Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta commits to upgrading Israel’s status in the African Union since ‘it was critical for Africa to re-evaluate its relationship with Israel in order to better enable Africa to deal with common challenges in security & counter-terrorism.’
By HERB KEINON
NAIROBI — Kenya will work to restore Israel’s observer status at the African Union because Israel is a critical partner in the battle against terrorism, the most serious challenge facing the world today, Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta said on Tuesday.
Kenyatta said that the upgrading of Israel’s status in the pan-African body is critical not for Israel, “but for all those who see this [terrorism] as a common challenge. This is a battle not won by any nation, but by coming together.”
He said, in very warm words, that it was critical for Africa to re-evaluate its relationship with Israel in order to better enable Africa to deal with its challenges.
Israel lost its observer status at the African Union, formerly known as the Organization of African Unity, in 2002. Libya and other North African Arab countries were primarily behind the move, though in recent years South Africa has blocked attempts to get Israel reinstated.
The Palestinian Authority does enjoy this status, meaning that while PA President Mahmoud Abbas is able to address the body, Israeli leaders are not.
Kenyatta referred to previous difficult relations between Israel and Africa, an apparent reference to Israel’s relationship with apartheid South Africa which was one fact that soured Israel’s ties with the rest of the continent, saying “the world has changed, and we cannot live in history.
“We have to be able to live in the future, address ourselves to the challenges of today,” he said at the outdoor press conference in front of his palatial office. “And the one clear fact is that [terrorism is] the biggest challenge we face, not only as a state and continent, but as a community of nations threatened by deranged people who believe in no religion and threaten men, women and children across the globe.”
He said that this threat directly impacts on the capacity of countries to further an agenda aimed at improving the daily lot of their citizens.
“It would be foolhardy to say that faced with those challenges, Africa can’t engage with Israel,” he said. “That would be like an ostrich burying it head.”
Kenyatta noted that Israel today had better relations with its immediate Arab neighbors than it has ever had before. As such, he added, “why should we on the African continent say we know better than those in the region.”
The Kenyan president, who visited Israel earlier in the year, said that Kenya stands to gain a great deal from security cooperation with Israel.
“Kenya has already gained” he said. “From training to strategic thinking,” as well, he added in the use of technology to fight terrorism.
“Israel has faced this challenge much longer than we as a country or region have,” he said. “We can really practically learn a lot from Israel’s experience.”
Netanyahu, meanwhile, said that Africa has no better friend outside of the continent in terms of providing security and development assistance than Israel.
“There may be other friends,” he said, “but none of them exceed Israel in our proven capacity and desire to put our experience in helping African countries struggling against the same adversary and same enemies that want to destroy us, and want to destroy you.”
Kenyatta began his comments by referring to the 40th year anniversary of the Entebbe raid held on Monday, saying that Kenya — which provided Israel with critical logistical assistance — stood with Israel at that time in “practice and principle.”
And as a country, he added, Kenya paid the price, as Ugandan dictator Idi Amin killed “many of our people” who we were living in the neighboring country “as a result of the support we gave.”
The Kenyan president said Entebbe was an example of good will prevailing over evil, “right over wrong.” That event, he added should be “a source of incredible encouragement and hope to a world increasing standing together” against terrorism.
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