Boosting diplomatic drive to Africa, Israel opens embassy in Rwanda

New mission in Kigali is Israel’s 11th embassy on the continent; ‘Rwanda has proven to be a steady, true friend,’ Foreign Ministry says

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Rwandan Foreign Minister Richard Sezibera, left, and the director-general of Israel's Foreign Ministry Yuval Rotem open Israel's new embassy in Kigali, Rwanda, April 1, 2019 (courtesy MFA)
Rwandan Foreign Minister Richard Sezibera, left, and the director-general of Israel's Foreign Ministry Yuval Rotem open Israel's new embassy in Kigali, Rwanda, April 1, 2019 (courtesy MFA)

In a bid to strengthen its diplomatic foothold in Africa, Israel on Monday opened a new embassy in the Rwandan capital of Kigali.

The new office, headed by veteran diplomat Ambassador Ron Adam, is the Jewish state’s eleventh embassy on the continent. The last Israeli embassy opened in Africa was in Ghana in 2011.

“Over the years, Rwanda has proven to be a steady, true friend to Israel. Like Israel, Rwanda is small in area but large in capabilities and aspirations,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

“The opening of the embassy reflects the ongoing strengthening of relations between the two states and will enable expansion of the cooperation between them in many areas, such as education, academia, women empowerment, science and technology, innovation and agriculture.”

In Kigali, Rwandan Foreign Minister Richard Sezibera and the director of Israel’s foreign ministry, Yuval Rotem, cut the ribbon and unveiled a plaque in front of the new mission.

“I am confident that the opening of the Israeli embassy in Rwanda will within a few years bring our relations with Rwanda and with the African continent to a whole new level,” said Rotem, who also met with President Paul Kagame during his current trip to the country.

Also on Monday, Rotem was set to inaugurate a “Center of Excellence in Agriculture,” under the auspices of MASHAV – Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation.

RwandAir, the country’s national carrier, will begin direct flights to Israel in the coming months, the Foreign Ministry statement said. “This will undoubtedly increase tourism between the two countries and boost commercial relations between the business communities.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has long declared Africa a priority for Israeli diplomacy, regularly vowing to expand ties with all countries on the continent, including those that do not have diplomatic relations with Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and Chadian President Idriss Deby meet at the presidential palace in N’Djamena, Chad, on January 20, 2019. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

He has traveled to Africa four times in the last three years, most recently to the Republic of Chad in January, where he and President Idriss Deby announced the reestablishment of diplomatic ties, which had been severed since 1972.

In July 2016, the Republic of Guinea, a small, overwhelmingly Muslim country in West Africa, renewed diplomatic relations with Israel, after it had cut ties with the Jewish state in 1967.

Since then, Netanyahu has met with leaders of additional African Muslim-majority states, such as Mali and Somalia.

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