Rabat – Several African Union officials have hailed the strategic importance of Morocco’s election to the organization’s Peace and Security Council as an additional asset that will serve the African continent as well as the position of Morocco on the Western Sahara conflict. The UK-based analyst firm, BMI Research, said in its latest report that Morocco’s election is likely to “alarm” the Polisario Front and its position in the conflict.
The report, Political Risk Analysis – Limited Progress On Western Sahara Resolution, explained how Morocco’s return to the AU and its election might help reinforce Morocco’s position in the pan-African bloc.
BMI Research believes that Morocco’s presence in the AU’s Peace and Security Council and “a general shift in approach by both AU and the United Nations … is likely to alarm the Polisario Front, leading to a hardening in the latter’s position,” especially on the conflict over Western Sahara.
Morocco’s election to the Council did not please the Polisario Front or its main supporter Algeria. According to BMI Research, the separatist militia conducted a series of maneuvers “in demilitarized zone established by the 1991 peace accords that brought the conflict between the two sides to an end,” referring to Guerguerat buffer zone where the Front has been carrying out illegal actions for the past few months.
Morocco’s Progress Made at AU is Notable
According to the analyst firm, Morocco is making a notable development thanks to its bilateral ties with other African countries, a situation that is likely to “harden the position of the Polisario Front, the political entity seeking an independent Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) in the disputed Western Sahara region.”
Morocco’s election back into the AU “signals growing support for the kingdom among its African peers,” noted the report, recalling AU members who backed Morocco’s ascension to the 16-member council.
The AU Peace and Security Council function in similar manners to the UN Security Council. The council is in charge of the prevention, management and resolution of conflicts.
“The two-year membership will give the country significant leverage over the organization and may help Rabat influencing more AU members to back a motion, signed by 28 AU members on July 18 2016, calling for the SADR’s suspension from the AU,” the report said.
In July 2016, 28 AU member countries sent a motion to Chadian president and former AU Chairperson Idriss Deby Itno, calling for the immediate suspension of the SADR from the AU. The motion was announced immediately after King Mohammed VI officially announced Morocco’s intention to return to the AU during the 28th AU Summit in Rwanda in 2016.
BMI Research says that this motion needs only eight more signatories to be approved. Morocco’s strategy to improve relations with its African peers would help fulfill this goal.
AU’s New Vision for Conflict Prevention is Beneficial for Morocco’s Position
The report also discussed AU’s new vision on the conflict, emphasizing that the new chairman, Moussa Faki Mahamat, “used his first annual AU summit in January 2018 to state that the two sides must resume direct negotiations without prior conditions.”
According to BMI Research, Mahamat’s vision “marked a departure from his predecessor, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who openly supported SADR independence.” This change, according to the report, followed a similar action as the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, appointed a new Envoy for the Western Sahara Conflict, Horst Kohler, who is trying to renew negotiations between Morocco and the Polisario Front.
BMI Research said that Morocco is likely to gain more support from other African nations, including South Africa.
BMI Research noted that South Africa and Nigeria are two of the 20 countries that formally recognize the SADR as a sovereign state.
“Although not a certainty, [South African Deputy President Cyril] Ramaphosa’s ascension to the ANC presidency – he is now almost certain to become a national leader – leaves the door open for improved relations between Rabat and Pretoria and this may further bolster Morocco’s influence in the AU,” the report said.