South Sudan: Israel's new best friend in Africa

Thursday, September 01, 2011 |  Ryan Jones

South Sudan has only existed as a country for a little over two months. But already in that time the fledgling nation has found itself embroiled in the Israeli-Arab conflict.

And South Sudan has clearly marked itself as a friend of the Jewish state.

During a visit to South Sudan last month by Israeli lawmaker Danny Danon, South Sudanese President Salva Kiir said that he was recently approached by Hamas and told he must sever all ties to Israel because Sudan is an Arab state.

After reminding the Hamas leaders that South Sudan, unlike its northern neighbor, is not an Arab state, Kiir noted that there are Israeli embassies in Arab countries like Egypt and Jordan.

Rather than cut ties with Israel, Kiir said South Sudan intends to strengthen its relations with the Jewish state.

Demonstrating that his friendship for Israel goes beyond just words, Kiir reportedly agreed to Danon's request that South Sudan buck the international trend and build its embassy in Jerusalem. Every other nation in the world that has diplomatic relations with Israel refuses to accept Jerusalem as its capital, and instead those nations maintain their embassies in Tel Aviv.

South Sudan's affinity for Israel goes beyond the diplomatic considerations of the current government.

The young country's deputy parliament speaker, Daniel Akot, declared that "Israel is like a big brother to South Sudan," and recalled seeing more than one person waving an Israeli flag when South Sudan declared independence on July 9.

Danon and Kiir also discussed the many black Sudanese refugees currently living in Israel after fleeing oppression by Arab militias allied with the Sudanese government in Khartoum.

Kiir asked Danon to help facilitate vocational training for the refugees so they can return home and become productive and successful members of their new nation.

Both Danon and Kiir said that Israel and South Sudan have a bright future as partners in combining the former's vast technological abilities and the latter's enormous natural resources.

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