The long-serving Israeli leader, a tireless peace crusade and Nobel Peace prize winner in 1994, arrived in Cameroon in on August 25, 1986 to reestablish diplomatic relations with Cameroon after Africa as a bloc froze it following the 1973 Arab-Israeli Yum Kippur War. It was the first ever and only visit by an Israeli leader to Cameroon.
Born in Poland as Shimon Peres was born Szymon Perski, on 2 August 1923 in Wiszniew, Poland (now Vishnyeva, Belarus), he was a polyglot who spoke Hebrew, Polish, Russian, English and French among others.
His 70-year-long public service and political career, was full of ups and downs, never too successful, never an outright failure. Peres never won executive state office completely in his own right. He always shared mandates, completed mandates or acted on interim.
His only clear victory with a full mandate was as president of Israel, a rather ceremonial position from 2007 to 2014. In his tireless bids for the more significant post of prime minister, he never won h is own mandate, succeeding and completing the mandates of his life-long rival Yitzak Rabin (1977 and 1995 when Rabin was assassinated) and 1984 when he and other rival, Likud’s Yitzak Shamir officially shared a four-year mandate (two years each) after Peres’ party failed to win a clear majority in the Knesset (the Israeli parliament).
His August 1996 visit to Yaounde came towards the end of his two-year half mandate, so Peres will also be remembered as the Israeli leader who reestablished diplomatic relations with Cameroon.
He lost half a dozen party and state elections even when he was seen to be a favourite, leaving him with the image of a great statesman and great achiever who might have lacked the tact or crookedness to win elections.
A Nobel Peace prize winner in 1994 as Foreign Minister for his role in the historic Oslo Peace Deal with Palestine, alongside Prime Minister Rabin and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, Peres was also a major player in the 1995 peace deal with Jordan that ended the decades-long state of war between the two countries.
He supported Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s unprecedented unilateral disengagement from Gaza and carried the image tireless peace crusader. Yet he could go out of his way to make war to impose and secure peace.
His most notable war was the Operation Grapes of Wrath in 1996 that saw massive shelling of southern Lebanon following Hezbollah attacks against Israel. The campaign left 106 civilian Lebanese dead.
But the same year, Shimon Peres launched his Peres Centre for Peace “promoting lasting peace and advancement in the Middle East by fostering tolerance, economic and technological development, cooperation and well-being.”
Shimon Peres was that last public face of the founding fathers of Israel in 1948.