Netanyahu Flies to Nairobi for Busy Summiting, Amid Security Concerns

Netanyahu Kenya
Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga (Reuters/Baz Ratner)

The one-day visit of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to the Kenyan capital Nairobi on Tuesday is expected to be frenetically busy — and perhaps somewhat dangerous.

Busy, because Netanyahu has an agenda that reportedly includes meetings with no less than ten African leaders; and possibly dangerous, because of the volatile atmosphere of the inauguration of President Uhuru Kenyatta amid charges of vote rigging and threatened disruptions.

The Prime Minister’s Office said that he will attend an official lunch, along with the leaders of Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Rwanda, Togo, Botswana, Namibia and Ethiopia, the vice-president of Nigeria and other personages. The prime minister is scheduled to speak as well.

The repast is to be followed by bilateral meetings with several of the heads of state.

Whether Netanyahu will attend the inauguration itself remained uncertain as of late Monday, according to The Times of Israel, which cited a “source familiar with the prime minister’s travel plans who said there were some concerns over his safety in a massive crowd.”

Media reports said the Shin Bet has so far withheld its approval for Netanyahu’s attendance at the swearing-in ceremony in Nairobi’s Kasarani Stadium, where 60,000 people are expected. Outside, preparations are being made for another 40,000.

Plans for an “alternative inauguration,” as well as acts of civil obedience in protest against what the opposition considers a stolen election, has prompted fears of violence, and a government warning that disorders will be met with “equal force of the law.”

But these concerns have not deterred Netanyahu from making the trip, part of his much-vaunted outreach campaign to all continents.

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