By ABDULHAKIM SHERMAN
Israel is to help Kenya build a multi-million 440-mile wall along its border with Somalia as part of its counter-terrorism measures, the Daily Reporter has reliably learnt.
This is among agreements President Uhuru Kenyatta and Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu entered into during the latter’s visit to Kenya.
Prime Minister Netanyahu and his host President Kenyatta also agreed to share intelligence to help combat terrorism.
Kenya has been a victim of terrorist attacks that include the September 21, 2013 Westgate Mall terror attack in which more than 67 people were killed and more than 200 others injured and the Garissa University College attack in which more than 148 students were killed and scores others injured.
Kenya has also experienced a series of incursions by Al Shabaab and Al Qaeda linked militants along the border areas of Lamu, Mandera and Wajir where terror attacks have left hundreds of people dead and dozens maimed.
During the visit, Prime Minister Netanyahu, also got support for the upgrading of Israel’s position at the African Union which was revoked in 2002 at the behest of the late Libyan dictator Muammar el-Qaddafi.
Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn not only promised to work to upgrade Israel’s position at the African Union, and declared that “the East African corridor has the huge potential for cooperation with Israel, and we need to engage Israel.”
He added that those African countries that disagree with Israel on certain issues had no right to veto the rest of the continent’s cooperation with the Jewish state.
The proposal garnered support from several of Netanyahu’s hosts, including Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, who described it as “not just good for Kenya” but also “good for Africa” and “good for global peace.” The Kenyan leader cited the common interest that his country and its neighbors had with Israel in combating Islamist terrorism.
The Ethiopian leader also publicly thanked Israel for its support in securing for Africa’s second most populous country a rotating seat on the U.N. Security Council beginning next year and promised to reciprocate by helping Israel in international forums.
According to Newsweek, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu became the first sitting Israeli head of government to travel to Africa since Yitzhak Rabin went to see Morocco’s King Hassan II in 1993.
Some of the reasons why Netanyahu visited Africa according to Newsweek.
- To pay his respects
Jonathan Netanyahu, the elder brother of the Israeli leader, died in Entebbe in Central Uganda in 1976 during a hostage rescue operation. An Air France flight from Tel Aviv to Paris was hijacked by Palestinian and German militants, who ordered the pilot to divert to Benghazi in Libya and then Entebbe, where they were offered shelter by Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. The Israeli-led operation freed 102 of 106 hostages, who had been held for more than a week at the airport, but Netanyahu’s brother was shot dead during the raid. Four hostages, at least seven of the militants and 20 Ugandan troops were also killed.
Visiting the scene of the raid on Monday, Netanyahu said he had learned from his brother that “clarity and courage” are required to overcome extremism. “When terrorism succeeds in one place it spreads to other places, and when terrorism is defeated anywhere it is weakened everywhere. This is why Entebbe…was a victory for all humanity,” said the Israeli PM, according to the BBC.
- To restore shaky foundations
The fact that no Israeli head of state has visited sub-Saharan Africa since Yitzhak Shamir in 1987 is testament to the rocky history between Israel and the continent. Following the 1973 war between Israel and a coalition of Arab states led by Egypt and Syria, scores of African countries—many under Arab influence—cut ties with Israel. Indeed, the four countries Netanyahu is visiting all severed relations with Israel following the war, only to restore them in the 1990s. The country’s ties with black African countries have also suffered due to its historic support for the apartheid regime in South Africa.
Netanyahu admits that his visit is an attempt to restore these relations. “Israel was blacklisted in Africa, basically kicked out by political pressure from many, many countries in which we were involved in the 60s and 70s and it took a while to change,” said Netanyahu in an interview with Ugandan independent newspaper the Daily Monitor.
- To do business and get some favors
Netanyahu will lead at least two business forums during his trip, one in Kenya and one in Ethiopia, while also meeting with each head of state individually. Israel is also expected to launch a $13 million development package for African states, which will including assistance in the sectors of agriculture, health and domestic security.
Israel has also reached a settlement with two undisclosed African countries to resettle around 40,000 migrants and refugees from Sudan and Eritrea, who entered the country through Egypt. The countries are reported to be Uganda and Rwanda, according to the Financial Times.
- To gain some partners against the West
The continuing stalemate in the Israel-Palestine conflict has proved detrimental to the former’s relations with Western countries and institutions such as the United Nations, which have condemned Israel’s construction of settlements in the West Bank and the blockade of the Gaza Strip . One possible motivation of Netanyahu’s trip is to drum up support within the region for Israel’s stance on the issue. “In the U.N. there are many [resolutions] which target Israel and we want to change this with the help of the Africans,” Arye Oded, a former Israeli ambassador to Kenya and Uganda, told German broadcaster DW.
- To share past grievances
One particularly poignant stop on Netanyahu’s agenda is a visit to the Kigali Genocide Memorial, where the remains of more than 250,000 victims of the Rwandan genocide are interred. The 1994 genocide saw Hutu extremists kill more than 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in a systematic attempt to exterminate an entire ethnic group. Since some 6 million Jews were killed by the Nazi Germany regime during World War II, Netanyahu will no doubt be able to empathize with those affected by the genocide. Rwanda’s ambassador to Israel, Joseph Rutabana, has previously said that the East African country holds up Israel as a template of how to recover from a tragedy on such a scale.