Rabat – Habib El Malki, the speaker of the Moroccan House of Representatives, represented Morocco’s King Mohammed VI at the Democracy Day event in Nigeria on June 12.
El Malki stressed the strong and brotherly ties between Nigeria and Morocco while speaking about Morocco’s improving standing on the democratic spectrum.
During an official state dinner after the festivities, El Malki thanked his host, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, on behalf of King Mohammed VI.
In his speech, the Moroccan house speaker hailed the recent rapprochement between the two African countries.
He said that Morocco, which has shifted its focus to its home continent, is in a better position than ever to shoulder its “historic responsibility” in any collective continental endeavor in increasing Africa’s standing on the global stage.
To an audience mainly comprised of other high-ranking dignitaries from across the continent, including presidents, heads of government, MPs, and representatives of civil society, El Malki reiterated Morocco’s commitment to the advancement of the pan-African ideals. He cited the ongoing gas pipeline project spearheaded by Nigeria and Morocco to supply much of West Africa with natural gas.
On the democratic front, El Malki underscored the slew of economic and political reforms which Rabat has initiated in recent years. He pointed out that since adopting a more liberal constitution in 2011, Morocco has furthered its democratic consolidation by improving its good governance and human rights indicators.
While recent studies have suggested that the project may be delayed due to the persistence of major political blockades, the prospect of a project of its standing has been largely interpreted as one of the strongest signals of Morocco’s full-throated return to its position as an important player in continental affairs.
For his part, President Buhari expressed satisfaction with his country’s democratic trajectory. He acknowledged that the country’s democracy is not pristine, but remarked that considerable progress has been made in recent years.
Nigeria’s Democracy Day, a national holiday held by the West African country since 2000 to mark its transition to democracy and civilian rule, was, until last year, celebrated on May 29, the day in 1999 when the country’s last military junta handed power to an elected civilian government.
This year, President Buhari decided the holiday will henceforward be held on June 12 to commemorate the death of Moshood Abiola.
Abiola ran for president in 1994 and won. However, the then ruling military junta barred him from taking office. He was later arrested and put in jail, where he died on June 12, 1998. He has since become an icon of Nigeria’ struggles for transitioning from military juntas to elected civilian governments.
Outside of the event’s ostensibly democracy-focussed agenda, El Malki’s presence in Nigeria came as Morocco makes no secret of its newfound—and in many regards genuine—love for its home continent.
In a conversation with an African Union diplomat in late April, El Malki said that commitment to Africa is part and parcel of Morocco’s identity in world affairs. He said Morocco takes pride in its African roots and is prepared to contribute to advancing pan-African interests and foster intra-African exchanges.