"China has been playing a key role in assisting Africa to get rid of colonial rules and to develop its economy," said Dr. Salim Ahmed Salim, a seasoned African diplomat, on Saturday.
"The China-Africa friendship and cooperation are not confined to economic and technological realms only, but are also felt in the international political arena," he said in an interview with Xinhua.
The 64-year-old Zanzibari got to know China at the age of 19 when he went to the Asian country as a diplomatic apprentice.
"China then whole-heartedly supported African countries in their strife to get rid of colonial rules, and China now is whole-heartedly supporting African countries in their efforts to get rid of poverty," he said.
"A friend is not only one who comes when needed, but this friendship has to be able to weather both ups and downs," said Dr. Salim who likened China to such an all-weather friend in that it has been extending support to African countries in a wide range of events.
Starting his diplomatic career in Cuba, the Zanzibari has served diplomatic missions in Egypt, India, China and the United Nations apart from serving as the secretary-general of the former Organization of African Unity, now the African Union, for three terms on end.
He is now the African Union's special envoy and chief mediator on Darfur, Sudan.
UN diplomats from the 1970s tended to say that Salim had missed a real opportunity to be elected as UN secretary-general because of his open support to China's return to the UN fold, for which he was rejected by the United States in 16 rounds of votings.
"I did not regret at all. Not for one moment, because I was among those who had just expressed their heart-felt joyance about China's return to the UN," he said when asked about the feeling of the anecdote.
The veteran diplomat described the event as not only China's victory on the country's diplomatic front but also a victory for the Third World countries as well as the United Nations itself.
When asked what the African countries are supposed to learn from China most, his immediate answer was China's long-standing policy of independence and self-reliance.
The veteran African diplomat might have a regret this time in that his tight Darfur-related schedule will not allow him to attend the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, scheduled for Nov. 3-5.
"I attended the first ministerial forum and I would think that the China-Africa Forum had really promoted the friendship and cooperation between China and African countries. I would also think that the forum will continue to promote China-Africa friendship and cooperation," he said, adding that he would expect this year's forum in Beijing also to offer participants a platform on which people could ponder on the changes of the world.
"This world has been changing all the time," he said, "so people have to think about and prepare themselves for how to deal and cope with the changes and the changing world."
(Xinhua News Agency October 16, 2006)