Morocco’s king in East Africa to boost AU entry bid

Sunday 30/10/2016
The King of Morocco Mohammed VI (R) is welcomed by Rwandan President Paul Kagame (L) on October 19th, 2016 in Kigali, during his first-stage tour of East Africa.

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.