In a stinging opinion-piece entitled “I mourn, not because I am Palestinian”, Nigerian trade unionist and human rights activist, Owei Lakemfa, blasted African countries for attending the opening of the United States embassy in Jerusalem, while 60 Palestinian protesters were being mowed down in the Gaza Strip: “I am African living in Nigeria. I mourn because a dozen African countries were dining and wining in the new American Embassy in Jerusalem while their Israeli hosts were murdering dozens of defenceless Palestinians.”
Representatives from Cameroon, Congo, Ivory Coast, Rwanda, South Sudan, Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Angola, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo attended the event hosted by the Israeli government, and which marked America’s official recognition of Jerusalem as the capital city of Israel. The US embassy move has been universally condemned.
Although the Nigerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs denies that its representative had attended the event, Lakemfa suggests that there was still a Nigerian presence at the opening of the embassy. “Never mind that Nigeria is still trying to fish out the ghost that represented it,” the former General Secretary of the Nigeria Labour Congress wrote.
Lakemfa, who also served as Secretary-General of the Organisation of African Trade Union Unity (OATUU), questioned the logic of the attendance of these African countries, as all of them voted against the move at the UN General Assembly in December.
“The logic of our presence in the nest of killers baffles me; none of the African countries dining and clapping at the new American embassy voted in the United Nations for the United States in December 2017.”
“Kenneth Kaunda would be quite disappointed,” he wrote of Zambia’s presence, while “Tanzania would make Mwalimu Julius Nyerere turn in his grave that his heirs would be clinking glasses and smiling sheepishly while Israel massacred Palestinians,” he wrote.
Given its own history of genocide and massacres, Lakemfa was equally baffled by the presence of Rwanda.
In contrast, Lakemfa wrote that South Africa, a country with memory and consciousness, came out boldly on the side of justice by recalling its ambassador.
Lakemfa is not the only African activist to slam Africa’s presence at the event. Julius Malema, one of South Africa’s representatives at the Pan-African Parliament and leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters in South Africa, accused those African states who were at the embassy event of undermining the Palestinian liberation struggle.
“We are very disappointed at African countries which had celebrated the declaration of Jerusalem as the official capital city of Israel by the USA. That is the highest form of betrayal because us as Africans should know that colonialism and imperialism have no place in humanity. It’s a violation of human rights to go and occupy the land of Palestinians. We don’t support that,” Malema told South African media.
African condemnation continues
Meanwhile, African condemnation of Israel’s massacre of 60 unarmed Palestinian protesters on May 14 has continued to pour in from various quarters:
- The African Union slammed the “disproportionate use of force by the Israeli army.”
- The Southern African Development Community (SADC) “strongly condemned the killing of unarmed protesters who have taken to the streets in a non-violent protest.”
- Botswana’s main opposition party, the Botswana National Front (BNF), has called on the government of Botswana to terminate all relations with Israel.
- South Africa’s National Freedom Party (NFP) has submitted a motion to Parliament calling for the South African embassy in Israel to be downgraded to a liaison office.
- Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo has been urged to recall his envoy to Israel.
- Activists in Namibia are calling for the resignation of politicians who do business with Israeli companies.