Senegal calls on China to get involved in war-torn Sahel region

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Senegalese Foreign Minister Aissata Tall Sall said on Sunday that she hoped China would support the fight against insecurity in the conflict-ridden Sahel region at the start of a China-Africa summit.

Speaking to reporters in the capital Dakar after meeting her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, Sall said she hoped China would be a “strong voice” in the fight against terrorism in the vast semi-arid region.

Islamist militants are active in much of the Sahel, south of the Sahara Desert, leading a conflict that has lasted for years despite the presence of French troops and United Nations peacekeepers.

Sall’s statement came at the start of a China-Africa summit in Senegal, which is to focus on trade issues as well as security. It ends Tuesday.

The summit follows a visit this month by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to the African countries of Kenya, Nigeria and Senegal, amid growing rivalry between Beijing and Washington.

China is investing heavily in Africa and is the continent’s largest trading partner with direct trade worth more than $ 200 billion in 2019, according to the Chinese Embassy in Dakar.

DR Congo President Felix Tshisekedi, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa are expected to attend the summit in Senegal.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is also due to speak via video link on Monday, organizers said.