Israel–Kenya relations

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Israel Kenya relations
Map indicating locations of Israel and Kenya



Israel–Kenya relations are foreign relations between Israel and Kenya. The countries established diplomatic relations in December 1963. Israel has an embassy in Nairobi. Kenya has an embassy in Tel Aviv.


Foreign Minister Golda Meir presenting ambulance as a gift to people of Kenya, 1963

Early years[edit]

Starting in 1903, under the British Uganda Programme territory in what was then Uganda, but is now part of Kenya, was offered as a Jewish homeland.[1][2]


Kenyan politician Tom Mboya, Secretary-General of the Kenya African National Union, meets with Israeli Histadrut Secretary General Aharon Becker (January 1962)

In January 1962, Kenyan politician Tom Mboya, Secretary-General of the Kenya African National Union, met with Israeli Histadrut Secretary General Aharon Becker.[3]

In December 1963 Golda Meir, then Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs, met with Kenyan Prime Minister Jomo Kenyatta. On that trip Meir and Kenyatta laid the cornerstone for the Israeli Embassy in Nairobi. Israel agreed to train Kenyans in agriculture and medicine in a program called Mashav, in which trainees from Kenya were flown to Israel for study.[4]

In 1966, Prime Minister Levi Eshkol visited Kenya and met with President Kenyatta.

In 1973, diplomatic ties were severed following the Yom Kippur War.[4]


Kenyan government official Bruce McKenzie persuaded Kenyan President Jomo Kenyatta to allow Mossad agents to gather information prior to Operation Entebbe in 1976. Also, the Israeli Air Force was granted permission to use an airport in Nairobi.[5] Ugandan President Idi Amin later ordered McKenzie's assassination.[5] Mossad Chief Director Meir Amit had a forest planted in Israel in McKenzie’s name.[5]

In 1979, Abdalla Mwidau, the representative of Mombasa-South in the Kenyan parliament, conducted an information campaign among Muslims in the USA, in which he praised Israel's assistance to developing African countries and specifically its assistance to Muslim education in Kenya. His political rivals, led by Sharif Kassir, denounced these activities, calling Mwidau a "Zionist agent".[6]


Renewed diplomatic ties were discussed in 1987 with the Kenyan President Daniel Moi by Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, and were re-initiated in 1988.[4][7] In 1989 Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Arens visited Kenya to sign a cooperation pact.[8]

The Kibwezi irrigation project of 1991 was a joint effort between the two countries.[4][9] In 1996 it consisted of 40 hectares of experimental irrigation farm in the Yatta plateau.[10]


Uhuru Kenyatta in Israel with the president of Israel Reuven Rivlin, February 2016

During the 2002 Mombasa attacks, suicide-bomber terrorists struck the entrance of the Israeli-owned Paradise Hotel.[5] Fifteen people were killed, three of them Israelis, when a car bomb exploded outside the lobby of the hotel. Terrorists also fired two hand-held rockets at an Israeli airliner, which had just lifted off from Moi International Airport in Mombassa with 264 passengers on board.[4] Israel then evacuated its citizens from Kenya.[11]

In 2003, Kenya requested Israel's help in developing a national solar energy strategy. Roads, Public Works and Housing Minister Raila Odinga said: "Israel has a Solar Energy Standards Committee dealing with the setting up of solar energy equipment around the world and we need their help in setting up such equipment in Kenya." While speaking during an audience with the new Israeli Ambassador to Kenya, Emmanuel Seri, Raila also reiterated the need to enhance the existing economic ties between the two countries and asked Israel to provide more development aid and to help Kenya draw up and execute an effective national disaster management scheme. Seri told the Kenyan minister that his government intended to enhance the existing economic ties, saying "[w]e want to enhance our trade relations with Kenya so that more Kenyans can visit Israel and do business."[12]

In 2006, Israel sent a search-and-rescue team to Kenya when a building collapsed. Eighty disaster and medical relief people left Tel Aviv for Nairobi, where people were trapped in rubble when a multistory building collapsed.[13]

Following the Kenyan presidential election, 2007, there was rioting, and Israel came to the aid of Kenyans by donating medicine to the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital in Eldoret.[14]

In 2010, Kenya began seeking the purchase of Israeli weapons, likely to include counterinsurgency systems and unmanned aerial vehicles for border surveillance.[15] In 2011, the two countries signed a treaty to cooperate in fighting against terrorism, money laundering, and other crime.[16]

