Israel Working With West Africa to Deter The Spread of Islamic State

On January 27, 2016, Ami Mehl, Israeli ambassador to Ghana, spoke at a International Holocaust Remembrance Day lecture, at Cape Coast University. He brought up comparisons and concerns between al Qaeda, Islamic State (IS), and The Nazi Regime. Jihadist groups such as al Qaeda and the Islamic State, are wake up calls for all democratic nations to “brace themselves”.

Ambassador Mehl, cautioned Ghana leaders to be vigilant and protective of their people, and come out to fight extremist groups if the nation wants to remain a democratic one. He pointed out the Islamic State’s atrocities against innocent civilians are similar to the  Rwanda genocides in 1994.

It’s unsurprising that Israeli diplomat would be urging African nations to take part in a larger world struggle against global jihad. Israel has a long history of  involvement in Africa from sending experts in agriculture, development, and military advisers to Nigeria, Tanzania, and the Ivory Coast.

Israel had previously been involved in counterterrorism discussions with Uganda, Kenya, and South Sudan to combat Islamic State and other jihadist groups. Shaul Shay, an African expert at Israel’s Interdisciplinary Center, made the comment, “Israel has an interest in fighting al-Qaeda anywhere, including Africa.”

Unlike other regional neighbors, Ghana has remained largely stable with its various religious denominations, Muslims largely residing in the North, and Christians in the south.

Over the decades Ghana proudly hard-earned reputation as a stable and steady democracy. However, the influence of the Islamic State has begun to reach into the coastal nation due to its proximity near troubled states including: Nigeria, Niger, Mali, and Chad.

In August 2015, Two college students joined the Islamic State, Ghanaian authorities noted that universities throughout West Africa have been targeted by the Islamic State. Whether rich or poor the idea of having a luxurious life and assurances promised to families is a major lure to young Ghanaians especially northern Ghanaian Muslims.

Factors such as the financial crisis and high unemployment rate among university graduates can develop frustration at the government. The Islamic State promises a luxurious life prior to going into battle, which is one of their main propaganda tactics. Lea Roshkovsky, an Educator with Yad Vashem, explained that the Islamic State similar to Nazi propaganda  as well to lure young men to join before committing some of the most horrible atrocities.

Ghana, like many African nations, does not have a specialized counterterrorism capability. There is fear throughout Ghana bout the Islamic State further impacting the nation, and they are fearful of those who have become indoctrinated by the group returning to Ghana. Areas like northest Nigeria, Niger, and Chad are all major recruitment centers for young Ghanaians looking to join the Islamic State.

Israel’s relationship with Ghana is more than just foreign relations. Israel  has over $400 million in an assortment of business investments, and two hundred Israeli’s working in Ghana.  The State of Israel may be concerned about the future of Ghana and its people, but he also equally concerned about the investments Israel has in the country.

The future of Ghana will rest heavily strong cooperation with Israel in finding a means to target Islamic State sympathizer in Ghana while limiting cross-border impact of Islamic-State activity in the region. Israel certainly has the hard earned counterterrorism experience to train and assist Ghanaian’s in this effort.