Museveni hosting Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu, to attend regional summit

Entebbe, Uganda – Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni is hosting Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a landmark visit on 4th July 2016 at State House in Entebbe.

This is a significant visit in many ways. On the personal level for Netanyahu and his wife Sara, it is also a private visit to commemorate the death of Yonatan Netanyahu (the prime minister’s elder brother) who was killed 40 years ago on 4th July 1976 during the raid on Entebbe to rescue hostages held by Palestine fighters.

In the bigger scheme of things, this visit is of high diplomatic value for Israel. This is the first visit by an Israeli prime minister in 29 since Yitzhak Shamir visited West Africa. With a number of African countries taking assertive and independent positions in their foreign policy, Israel is looking for building strategic partnerships.

Netanyahu last visited Uganda in 2005 when he dedicated a plaque at the old airport in memory of his brother. Now in his fourth term after his election in 2009, this is Netanyahu’s first visit to Uganda as Israeli prime minister.

Netanyahu is to participate in the regional heads of state summit that President Museveni is hosting. Other leaders at the summit are from Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Zambia.

The trip comes at a time when Israel is launching a NIS 50 million (US $13 million) package to boost economic ties with African countries, said Netanyahu’s office.

“The African continent constitutes vast potential for Israel in very many areas,” Netanyahu has said. “Many countries are seeking to open their gates to Israel and we will realize this desire for their benefit and for the benefit of the State of Israel.”

Business and security are high on the agenda and the Israelis are expected to make the most of the summit to strengthen present cooperation, and lay ground for future business opportunities in mining, oil, gas, agriculture, health and science among other strategic fields.

The Israeli Prime Minister visit is one of many high profile visits to Uganda over the years. In May Museveni hosted Korean President Park Geun-hye on a three day visit; and in June President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey visited for two days.

For one Ugandan community, the Abayudaya (Ugandan Jews), the visit by an Israeli leader will be one to remember for a long time. The Abayudaya are found in eastern Uganda near Mbale town on the slopes of Mt. Elgon an extinct volcano.

Though not genetically or historically related to ethnic Jews, the Abayudaya are devout in their practice of Judaism, keeping their version of kashruth, and observing Shabbat. There are several different villages where the Ugandan Jews live. Most of these are recognized by the Reform and Conservative sects of Judaism.