From Afula to Freetown
Sierra Leone’s parliament building as a symbol of Israel’s presence in Africa
Today on Tablet, Rama Musa takes a look at the Israeli-built parliament building in Freetown, Sierra Leone.
A symbol of Sierra Leone’s survival after a bloody civil war that ended in 2002 at a cost of 50,000 dead and hundreds of thousands made homeless, the coffee-colored parliament building is also a symbol of the State of Israel’s long-running engagement in Africa. Israel’s foreign-aid program began in 1958 with a small department in the nation’s foreign office. The motivation to develop strong ties with post-colonial states became a political emergency after the Bandung Conference in Indonesia, a gathering of African and Asian leaders in 1955 at which Israel was persona non grata. Alone among emerging nations, Israel turned to Africa to develop agricultural cooperatives, youth training programs, and industrial and technical joint enterprises in what Newsweek called in 1962 “one of the strangest unofficial alliances in the world.”
It’s a fascinating read. Check out the rest here.