In what some describe as war, what could be more relevant than the testimony of a general at the forefront because present on the battlefield. In this case, it is South Korea, a country neighboring the first epidemic focus that was China and in particular the city of Wuhan in Hubei province. Ambassador of Senegal in Seoul, the former High Commander of the Gendarmerie and Military Justice of Senegal observed the measures taken by the Korean authorities in the fight against the Covid-19 epidemic. With his experience in major theaters of operations such as Iraq or the Democratic Republic of the Congo where he held high responsibilities in the corps of peacekeepers, General Mamadou Guèye Faye agreed to share this that he observed how the Koreans have managed the health crisis of the new coronavirus but also how, taking into account the realities of the continent, it could inspire Africa hitherto continent least affected by the pandemic despite the big fears fed by a number of observers as to the future. This testimony makes all the more sense since it is customary to recall, to illustrate how much the land of the calm Morning had a meteoric development, that in 1960 Korea was on the same level as the ex-Gold Coast, current Ghana, one of the flagship countries in West Africa, but whose destiny is far from that of Korea.

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Africa Update: In South Korea, as a person and as an Ambassador, you have been and still are at the forefront of the Covid-19 pandemic. What can you tell us about how the Koreans have managed it on a daily basis?

General Mamadou Guèye Faye: Three months after coronavirus or COVID-19 infection broke out in China and has traveled around the world with more than 200 affected countries, a mid-term review may have been made in relation to crisis management methods which have been deployed by the leaders of the states concerned. In this context, even if the infection is far from being wiped out, the successive stages to date seem to show that South Korea is one of the countries that have best managed the pandemic to the point of being seen. by some analysts as a model to replicate. Indeed, in view of the results obtained, in particular a case fatality rate far below the world average but also a significant drop in the number of people infected per day after only a few weeks of struggle, the Republic of Korea seems to be the example to follow in terms of management.

During the information session organized on March 06, 2020 at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), the head of diplomacy, Her Excellency KANG Kyung WHA, said, responding to a question from a diplomatic colleague, that these results are the result of a strategy which consisted in carrying out mass tests and taking charge of cases declared positive from the start of infection. Approach which paid off after a few weeks of practice and which seems to inspire certain European countries which have not hesitated to say that at the end of their period of confinement, massive tests will be carried out like the model South Korean.

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I myself hailed this model in an interview I gave on March 25th on Senegal’s national television, RTS, during a program to which I was invited, to share with the viewers, mainly Senegalese, the Korean experience of managing the crisis caused by the Covid-19.

In such a context, how did the Koreans succeed in finding a balance between the constraints of the necessary order and the respect of a certain number of citizens’ rights?

If there is one aspect that has marked awareness, it is that at no time was there any question of rigorously restricting public freedoms (notably that of coming and going) by taking certain measures. ban on going out, traveling or traveling, preferring more flexible measures such as recommendations to avoid gatherings or the obligation to submit to the sanitary control devices installed at the borders.

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Indeed, neither the even less total partial containment, nor the closure of airports have been declared in Korea even in periods of heavy propagations, while these measures seem to be the only alternatives in certain countries to stop the chain of contamination. Respect for the rights of citizens was therefore a determining element in the strategy deployed by the State. The legendary discipline of the Koreans and their respect for the strict application of the directives decreed by the public authorities in particular health are the key to their success. If I had to sum up the success of the Koreans, I would say that it is the fruit of an individual citizen commitment freely consented to in the service of a collective responsibility.

Illustrative photo of regular exchanges between the Korean International Cooperation Agency, KOICA, and diplomatic representatives. Here a session in 2019 with the Ambassador of Senegal, General Mamadou Guèye Faye.

This option seems to be bearing fruit because life has never really stopped in big cities. Shops and supermarkets are still open with the exception of a few and industrial production, even though it did not function as normal, still did not stop completely as it does now in some countries, including those known as developed. This attitude, which is not without risk, will still have had the advantage of pushing the fewest people into a situation of technical unemployment, and therefore of social insecurity. It also made it possible for exports to quickly return to a normal rhythm as soon as the crisis ended. Besides, for having been one of the rare capitals not to have confined its population while succeeding in controlling the spread of the infection,

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Have the Korean authorities forwarded specific instructions to the diplomatic representations regarding the Covid-19?

The Korean authorities very often exchanged with diplomatic representations on the management of the crisis. In fact, from the first days of infection, an information meeting was held at MOFA for the attention of the diplomatic community with a view to informing it of the development of the situation. A second meeting was held a week later under the chairmanship of the Minister for Foreign Affairs on the same subject and at each meeting the floor was given to the audience to allow them to express their concerns. Also, the proposals that were made were immediately followed up the following days. From there we can say that openness and transparency were in order.

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