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Uganda: The Pearl of Africa  

What could have been the Jewish Homeland  

Uganda _ Jewish homeland
Dawit Giorgis (Photo : file)

Dawit Giorgis 

(These days the establishment of the state of Israel is a headline story all  over the media. Here is an interesting piece of history regarding the  conspiracy of Britain to make Uganda the Homeland of the Jews. Taken  from my book: What A Life.) 

In the year 2001 I worked in Kampala, Uganda for the United Nations Institute for the  Prevention of Crime and Treatment of Offenders (UNAFRI). I was expected to conduct  research on firearms trafficking in Africa. They needed a lawyer with a military  background and an ability to conduct research. I fulfilled those requirements.  

Uganda is full of natural beauty. It is the source of the Nile. It is evergreen. I have  climbed its mountains in search of the mountain gorillas. But the capital, Kampala, is  another story. The traffic there is vicious and every year it gets worse. I had been to  Kampala several times and I had no qualms about using the boda boda (motorbike taxi)  instead of driving or using a taxi. It is the most dangerous way to get around in the city  and yet the best and only effective way of getting where you want to go without  unreasonable delay.  

The Jewish Homeland?  

There is one aspect to Uganda’s colonial history that I cannot resist telling before I  return to my UN assignment there. It’s something that is not often mentioned, to my  knowledge, but could have changed the course of modern history. In 1903  

* Tibs is a spicy grilled dish of beef or other kinds of meat. 245  

Theodor Herzl, the man behind the Zionist movement to create a Jewish homeland,  went to the British colonial secretary, Joseph Chamberlain to propose a spot for a Jewish  settlement in East Africa, and Chamberlain agreed.  

At the Sixth Zionist Congress at Basel on August 26, 1903, Herzl proposed the British  Uganda Program as a temporary refuge for Jews in Russia in immediate danger. By a  vote of 295-178 it was decided to send an expedition (“investigatory commission”) to  examine the territory proposed. Three days later the British government released an  

official document allocating a “Jewish territory“ in East Africa “on conditions which will  enable members to observe their national customs.”  

While Herzl made it clear that this program would not affect the ultimate aim of  Zionism, a Jewish entity in the Land of Israel, the proposal aroused a storm at the  Congress and nearly led to a split in the Zionist movement. … The Uganda program was  finally rejected by the Zionist movement at the seventh Zionist Congress in 1905, … 228  

The land that was allocated ended up in what is today Kenya, but what would East  Africa, or indeed the world, have looked like with the state of Israel in the heart of the  continent? 

Editor’s note : Views in the article do not necessarily reflect the views of


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