Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived in Uganda on Monday for a rare tour of sub-Saharan Africa, seeking new trade partners and marking the 40th anniversary of a hostage rescue in which his brother died.
Speaking in Entebbe, close to the site of the 1976 airport raid in which over 100 hostages were released, Netanyahu said the visit was “deeply moving” and symbolised the changing relationship between Israel and Africa.
“Exactly 40 years ago Israeli soldiers carried out the historic mission in Entebbe,” Netanyahu said.
“Forty years ago they landed in the dead of night in a country led by a brutal dictator who gave refuge to terrorists, today we landed in broad daylight to be welcomed by a president who fights terrorism.”
He said his visit signalled “dramatic changes in the relationship between Africa and Israel: Africa is a continent on the rise. After many decades I can say Israel is coming back to Africa and Africa is coming back to Israel.”
Israel is launching a $13-million aid package to strengthen economic ties and cooperation with African countries.
Israel would also provide African states with training in “domestic security” and health, an Israeli statement read.
Netanyahu said he would attend an “historic summit” with seven African leaders while in Uganda.
After Uganda, Netanyahu will travel on to Kenya, Ethiopia and Rwanda.
The Arab-Israeli conflict drove a wedge between African countries and the Jewish state in the 1960s.
Following wars between Israel and its neighbours in 1967 and 1973, North African nations led by Egypt put pressure on sub-Saharan African states to cut ties with Israel, which many did.
Relations were not helped by Israel’s friendship with the apartheid regime in South Africa before it fell in 1994.