Kenyan president reaffirms support for Israel despite Gaza onslaught

Kenyan president reaffirms support for Israel despite Gaza onslaught
Kenyan President William Ruto told Al Jazeera English that Israel continues to be an ally despite criticism of its military conduct in Gaza.
3 min read
06 June, 2024
Kenyan President William Ruto speaks during an interview with AFP at a hotel in Seoul on June 5, 2024 on the sidelines of the 2024 Korea-Africa Summit. (Photo by Jung Yeon-je / AFP)

Kenyan President William Ruto has reaffirmed his backing of Israel amid growing global backlash over its devastating assault in Gaza since October 7. 

In an interview with Al Jazeera English broadcast on WednesdayRuto said that Israel-Kenya ties would continue, but adding that Nairobi did not support attacks on Palestinian civilians in Gaza. 

"Israel is a great friend of Kenya and we believe that it should go into the future," Ruto told Al Jazeera English

"We made a clear statement when Israel was attacked that it was wrong. We have also made a very clear statement when the war [intensified] and the use of force, when children were attacked when atrocities were committed against the people of Palestine."

However, Ruto emphasised that the conflict should not be solved by military means, stressing his support for a two state solution.

"We are firm in the belief of two things: the situation in the Middle East, the situation in Gaza, cannot be solved using military means. We also are of the firm belief that a two-nation solution is the way to go. We believe in self-determination. We believe in the existence of Israel as a nation and as a friend," Ruto said, adding: "But we also believe in the existence of Palestine as a state."

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Kenya says it has supported draft UN resolutions calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, but is unable to put pressure on Israel's biggest ally the US to back them.

In May 2024, Ruto became the first African leader hosted by the White House since 2008.

Ruto reiterated that Kenya would continue reaffirming its position calling for a ceasefire and a two-state solution, but without exerting pressure on other countries including the US.

"Kenya has done its bit, we have taken the firmest position when our interests converge with the United States, we stand together," the Kenyan president said. 

"Where they don’t, we stand separately. But that does not mean we become enemies. That does not mean it affects our friendship. That’s just because it is what it is."

Israel's war on Gaza has killed more than 36,500 Palestinians, according to the territory's health ministry. 

The eight-month war in Gaza has largely cut off the flow of food, medicine and other supplies to Palestinians who are facing widespread hunger. UN agencies say over 1 million in Gaza could experience the highest level of starvation by mid-July. 

Kenya's stance of solidarity with Israel contrasts with that of some African countries, who have expressed support for Gaza's population amid Israel's ferocious and indiscriminate attacks.

During the start of Israel's onslaught of Gaza following the 7 October surprise attack by Hamas Ruto took to X, formerly known as Twitter. 

"Kenya joins the rest of the world in solidarity with the State of Israel and unequivocally condemns terrorism and attacks on innocent civilians in the country," he wrote.  

"There exists no justification whatsoever for terrorism, which constitutes a serious threat to international peace and security."

Kenya has maintained close relations with Israel since it gained independence from Britain in 1963. 

Agencies contributed to this report.