, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 5 – Kenyans had been prepared for a lockdown during US President Barack Obama’s visit this time a year ago but the gridlock that accompanied Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit on Tuesday, caught many flat-footed.
But on second thought, it shouldn’t have, given the extra ordinary security measures Israeli’s – who’ve been at war with their Palestinian neighbours for centuries – are famed for.
And so when President Kenyatta and Netanyahu took to the podium at State House on Tuesday, Kenyans were certain that security would inevitably take centre stage.
Israeli owned properties, on Kenyan soil, have after all, fallen victim to extremists with Kikambala hotel bombing and, more recently the Westgate mall, being cases in point.
Israeli sniffer dogs were also a prominent feature in the aftermath of the Westgate attack in the search for any explosives that may have gone undetected and in the search for survivors even back in 1998 when they stood upon the rubble left behind by the US Embassy bombings.
“It would be fool-hardy for one to sit back and say that Kenya, that Africa, cannot engage Israel in this particular issue. That is like an ostrich burying its head in the sand,” President Kenyatta said on Tuesday as he made the case for Israel to be restored to African Union observer status.
The question then would be, how exactly would Kenya – and Africa in general – stand to benefit from said engagement.
“I’m not sure it’s practical or useful to go into such detail,” was Netanyahu’s response but he did give away that the most beneficial assistance Israel could give Kenya was in intelligence gathering.
“There is a raging battle of terrorism from ISIS, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, Al Shabaab. Where Israel can and has and will help more, is that if you know in advance that an attack is going to take place and you can pre-empt it, and you can prevent it, that is a tremendous and direct assistance to the saving of lives, innocent lives.”
There were however no grand declarations on whether Israel would help Kenya build a wall between itself and Somalia as Israel has built between itself and the Gaza strip, or if it would donate tankers for use by AMISOM forces in Somalia or if it simply contribute funds to Kenya’s repatriation efforts.
They did however announce the breaking down of an elite barrier through an agreement that will exempt diplomatic visa holders from needing a visa to visit the partner states.
President Kenyatta was more forthcoming than his Israeli counterpart and went this far in detailing what Israeli security assistance would look like: “They are helping us in training, they’re helping us in equipment.”