Official: African countries want to revive ‘golden era’ of Israel ties. By Rina Bassist
Deputy FM Ayalon to launch joint agricultural, health projects in Kenya, Uganda; Foreign Ministry official says African leaders who visited Israel recently ‘expressed disappointed at Arab promises from 70s, 80s’
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon landed on Monday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where he met senior officials. He continued to Kenya and Uganda, where he was expected to inaugurate two Israeli-cooperation projects in the fields of agriculture and health.
An outstanding number of state and professional visits by African heads of state and ministers were recorded in Jerusalem this year. Foreign Minister Lieberman visited Africa in 2009. The visit of Ayalon this week constitutes yet another signal of the growing strategic and economic ties between Israel and the African continent.
On Thursday Deputy Minister Ayalon will launch a trilateral fishing project, in cooperation with Kenyan partners and the German economic and development ministry, near Lake Victoria, aiming to rehabilitate fishing water and agricultural polluted land patches in the region. Kenyan PM Raila Udinga is expected to take part in the ceremony, as will the German development minister, Dirk Niebel.
Ayalon will then continue to Uganda, where he will inaugurate an Israeli-built trauma center, at the Mulago referral hospital, in the capital Kampala. Israel has already offered to donate ambulances to health centers countrywide, as a contribution towards improving the health sector in Uganda. According to Gil Haskel, Israel’s ambassador to Uganda, Israel is willing to strengthen cooperation with Uganda in several areas of health and agriculture modernization.
Deputy director general of the African Division at the Foreign Ministry, Avi Granot, told Ynet that Ayalon’s visit this week is guided by two main axes: on the political level - strengthening Israel’s bilateral relations with Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda, and its relations with African regional organization, and on the another level – enhancing the regional development dimension of Israeli-African cooperation.
Granot explains that the democratization and stabilization of the African political structure over the last decade has contributed immensely to the spectacular economic growth of countries like Botswana, Namibia, Rwanda, Ghana and Ivory Coast: ‘“The new generation of African leaders feel responsible, not only to the destiny of their own people, but also regionally. We are now in an era where regional conflicts in Africa are resolved by African institutions, as was the case in Ivory Coast and in Malawi. This contributes to a welcoming economical and trade climate, which is bound to fulfill the enormous African potential.”
Granot says that thousands of Israeli companies benefit from this recent global African growth, offering expertise in diverse fields, such as communication infrastructure, hi-tech products, agriculture, health and more. Israeli companies also offer formation and education programs. The Foreign Ministry operates often these days in partnership with public and private sector elements, working together on development projects. Many Israeli companies are involved in such projects throughout Africa.
When explaining the recent change in relations between Israel and Africa, Granot points to yet another reason: a change in Africa’s own historical perception of these relations: ‘“Many of the African visitors in Israel this last year expressed disappointment at the promises made by Arab nations in the 70s and 80s, when African countries were pressured to cut off diplomatic ties with Israel in exchange for development aid. They look back to the ‘golden era’ of our relations and wish to bring them back to life.”
Deputy Minister Ayalon will discuss with his hosts Israel’s request to reinstate its status of observer with the African Union – having been disbarred from participating at AU meetings since the summit meeting of AU leaders in 2002, when Libya’s Gaddafi literally kicked Israel out. Granot says that with the PA and the Arab Leagues being full members of the AU, many African leaders agree that the Israeli point of view is nonexistent at these meetings.
Another topic on the agenda is the ”Arab Spring” and the upheaval in Libya. The fall of Gaddafi led to an enormous ‘leakage’ of weapons to the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip, but also to Mali, Niger, Mauritania and other sub-Saharan countries, where these weapons fell into the hands of Muslim extremists.
The Foreign Ministry held last week an extensive meeting to discuss these developments in Mali, where the north of the country has all fallen under the control of Ansar Dine – a Muslim terror group with ties to al-Qaeda. As in Israel, African leaders are also deeply concerned. In Kenya, two Iranians are now on trial for planning attacks against Israeli and American targets.
Granot says Minister Lieberman views Israeli-African relations as extremely important and plans to visit Africa again in the coming months. The visit of PM Netanyahu, cancelled three months ago, is rescheduled now for the coming summer. Israel has recently opened a new mission in Ghana. The minister is also considering the possibility of reopening the embassy in RDC Congo.
Having spent 5.5 years working in Ethiopia, and taking the chance to travel, I can attest that the choices BBC 4 made in Lost Kingdoms of Africa: Ethiopia are good, and they support the premise of the program.
Well worth watching if one is nostalgic.
ETHIOPIA. The African Union today adopted a unilateral resolution to deploy army troops and care packages to England as looting and violence spread from London to other major cities. Spokesperson Charity Khumalo said “We can no longer stand by while these savages tear themselves apart.”
The AU, meeting today in an emergency session to discuss the ongoing rioting in the UK, has declared that they will do “everything in their power to help bring civilisation to England”.
“It’s just so sad, you know?” said Khumalo, speaking from the organisation’s HQ in Addis Ababa. “Sitting here and watching them on TV while their society implodes. We cannot in good conscience remain idle and let it happen.”
The AU has announced a range of initiatives that Africans can get involved with to help alleviate the misery of the English.
“For instance, we have launched an ‘Adopt an English child’ programme,” Khumalo explained, showing journalists brochures featuring the faces of English kids. “If you donate a mere R50 a month, you can see to it that sweet little Johnny from Peckham receives a basic education, a pack of condoms and a pair of pimpin’ Nikes.”
Khumalo also said that the AU would be parachuting in dentists along with army troops as part of a ‘Feel better about yourselves, Brits!’ initiative.
“You can understand why they’re turning on each other,” the spokesperson told journalists. “You look in the mirror and you see teeth untouched by modern dentistry. It’s heartbreaking enough to make anyone put a brick through a Starbucks.”
The organisation also plans to air-drop care packages on major UK cities.
“Vegetables, mainly,” Khumalo confirmed. “We’re sending them vegetables and toothpaste.”
The AU’s flagship event, however, will be a star-studded rock concert to be held in Johannesburg, with all proceeds going towards the establishment of mobile libraries around the UK. Artists ranging from Mafikizolo to Steve Hofmeyr have pledged to perform at the show.
“As a humanitarian, it’s the least I can do,” Hofmeyr said yesterday. “I look at those photos of the adorable little beasts knifing each other in fights over looted X-Boxes and I want to hug them and give them a nice hot cup of Milo.”
Meanwhile, the week’s events has seen terrified South Africans in London and Manchester packing their bags for home.
“This country is going to the dogs, dude,” said Werner du Preez, a gap-year student from Johannesburg. “I’ve been offered a nice little two-bed place in Hillbrow where I can feel safe”.