In 2013, Israel sent troops to give assistance to Kenyan forces fighting Somali Islamist terrorists who attacked the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi.[17] Israeli agencies helped Kenya investigate the attack, which killed at least 72 people.[18]

Trade relations[edit]

Between 1970 and 1973, Israeli exports to Kenya were in the range of $2.8–4.2 million. Kenyan exports to Israel over the same period were in the range of $1.0–1.7 million.[19] By 2011, according to figures released by Kenyan trade minister Ali Mwakwere, trade between the two nations had grown to $150 million, with Israel exporting finished goods such as agricultural machinery, irrigation equipment and medicine to Kenya and Kenya exporting primary products such as food products and materials to Israel.[20] Trade between the two countries was $139 million in 2012, 8.0 percent of Israel's trade with Africa.[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Uganda Proposal". Jewish Virtual Library. Retrieved 8 July 2009.
  2. ^ Joseph Telushkin (1991). Jewish literacy. HarperCollins. ISBN 0-688-08506-7. Britain stepped into the picture, offering Herzl land in the largely undeveloped area of Uganda (today, it would be considered an area of Kenya). ...
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ a b c d e "Bilateral Relations: Historical Overview". Israel. Retrieved 8 July 2009.
  5. ^ a b c d Melman, Yossi. "A history of cooperation between Israel and Kenya". Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 26 September 2013.
  6. ^ Arye Oded. Islam and politics in Kenya. p. 129. Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2000
  7. ^ "Israel, Kenya discuss relations". Chicago Sun Times. 24 June 1987. Retrieved 10 July 2009. Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir met secretly Saturday night with the president of Kenya, Daniel T. arap Moi, the Israeli newspaper Maariv reported. It said the two discussed resuming broken diplomatic relations, but Jerusalem sources declined to give details of the talks, held in Moi's Nairobi presidential palace. Senior Israeli officials said only that the report was "solid."
  8. ^ "Israel, Kenya to sign". St. Paul Pioneer Press. 25 August 1989. Retrieved 9 July 2009. Foreign Minister Moshe Arens' trip to Kenya to sign a cooperation pact is part of a diplomatic offensive offering agricultural and military help to African countries in return for political support.
  9. ^ Cynthia Salvadori (2004). Glimpses of the Jews of Kenya. Nairobi Hebrew Congregation. As a nation, Israel has been muck involved in assisting Kenya's development ... The Kibwezi demonstration farm in Kenya has turned the semi-arid land of the ...
  10. ^ "Israel-Kenya Development Cooperation". Shalom Magazine. 1996. Retrieved 11 July 2009.
  11. ^ "Israel evacuates tourists from Kenya". BBC. 29 November 2002. Retrieved 9 July 2009. Israel has been evacuating its citizens from Kenya after two attacks on Israeli targets in the city of Mombasa which killed at least 15 people.
  12. ^ "Kenya seeks Israel's help in solar energy". Panafrican News Agency via Asia Africa Intelligence Wire. 29 September 2003. Retrieved 9 July 2009.
  13. ^ "Israel Aids Victims of Kenya Disaster". Jewish Telegraphic Agency in the Jewish Exponent. 26 January 2006. Retrieved 10 July 2009.
  14. ^ "Bilateral Relations: Latest Developments". Israel. Retrieved 9 July 2009.
  15. ^ "Africa's oil wealth boosts arms sales". UPI. 30 April 2010. Retrieved 26 September 2013.
  16. ^ [2]
  17. ^ "AFP: Kenya forces battle to end deadly mall siege". Retrieved 26 September 2013.
  18. ^ "Israel aids Kenya terror probe as Shabaab leader confirms mall attack". JPost. 7 July 2005. Retrieved 26 September 2013.
  19. ^ Alpan, Moshe (1976). "Chapter 10: Israeli trade and economic relations with Africa". In Curtis, Michael; Gitelson, Susan Aurelia (eds.). Israel in the Third World. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction. p. 108. ISBN 0-87855-603-6. Retrieved 11 March 2012.
  20. ^ "Kenya seeks to enhance trade ties with Israel". The New Times. Retrieved 11 March 2012.
  21. ^ "Kenya long seen as key Israeli ally in troubled region". Fox News. 24 September 2013.

External links[edit]