Sierra Leone Telegraph: 29 August 2023:
The government of Sierra Leone made a controversial announcement last week that it will be establishing an embassy in disputed city of Jerusalem, which the State of Israel is claiming as its capital, despite protest by Palestinians who are demanding that the east of the city should become their future capital.
International calls for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis and condemnation of the Israeli government’s apartheid policy towards the Palestinians are growing.
Sierra Leone will become the sixth country to open embassy in Jerusalem if President Bio goes ahead with his plans, as the government of Israel pushes for more countries to move their embassies to the disputed city.
Out of 94 embassies in Israel, eighty-nine are located in Tel Aviv. The only four countries that have set up embassies in Jerusalem are Guatemala, Honduras, Kosovo, and the US – following a decision by President Donald Trump to relocate the US embassy to Jerusalem
President Bio made his controversial decision after a meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen last week. Writing in a statement after the meeting, President Bio said: “They discussed the warm relations between both countries that date back to 1961 when Sierra Leone gained independence,” and that: “As part of efforts to strengthen the relationship between the two nations, His Excellency President Bio expressed his government’s readiness to establish an Embassy of Sierra Leone in Jerusalem, the capital of the State of Israel.”
Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said: “I was pleased to hear from the president of Sierra Leone of his intentions to open an embassy in Jerusalem.”
Most African countries and the African Union have expressed opposition to the state of Israel’s violent and systematic oppression of Palestinians, since its illegal annexation of East Jerusalem in 1980.
Sierra Leoneans in and out of the country are highly critical of President Bio’s decision to set up embassy in Jerusalem. He is being accused of lacking moral compass in his pursuit of personal financial gain from the Israelis as a reward. Strong indgnation has been expressed by many Sierra Leoneans.
Hamas – the Palestinian resistant movement is calling on President Bio to rescind his decision “to open an embassy in the Israeli-occupied city of al-Quds,” and is urging the Bio-led government to align itself with “the Palestinian people’s rights and just national cause”.
Hamas spokesman Abdul-Latif Qanu, in a statement last Saturday, denounced Bio’s decision as an “infringement on Palestinian people’s rights and a show of support for the fascist occupation of their lands.”
“Such an unfortunate position from the government of Sierra Leone comes at a time as Israeli crimes and terrorism against our people, land, and holy sites have become more intensive than ever,” he added.
“This would give the occupying regime’s army and settlers the green light to persist in violations of [Palestinians’ rights] and expropriate more Palestinian lands, especially in occupied al-Quds,” Qanu pointed out.
Writing on Twitter, Basita Michael – Sierra Leone’s most prominent civil liberty campaigner and lawyer said:
“In a region fraught with complex historical and political sensitivities, SierraLeone’s announcement on Friday to establish an embassy in Jerusalem, Israel’s capital, has ignited a fresh wave of controversy. This abrupt decision represents a complete turnaround for a nation that has traditionally upheld a neutral stance. This move undermines international efforts for peace and stability and appears to be driven by questionable motives that defy the broader consensus on the Israel-#Palestine issue. Sierra Leone’s choice to align itself with a divisive move is not only shortsighted but also raises serious questions about its commitment to global stability.
“The move by Sierra Leone to open an embassy in Jerusalem echoes the widely criticized decision by the United States to recognize the city as Israel’s capital in 2017. The international community, including a substantial number of African nations, condemned this move as a reckless and unilateral action that undermines the prospects for a peaceful resolution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. Sierra Leone’s decision to follow suit sends a dangerous signal that it is willing to prioritize narrow interests over the well-being of the region as a whole.
“One must question the motivations behind this choice. Is Sierra Leone seeking to curry favour with the United States at the expense of established diplomatic norms and international stability? The timing of this decision raises eyebrows, as Sierra Leone faces international scrutiny over concerns regarding its recent elections. Such a move could be interpreted as an attempt to deflect attention from internal issues and gain political leverage on the global stage. However, using a sensitive international matter as a bargaining chip jeopardizes the country’s credibility and risks alienating its regional and international partners.
“Furthermore, Sierra Leone’s decision to locate its embassy in Jerusalem will undoubtedly deepen the existing tensions in the region. The status of Jerusalem is at the heart of the Israel-Palestine conflict, and unilateral actions, such as opening embassies in the city, only serve to prejudge the outcome of potential peace negotiations. The international consensus has been that the final status of Jerusalem should be determined through negotiations between the parties involved. By siding with Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem, Sierra Leone undermines this consensus and disregards the rights and aspirations of the Palestinian people.
“The consequences of this decision are not confined to diplomatic rhetoric; they have real and tragic human implications. The opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem in 2018 resulted in deadly clashes on the Gaza border, leading to scores of deaths and thousands of injuries. The international community’s concern is not rooted in bias against any particular nation but in the understanding that such actions can trigger violence, disrupt stability, and hinder progress towards a peaceful solution.
“Sierra Leone should reconsider its decision in light of the broader global consensus and its potential impact on regional stability. It should uphold the principles of international law and diplomacy, supporting negotiations that provide a just and lasting solution for all parties involved. Rather than succumbing to short-term political gains, Sierra Leone should stand as a beacon of rational diplomacy and support initiatives that promote a lasting and equitable peace in the Middle East. The path to progress lies in respecting international norms and working towards a resolution that addresses the legitimate aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians.”
In 2022, Amnesty International’s report accused Israel of committing “apartheid” and treating Palestinians as an “inferior racial group”.
The report alleges that Israel has maintained “a system of oppression and domination” over the Palestinians going all the way back to its establishment in 1948.
The London-based rights group said Israel’s policies of “segregation, dispossession and exclusion” amounted to crimes against humanity, citing “massive seizures of Palestinian land and property, unlawful killings, forcible transfer, drastic movement restrictions, and the denial of nationality and citizenship to Palestinians” as components of a system “which amounts to apartheid under international law”.
The Israeli government refutes the findings of the Amnesty report.