10/25/16 Post-Weekend Roundup: Moroccan Diplomacy’s Eastward Expansion – Jordana Merran

Jordana Merran
October 25, 2016

Arrive in Tanzania 2 SMALL

King Mohammed VI’s arrival in Tanzania. Photo: MAP

The main event since our last roundup has been King Mohammed VI’s three-country tour of East Africa:

  • First Up: Rwanda. The tour began in Kigali, where King Mohammed VI met with Rwandan President Paul Kagame and chaired the signing of some 20 bilateral agreements . As reported by Reuters, one of them was an agreement by Attijariwafa Bank, one of Morocco’s biggest banks, to buy Rwandan bank Compagnie Générale de Banque Limited (Cogebanque), a deal worth around $41 million. Also reported by Reuters, “Morocco’s Office Cherifien de Phosphate (OCP), the world’s leading phosphate exporter, will build a blending unit in Rwanda to produce fertilizers adapted to local soils.” King Mohammed VI also paid his respects to the victims of the Rwanda genocide at Kigali Genocide Memorial.
  • Now in Tanzania. On Sunday, King Mohammed VI arrived for a three-day visit. In Dar es Salam, he and Tanzanian President John Pombe Magufuli chaired the signing ceremony of 22 bilateral agreements on a range of issues, including infrastructure development and energy policy. The King also launched the building of the King Mohammed VI Mosque in response to a request by Mufti Sheikh Abu-Bakr Ibn Zubayr Benali, President of the National Muslim Council of Tanzania, and he offered 10,000 copies of the Koran to the Council. (The King has long prioritized religious diplomacy in an effort to spread Morocco’s tolerant and moderate form of Islam.)
  • Next Up: Ethiopia. The tour’s third and final destination will be Ethiopia, home of African Union (AU) headquarters. This past July, King Mohammed VI announced his intention for Morocco to rejoin the AU; and at the UN General Assembly meeting last month, the Moroccan delegation officially submitted the request.
  • Coalition-Building Continues. Meanwhile, as the King leads Morocco’s eastward diplomacy, newly reappointed Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane of the Justice and Development Party (PJD) continues meeting and negotiating with leaders of other parties to form a coalition government. Right now, they are joined by the Istiqlal and PPS parties (which hold 46 and 12 seats, respectively) but still need 15 more seats for a simple majority. If it seems that two weeks past the election is too long, think again. It took more than a month for a majority government to emerge after the November 2011 legislative elections. Stay tuned for updates.
  • Casa-branding. The city of Casablanca has officially launched its own branding campaign (much like those of other major cities — think “I Heart NY” and “I AMsterdam”), “WeCasablanca.” Moroccans’ reactions have been mixed on the logo; but the question is, what will outsiders think?  See their promotional video for yourself. (Don’t forget, Royal Air Maroc now offers direct flights from DC to Casablanca.)

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