African leaders have urged the warring parties involved in the Israel-Gaza conflict to immediately cease the deadly confrontations that began on October 7th, following a surprise assault by the Palestinian Hamas militant group.
The response to the situation has varied among different countries. Zambia, Kenya, and Ghana have explicitly condemned Hamas and expressed support for Israel. On the other hand, Sudan, Djibouti, and South Africa have made it clear that they stand in support of the Palestinians.
Tensions between Palestine and Israel have steadily increased since the British mandated that the territory of Palestine be divided into Arab and Jewish States in 1948. Sparking the first Arab-Israeli war ending in 1949 with Israel’s victory.
However, 750,000 Palestinians were displaced and the territory was divided into three parts, the State of Israel, West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
In retaliation for Saturday’s surprise attack, which left over 250 civilians dead, the Israeli military launched air attacks aimed at houses and apartment buildings on Sunday, October 8, displacing at least 123,538 Palestinians and destroying 159 homes in Gaza, according to the UN humanitarian relief agency.
In recent decades, the conflict has been categorized by shifting international and regional allies, notably with many Western countries backing Israel and other Arab countries supporting Palestine. And many African countries are divided.
Despite Israel’s growing diplomatic presence on the continent in the last decade and plans by several African countries to move their embassies from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Israel has not fully consolidated its support in Africa in this latest conflict.
End to violence on both sides
The African Union stated in French and English that the clashes were fueled by the “denial of the Palestinian people’s fundamental rights, particularly that of an independent and sovereign state.”
“The chairperson urgently appeals to both parties to put an end to military hostilities and to return, without conditions, to the negotiating table to implement the principle of two states living side by side to safeguard the interests of the Palestinian people and the Israeli people,” AU Commission chairperson Moussa Faki said.
Israel has previously expressed its interest in participating as an observer in AU meetings, which has generated some negative reactions.
In a statement on October 7, President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda expressed his regret over the violence and called for the warring parties to return to the “two-state solution.”
On October 7, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) stated on its official Facebook page that the region urgently requires a credible peace process. This process should fulfill the numerous UN resolutions that have called for a two-state solution and a fair and comprehensive peace between Israel and Palestine.
“The region is in desperate need of a credible peace process that delivers on the calls of a plethora of previous UN resolutions for a two-state solution and a just and comprehensive peace between Israel and Palestine,” they wrote.
In the meantime, Nigeria has issued a warning regarding the current escalation of violence, emphasizing that it perpetuates an endless cycle of pain and suffering for the civilian population, who are most affected by every conflict.
“the cycle of violence and retaliation that the current escalation has assumed only serves to perpetuate an unending cycle of pain and suffering for the civilian population that bears the brunt of every conflict,” a statement read in part.
Support for Palestine
In the wake of renewed confrontations, Sudan’s foreign ministry expressed support for the Palestinians.
Sudan said it is closely monitoring the alarming developments unfolding in occupied Palestine with great concern. Sudan went on to reaffirm its support for the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people to establish their own independent state. According to a statement published on the Facebook page of state news agency Suna, it emphasizes the importance of following international resolutions and safeguarding the well-being of innocent civilians.
“Sudan is following with concern the dangerous developments currently taking place in occupied Palestine. Sudan renewed its support for the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people to have their independent state. It calls for adherence to international resolutions and the protection of innocent civilians,” the statement read.
South Africa has, however, called for a “immediate ceasefire.”
The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) issued a statement on Saturday night expressing South Africa’s deep concern regarding the recent and severe escalation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“South Africa expresses its grave concern over the recent devastating escalation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” the DIRCO statement read.
“The new conflagration has arisen from the continued illegal occupation of Palestine land, continued settlement expansion, desecration of the Al Aqsa Mosque and Christian holy sites, and ongoing oppression of the Palestinian people” the statement added.
Support for Israel
President Museveni hosted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2016 and again in 2020, with the aim of enhancing the bilateral relations between Uganda and Israel. In 2020, the Ugandan leader played a significant role in facilitating the normalization of relations between Israel and Sudan.
President William Ruto of Kenya has called on the warring parties to de-escalate the situation, expressing concern over the increasing number of casualties.
Kenya through a statement, firmly asserts that terrorism has no justification whatsoever, as it poses a significant threat to international peace and security. On X, the Kenyan President stated that all acts of terrorism and violent extremism, regardless of the perpetrator or their motivations, are abhorrent, criminal, and unjustifiable.
“Kenya strongly maintains that there exists no justification whatsoever for terrorism, which constitutes a serious threat to international peace and security. All acts of terrorism and violent extremism are abhorrent, criminal, and unjustifiable, regardless of the perpetrator or their motivations,” read the post.
In a statement condemning the Hamas attacks, Zambia’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Stanley Kakubo, expressed support for Israel.
On X, he expressed his country’s firm condemnation of all acts of aggression and violence. He reiterated their strong belief in the importance of seeking diplomatic solutions to international conflicts.
“We strongly condemn the recent attacks on Israel, which have regrettably resulted in the loss of lives. We unequivocally denounce all acts of aggression and violence, and continue to emphasise the necessity of pursuing diplomatic means to resolve international conflicts,” he said.