Caitlin Dearing Scott
September 13, 2017
Morocco’s return to the African Union in January – after a 33 year hiatus – marked a crowning achievement in the country’s decades-long leadership on the continent. Long a priority of King Mohammed VI, Morocco’s African diplomacy has only ramped up since then — on issues ranging from security and counterterrorism to trade and soccer. Last month, Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita spoke with Jeune Afrique about this policy and what the Kingdom is setting out to achieve. Here are some highlights.
On the African Union
Minister Bourita noted that the “return to the AU is a turning point, but not an end it itself.” Rather, under the leadership of His Majesty King Mohammed, Morocco seeks both to “contribute to collective action for Africa” and to elevate Morocco’s voice on issues of importance, including the Sahara. On the collective action front, Morocco is heading up the issue of migration, and presented an “agenda for African migration” at the last summit in July in Addis Ababa. On the Sahara, Morocco has sought to correct the record on falsehoods about the conflict that had traction within the AU for far too long.
Morocco’s application to join the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) was approved in June, with 15 members of the Community agreeing that the accession of Morocco would be beneficial for all. Minister Bourita explained how the process has been moving forward since the political agreement was reached. Negotiations are now in the legal phase, with technical negotiations to follow. The next ECOWAS summit is scheduled for December, and Morocco’s membership will certainly be a key point of discussion.
On the Sahara
In line with its objective of correcting the record on the Sahara, Morocco has engaged in renewed diplomacy with countries historically supportive of the Polisario. Minister Bourita explained that King Mohammed VI’s approach focuses on dialogue, noting that “Morocco is willing to work with all countries that do not show hostility, even if they have inherited positions of a bygone era on the Moroccan Sahara…It is not by turning our back on a country that we can explain our cause. Serenity and pragmatism are the key words of the African policy of His Majesty the King.” Recent diplomatic visits with Angola, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Ghana, Nigeria, and South Sudan have all underscored this strategy – and yielded positive results. As Minister Bourita noted, “All these countries have nevertheless supported Morocco’s return to the AU and are now adopting constructive positions on the issue of the Moroccan Sahara.”