Kenya to Urge Deeper African Ties With Israel, President Says

  • Kenyatta says Israel an ally facing similar militant threats
  • Israeli premier visiting Kenya as part of African trip

Kenya will urge other African nations to renew or deepen their ties with Israel, including agreeing to grant it observer status with the African Union, President Uhuru Kenyatta said, following talks with Israel’s premier.

The continent should recognize Israel as an ally that faces security threats similar to those posed to Africans by Islamic State, Somalia’s al-Shabaab and Nigeria’s Boko Haram, Kenyatta said Tuesday in a televised press conference. He was speaking alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, visiting Kenya as part of a four-nation East African trip.

Israel has a long history of ties with Africa built on exports of arms and agricultural products, and imports of oil, diamonds and other natural resources. Alliances unraveled after many African states severed ties to avoid entanglement in the Arab oil embargo following the 1973 Middle East war.

Despite previously frosty relations, Africans “refusing to acknowledge the challenges we face is like burying your head in the sand,” Kenyatta said. “There is no nation or community that doesn’t have a history. This is time for Africa to move forward.”

Israel had observer membership status with the Organization of African Unity, the African Union’s precursor, until that body was disbanded in 2002. Ties with sub-Saharan African nations have begun to deepen again over the threat of radical Islamist groups and as Israel reaches out beyond its traditional Western allies.

“This is a natural partnership, it’s not something that we will make up,” Netanyahu said at the same press conference in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. “Our values are served best by this partnership.”