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External and Internal pressure impede Israel-Africa summit

President Faure Gnassingbe of Togo, left, with Prime Benjamin Netanyahu and Mrs. Netanyahu

WEST AFRICA / WASHINGTON, DC –– The first ever Israel – Africa Summit has been cancelled indefinitely due to internal and external pressure on the host country, Togo –a tiny West African nation. In a statement on Monday released by the Israelite Foreign Ministry, it said the Israel-Africa Summit scheduled next month in Togo has been postponed.

The ministry’s release suggested that the decision was reached at the request of Togo’s president, Faure Gnassingbe, after consultations with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It stated discussions would continue “to guarantee the full success of the summit.”

Though the Israelite statement postponing the summit gave no reason for the decision, Globe Afrique has reliably learned that internal and external pressure on Togo, and extensive lobbying with other African nations are said to be the main reasons for the cancellation.

Prime Minister Netanyahu ,center, with West African leaders at the ECOWAS summit in Monrovia, Liberia

Internally, Togo has been experiencing violent opposition’s unrest in recent days, with thousands of protesters calling for presidential term limits amid resentment over the 50-year rule of the Gnassingbe family that began with President Faure Gnassingbe’s father, General Gnassingbe Eyadema, who ruled the West African nation for 40 years until his death in 2005 when his son took over.

Externally, Globe Afrique has reliably learned that few powerful and wealthy Arab nations in the Middle East are not only lobbying a few African countries, calling for the summit to be cancelled, they are also exploiting the political disenchantment in the host country by supporting opposition political groups already angered by President Faure Gnassingbe’s prolonged grip on power.

With promises of loans and other support, several African leaders are being financially coerced into limiting what some in the Middle East see as “a significant Israel’s global entry and influence in Africa,” a continent of 54 sovereign nations and more than a billion people.

Observers say the summit’s cancelation and the pressure on some African leaders have been, in part, due to the aftermath of boycott threats by some Muslim majority countries and pressure against the event from Palestinians and Arab nations.

The Lomé gathering initially set for October would have been the first-ever major Israel-Africa Summit since the Jewish state began active reengagement with the continent.

According to sources, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who has made it a central component of his latest foreign policy outreach, had planned to attend the conference, which was likely to draw dignitaries from several of the 54 African countries.

Boko Haram’s fighters in northern Nigeria

The summit would have brought together Israeli and African leaders, business leaders and security experts to discuss and reach agreements on wide range of issues, including socio-economic development and security, especially in the fight against jihadism and other forms of terrorism.

One western regional expert said, “Palestinian issues are a key and very important factor.  The Arabs who are largely bent on influencing political leadership and national cultures throughout Africa see Israel’s strong presence in Africa as an undercut.” He added, “With security coordination between Israel and several African nations, Arab supports for groups Boko Haram and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM would be defeated and eliminated once and for all. Now some Arabs who want most African countries to be headed by Muslims would not like that.”

Fighters of the Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM

Like Boko Haram that wants to establish an Islamic caliphate in Nigeria, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, is an Islamist militant organization which seeks to overthrow the Algerian government and institute an Islamic state.

The group commenced as a Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat. It has since asserted its objectives to attack European and American targets. The sect has been labelled a terrorist group by the United Nations, Australia, Canada, Russia, the United Arab Emirate, and the United States.

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Ben Mabande

Ben Mabande is a researcher and senior contributing reporter with Globe Afrique Media.

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