Netanyahu in Uganda to Meet Regional Leaders

Israel currently deports asylum seekers to Uganda ■ Reports in recent years said Israel may renew ties with Muslim nations in Africa

Noa Landau
Noa Landau
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Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara arrive at Entebbe International Airport, Uganda, February 3, 2020.
Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara arrive at Entebbe International Airport, Uganda, February 3, 2020.
Noa Landau
Noa Landau

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has arrived Monday for a one-day visit to Uganda, where he is set to meet with leaders of other East African countries.

Netanyahu and his wife Sara were greeted by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and his wife and education minister, Janet Kainembabazi, at the State House in Entebbe.

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Netanayhu met with with Museveni and the two discussed strengthening cooperation between Israel and Uganda on a wide variety of issues, including civilian issues, the economy, health, water, energy, communications and agriculture.

"I am setting out for another visit to Africa, my fifth in three and a half years," Netanyahu said before taking off from Tel Aviv. "Israel is making a big return to Africa, and Africa has already returned to Israel. These are important ties politically, economically and in terms of security," he said, adding that he hopes to have good news upon his return. 

In July 2016, the prime minister participated in a ceremony in Uganda to mark the 40th anniversary of Operation Entebbe, a hostage rescue by Israeli commandos at Entebbe Airport in 1976. The operation, which aimed to rescue 106 passengers of an Air France flight that was hijacked by members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, succeeded in freeing 102 of the hostages. Netanyahu's brother Yonatan, who led the mission, was killed.

Yoweri Museveni and Benjamin Netanyahu at the Entebbe airport in Uganda on July 4, 2016.
Yoweri Museveni and Benjamin Netanyahu at the Entebbe airport in Uganda on July 4, 2016. Credit: REUTERS/Presidential Press Unit/Handout via REUTERS

During the 2016 visit, Netanyahu met Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, Rwandan President Paul Kagame, South Sudan President Salva Mayardit, then-Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn Boshe, Zambian President Edgar Lungu and former Tanzanian Foreign Minister Augustine Mahiga.

It has also been reported that in the past, Israel contacted the American administration and other foreign governments in an attempt to encourage them to improve their relations with Sudan and to make overtures in its favor, in light of the severance of ties between the Arab-African country and Iran.

Reports in Israel and abroad in recent years have said that Israel might renew its diplomatic relations with several Muslim countries on the African continent, including Mali, Niger and Sudan. After Netanyahu visited Chad in 2019, it was reported that Israel was working to formalize ties with Sudan, and Israeli officials spoke  about it publicly on several occasions, especially after the ouster of  dictator Omar al-Bashir.  

Haaretz previously reported that Israel had secretly deported asylum seekers from different African countries to Uganda. To this day, asylum seekers are being deported to Uganda in what Israel has called "voluntary departure."

Israel has stated that it intends to forcefully deport asylum seekers to third countries, which were later revealed to be Uganda and Rwanda. Both of these countries were dissuaded by the criticism and claimed that the plan to deport asylum seekers to their territories would not be executed

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