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UK minister cuts short trip to Kenya, Uganda before resignation

By Tom Mugisha, tom.mugisha@alleastafrica.com

KAMPALA – Britain’s overseas aid minister Priti Patel cut short her trip to East Africa on Wednesday before she was recalled back home and tendered her resignation to Prime Minister Theresa May for holding  informal, secret meetings with Israel officials.

Hours before her resignation, the journalists were waiting at State House Entebbe for a press conference she was supposed to jointly address with her fellow UK state minister for international trade Liam Fox

Linda Nabusayi, the deputy press secretary to President Museveni had earlier sent a message to media houses in Uganda.

“ Today, there will be a press conference to be addressed by Honourable Liam Fox, UK Secretary of State for International Trade  Honourbale Priti Patel, the UK Secretary of State for International Development at State House Entebbe at 4pm,” she wrote

But hours later, her boss, Don Wanyama sent another message cancelling the press conference. “We regret to announce the cancellation of the presser that had been slated for later today at State House, Entebbe,”

Patel was preparing to get on her flight from Nairobi to Entebbe for a meeting with President Museveni and foreign affairs officials before she was recalled over unauthorised meetings in Israel, becoming the latest cabinet member felled by scandals that have rocked Prime Minister Theresa May’s government.

In her resignation, Pattel who was born in Uganda in 1960s before President Amin expelled Asians from Uganda and her family relocated to the UK , apologized for meeting the Israel officials when her government was not aware.

“I offer a fulsome apology to you and to the government for what has happened and offer my resignation,” Patel wrote to May, becoming the second minister to leave the cabinet in one week.

May summoned Patel back from a trip to Africa to explain her talks with Israeli politicians and officials, in which she raised the possibility of Britain diverting aid to the Israeli army.

Patel had apologised on Monday for holding 12 separate meetings — including with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — during a family holiday to Israel in August, without notifying the Foreign Office or Downing Street in advance.

On Monday, Patel revealed details of her meetings in Israel, which included discussions with non-governmental organisations and businesses.

She said they were arranged by Lord Stuart Polak, honorary president of the lobbying group Conservative Friends of Israel.

But it emerged late Tuesday there had been another two unauthorised meetings in September, with Israel’s Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan in London and senior foreign ministry official Yuval Rotem in New York.

During her meetings, Patel discussed the possibility of British aid being used to support medical assistance for Syrian refugees arriving in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, Downing Street said.

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