Since its return to the African Union in January 2017, Morocco has become an important player in continental affairs. But Morocco’s increasingly bold Africa-focused diplomacy has yet to win many African hearts and minds.
Rabat – Many have questioned the sincerity of Morocco’s Africa agenda, arguing that Rabat is only trying to respond to the urge to reclaim Western Sahara by advancing Morocco’s own continental agenda.
But to those still raising eyebrows and doubting Morocco’s African u-turn, King Mohammed VI has given an answer: Morocco feels genuinely proud of being historically African.
The King, who was speaking to commemorate the 43rd anniversary of the Green March, a 1975 peaceful rally against Spain’s presence in Western Sahara, reaffirmed his attachment to Morocco’s African roots.
Contrary to widely circulated ideas, the King elaborated, the Western Sahara question was not the primary reason for Morocco’s return to the African Union.
“I decided that Morocco’s return to the African Union had also to be based on clarity and ambitious goals…. Morocco’s return to its institutional family was not intended as a means to defend the question of the Moroccan Sahara, given that the position of most African nations is similar to ours.”
Dominant discourses have always cast doubt on Morocco’s—and North Africa’s—“Africanness.” The region is generally associated with the Arab world, thereby undermining its connection—geographical, historical, or cultural—to the rest of Africa.
Morocco ready to share responsibility
According to King Mohammed VI, Rabat’s return to the AU after decades of absence and ideological divergence is a token of Morocco’s readiness to contribute to the emerging narrative of African responsibility. Morocco wants to contribute as the continent feels overwhelming pressure to come to terms with its numerous socio-economic issues.
In the King’s eyes, it felt natural to return and share responsibility on growing continental dynamics.
“Our return to the African Union was dictated by the pride we take in belonging to Africa, as well as by our commitment to share in the development dynamic it is witnessing and to contribute to tackling the various challenges facing the Continent, without compromising our legitimate rights and best interests.”
Even as reclaiming Western Sahara remains of paramount importance to Moroccans, “the aim is to make sure the Moroccan Sahara can once again play its historical role as an effective link between Morocco and its sub-Saharan African roots, be it from the geographical or historical perspective,” the King said.