President of Rwanda Paul Kagame (C) sits next to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin during their meeting in Jerusalem July 10, 2017. .
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)
Israel’s new ambassador to Rwanda Ron Adam presented his credentials on Friday to Rwandan President Paul Kagame as Israel’s 11th embassy in Africa went into full operation.
“Israel shares a lot of similarities with Rwanda and I am excited to be my first country’s representative here,” Adam was quoted as saying after the ceremony where he presented his credentials along with 12 other new ambassadors. Among the new ambassadors is one from Saudi Arabia, who will also be that country’s first ambassador in Rwanda.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has spearheaded closer ties with Africa with four visits to the continent in less than three years, announced that Israel would open an embassy in the Rwandan capital
of Kigali when he met Kagame on the sidelines of the inauguration of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta in November 2017.
At the time Netanyahu posted a tweet saying that the “historic step” of opening an embassy in Rwanda “comes as Israel is expanding its presence in Africa and deepening its cooperation with countries across the continent.”
Netanyahu first floated the idea of opening an embassy in Rwanda, arguably Israel’s closest friend in Africa, during a visit there in July 2016 as part of his four country tour to East Africa. Kagame has in recent years been a key ally for Netanyahu in efforts to build closer ties with African countries.
Rwanda has an ambassador in Israel, and up until now Israel was represented in Rwanda by a non-resident ambassador operating out of Addis Ababa.
In January, Israel and Rwanda signed a bilateral air service agreement, and Rwanda’s national carrier, RwandAir, announced that it would soon start direct flights to Israel.
Kagame, who has been Rwanda’s de facto leader since 1994 and its president since 2000, has been to Israel several times in the past and was last here in 2017.
Rwanda and Israel established diplomatic relations soon after the former Belgian colony gained independence in July 1962, but those ties were severed later in 1973 after the Yom Kippur War when most African states – under Arab pressure – broke relations with Israel. With the reestablishment of ties in October 1994, Rwanda sent an ambassador to Israel, but had to close the embassy because of budgetary constraints some six years later. It was reopened in the summer of 2015.
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