Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni provided unintentional comic relief with a garbled speech before a visiting Israeli delegation last week, a video of his speech has revealed.
Among other topics, Museveni talked about "baby Jesus" and Mohammed, said Jews weren’t Christians—and told how he slept during international meetings.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife put on a brave face, but the rest of the Israeli delegation could barely conceal their horror at Museveni’s speech, which was supposed to highlight what he called the “bonds” between Africa and Israel.
The first sign of trouble came when the Ugandan president kept on referring to Israel as “Palestine”—a major gaffe in Israeli eyes, which caused the Israeli state broadcaster to cut live coverage of his speech almost immediately.
However, Museveni had only just started. He went on to tell the Jewish delegation that “other bonds between Palestine and Africa” included the facts that “baby Jesus” had taken shelter in Egypt from Herod, and that the “prophet Mohammed had taken shelter in Ethiopia.”
He added that his prepared text, which he said had been drawn up by his advisors, said that “baby Jesus” had taken refuge in Egypt in 4 AD, but he was “reluctant to read that out,” because he was not sure how it could be 4 AD if Jesus had just been born.
His advisors, he added, “needed to do some more research on that.”
Confronted with obvious Israeli unease at these two references to topics distinctly hostile to Jews, Museveni then launched into an ad-lib explanation of how he had explained to the former president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, that the Jews “were from Palestine” and “not from Europe.”
Unfortunately for Museveni, he not only forgot Ahmadinejad’s name (comically referring to him as the “president before this one”), but this reference to Iran—which the Jews still see as their deadly enemy—served only to agitate the Israeli delegation further.
The Ugandan president then went back to his script, which contained references to British foreign minister Arthur Balfour’s “Balfour Declaration” which undertook to give Palestine to the Jews in return for Jewish support against Germany in World War I.
Museveni was, however, not interested in that part of the Balfour Declaration, and after struggling to pronounce his name, advised the Israelis that Balfour wanted to give Uganda to the Jews as a homeland.
“How could he be foreign minister and be so ignorant,” Museveni asked, before adding that it was “just as well” that the Jews had never come to Uganda, because then they and the Ugandans “would now be fighting” each other.
Museveni then told the Israelis that he wasted a lot of time at international meetings, and that was why he slept through them as a way of “surviving.”
He then revealed that almost no one in Uganda knew that the Jews were not Christians—telling the Jewish delegation repeatedly that this was a fact that they were not Christians.
Finally, he said, he had never been asked to mediate on the “Palestine” issue, but if they did ever ask him, he was sure that he could come up “with a lot of good ideas very quickly.”
* Netanyahu and the Israeli government delegation were on a tour of several east African countries in an attempt to boost support for the Jewish state and undermine their support for the Palestinian cause at the United Nations.
The stop at Entebbe airport in Uganda was to mark the 1973 Entebbe raid, where Israeli commandos freed a large number of hostages taken prisoner in a Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) airliner hijacking.
Then Ugandan dictator Idi Amin had given the hijackers effective shelter in the airport building. Netanyahu’s brother was leader of the Israeli commando unit, and was killed by Ugandan return fire at the airport.