Morocco set to join African Union
CASABLANCA - Morocco’s push to join the African Union (AU) 32 years after it left the organisation’s predecessor should help it gather support for its claim over the disputed territory of Western Sahara and bolster its political, economic and security ties with other African countries, analysts said.
“For a long time our friends have been asking us to return so Morocco can take up its natural place within its institutional family. The moment has now come,” King Mohammed VI said in a message to the recent AU summit in Kigali.
A total of 28 of the 54 AU members filed a motion calling for the suspension of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (RASD) from the African bloc. The initiators of the move said it would “play a constructive role and contribute positively to UN efforts in the final outcome of the regional dispute over the Sahara”.
Morocco was a founding member of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) but, when the organisation recognised the RASD and Algeria backed RASD for a seat in the African Union, Morocco withdrew from the African bloc in 1984.
Morocco annexed Western Sahara, a former Spanish territory, in 1975. Polisario Front guerrillas began a fight for an independent state, an armed conflict that lasted until the United Nations brokered a ceasefire in 1991.
Rabat has proposed a form of autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty for the vast territory, which has fewer than 1 million inhabitants. The proposal was rejected by the Polisario Front, which insists on the right of the Sahrawi people to determine their own future in a UN-monitored vote.
Citing diplomatic sources, the Moroccan online news portal Medias24 reported that 10-12 other AU members would support the motion, which would give the group the two-thirds majority needed to expel RASD from the African Union.
“It was about time Morocco reintegrated the African Union. Morocco has a will to set up an African diplomacy on economic, security and political levels. This necessarily requires an activism within the AU,” said Mountacir Zian, director-general of the Rabat-based Mediterranean Company of Analysis and Strategic Intelligence.
The 28 signatories welcomed Morocco’s call to retake its AU seat. Egypt, Mauritania and Tunisia abstained from signing the motion.
“I believe that Africa, particularly the AU, must make a choice: either to rely on strong and credible partners which can bring an added value to the continent or persist in supporting an entity that poses a real security and political problem on the Maghreb level and to some extent Africa,” Zian said.
The motion is likely to be discussed at the 28th AU summit scheduled for January in Addis Ababa.
Morocco is a major investor in many African countries in construction, banking and telecommunications.
“During the last few years, Morocco has been a key player in the development of the African continent through its political, economic, security and spiritual role. I believe that this should culminate in a reintegration of the kingdom into the AU,” said political analyst Salah Elouadie.
“The fact that Morocco chose to take its seat in the AU is proof that it seeks to consolidate its strategic role in Africa in the face of a changing political and security climate in MENA and Africa.”
Morocco is a key ally of the West in fighting terrorism. Countries targeted by terrorism, such as France, Belgium, Spain and Côte d’Ivoire, have sought the help of Morocco’s intelligence services. It also has a 2,300-person peacekeeping contingent in Côte d’Ivoire, Congo and the Central African Republic.
Zian pointed out that the main threat to Africa is the rise of religious radicalism and terrorism.
“Morocco, with its experience in the fight against terrorism coupled with its religious influence, is a key player in the fight against these two scourges,” he said. “Strengthening relations with African countries further south is essential. It is therefore imperative to be proactive and participate with African states in the fight against these phenomena.”
Morocco, at the Mohammed VI Institute in Rabat, is training imams from Mali, Guinea and Côte d’Ivoire to an Islam of peace and tolerance that rejects discord and manipulation.