Israel has agreed to help Kenya to fight terrorism by sharing intelligence. The Jewish state will also assist in the construction of a border security wall with Somalia to stop the flow of fighters who cross over to conduct terror attacks.
President Uhuru Kenyatta and visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also struck a deal to allow Kenyan diplomatic passport holders — top government officials and prominent personalities — to travel freely to Israel. Israeli top officials will also enjoy free entry into Kenya.
These are among agreements reached by the two leaders on Tuesday during bilateral talks at State House, Nairobi, aimed at strengthening the relations between the two countries.
The Israeli PM used the meeting to urge President Kenyatta to convince member states of the African Union to restore Israel’s observer status and relations with the continent.
The two leaders were in agreement that terrorism has taken an international perspective and must be fought by a united world community.
“Kenya and Israel, just like other nations of the world, are facing the challenges of terrorism and today was a great opportunity to discuss ways of dealing with the issue of terrorism,” said President Kenyatta.
Mr Netanyahu said Israel had developed the ability to detect terror attacks in early stages of planning and was ready to share with Kenya its tactics of pre-empting such attacks.
“If you know in advance that an attack is going to happen and can pre-empt it, it saves lives,” he said. “Israel is doing this and we will share intelligence with Kenya and Africa.”
He warned that terrorism was rearing its ugly head in Africa and internationally, citing the rise of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis) — which arose out of the failure by Western powers to impose democracy on Middle East states — and Boko Haram in Nigeria as examples.
“There is a raging crisis of terrorism, from the Isis to Boko Haram. Where Israel can help, we will,” he said.
Israel will help Kenya to speed up the construction of the Somali border wall, said sources at the meeting. Even though they did not speak about it in public, those who attended the meeting said Israel agreed with Kenya that the wall, which is under construction, will aid the war on terrorism and management of the flow of refugees.
ERECTED 240KM BARRIER
Israel is building a 30km wall on its border with Jordan, a continuation of a 240km barrier it erected along its border with Egypt’s Sinai peninsula. It has another wall in the Golan Heights, which it occupies, and others running within the occupied West Bank.
The two leaders instructed Interior Affairs Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery and his Israeli counterpart Gilad Erdan to discuss the finer details of the security agreements entered into.
“As they have done for years, the Prime Minister and the Israeli people continue to extend invaluable support to Kenya; helping us build capacity and bolster internal and regional security,” said President Kenyatta.
He added: “We are in ongoing talks about how to strengthen and expand the cooperation so that we can gain from Israel’s expertise in cyber security and other areas.”
Mr Netanyahu flew in on Monday night from Uganda, where he had spent eight hours in a commemoration of 40 years after the Entebbe raid in which Israeli commandos rescued 102 hostages held by terrorists. Unfortunately, the PM’s brother, Lt-Col Yonatan Netanyahu, who led the Operation Thunderbolt mission, was killed.
On Tuesday, Mr Netanyahu remembered Kenya’s assistance in the operation, when it allowed Israeli aircraft to refuel at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on July 3, 1976.
“Kenya’s assistance during the Entebbe raid dealt a devastating blow to international terrorism,” the Premier said and added: “Kenya is special.”
President Kenyatta also recalled the event, saying “we stood with Israel both in practice and in principle” and paid heavily when Kenyans were killed by the dictatorial regime of Idi Amin.
He was referring to Kenya’s former Agriculture minister Bruce Mackenzie, who was killed by a bomb in Ngong as he flew from Entebbe in 1978. It has been claimed that Ugandan agents planted the bomb in the aircraft.
“With the large-scale success of Operation Entebbe, good prevailed over evil; right over wrong and, today, as we remember that heroic undertaking and the valiant efforts of those soldiers; including one of their leaders, the Prime Minister’s own brother, Lt-Col Yonatan Netanyahu, it should be a source of incredible encouragement and hope to a world that is increasingly standing together to counter callousness and cruelty of terrorism — something Israel and Kenya have always done together,” said President Kenyatta.
SIGNED BILATERAL AGREEMENTS
The two also signed bilateral agreements in health, irrigation and immigration, of which President Kenyatta said: “The agreements will allow us to build the capacity of our health systems and professionals in the area of emergency preparedness and resources as well as specialised medical services.”
On Immigration, he said: “Our immigration agreement will see the abolition of visas for holders of diplomatic passports in our two countries.”
Mr Netanyahu sent out an invitation to African countries to work with Israel to fight terrorism and initiate development, arguing that it was time for better relations with the AU. He said Israel has mended its relations with some neighbouring Arab states and wondered why Africa should keep off.
“Africa has no greater friend — I know you have other friends — than Israel,” said Mr Netanyahu. “We are struggling against the same adversaries and we should seize opportunities for tomorrow.
“Things are changing in the world, Middle East and Arab neighbours with Israel; why not Africa?”
President Kenyatta argued that the historical reasons that led to the cutting of links between the AU and Israel were no longer relevant.
Diplomatic relations between Israel and Africa were severed in the wake of the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. That were not helped by Israel’s friendship with Apartheid South Africa before its fall in 1994.
“The world has changed; we cannot hide in history and fail to address the challenges of today,” he said. “It will be foolhardy to sit back and say Kenya and Africa cannot engage Israel.”