Despite its visibly growing influence in African politics, Morocco is still battling to lead the dance on some continental agendas.
Rabat – The Peace and Security Council (PSC), the African Union’s foremost organ tasked with championing stability and peace across the continent, met in Skhirat, a coastal town between Rabat and Casablanca, on June 25-26.
As part of the 12th PSC retreat of its kind, the 15 member states of the AU organ discussed the need for security reforms in line with the AU’s professed goals of pushing for an integrated continental security umbrella to deal with a variety of emerging challenges for the African continent.
Mohcine Jazouli, Morocco’s Delegate Minister for African Cooperation took the opportunity of the PSC conclave in Morocco to recall the body’s institutional commitment to the spirit of the UN Security Council’s agenda on peace and stability in some of Africa’s crisis zones.
Commitment to principles
Hinting at the ideology-based divergences that have often characterized—and limited—the PSC’s actions in resolving crises on the continent, Jazouli said that the body should move away from fueling internal disagreements. Instead, he pointed out, the body should invest more in the search for “practical impact.”
Morocco, Jazouli noted, “is resolutely convinced” that making the PSC effective and successful requires an unwavering allegiance to “fundamental parameters without which all talks of reforms will simply be glimmers of hope with no real impact.”
According to the Moroccan minister, key to the body’s success is a sense of commitment to the AU’s agenda and principles. Such a commitment, he explained, passes necessarily through the adoption of an action plan that is the reflection of the global aspirations of AU member states.
This, Jazouli maintained, can only be achieved if PSC member states work in a participative, coherent, and integrated fashion with the rest of the AU.
As far as Morocco is concerned, working in a concerted manner will prevent situations of deadlock and internal divergences that the continent has witnessed in some crisis situations. Being clear about the prerogatives of the PSC and its subservience to the AU Commission will help to “avoid contusion and unnecessary ambiguity.”
In his closing statements, Jazouli was emphatic about the prominence of the UN’s agenda over the AU when it comes to some hot button security topics on the continent. The allusion was clearly meant as a reference to the Western Sahara question.
In an unprecedented move in July of last year, the AU agreed to commit to the UN-led negotiations on Western Sahara. In subsequent declarations and decisions, the AU Commission said it would pledge total allegiance to the UN Security Council’s agenda on Western Sahara.
This came despite the insistence in some AU quarters—mainly spearheaded by Algeria and South Africa—to let the AU set its own agenda on African matters.
No end in sight to internal divergences
In spite of recent developments in the AU-UN joint front on Western Sahara, South Africa has continued to push for an agenda other than the one championed by the UN.
In March, Pretoria laid bare its blunt dismissal of what it sees as an imposition of a foreign agenda on an African crisis. Defiantly oblivious to AU’s warnings against “pushing for a parallel agenda” in the Western Sahara dispute, Pretoria organized a “Western Sahara solidarity conference” on March 25-26.
The conference, which was co-hosted by Namibia, also a champion of the “Sahrawi cause,” was set to reiterate the two countries’ “commitment to the struggle of the Sahrawi people.”
“We want to emphasize that the solution to the question of Western Sahara should be based on the principle of self-determination and decolonization,” South Africa’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Lindiwe Sisulu, said at the time. Most recently, South Africa’s UN representative took a jibe at the latest UN resolution on Western Sahara by decrying the document’s insistence on notions of compromise and feasibility.
In Pretoria’s reckoning, any resolution route that leaves out “decolonization” and “self-determination” is un-African and a further proof of third parties’ projection of their will and agenda on the continent. For Morocco, South Africa acting in a somewhat self-entitled way, is letting its militant fervor cloud its senses of historical facts, political feasibility, and continental commitments.
With both countries boasting substantial support for their positions—although Morocco seems to have a slight upper hand since its return to the AU in January 2017—it is difficult to say which party is really prevailing at the moment.
But whatever the final play might be, that Jazouli felt compelled to remind participants at the recent PSC meeting of the spirit of the latest AU commitments to ensure an “effective, integrated, and coherent” continental take on the continent’s hottest crises was telling in its own right.
It was the quintessential signal that despite the overwhelming consensus within the AU to “respect and accompany” the UN-led agenda, Western Sahara is set to remain a thorny question for the continent. And perhaps that was Jazouli’s point when he mentioned the “search for real impact” on the ground: It will take more than written commitments to broker the Western Sahara diplomatic stalemate.