By Joshua Kohen
By Joshua Kohen
Washington D.C. – A panel about unity does not connote words that represent division, rivalry, and conflict. However, Malek Djaoud, the Algerian Embassy Minister-Counselor, was recently invited to speak at a panel on African Unity at a university in Washington DC, and seized the opportunity to speak against the only unified and stable country in the North African region: the Kingdom of Morocco.
When I was first invited to this event, I expected to hear about Pan African identity and the importance of African nations working together for a better future. I did not expect to hear the Algerian representative’s opening statements to be inciting and hostile towards the Moroccan nation in a room full of young American students. I was astounded that the Algerian representative took advantage of an academic venue to express anti-Moroccan propaganda and speak as though Algeria was some sort of “exemplary” African nation.
In his opening statements, the counselor spoke eloquently about Algeria’s role in the history of the African continent. However, his sweet words about his own country’s history turned into bitter hostility when he began speaking about his Moroccan neighbors and chose to spread false information about the so-called Western Sahara conflict. While speaking about Morocco, he singled out Morocco’s conflict and called Morocco an “occupier that took land by force and aggression.” He even had the audacity to blatantly lie and tell the room full of students that the Sahara regions were never historically a part of Morocco.
Mr. Djaoud was invited to speak about African Unity, not about conflicts. He could have spoken about any conflict on the continent, but he focused on the conflict in Morocco because Algeria is on an offensive to undermine its Moroccan neighbors and its territorial integrity. Even though there are serious conflicts involving genocide and horrific violence in Sub-Saharan Africa and other North African States, Mr. Djaoud said that the “Western Sahara” was the most important issue on the continent. The Algerian regime seems fixated on focusing on the only stable and peaceful country in the region as is evident in their divisive rhetoric.
As an American of Moroccan origin, the words of the Algerian counselor deeply offended and enraged me. I was disgusted that he used this learning space to promote a false narrative about Morocco. Unfortunately, he was the only North African representative at this discussion so he used this monopoly to spread Algeria’s official propaganda since he assumed he would not be challenged.
During the question and comment part of the discussion, I needed to make my voice loud and clear. I asked Mr. Djaoud how Algeria could portray itself as a leader on the continent when it has so many internal problems including a rising nationalist movement in one of its Amazigh provinces known as Kabylia. How could Algeria, a country that has severely repressed its indigenous Berber people, present itself as a safeguard of all Africans when it cannot even safeguard its own people? Furthermore, I stressed the hypocrisy of the Algerian regime and its obsessive-compulsive hostile attitude towards the Moroccan Kingdom which in fact helped Algeria gain independence in 1962.
I asked how Algeria could focus on Morocco’s conflict with impartiality when Morocco’s conflict is sponsored by the Algerian state. I continued by asking why Algeria sponsors the conflict in Morocco when it knows that the Sahara region was under Moroccan historical sovereignty before European colonialism.
Of course Mr. Djaoud changed his tone and cowered down when he realized someone in the room was challenging him. The mention of Kabylia and the recent mass protests where Algerian flags were holstered down and Kabylia flags were raised certainly revealed the true hypocrisy of what this Algerian representative was saying. Lastly, I asked how Algeria can promote unity on the continent when it lacks unity within its own borders.
It is time for Morocco to wake up and stop being naive about its neighbors. The sad part is that Moroccan representatives would never use a venue about unity to bash their neighbors. On the contrary, I saw with my own eyes that Algeria will take advantage of any moment to try to damage Morocco’s relations with other countries by spreading misinformation to a room full of young minds and future decision makers. In regards to African unity, Morocco does not need Africa. Africa needs Morocco.
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