Remarks by Deputy Minister Sue van der Merwe at the Farewell Function in Honour of the Departing Ambassador of Gabon, His Excellency Mr Paul Bie Eyene, Cynthis's Restaurant, Pretoria, 28 June 2005

Your Excellency, Ambassador Bie Eyene
Excellencies and Colleagues
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is always a sad occasion when we have to say goodbye to those who have become part of out lives. The diplomatic life is one characterised by making new friendships and bidding farewells. This evening, we bid "adieu" to Ambassador Paul Bie Eyene of Gabon, and his wife, Estelle, who will be taking up new responsibilities in the Russian Federation.

I believe that Ambassador Bie Eyene can look back with satisfaction on his four and a half years in South Africa. During that time, it is clear that South Africa has significantly increased its presence in the Central African region, by opening additional Missions and by placing officials in many other countries, as precursors to further openings. Our Embassy in Gabon was for many years the only SA representation in the region. As it was tasked with maintaining relations with five neighbouring countries as well, the opening of new Missions has left the SA Embassy in Libreville free to concentrate more closely on Gabon and strengthening relations with your country.

Together with Ambassador Bie Eyene, our Ambassador in Gabon, and his predecessor, have been able to ensure that 5 Agreements have been signed between South Africa and Gabon since the end of 2003. In addition, 4 more Agreements are expected to be signed in August 2005, during the official visit of President Mbeki to the Republic of Gabon. These Agreements concern Trade, Tourism, Merchant Shipping, Education and Culture. During her visit to Gabon in November 2003, Minister Dlamini Zuma was able to express her appreciation to President Omar Bongo Ondimba for his activities in bringing peace and stability to the Central African Region. South Africa also welcomes Gabon's accession to the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) and its firm support for the NEPAD Programme.

Ambassador Bie Eyene and Mrs Bie Eyene have also played an active part in the social and cultural life of South Africa during their sojourn here. Mrs Bie Eyene has played a leading role in the activities of the African Diplomatic Women's Group of which she was the first President and the Embassy of Gabon has hosted a number of functions related to cultural matters.

In short, they have significantly raised the profile of Gabon in South Africa and contributed to the strengthening of relations between our two countries.

In conclusion, may I extend my sincere gratitude on behalf of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to you for the good work you have done in fostering warm relations between our countries. Ambassador, we wish you all of the best for your future endeavours and know that South Africa will always have a true friend in you.

Excellencies, Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen, please join me in a toast to His Excellency, Ambassador Paul Bie Eyene!

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