Rabat – French president Emmanuel Macron will set foot on Moroccan soil Wednesday for a two-day visit. He has chosen the Kingdom for his first trip to North Africa, a decision seen as significant by his local supporters in Morocco.
“We believe this decision is very encouraging because it proves that the relationships of friendship and cooperation between Morocco and France will continue under President Macron,” Said Benhamida, of En Marche Maroc, told Morocco World News. “This is a strong message that he is sending for us all here, French citizens and holders of dual citizenship living in Morocco.”
During his campaign, Macron had plans to visit the Kingdom in February and March but had to cancel the trip because of tight schedule during the presidential race.
As plans to visit Morocco did not materialize, Macron promised the Kingdom would be among the first countries he would visit once elected as president. He has kept his promise, and Morocco is the second country he is visiting, after Mali.
Press reports stated that the French president is keen to know King Mohammed VI in person. As history has proven, the monarch’s personal ties with consecutive French presidents have been a key element in the relationships between the two countries.
The King and Macron previously had a phone call but they never had the chance to meet. The two heads of states are set to discuss several issues of common interest, including partnerships with African countries. Both the King and Macron have strategies of African cooperation which paves the way for a joint-action in the continent.
“Morocco is an indispensable country in the region. It is France’s ally of first choice both in Africa and the Arab world,” said Benhamida.
A Breath of Fresh Air
Macron, the founder of the “En Marche!” movement, campaigned on promises of renewing French politics, which appealed to many young voters and activists dreaming “of doing politics differently.”
His appeal spread to Morocco and other countries in North and West Africa. Enthusiasts for his project were actively mobilized to garner support for his candidacy. A local branch of “En Marche!” was founded in August in Casablanca 2016, with networks in the country’s major cities such as Rabat, Marrakech, and Tangier.
In addition to its mission as a local affiliate of movement-turned-political party, En Marche Maroc set itself a mission to build bridges between Morocco and France. Macron’s visit came as encouragement to continue their job.
“It [is a] breath of fresh air for us all who have endorsed Macron and were active in rallying French citizens around his candidacy,” said Benhamida.
Now that Macron is president of the French republic and his party “la République En Marche” is set to win a huge majority in the second round of France’s general elections next Sunday, a shift in the mission of En Marche Maroc is coming.
The local branch says two main focuses will define its mission in the next five years during Macron’s mandate. The first is to provide field data to En Marche France regarding the problems facing French people living abroad. The second is to create a think tank where political and civil society organizations and business actors from both Morocco and France can get together to exchange and discuss issues of common interest.
Benhamida says the experience of “En Marche!”, where the movement has managed in a period of ten months to rejuvenate French politics, can be a source of inspiration for active citizenship in Morocco.
“The challenge nowadays is that citizens become active members in political life,” he said, adding that “cleavages between hard-core politicians and civil society, which seems alienated from its political entourage,” need to stop.
While the organization is still in the early stages of its new mission, Benhamida says they have plenty of time to exchange with civil society organizations “in order to sustain political renewal and try to create a long-term impact and see how we can to inspire people like me for instance, who come from the business sector, to get involved as active citizens.”