Netanyahu to jam meetings with several African leaders into Kenya

Netanyahu to jam meetings with several African leaders into Kenya day trip
PM to speak at lunch attended by leaders from across continent, hold bilateral meetings during quick trip for inauguration

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara meet with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Kenyatta’s wife at the president’s house in Nairobi, Kenya, on July 5, 2016. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

(timesofisrael) –Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will attempt to squeeze in meetings with the leaders of 10 African nations during a one-day visit to Kenya to attend the inauguration of President Uhuru Kenyatta on Tuesday.

Speaking at his faction meeting Monday, the prime minister boasted of the strong ties he has forged with the African nations, and reminded lawmakers that this was his third trip to the continent in the past year and a half.

Netanyahu is scheduled to fly to Nairobi on Tuesday morning, and depart later the same day, after attending some of the events surrounding Kenyatta’s swearing-in ceremony.

The Prime Minister’s Office said that Netanyahu will attend an official lunch, where he will be joined by the leaders of Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Rwanda, Togo, Botswana, Namibia and Ethiopia, the vice-president of Nigeria and other senior officials. The prime minister is to give an address during the meal.

Afterwards, Netanyahu is to hold bilateral meetings with several of the heads of state.

Netanyahu, who has pushed for Israel to expand its diplomatic ties in Africa, held a similar round robin of talks with African leaders when he attended a summit in Liberia earlier this year.

In early July 2016, Netanyahu became the first Israeli premier in decades to travel to the continent when he visited four East African nations: Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and Ethiopia.

Despite allegations of vote rigging, Netanyahu congratulated Kenyatta on his “landslide victory,” in a November 2 letter. 

About 100,000 people are expected to attend Tuesday’s inauguration, some 60,000 inside the city’s Kasarani Stadium and the rest outside. Kenya’s opposition is planning to stage an “alternative inauguration,” as well as acts of civil obedience, which observers say could spark riots, given the threat to respond to the opposition’s plans with “equal force of the law,” made by a government spokesperson last week, according to local reports.

A source familiar with the prime minister’s travel plans said there were some concerns over his safety in a massive crowd. Hebrew media reports said the Shin Bet security service has therefore not green-lighted for Netanyahu to appear at Nairobi’s Kasarani Stadium out of concern for his safety.

This year, Kenya has held two presidential elections, both of which were marred by violence, with scores of political activists killed by police.

The election’s first round, on August 8, was overturned by the Supreme Court, after opposition leaders complained the results had been hacked.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu inspects an honor guard in Nairobi, Kenya, on July 5, 2016. (Kobi Gideon / GPO

Kenyatta won the October 26 rerun election, which some observers say was rigged again. The country’s opposition, led by former prime minister Raila Odinga, boycotted the rerun election, leading the incumbent to garner 98.25 percent of votes cast. Voter participation was at 38%.

Netanyahu said the visit, along with planned trips to Belgium, France and India, were proof of an ‘unprecedented diplomatic boom’ for Israel.

“There has never before been anything like this, in political, security, economic or social terms. Israel is now in the best situation it has been in since its founding,” he said at the Likud faction meeting.

Netanyahu, who also serves as foreign minister, is slated to meet with French President Emmanuel Macron on December 10.

A day later, he will travel to Brussels to take part in a summit of the foreign ministers of all 28 member countries of the EU, after receiving an invitation from the Lithuanian foreign minister.

This will be the first time in 22 years that an Israeli leader has attended any European Union meeting.