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For the third consecutive time in less than four months, the Moroccan government participated in an event where the Saharawi Republic was fully taking part as an independent state, during the works of the Second High-Level Meeting of the Africa-EU Energy Partnership. The meeting was held between February 11-14, 2014, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. A Saharawi delegation chaired by the Saharawi ambassador to the African Union (AU) and Ethiopia, participated side by side with a Moroccan delegation composed of the Moroccan Ministry of Energy, Mines, Water and Environment. This information may seem normal to anyone who doesn’t know how Morocco is normally very sensitive to any regional, continental or international forum where the Saharawi government’s representatives participate.
Sitting Side By Side
Morocco, which still occupies parts of the Saharawi territory and refuses to recognize the Saharawi Republic, is a founding member of the AU. It has surprisingly participated in two other events in which the Saharawi Republic’s participation was noticeable. The first was December 10, 2013, during the Nelson Mandela’s official memorial service that took place in Johannesburg, and the second on December 11 in Kenya during the celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of the independence of this African country.
On both occasions, Morocco was represented by high-level officials. In the first meeting, it was even represented by Prince Rachid, the third in the Moroccan Monarchic order, and El Fassi El Fehri, the close friend and advisor of the actual King of Morocco, Mohamed VI.
This Moroccan presence can only be explained as a recognition of the political fact of the Saharawi republic that Rabat can no more ignore especially in its shy and sometimes inappropriate attempts to reintegrate the African Union. Rabat unilaterally abandoned the OAU in 1984 in a crucial period of the African unity’s process and in blatant disregard to the OAU’s decisions and support to the independence of Western Sahara.
It should be recalled that some Moroccan officials had repeatedly mentioned the Moroccan eagerness to return to the Pan African organisation, but, of course, with the usual Moroccan acrobatics and conditions, which asked for the freezing of the membership of the SADR in the AU. Such a demand is impossible since nothing in the AU constitution would allow such action, in addition to the fact that it is politically incorrect and would strongly harm the image and future of the African Union if it was even openly discussed.
But, it seems that Morocco is more and more uncomfortable with its African isolation, especially that the French block that is a traditional vehicle to reflect the Moroccan-French’s hostile position vis-à-vis the SADR, is no more as strong in the AU as it used to be in the OAU between the fifties and the nineties.
Point Scoring for Morocco?
Yet, while Morocco keeps calling and even harassing its allies to convince them not to allow the participation of the SADR in meetings organised outside Africa, especially the famous African partnerships with other continents and entities, Rabat seems to be willing to give a concession for the moment, and may start participating in meetings even when the Saharawi Republic is present and fully represented as a State. Morocco hopes maybe to score some points and create a sort of confusion and uneasiness for other participants, who may ask the Saharawi Republic, as they did in some previous occasions to voluntarily abstain from taking part in African meetings with Arabs or Europeans or others. The SADR, of course, has always adopted the decision to unilaterally abstain from attending those meetings just to facilitate their holding, and so as not to be accused of hindering AU’s partnerships. Though SADR can maintain its sovereign right to take part in any AU event no matter who is the co-organiser, and would enjoy the support of its allies and strongest countries in the AU.
Disquiet Over Morocco’s New Found Participation in the AU
Many countries and officials in the AU have started to complain off the record about this controversial Moroccan attitude and sneaky methods. Opinions tend to voice that Morocco, which abandoned Africans when they needed it most in the eighties, cannot put conditions to the AU now that it is getting stronger, and cannot continue to put obstacles to the African integration due to the kingdom’s failure to respect the international legality and African decisions regarding the decolonisation of Western Sahara. It should be recalled that the Constitutive Act of the AU is clear in its objectives that include, for example, that the AU: “respect of borders existing on achievement of independence;” and willingness to “defend the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of its Member States” and to “promote and protect human and peoples' rights in accordance with the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights and other relevant human rights instruments,” in addition to its will to “accelerate the political and socio-economic integration of the continent.”
Hindering African Independence
Other African voices estimate in internal and intellectual discussions that Morocco and some of the French-speaking African countries, cannot continue to hinder the African political hegemony and independence by being the executers of French policies in Africa. In fact, everyone in the AU knows that if Africans have to succeed they must stop all those French and Occidental policies and agendas that few African countries keep defending within the AU, causing repeated abortions of the Pan African organisation’s progress towards real political, economic and security autonomy and integration.
Finally, it seems that Morocco is more and more aware of the importance of the role that the African Union can play in the resolution of the last decolonisation issue in Africa. Rabat and its European allies are trying to influence all African countries in which they have influence to adopt hostile positions against the Saharawi Republic, and for this we keep seeing the diplomatic battle Morocco and SADR are waging against each other especially in the last decade. The last of which were for example the freezing of recognition of SADR by Mauritius, and on the other side, the opening of an Embassy by SADR in Kenya in January and February 2014. But the most strange is that Rabat attacks any country that invites or declares support to the Saharawi Republic and ask African countries to “freeze” their recognition of SADR, while at the same time high Moroccan officials accept to participate in activities in which SADR is fully represented! – Pambazuka News
*Malainin Mohamed Lakhal is a member of the Saharawi Natural Resource Watch (SNRW), Saharawi refugee camps.