Why Israel is Assisting the Togolese Government with Spying on its Citizens

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An Israeli newsletter called Israel Hayom described Togo as being “one of the most pro-Israel places in the African continent.” This can be demonstrated by the fact that Togo was the only African nation to vote in support of the United States’ decision to relocate its embassy to Israel’s capital of Jerusalem in December 2017. In 2017 Togo was also set to host an Israel-Africa summit, but the unrest in Togo e forced the government of Togo to cancel the scheduled summit. Prior to the summit there was talk that some African countries were planning to boycott the summit over Israel’s occupation of Palestine.

Faure Gnassingbé has been the president of Togo since 2005. In the 13 years that he has been in power Faure has used all sorts of brutal and repressive tactics to remain in power. This repression is important for understanding the relationship between Israel and Togo because Israel plays an instrumental role in maintaining Faure’s dictatorship. Israel is one of the foreign powers that help to prop up Faure’s regime, while also ignoring the many atrocities that Faure continues to commit against his own citizens.

Between August 2016 and August 2018 Citizen Lab scanned the internet for servers associated with NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware. The NSO Group is an Israeli firm which sells Pegasus spy software on mobile phones. Citizen Lab found suspected NSO Pegasus infections in 45 countries. This included many African countries such as Libya, Algeria, Egypt, Côte d’Ivoire, Togo, Uganda, Rwanda, South Africa, and others. Togo seemed to have been of special focus for the operators. Citizen Lab also noted that operators were using websites with names such as “new president” and “political information” to infect targets with spyware in Togo. The use of politically-theme domains is no doubt an attempt to specifically target citizens in Togo who are critical of the dictatorships there. This would not be the first time that the regime in Togo has attempted to use the internet as a weapon against its critics. Last year, the government of Togo shut down the internet in an attempt to suppress the protests against Faure’s government.

Security has been one of the main areas of focus in Togo’s relationship with Israel. In October 2016, Togo’s president stated that Israel has the key to help Africa and security was one of the areas which were identified as a field in which Togo hoped to assist from Israel’s expertise. The security forces in Togo are primarily used to maintain the dictatorship in power by oppressing the Togolese people. For the last five decades the regime in Togo has committed terrible human rights abuses against the Togolese people. Those who have spoken about against the regime have been imprisoned, tortured, and killed. This has all been carried out with the support of foreign nations, which continue to provide military support for the government of Togo. As the report from Citizen Lab demonstrates, foreign nations are also assisting the dictatorship in Togo with spying on its own citizens.

Dwayne is the author of several books on the history and experiences of African people, both on the continent and in the diaspora. His books are available through Amazon. You can also follow Dwayne on Facebook and Twitter.

Dwayne Wong (Omowale) is a Guyanese born Pan-Africanist, author, and law student.

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