Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame, left, inspect a guard of honor upon his arrival at the Kigali International Airport, Rwanda, Wednesday, July 6, 2016 during a one day visit to the country. Netanyahu is on a four-nation Africa tour.
KIGALI, Rwanda (AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday toured a memorial for victims of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, calling genocide “a unique bond that neither one of our peoples will prefer to have.”
This week’s visit is the first by a sitting Israeli prime minister to sub-Saharan Africa in three decades.
Netanyahu laid a wreath at the mass graves honoring the more than 800,000 victims of the genocide perpetrated by Hutu extremists against the Tutsi ethnic group and moderate Hutus.
“We are deeply moved by this memorial to the victims of one of history’s greatest crimes and reminded of the haunting similarities to the genocide of our own people,” he and his wife, Sara, wrote in the visitors’ book.
He said both Israel and Rwanda have persevered to become “successful states and models for partners.”
Netanyahu, who is pursuing closer security and other ties with African nations, has been to Uganda and Kenya this week and now moves on to Ethiopia.
“I’m in Africa because it is a continent on the rise, and because it hasn’t always gotten the attention it deserves, at least not from Israel. But it does now,” Netanyahu said at a press conference with Rwandan President Paul Kagame.
In exchange for its expertise in security and other fields, Israel wants African states to support it at the United Nations, where the Palestinians were recognized as a non-member observer state in 2012.
Israel played a prominent role in assisting newly independent African countries in the 1960s, but those relations crumbled in the 1970s, when Arab countries, promising aid, pressured African nations to limit or cut ties with Israel.
African states also opposed Israel’s close ties to South Africa’s apartheid government.