Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, who is in the midst of a visit to several African countries, on Wednesday urged African leaders to join the struggle against Islamist extremism and terrorism by al-Qaeda, global jihadists and members of other organizations active in both the Middle East and Africa.
Speaking to Israel Radio from Nairobi, Liberman said he had promised President Uhuru Kenyatta that Israel would join forces with Kenya in the struggle against terror. Since many of the African states he was visiting were finding it difficult to unite in the fight against terrorism, he said, Israel was prepared to help them do so.
Liberman also blasted terrorist organizations active throughout the African continent, from Somalia’s al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab to Boko Haram, which gained worldwide notoriety after abducting nearly 300 schoolgirls. These groups, he said, belonged to the same axis as Hamas in Gaza, along with terrorist organizations active in Syria and Iraq.
Liberman left for Africa on Tuesday on a mission to gain observer status for the Jewish state in the African Union. The 10-day trip, Liberman’s first to Africa since 2009, takes in Rwanda, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Kenya and Ethiopia, a Foreign Ministry statement said.
“Africa is a key objective in the foreign policy of Israel, and we will deploy political efforts so Israel can be admitted this year as an observer member of the African Union,” it quoted Liberman as saying.
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“Relations with African countries have strategic importance for Israel, from a security, political and economic point of view,” he said.
Some 50 business delegates are accompanying Liberman.
“Israel wants to take back its place in Africa,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told AFP.
Israel was an observer member of the Organization of African Unity until that body disbanded in 2002, but was blocked from acceding to its replacement entity, the African Union, by Libya’s late dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
Liberman aims to restore Israel’s status in the union, in part by teaming up with African governments to eradicate terror from their respective states.
On Tuesday night, a Somali extremist group claimed responsibility for a killing spree in a non-Muslim village in Kenya, which left 60 people dead.
Kenyatta labeled the perpetrators of the attacks as reckless hate-mongers who create intolerance and fanaticism.
Though much of Kenya’s north coast has been inhabited by Muslims for centuries, the village residents were mostly Kikuyu, a Christian community that Kenyatta hails from. Land issues have long caused severe tension on the coast, with Muslims blaming “upcountry” Kenyans for stealing land.
Kenya has seen ethnic violence rip apart the country in recent years. More than 1,000 people were killed in ethnically motivated violence after the country’s 2007 election.
AFP and AP contributed to this report.