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The Al-Aqsa of Africa

Sierra Leone’s Israeli-built parliament building is a symbol of the Jewish state’s long-running engagement in Africa

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Sierra Leone Parliament. (All photos Damon van der Linde)

R.L. Armstrong, Sierra Leone’s director of public works, contacted the Israeli company Solel Boneh to get to the heart of the matter. The constructor forwarded the diligent bureaucrat an ambiguous reply that led him to fire off a confidential memo to his colleagues stating, “The government is now in a position where it has no control over the contractor who is in fact carrying out [a] cost-plus contract without supervision.”

After eight months of bureaucratic intrigues, money squabbles, and construction circumventions, the Israeli contractors completed the assembly hall in the nick of time for the Independence Day Ceremony on April 27, 1961. On the eve of independence, the Duke of Kent gave a speech and presented a plaque at the opening ceremony of the assembly hall. The next day it rained and water leaked through the building’s unfinished areas; the parliament still experiences leaks.

exterior, long view of building
Freetown, Sierra Leone.

There was an opportunity for a proper refurbishment in 1996 when President Ahmad Tejan-Kabbah discussed completing Phase 2 of the parliament’s construction. A company from Côte d’Ivoire, claiming to be subsidiary of Solel Boneh, was given a tour of the complex. But before plans could materialize, a coup d’état erupted in Sierra Leone a year later. In 2004 a Chinese company was commissioned to refurbish the parliament and repair corroded pipes. But they couldn’t figure out certain aspects of the original engineering. A local supervisor assigned to monitor their work was allegedly fired after he asked too many questions. The original chairs in the assembly hall—still in excellent condition after nearly five decades—were plucked out, carted off in a truck to be sold, and shoddier replacements was brought in.

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PhillipNagle says:

How many of those African countries voted with the Palestinians? All of them!

Lynne T says:

Yes, but curiously enough, a couple of years ago, Pew did a study of attitudes held by the average non-Arab African population, irrespective of religion and the majority were more sympathetic to Israel. And note the numbers of economic migrants from Africa wishing to settle in Israel.

Since all of these nations came from being colonies of the European powers, they may sympathize with the current situation. However, wanting a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders does not make one anti-Israel.

So basically, they want someone competent to fix their Parliament?

fred capio says:

1967 borders? do you mean pre-war borders (=1949 borders) or post-war borders? be more specific, because it makes a big difference

PhillipNagle says:

I believe what you are refering to is the cease fire lines not borders that seperated Israeli and Jordanian troops. The claim that these cease fire lines are borders that should be recognized is just not true.

Well, they are. Look at any map (save those in Israel and countries that don’t recognize Israel), and you will see the green line as the accepted border between Israel and the Israeli-Occupied West Bank. In all modern peace negotiations, the green line with corresponding land swaps is the base for future Israeli-Palestinian borders.

PhillipNagle says:

If you look at any pre 1967 map in a major atlas, it will point out that that the 1948 lines are merely cease fire lines and that no one recognized Jordan’s annexation of the West Bank. For anyone to consider those cease fire lines between Israel and Jordan as borders is wrong, Even the Palestinian (oddly enough pre 1948 Palestinian was used to refer to the Jews of the region) have never recognized those cease fire lines you hold so dear as prmanent borders.

The border between North and South Korea is just a ceasefire line, but nobody (outside the Koreas) is disputing that border. If you listen to what Mahmoud Abbas, who is kind of a important guy, has been saying, he does recognize that the Green Line should form the border between Israel and Palestine, and the majority of Israelis agree with him.

PhillipNagle says:

Wrong on both counts. The Korean cease fire lines are subject to final agreement. The 1948 cease fire lines were not recognized when they existed, the current cease fire line (similar to the current Korean lines) runs along the Jordan River, and like the Korean cease fire line is subject to further negotiations. The overwhelming majority of Israelis support the incorporation of Jerusalem into Israel, and several other parts of the West Bank that have already been annexed, There is a willingness to give up large parts of Judea and Samaria but not all of it.

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The Al-Aqsa of Africa

Sierra Leone’s Israeli-built parliament building is a symbol of the Jewish state’s long-running engagement in Africa

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