Return to AU: King of Morocco on a charm offensive to Rwanda, Tanzania and Ethiopia
By Friday Nwosu
The Moroccan Government is leaving no stone unturned in ensuring that the North African country returns to the Africa Union.
The country pulled out of the African Union thirty two (32) years ago after the union recognized the independence of Western Sahara which she described as its country’s southern province.
The Moroccan Royal Palace had announced on Tuesday that King Mohammed VI headed to Rwanda, as part of his three-stage tour to East Africa.
According to moroccoworldnews.com, a high powered delegation from the Moroccan business community is accompanying the Moroccan monarch during this trip.
The tour will encompass Rwanda, Tanzania and Ethiopia. All three countries recognize the Polisario-backed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), contrary to the kingdom’s wishes.
The corporate elites that will travel with the monarch are set to propose strengthening ties with the growing and modernizing Moroccan economy, in hopes to suspend the trio’s recognition of the Western Sahara separatist group’s puppet government.
The General Confederation of Moroccan Companies has assembled the group of prominent businessmen to accompany King Mohammed VI on the tour, which starts in Rwanda.
The CEO’s of BMCE Bank, Attijariwafa Bank, the People’s Bank (Bank Populaire), and Credit Agricole Morocco, the head of Casablanca Finance City Authority, and the Moroccan tourism and insurance sectors will be part of the delegation accompanying the king.
Moroccan businesses have yet to penetrate Rwandan markets, even though the sub-Saharan country has seen an average economic growth rate of eight percent over the past 15 years.
A closed meeting held between Rwandan President Paul Kagame and several members of Morocco’s private sector – including Cooper Pharma, Attijariwafa Bank and Parlmeraie Development – paved the way for the improvement of economic cooperation between the two countries.
“The investment projects discussed today include a pharmaceutical factory, hotel, real estate projects and a major acquisition in the banking sector,” according to Serge Kamuhinda, the director of operations for Rwanda’s specialized development committee, who made the comments after the June meeting.
King Mohammed VI also held talks at the Royal Palace in Casablanca with the President of the Republic of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, who was on an official visit to Morocco in June.
The tour of the three countries by Morocco is obviously geared towards strengthening economic relations with the East African countries.
Morocco is also hoping that with the establishment of economic relations with these countries, their stance on the Polisario-backed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic will be swayed to favour the Kingdom’s wishes.
The question is will the carrot dangled before these countries be enough for them to turn their back on Polisario-backed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic.
AU has said that it will continue pushing for the rights of the people of Western Sahara to hold a self-determination referendum.
According to huffingtonpost.com, the country last month officially submitted its request for reinstatement in the African Union.
The country was one of the founders of the Organization of African Unity, the predecessor of the present “Union.” It was in Casablanca that the OAU was first launched. As the group worked to conceptualize its mission and purpose, only Moroccan diplomats express reservations about the principle that the borders of African states inherited from colonialism should be inviolable. In doing so, they had the Sahara conflict in mind.
For more than three decades, Morocco has refused to be part of the organisation.
In March 2016, it threatened to pull its soldiers out of UN global peacekeeping missions because of the dispute.
Consequently the country had snubbed the Confederation of African Football (CAF) when the organization needed her the most. The North African country had refused to host the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations citing the possible spread of the Ebola Virus Disease in some part of West Africa.
CAF was swift to announce that it will go ahead with the tournament despite Morocco’s withdrawal and was quick to announce that Morocco will be penalized for withdrawing as hosts by being disqualified for the 2015 African Cup of Nations regardless of the new hosts.
The 2014 FIFA Club World Cup recently ended in Morocco with no communication concerning the spread of the Ebola virus to the host country, where locals, non-Africans and even Africans from the most affected West African region gathered across 10 days – from December 10 to 20 – to watch the club champions of the various continental confederations compete for the title.
More than 200,000 were in attendance, with an average of about 28,000 people per match. The crowds were certainly enough to trigger the fear of an Ebola outbreak in North Africa, yet not one single case was reported.
Those who supported Morocco for turning down hosting the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations might argue that Ebola did not appear in the Kingdom because teams from the countries where the disease is currently taking lives did not attend the competition.
However, would Morocco have also snubbed the Club World Cup if CAF’s club representatives were a Liberian team? ES Setif from Algeria represented the African continent while Moroccan champions Moghreb Tetouan participated as the host team.
Both clubs are from North Africa. The United Nations and the African Union had called on the lifting of travel bans imposed on visitors from Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, where the disease has caused more than 7,500 deaths in 2014. In a recent speech, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon commented, “The world cannot grind to a halt because of the Ebola outbreak, and the more we cower from the disease and stigmatise people or regions on pretext, the more we heighten the general fear of the virus and scare away even potential health workers.”
Consequently, a number of countries restored regular flight schedules to the above West African countries, with neighbours reopening their borders to allow commercial exchanges as usual.
Officials in Equatorial Guinea have stated that they would not have accepted the hosting responsibility for the tournament if they had no means to fight against the spread of Ebola.
But Morocco possesses better health facilities and more specialist doctors than the tiny central African nation. So what was really the reason behind their refusal? Many people continue to ask that question.
Was it an opportunity to get back at the union for the association’s unflinching support for Western Sahara?
Morocco is also strengthening ties with other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa in a bid to break existing trade barriers with the Kingdom.
According to this Thisadylive.com, Co-president of Morocco Africa Business Club, Kwame Senou said that businessmen and women from sub-Saharan Africa which includes Nigeria are expected to break trade barriers under the club platform.
Senou said during the Throne Speech of 2014, His Majesty Mohammed VI, King of Morocco clearly expressed his willingness to strengthen the relationship between his country and the rest of Africa.
As the Kingdom renews effort to deepen its trade relations with other African countries, let’s see if this charm been deploy by the country will sway the African Unions in its favour and probably make other countries that have pitched their tents with Polisario-backed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic change their position on the people.