Zambia must clarify whether it will host Israel-Africa summit

by ABAYOMI AZIKIWE

PHOTO/Pan-African News Wire

The Southern African state is one of the few countries within in Africa with a military attache stationed in Israel where it opened an embassy in 2015. Israel does not have an embassy in Zambia. Holding an Israel-Africa summit in Zambia would represent a tremendous setback in Africa’s historic support for the oppressed Palestinian people.

Several news articles were published in early December indicating that Zambian President Edgar Lungu has agreed to host a summit meeting between African Union (AU) member-states and the State of Israel. (See Jerusalem Post, Dec. 3, 2017)

These reports first surfaced during the inauguration ceremony for Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta in Nairobi. President Lungu attended the second induction into office of Kenyatta who is the leader of East Africa’s largest economy.

Lungu met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the sidelines of the Kenyatta inauguration events. The Zambian leader was photographed shaking hands with Netanyahu during the meeting.

A similar summit was scheduled earlier in 2017 in the West African state of Togo. However, mass demonstrations by Togolese opposition parties and coalitions demanding the resignation of the government of President Faure Gnassingbe for undemocratic practices, forced Lome to postpone the announced summit.

Zambia’s largest newspaper the Times reported on December 5 that: “President Edgar Lungu, who met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week at the re-inauguration ceremonies for Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta in Nairobi, told ZNBC that ‘For whatever reason, we have been given the mandate to host this summit which will bring its own benefits to Zambia.’ President Lungu said Prime Minister Netanyahu had asked Zambia to host an Africa-Israel summit that was originally scheduled for Togo in September.”

Despite this claim of mystification by President Lungu, it is quite obvious that there were definite reasons why Zambia was targeted to host the meeting. The Southern African state is one of the few countries within the AU which has a military attache stationed in Israel where it opened an embassy in 2015. Israel does not have an embassy in Zambia.

Lungu paid a state visit to Israel in February 2017. The president was accompanied by a large delegation of ministers from his administration.

After his return to Zambia, Lungu was quoted in the Times as saying: “Israel is a pacesetter in survival instinct because it has a desert; but they have a thriving education, agriculture and information and communication technology sectors and we can explore and learn from them. A lot of benefits are expected out of this trip.”

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