Morocco’s king in East Africa to boost AU entry bid
Casablanca - Morocco’s King Mohammed VI visited East Africa seeking support for Rabat’s claim over Western Sahara and its efforts to join the African Union (AU).
Morocco officially requested to join the AU in September. It was a founding member of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), the predecessor to the AU, but left in protest in 1984 when the bloc recognised the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic in the former Spanish colony of Western Sahara.
Morocco annexed most of Western Sahara in 1975 when Spain relinquished the territory. Polisario Front guerrillas fought Morocco and declared the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic in the strip of land it controls in the south and south-east of the country. Armed conflict came to an end with a UN-brokered ceasefire in 1991 but the dispute over sovereignty of the mostly desert country lingers.
Rabat has proposed a form of autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty for the vast — 266,000 sq. km — 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 self-determination in a UN-monitored vote.
Morocco’s push to join the AU is part of its efforts to gather support for its claim over Western Sahara and bolster its political, economic and security ties with other African countries.
Tanzanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Augustine Mahiga on October 23rd said his country supported Morocco joining the AU, pointing out the kingdom’s expertise was essential to Africa.
Tanzanian President John Pombe Magufuli and Moroccan King Mohammed VI were on hand for the signing of 22 conventions and bilateral agreements.
“Tanzania is ready to cooperate with all its strength with you,” Magufuli said to the king. The signed agreements would contribute to the industrialisation, transformation and modernisation of Tanzania’s economy, he said.
Moroccan Foreign Minister Salaheddine Mezouar said the agreements reflected the “model of south-south cooperation” advocated by the king.
King Mohammed VI’s first stop of his East Africa tour was Rwanda, where the countries signed 19 agreements.
Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo said “the time has come” for Morocco to return to the AU.
The king was to travel to Ethiopia, home of the AU headquarters, but that stop was cancelled for “unspecified reasons”, local media reported.
The king’s trip was an expansion and diversification of Morocco’s economic and political ties in Africa from mainly French speaking West Africa, where most economies are stagnant, to East Africa where economies are vibrant and countries have new leadership and different visions.