African countries vow to join Israel in struggle against extremism

Published July 5th, 2016 - 10:00 GMT
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is visiting Uganda to mark the 40th anniversary of Israel's raid on Entebbe airport. (AFP/Sebastian Scheiner)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is visiting Uganda to mark the 40th anniversary of Israel's raid on Entebbe airport. (AFP/Sebastian Scheiner)

Six African countries pledged to cooperate with Israel against international extremism, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a new era Monday in relations with Africa as he kicked off a four-day African tour in Uganda.

"Terrorism continues to be a threat to the world. ... We need to further regional and international cooperation" against it, Netanyahu, the presidents of Uganda, Kenya, Zambia, South Sudan and Rwanda and the prime minister of Ethiopia said in a communique quoted by Ugandan state broadcaster UBC.

The seven discussed extremism at a summit held at Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni's residence in Entebbe, after Netanyahu had marked the 40th anniversary of a plane hijacking targeting Israel, which ended with an Israeli raid rescuing more than 100 hostages in 1976 at Entebbe Airport.

"Nothing justifies terrorism," Netanyahu said after arriving at the airport, where he laid a wreath beneath a plaque commemorating the raid, in which his brother Yoni was killed.

On June 27, 1976, an Air France plane with 248 passengers en route from Tel Aviv to Paris was hijacked by Palestinian and German militants and forced to land in Uganda.

A week later, Netanyahu's brother led the Israeli raid to free the remaining hostages held at the airport.

More than 30 people were killed in the operation, among them Ugandan soldiers who supported the hijackers.

In a speech at the airport, Netanyahu announced a new era in Israel's relations with Africa: "Israel is coming back to Africa."

Africa's relations with Israel suffered under pressure from Arab allies and due to Israel's security links with apartheid-era South Africa.

"Africa had not been collaborating with Israel, and Israel had not been collaborating with Africa," said Netanyahu, the first Israeli premier to visit sub-Saharan Africa in at least three decades. "The relationship between Africa, Uganda and Israel is being born this day."

Museveni called on Israeli companies to invest in Africa: "Trade among Israel, Africa and third countries is beneficial to all."

Netanyahu told reporters that Israel sees opportunities in Africa: "I think we can be perfect partners."

He said Africans seeking refuge in Israel were mostly job seekers, rather than genuine refugees. "We have a policy of sifting through migrant applications, and we found many African job migrants," Netanyahu said.

He left Uganda for Kenya, after which he is to visit Rwanda and Ethiopia.

The Israeli premier is being accompanied by about 80 business leaders from more than 50 companies seeking to forge commercial ties.

Netanyahu's trip is part of Israel's efforts to relaunch relations with a continent ripe for investment, and which Israel hopes could lend political support in a hostile world.

By Henri Wasswa


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