Entebbe Raid: Non-aligned Movement Weighs In

2400 Views Kampala, Uganda

In short
In the sixth part of the Entebbe raid story, Uganda takes the fight to the Non-aligned Movement NAM summit in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

After the stalemate at the United Nations, Uganda's next destination would be Colombo, Sri Lanka, at the 5th Summit Conference of Heads of State or Government of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).

Bringing together at least 81 countries at the time, the summit took place from August 16 - 19 1976, just over a month after Entebbe raid.
In the Cold War era, NAM brought together countries not formally aligned with either capitalism or communism blocs.
To put the Colombo event into context, one needs to understand what transpired at the preparatory meeting for the summit three months earlier. Dubbed the Non-Aligned Coordination Committee (NACC), the meeting took place at the end of May 1976 in the Algerian capital, Algiers. 

The meeting was to draft a document that would guide the proceedings in Colombo, some kind of a 'white paper." Syria, with subtle support from Algeria pushed delegates to include a clause in the draft document recommending expulsion of Israel from the UN General Assembly. The proposal, however, did not sail through after it was opposed by moderate countries including Egypt.

This was, apparently, a continuation of the hostility against Israel carried forward from the acrimonious debate at the 1975 OAU summit in Kampala. Arab members of OAU had pushed for a similar clause to be inserted in the final document of the Kampala summit.
On November 10, 1975, the General Assembly would vote to adopt Resolution 3379 declaring Zionism as a form of racism and racial discrimination, just like apartheid. The resolution sailed through by 72 to 35 votes. Thirty-two countries abstained.
Available documents appear to suggest that there was fear especially in the US that Entebbe raid might give the radical groups the much-needed ammunition to continue with their negative campaign against Israel.
One of those documents is a secret cable dated July 9, 1976 from the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, US Department of State. The cable, made public by WikiLeaks in 2006 discusses the Algeria NACC meeting, the Mauritius OAU summit, the upcoming Colombo summit and chances that Entebbe would be a factor in the NAM deliberations. 

The writer, who signs off only as "Kissinger" sounds relieved there was a tone down in the "anti-Israel rhetoric" at the Algeria meeting but was unsure of the impact of Entebbe: "A proposal calling for Israel's exclusion from the UN probably will fail, although the full African reaction to the Israeli rescue operation at Entebbe airport in Uganda is not yet clear." In the secret cable, sent to different US missions such as in France, Austria, Italy, United Kingdom and Japan among others, the writer notes that Colombo meeting would also endorse "the UN resolution on Zionism-as-racism…"
Another secret cable dated August 3, 1976 talks of how Middle East issues had received low-key treatment at the Mauritius OAU summit until "the Entebbe raid brought new turbulence into the meeting." The cable also mentions the July 9 - 14 UN Security Council debate where "the Africans tried to strengthen their case by concentrating on the Israeli "aggression" against Uganda, while skirting "the thorny issue of international terrorism."
While the Colombo conference did not call for the suspension of Israel from the UN, it did include strongly-worded resolutions in its final document.
The delegates "strongly condemned Israel's flagrant violation" of Uganda's sovereignty and territorial integrity. They also condemned what they called deliberate and wanton destruction of life and property at Entebbe. They noted that the attack at Entebbe thwarted the humanitarian efforts by the President Amin to have all the hostages released.
Some of the attack went to the United Nations: "The Conference noted with serious disappointment the failure of the United Nations Security Council to condemn the Israeli military aggression against Uganda on 4 July 1976."
The Colombo conference demanded that Israel meet the just claims of the Government of Uganda for full compensation for the damage and destruction caused during the invasion.
NAM conference tasked the Sri Lanka Representative to the UN, Hamilton Shirley Amerasinghe, to present its position to the United Nations. Amerasinghe did exactly this in a letter dated September 1, 1976, addressed to the Secretary-General.

Perhaps by this time it was too late, coming more than a month after the UN Security Council debate.


About the author

Wilson Akiiki Kaija
Wilson Akiiki Kaija is is a URN editor and media trainer with 12 years’ experience as a journalist, and producer. He joined URN in April 2011 as a News Editor, before moving on to head the Training Department towards the end of 2014. He is in charge of coordinating URN’s internship and mid-career training programmes.

He has previously worked as a Senior Journalism Trainer for the BBC Media Action where he coordinated training and mentoring programme in Uganda. Between 2004 and 2007, Wilson managed and directed programming at Kyoga Veritas Radio, a community radio station based in Soroti, Uganda.