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Black African States Are Restoring Ties with Israel

May 21, 1985
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Black African states that had broken off diplomatic relations with Israel after the Yom Kippur War, largely under Arab pressure, have begun quietly to resume economic and diplomatic ties with the Jewish State, according to the latest issue of Boycott Report, an American Jewish Congress publication.

The Boycott Report, quoting accounts in the authoritative Paris weekly, Jeune Afrique, and in the Economist of London, notes that despite the lack of diplomatic relations, Nigeria, Kenya, Ivory Coast, Ghana and Togo all do “lively business” with Israel. About 1,000 Israelis are now working in Nigeria. A Nigerian presidential candidate, Chief Obafemi Awoloho, recently visited Israel.

Sierra Leone and Kenya for some years have allowed Israel to maintain “special interest sections” in the embassies of foreign countries, the Boycott Report said. Solel Boneh (SBI), one of Israel’s construction companies, “has had firm footholds” in Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Kenya for decades. Some 70 percent of the company’s activities are in Africa where it employs 15,000 local workers and 400 Israelis. Nigeria alone owes SBI $120 million, Boycott Reports quotes the newsletter, The Middle East.

Another Israeli company, Yonah International, recently signed a $15 million contract to build offices for the Liberian National Bank. Rep. William Lehman (D. Fla.) who recently visited Black Africa reported extensive construction under way in the Ivory Coast by Israeli contractors. One such project is the huge modern Catholic cathedral being built by Sonityra, an Israeli firm.

Zaire, which has resumed diplomatic relations with Israel, has thereby forfeited $120 million of Saudi Arabian money, the Boycott Report stated. “The Israelis are seeking private investment funds for Zaire to make up for the loss of Saudi funds,” according to the Report. “ORT is managing various construction and repair projects in Zaire.”

Israel now has development projects in 20 African states, including Gabon and Tanzania. The projects include irrigation, soil management, health care and early childhood education.

According to Jeune Afrique, an Israeli military mission recently visited Conakry, the capital of the West African state of Guinea. Guinea soldiers, according to the same account, have gone to Israel for paratroop and commando training.

In addition, Jeune Afrique reported, Israelis are training Zairian President Mobutu Sese Seko’s 200-member special security forces and are helping to create a special security force in Cameroon at the request of its President, Paul Biya. In the Ivory Coast, President Felix Houphouet-Boigny is protected by an Israeli-trained unit.

Last August, Rep. Howard Berman (D. Calif.) introduced a bill (HR 5424) to provide $20 million for joint U.S.-Israel development programs in Third World countries. In an attempt to block what they consider Israeli “infiltration” in Black Africa, Senegal and the Arab League have set up an African-Arab interparliamentary committee and are planning other anti-Israel moves, the Boycott Report stated.

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