It was 55 years ago (on the 25th May 1963 to be exact) that the then-named Organization of African Unity (OAU) was founded in Addis Ababa, capital of Ethiopia, at a meeting of African leaders. The OAU subsequently became the African Union (AU), but it is interesting to note that all this was preceded exactly 60 years ago at the First Congress of Independent African States, in Accra, Ghana. That pan-African meeting laid the foundation of the OAU.
Last Thursday evening a gala reception to celebrate Africa Day was held at the Kfar Shmaryahu residence of the Nigerian Ambassador to Israel H.E. Mr. Enoch Pear Duchi. Fifteen countries with diplomatic ties to Israel jointly hosted the lavish event. Flags of all the countries vied for attention, as did the colorful national dress of many of the diplomats and of their spouses. Cocktails and snacks were offered as the arriving guests mingled and chatted in the beautiful garden setting, before the official part of the event began. In attendance were ambassadors and diplomats of many countries, VIPs, Israelis with close business or personal ties to Africa, and of course many local African personalities. We noticed among others,the Head of the Protocol for the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Meron Reuben, Yahel Vilan - Director of Department East and Southern Africa , Africa division Israel MFA, the ambassadors of Kenya, Zambia, Ruanda, Kazakhstan, South Korea, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, the European Union and Ireland. Also honoring the hosts with their presence were Ms. Nathalie Mimoun (Honorary Consul of France), Kasbian Nuriel Chirich (Tanzanian Honorary Consul), Deputy Head of Mission at the Swedish Embassy Staffan Jonsäter and Col. Aviezer Segal IDF Defense Attaché to Africa International Cooperation Division.
First, the national anthems of the AU and of Israel were played to the gathering. That was followed by the opening address by H.E. Ambassador Mr. Martin Mwanambale of Zambia, an address that was a fascinating revelation to many. “As you may be aware, the establishment of the OAU led to the liberation of the African continent culminating in the defeat of the apartheid system in Namibia and South Africa, thereby ensuring a continent free from colonialism and apartheid … Africa Day is a time when we collectively celebrate our unity and reconfirm our desire for an integrated, united, prosperous and peaceful Africa, contributing significantly to a global development agenda. Through our continental organization, we also continue to promote unity and maintain fraternal bonds with the African Diaspora”. The ambassador gave a detailed overview of recent (and not so recent events) in African states, with a broad outline of the AU’s “AFRICA 2063” goals, which include a united continent and a major reduction in corruption. “In line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the African Union launched its own strategic framework for socio-economic transformation, “Agenda 2063”, as we aspire to a prosperous Africa based on inclusive growth and sustainable development accelerating the implementation of past and existing continental initiatives such as NEPAD, amongst them. In so doing, we also recognize that there can be no meaningful development without peace on the continent. Hence in Agenda 2063 we aspire for a peaceful and secure Africa. We envisage that mechanisms for peaceful prevention and resolution of conflicts will be fully functional at all levels by 2020, to silence all the guns on the continent. We are hopeful that concerted efforts by the AU and its subsidiary bodies, in cooperation with the United Nations, will lead to peaceful and durable solutions to the conflicts in our continent”. His Excellency mentioned that Africa is the world’s richest continent in terms of natural resources, but that much is wasted through poor agricultural methods and again – corruption. He added how much Israel has done in improving Africa, providing resources, training, science, and technology.
He added: “On behalf of the African group, I have the honor to express our warmest and sincerest congratulations to the Government and People of the State of Israel for the milestone marking 70 years of independence this year and for the tremendous developmental achievements Israel has registered in such a short span of time.
We look forward to your Government’s continued support to the African continent. In this regard, we look forward to Israel broadening its footprint on the continent by opening new diplomatic missions in the various capitals”.
In conclusion, the Ambassador added that it was an honor to propose a toast to the good health of “our leaders in Africa and Israel, the growing cooperation between Africa and Israel and the good health of the peoples of Africa and Israel and all distinguished guests here present.”
Ambassador Michael Oren, Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister of Israel’s Office, responded on behalf of the State of Israel. He gave a brief overview, recalling that Israel and Africa share a 4000-year old history, specifically in Egypt, Ethiopia and more recently, in North Africa. Israel has always been a supporter of Africa, offering aid, infrastructure, technology and agriculture, both there and by inviting young Africans to study and train in Israel. He noted that Africa and Israel share values of peace and advancement and that the links between African States and Israel have always been mutually beneficial. “Israel’s Prime Minister (Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu) has visited Africa no less than three times in last two years. We share resources, especially in the battle against terror”. Ambassador Oren thanked the diplomats in attendance and on behalf of the government and people of the State of Israel, wished them all sincere congratulation for Africa Day.
His remarks were followed by an address by Knesset Member Dr. Avraham Neguise, Chairman of the Caucus for Israel-Africa Relations, and also Chairman of Immigration, Absorption, and Diaspora Affairs. He too reviewed Africa-Israel relations, and ended with a call for African nations to “stand on the right side of history” by moving their embassies to Jerusalem; to support Israel at the United Nations where our country is so often unfairly attacked and to enable Israel to regain its observer status at the AU.
The guests were then invited to taste the cuisines of the African countries in attendance. Each country had a space with offerings typical of their homelands. It was a fascinating (and for those without self-control!) a deliciously fattening experience. Extremely unusual, very inviting, and very generous. The bar remained open, ensuring that everyone had a wonderful time.
The management and staff of diplomacy.co.il join in wishing all the embassy diplomats and staffers a wonderful Africa Day and extended success for the future ever-improving relationships between African States and the State of Israel.
Photos by Silvia G Golan
(c) Copyright Jonathan Danilowitz June 2018