ways in which Egypt’s membership of the UN Security Council might help resolve them. They agreed to continue coordination between the two countries within the African Union and United Nations.
President Bongo is the coordinator of the Committee of African Heads of State and Government on Climate Change, and discussions broached a number of environmental issues. The two men also reviewed the transfer of the chairmanship of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) from Egypt to Gabon last June. Both presidents stressed the need to continue coordination on the environment and the importance of backing a unified African position in climate change negotiations.
Both sides agreed to boost military and security cooperation and coordinate counter-terrorism activities.
On 15 August Al-Sisi held bilateral talks with Rwandan President Paul Kagame in the capital Kigali.
Kagame expressed appreciation for the technical support Egypt already provides to Rwanda and said there was much room to advance relations. Al-Sisi congratulated President Kagame on his re-election this month to a third presidential term.
The two presidents discussed ways to further economic integration among Nile Basin states. Al-Sisi told his host that the Nile Basin States Summit held recently in Entebbe, Uganda, marked the beginning of a constructive dialogue among the leaders of Nile Basin countries.
Al-Sisi stressed that Egypt fully supports efforts by Nile Basin countries to realise comprehensive development while respecting the interests of the Egyptian people who depend on the River Nile for water.
“There is a joint responsibility among Nile Basin countries to preserve the Nile which is the artery of life for millions of people,” said Kagame.
Addressing President Kagame in his capacity as head of the AU’s institutional reform dossier, Al-Sisi said Egypt supported efforts to overhaul the institutional framework of the AU to enhance efficiency.
The two leaders agreed to revive the Egyptian-Rwandan Joint Committee which should convene soon to push forward a joint development agenda.
During the course of his tour Al-Sisi invited African leaders to Egypt to participate in the International Youth Conference and “Africa 2017” Forum scheduled to be held in Sharm El-Sheikh in November and December.