Israel boosts East African links with new Rwanda embassy

The Israeli government's deportation policy sparked protests outside the Rwandan embassy in the city of Herzliya a year ago (AFP Photo)
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Kigali – Israel opened its first embassy in Rwanda on Friday, offering support to the East Africa nation from health to education and agriculture, as well as communication technology including cyber-security.

“This country shares a lot of similarities with state of Israel and offers a lot of ground for mutual cooperation,” new Israeli ambassador Ron Adam said after meeting with Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame.

The two countries, both with histories largely defined by genocide, already have close ties, including being embroiled in a controversial 2018 deal that sought to deport African refugees and asylum seekers from Israel.

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Israel said it could possibly send refugees to Rwanda, a proposal widely condemned by rights groups. Kigali always strongly denied any such deal.

Rwanda, a largely Christian nation, has said it is keen to encourage tourists to the country, especially to see its famous mountain gorillas.

Rwandair, the national airline, has said it will begin direct flights to Israel in 2019.

Israel already has strong ties across East Africa, especially in Uganda and Kenya, but is expanding its diplomatic presence on the continent.

In January, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the majority-Muslim nation of Chad to restore diplomatic ties after a decades-long break.

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