Paul le Taiwanais to Burkinabe: Friendship is above politics

In this photo taken Wednesday, May 11, 2016 women wait to fetch water in the Nagrin neigborhood of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. Across Burkina Faso’s capital, even the wealthiest neighborhoods, typically spared from such shortages, are suffering without water amid an unprecedented heat wave. (AP Photo/Theo Renault)

Paris, June 3 (CNA) Although Paul is a common name in the West, for many in French-speaking Burkina Faso mention of “Paul le Taiwanais (Taiwanese Paul)” brings to mind Paul Teng (滕春祐) who helped build the CHU-Blaise Compaore hospital in Ouagadougou, the African country’s capital and largest city.

Teng is preparing to return Taiwan after the medical aid project in which he was involved, one of Taiwan’s cooperation programs with Burkina Faso, was stopped following the severing of diplomatic ties between the two countries late last month.

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi, right, and Burkina Faso Foreign Minister Alpha Barry attend a signing ceremony establishing diplomatic relations between the two countries in Beijing Saturday, May 26, 2018. (Thomas Peter/Pool Photo via AP)

The 56-year-old special aide to the superintendent of Puli Christian Hospital in Nantou County, central Taiwan, flew to Burkina Faso in May 2009 on a mission to assist with the establishment of the CHU-BC hospital.

In a telephone interview, Teng told CNA that he expected to stay in the country for two years at the most. However, after the hospital was built he stayed on to help establish a data management system, then other things needed doing.

In the blink of an eye he had been in Burkina Faso nine years, Teng said, adding that in February this year he watched as the hospital opened its new dialysis center.

The hospital has been described by the locals as bright, clean and good at serving the public, Teng said, but some regard it as “a Taiwanese hospital.” “I always tell them it’s your hospital, we (Taiwanese) only came to help,” he said.

Recalling the day when Burkina Faso severed diplomatic ties with the Republic of China (Taiwan) on May 24, Teng said the head of CHU-BC hospital anxiously sought him out and wrote to Puli Christian Hospital, hoping the two sides could find some way to continue working together.

His Burkinabe friends and employees all felt sorry about what happened, but he reassured them that “politics is politics, friends are friends, and friendship is far more important than politics.”

Some local people do not want Taiwan to leave and they have even launched a campaign in the hope that President Roch Marc Christian Kobore will be replaced at the next election and Taiwan will return, Teng said.

Teng is set to leave Burkina Faso in two weeks. To people and patients in that country, he wishes wholeheartedly that their medical need will be fully met someday in the future, he said.

(By Emmanuelle Tseng and Elizabeth Hsu)