Chair of the African Union President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: Siya Duda/GCIS

In his first address as the Chair of the African Union, President Cyril Ramaphosa made a stinging rebuke of the Trump Middle East plan, comparing its content to the infamous Bantustan system in apartheid South Africa.

“This plan was not consulted with the people that matter, with the Palestinians, and it sounds like a Bantustan type of construct,” Ramaphosa told African leaders assembled in Addis Ababa on Sunday.

“It brought to mind a horrible history that we, as South Africa, went through. The apartheid regime once imposed a Bantustan system on the people of South Africa without consulting them.”

While the apartheid government claimed that the Bantustans were independent sovereign states, where its citizens had full rights, in reality they were under the complete control of the apartheid regime.

“Our collective fortunes rely on international cooperation and in ensuring that we leave no one behind. That is why the AU should continue with its support for the people elsewhere in the world that still suffer under the yoke of oppression. Today we reaffirm our unwavering support and solidarity with the Palestinian people in their legitimate quest for an independent and sovereign state. We also reaffirm our unwavering support for the right of the people of Western Sahara to self-determination,” Ramaphosa said.

Ramaphosa quoted the internationally acclaimed musician Jonas Gangwa who sang, “Freedom for some is freedom for none.”

The Chair of the AU Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat said that the Trump plan trampled on the rights of Palestinians and represented “a violation of multiple resolutions of the UN and the AU.”

Mahamat pledged the solidarity of the AU with the Palestinian people in their legitimate search for an independent and sovereign state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh spoke at the AU Summit and condemned the Trump plan saying it had no international baseline and that Trump had “turned a deaf ear” to international legitimacy. Shtayyeh was representing Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas who is travelling to the UN to push for a UN Security Council resolution to condemn the Trump plan.

Under the US/Israeli plan, Israel would annex over 30% of the West Bank. 

The Palestine Liberation Organisation says under the plan only 15% of historic Palestine would remain. The supposed state would not be allowed to have an army or arms, and would not control their own security, borders, water, or foreign policy, which would be controlled by Israel.

A few African leaders have recently made overtures to Israel, causing major controversy on the African continent as many states have  historically supported the Palestinian cause. 

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni’s announcement on February 3rd that Uganda is “studying” the possibility of opening an embassy in Jerusalem was met with outrage by supporters of the Palestinian cause on the continent. Uganda and Israel have strong security ties and Israel trains some elements of the Ugandan security forces.

There was also significant backlash following the meeting in Entebbe on February 3rd between the Head of Sudan’s ruling sovereign council General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu. Following the meeting Netanyahu had announced that the two leaders had agreed to cooperate towards normalising ties.

The ruling sovereign council is a joint civilian and military body tasked with overseeing the country’s transition to civilian rule. Burhan is considered to be a discredited figure by many Sudanese due to the fact that he was a military intelligence colonel coordinating army and Janjaweed militia attacks against civilians in West Darfur state from 2003-2005.

Sudan’s cabinet said last week that the meeting with Netanyahu was Burhan’s personal initiative, and that he had made no promise to Israel’s Prime Minister of normalising ties between the two countries.

According to government spokesperson Faisal Mohamed Salih, Burhan told the sovereign council that he did not give any commitment and did not talk of normalising relations. The meeting took place a day after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo invited Burhan to visit the US in a phone call. 

The PLO called Burhan and Netanyahu’s meeting “a stab in the back of the Palestinian people.”

Group Foreign Editor