Chen to set off on 10-day visit to four African allies

The China Post staff

President Chen Shui-bian is scheduled to depart today for a 10-day trip to four African allies of Taiwan using a chartered flight service by China Airlines.

China Airlines is particularly excited about being able to provide the service as it is trying hard to rebuild its image, which was severely hurt after a May 25 crash of a passenger jet, which killed 225 aboard. The trip, which will take Chen to Sau Tome and Principe, Senegal, Malawi and Swaziland, comes at a time when Taiwan is still trying to get over the fiery storm left after a Senegal soccer team visited Taiwan last month.

According to the China Times Express, despite Senegal ambassador to Taiwan Adama San’s apology, ripples from the soccer team’s visit are likely to cast a shadow over Chen’s trip.

However, relatively steady bilateral ties between the two nations should limit the negative impact, the paper said.

Taiwan’s ambassador to Senegal has said the soccer team incident did hurt the atmosphere between the two nations slightly, but not to the extent of ruining the friendliness characteristic the relationship, the evening newspaper reported. The ambassador also added the Senegal media has played down the World Cup quarterfinalists’ sour trip, as they don’t consider this as something to be proud of. The press in Senegal believes inappropriate behavior on the part of a few of the soccer players is to blame. According to the paper, Taiwan’s relations with Senegal are relatively stable compared with two years ago, when Senegal President Abdoulaye Wade had just come to power and was cold to Taiwan initially. Please see CHEN on page

But these days the relationship has stabilized after Taiwan provided several aid packages to the west African nation, the paper reported. Taiwan has offered millions of U.S. dollars in aid to Senegal.

Chen is scheduled to cut ribbons at several occasions during his stay in Senegal — including the opening of a child care center, an agricultural training program, and a new highway — all financed by Taiwan.

In late June, Senegal’s World Cup soccer team was invited to Taiwan, but the trip turned sour as the government hosts and the guests ended by tossing complaints at each other. Some of the Senegal team’s members criticized the Taiwan government’s “poor hospitality” as they wrapped up their two-day visit to Taiwan.

At the boarding gate at Chiang Kai-shek International Airport, a team official burst into a fit of rage, complaining about the accommodations and food. The man said the team, which was very tired having been away from home for 45 days, had not really wanted to come. He was unhappy that they were only flying economy class on a China Airlines flight back home.

Worst of all, when a teammate reminded the official that he was talking in front of the cameras, the official said he just wanted his complaints to be reported.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs spent over NT$10 million to bring the Senegal team to Taiwan a day after their defeat to Turkey in the quarterfinals. The money was spent on their accommodations, ticket fares, and appearance fees.

The soccer players, however, only made a brief appearance at a Taipei stadium to the disappointment of a crowd expecting to see them play a friendly with a local team. The foreign ministry apologized for the airport episode, but also accused the team of breaking the terms of the contract for their visit.