Netanyahu likely only non-African leader at Kenyan president's inauguration
(Photo by Kobi Gideon/GPO)
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to be the only head of government from outside Africa to attend the swearing-in ceremony of Kenya’s president-elect Uhuru Kenyetta on Tuesday, after he won 98% of the vote in a controversial election in which just over a third of eligible voters cast a ballot.
Netanyahu is making a lightning visit to Kenya despite fears of violence from opposition protesters, amid a concerted Israeli campaign to gain an economic and and diplomatic foothold in fast-growing and resource-rich Africa.
Kenyan newspaper the Daily Nation reported on Monday that the Israeli premier would be the star guest of the celebrations, alongside leaders of African states such as Rwanda, Ethiopia, Uganda, Namibia and Togo.
A spokesman for the Kenyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the list of attendees was classified.
A State Department official told i24NEWS that US Ambassador Robert Godec “will be the highest-ranking US government representative at the inauguration, but will not be the only USG representative present.”
The UK Foreign Office did not immediately respond when asked who they are sending to Nairobi.
Kenyetta triumphed in the October 26 vote despite an opposition boycott dampening turnout in the country of some 48 million. Netanyahu sent him a letter lauding his “landslide victory”.
In September the country’s Supreme Court quashed the original August 8 presidential election, which Kenyetta also won by a much slimmer margin, agreeing with the Raila Odinga-led opposition that vote counting was undermined by irregularities.
Just days before the vote, the “tortured” body of a senior election official was found dumped on the side of a road in rural Kenya in a still-unexplained murder, while another electoral commission official later fled the country fearing for her life.
Netanyahu will address a ceremonial lunch for Kenyetta alongside other national leaders, a statement from his office late Sunday said, without mentioning the main celebrations in the capital’s Kasarani stadium.
On Tuesday Israeli media reported concerns in the security establishment over the prime minister’s safety if he elected to join tens of thousands of Kenyetta supporters at the sports arena, due to opposition plans for mass protests. Kenyan media reported that Netanyahu's attendance had "complicated" the already stringent security requirements for the events.
Several people were killed in violence that marred the tumultuous August election.
Netanyahu will also individually meet several African leaders on the sidelines of the reelection bash, although the statement did not identify which.
The Times of Israel reported that a meeting with Rwanda’s authoritarian president Paul Kagame is slated to take place, amid negotiations with the Israel over an agreement for the country to take thousands more African migrants who the government plans to kick out of Israel.
Netanyahu has overseen a renewed push into Africa, eyeing the potential for cultivating greater diplomatic support for Israel in international forums and new markets for technology and agricultural exports.
Israel has also been a supplier of aid and technological advice African governments and humanitarian agencies.
A summit of regional leaders supposed to showcase the burgeoning relationship, hosted by Togo, fell through in October after mass protests against the ruling family wracked the capital Lome.
Organizers hope it will take place early next year.
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