Tanzania defies Trump's threat to cut aid over Jerusalem vote

23Dec 2017
The Guardian Reporter
The Guardian
Tanzania defies Trump's threat to cut aid over Jerusalem vote
  • SUBMISSIVE NEIGHBOURS - Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda bow to pressure over crucial United Nations vote that condemned the US president's controversial decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital

TANZANIA joined more than 120 countries to defy President Donald Trump and vote in favour of a United Nations General Assembly resolution calling for the United States to drop its recent recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

A total of 128 countries, including Tanzania, voted overwhelmingly at the United Nations on Thursday this week in favour of the UN resolution, despite Trump's unprecedented threats that the US could cut financial assistance to any country that voted against its interest.

The Kenyan government was roundly criticised by some of its own citizens as a coward for skipping the vote altogether, while Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan abstained.

Apart from Tanzania, Burundi  was the only other East African Community (EAC) member state that took the bold decision to defy Trump's bullying.

Trump had threatened to cut off financial aid to countries that voted in favour of the resolution. 

Tanzania was among countries that backed the resolution, which is non-binding, nine voted against and 35 abstained. Twenty-one countries, including Kenya, did not cast a vote.

Trump’s threat appeared to have some impact, with more countries abstaining and rejecting the resolution than usually associated with Palestinian-related resolutions, diplomats said. 

The Permanent Secretary of Tanzania's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and East African Co-operation, Prof Adolf Mkenda, declined to comment yesterday on Tanzania's role in the UN Jerusalem vote, saying the matter had already been concluded.

Tanzania is particularly vulnerable to any potential US aid cuts as the country is among the Top 10 recepients of financial assistance from the American people.

According to US State Department data, Tanzania is expected to receive financial aid worth at least $547 million (over 1.2 trillion shillings) this year alone from the American government.

Kenya, East Africa's biggest-recepient of US aid money with over $700 million pledged this year, avoided angering Trump by skipping the vote.

The Kenyan mission at the UN claims it was closed for the holidays at the time when 128 countries voted against Trump's decision on Jerusalem.

Kenya's permanent representative to the UN Macharia Kamau said this is the reason Kenyan officials were missing at the vote.

He said that contrary to reports that Kenya deliberately stayed away, the mission was "officially missing in action".

But Kenya also appeared to be making a balancing diplomatic move having traditionally voted for Palestine.

Trump warned that he could withhold “billions” of dollars of US aid from countries which voted in favour of the resolution.

His comments came after the US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, wrote to about 180 of 193 member states warning that she will be “taking names” of countries that vote for the resolution critical of the announcement which overturned decades of US foreign policy.

Speaking at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Trump amplified Haley’s threat.

“Let them vote against us,” he warned.

“We’ll save a lot. We don’t care. But this isn’t like it used to be where they could vote against you and then you pay them hundreds of millions of dollars,” he said. “We’re not going to be taken advantage of any longer.”

The warning appeared aimed largely at UN members in Africa, Asia and Latin America who are regarded as more vulnerable to US pressure.

Trump’s extraordinary intervention marked the latest escalation of diplomatic tensions over a decision that has seen the US widely criticised and isolated. 

Nevertheless, Washington found itself isolated as many of its Western and Arab allies voted for the measure. Some of those allies, like Egypt, Jordan and Iraq, are major recipients of US military or economic aid, although the US threat to cut aid did not single out any country.

A spokesman for Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called the vote “a victory for Palestine.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected the vote.

Earlier this month, Trump reversed decades of US policy by announcing the United States recognized Jerusalem - home to major Muslim, Jewish and Christian holy sites - as the capital of Israel and would move its embassy there.

“The United States will remember this day in which it was singled out for attack in the General Assembly for the very act of exercising our right as a sovereign nation,” Haley told the 193-member General Assembly ahead of Thursday’s vote.

“We will remember it when we are called upon to once again make the world’s largest contribution to the United Nations, and so many countries come calling on us, as they so often do, to pay even more and to use our influence for their benefit,” she said.

Later on Thursday, Haley asked the 64 countries who voted no, abstained or did not cast a vote (including Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and South Sudan) to come to a January 3 reception “to thank you for your friendship to the United States,” according to the invitation seen by Reuters.

The status of Jerusalem is one of the thorniest obstacles to a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, who were furious over Trump’s move. The international community does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the full city.

French UN Ambassador Francois Delattre said in a statement: “The resolution adopted today only confirms relevant international law provisions on Jerusalem.” France voted in favour.




Netanyahu described the resolution as “preposterous.” “Jerusalem is our capital, always was, always will be. But I do appreciate the fact that a growing number of countries refuse to participate in this theater of the absurd,” he said in a video on his Facebook page.

Israel captured East Jerusalem in a 1967 war and Palestinians want it as the capital of a future state they seek. 

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in a tweet the vote was a clear international rejection of the Trump administration’s “thuggish intimidation.”

Among countries that abstained were Argentina, Australia, Canada, Colombia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Mexico, Philippines, Poland, Rwanda, South Sudan and Uganda.

Guatemala, Honduras, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau and Togo joined the United States and Israel in voting no.

Honduras’ vote against the motion comes after the United States signaled it would recognize President Juan Orlando Hernandez as the winner of an election the Organization of America States said should be scrapped over fraud claims. 

Trump’s rhetoric on cutting aid startled some US allies but State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Thursday’s vote was just one factor that Washington would take into consideration in its foreign policy.

“I just wanted to reiterate what the president had said yesterday and that that was the UN vote is really not the only factor that the administration would take into consideration in dealing with our foreign relations and countries who have chosen to vote one way or the other,” she told reporters.

According to figures from the US government’s aid agency USAID, in 2016 the United States provided some $13 billion in economic and military assistance to countries in sub-Saharan Africa and $1.6 billion to states in East Asia and Oceania.

It provided some $13 billion to countries in the Middle East and North Africa, $6.7 billion to countries in South and Central Asia, $1.5 billion to states in Europe and Eurasia and $2.2 billion to Western Hemisphere countries, according to USAID. 

The General Assembly vote was called at the request of Arab and Muslim countries after the United States vetoed the same resolution on Monday in the 15-member UN Security Council.

The UN action comes a year after the Security Council adopted a resolution demanding an end to Israeli settlements.