Morocco rejoins African Union without conditions

King Mohammed VI says, 'I am finally home' during closing ceremonies of AU summit.

Morocco's King delivering speech in main plenary of AU in Addis Ababa

2017/02/05 Issue: 92 Page: 8

The Arab Weekly
Saad Guerraoui

Casablanca - A day after most African Union (AU) members al­lowed Morocco to rejoin the group, Moroccan King Mohammed VI said, “I am finally home” during closing ceremonies of the AU summit.

“It is a beautiful day when one returns home after too long an ab­sence,” the king said January 31st in Addis Ababa.

Morocco quit the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) — the African Union’s predecessor — in 1984 af­ter the OAU recognised the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), which claims sovereignty over the Western Sahara.

Morocco annexed Western Sahara in 1975 and maintains that it is an in­tegral part of the kingdom. The Al­geria-backed Polisario Front started an armed conflict with Morocco for an independent state that lasted un­til a UN-brokered ceasefire in 1991.

Morocco rejoined the African Un­ion after agreeing to return without conditions despite the SADR having a seat in the pan-African bloc. King Mohammed VI steered away from raising the Western Sahara issue at the summit but said the African continent could benefit more from Morocco considering its level of economic development.

“My vision of South-South coop­eration is clear and constant. Mo­rocco will be an engine for common economic growth,” he said.

“Having the Polisario Front hold the same seat like a state with cen­turies-old history and which could bring a lot to Africa can be shocking. However, we can’t let our personal feelings overtake a more pragmatic attitude of international relations,” said Nabil Adel, director of the Re­search Institute of Geopolitics and Geo-economics at ESCA School of Management in Casablanca.

“Morocco should, in the long term, convince AU member states that the SADR harms the Africans’ cohesion and call for its expulsion from the AU.”

Since officially requesting to re­join the African Union last Septem­ber, King Mohammed VI has led a diplomatic offensive that included trade agreements, investments and memoranda with other Afri­can countries, including Nigeria, Rwanda and Ethiopia, which back the SADR.

“It is time that Africa’s riches benefit Africa. For too long we have looked elsewhere to make deci­sions, commitments. Is it not time to turn towards our own conti­nent?” King Mohammed VI said at the AU conference.

The Moroccan monarch also warned that the Arab Maghreb Un­ion (UMA) — Morocco, Mauritania, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya — would crumble if its incapacity to live up to the ambitions of the 1989 agree­ment continued.

Political disagreements between Morocco and Algeria regarding Western Sahara have often ham­pered the union’s economic pro­gress.

“Today, we regret to see that the Maghreb Union is the least integrated region in the African continent, if not in the whole world. Intra-regional trade has reached 10% between ECOWAS [Economic Community of West African States] countries and 19% between SADC [Southern African Development Community] countries, while it is still stagnating at less than 3% between Maghreb countries,” King Mohammed VI said.

“The UMA is certainly the least active union in Africa. The king made an interesting point by high­lighting the UMA is not function­ing,” Adel said.

“Let’s hope that the UMA will be active again with the changing geo­political climate in the region.”

Saad Guerraoui is a regular contributor to The Arab Weekly on Maghreb issues.

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