Facts are being overshadowed by a torrent of Spanish and English misinformation while the CCME appears to offer inadequate solutions.
New York City – Morocco needs strong, fact-based Western Sahara advocacy amid a torrent of misinformation in English and Spanish. Morocco’s Council of the Moroccan Community Abroad (CCME) has launched initiatives that appear to be too little, too late. While many young Moroccans are eager to engage their African, European, and American friends online, a lack of commitment has led to a situation where foreign misinformation dominates the conversation.
In an internal convention on Tuesday, the CCME made the remarkable statement that more research is necessary to effectively tell the history and current facts regarding the Western Sahara issue.
“It will be necessary to acquire the scientific and historical knowledge to reject the disinformation and misinformation about Morocco’s sovereignty since 45 years, especially in European countries,” the CCME’s Secretary General Abdellah Boussouf said in the council’s statement following the convention.
While it is certain that more research and facts can only further strengthen Morocco’s claim to the region, another statement by Boussouf highlighted the CCME’s persistent issue. Boussouf stated that more research is necessary as the Western Sahara issue has “become unavoidable since the recent events at the El Guerguerat border crossing.”
The question remains that if the issue is “unavoidable” now, why was it being avoided in the first place?
A simple story
Telling the proper story of Western Sahara requires a simple toolkit of facts, which Morocco’s representative at the UN in New York, Omar Hilale, brilliantly demonstrated in a recent interview with CNN. But Morocco cannot solely depend on its most senior diplomats to tell its story in the midst of an onslaught of online disinformation campaigns.
Omar Hilale exemplified how easy it can be to talk about Western Sahara. Using available evidence, it is simple to show which parties are working with the UN. A plethora of facts and figures are available to show Algeria’s overt military and media support for a group that has lost any semblance of its publicized nature.
It is similarly understandable how many geopolitical players who see Morocco as a rival therefore would benefit from stoking unrest and discontent on its borders.
Logic alone can explain that after decades Algeria feeding, arming, and hosting the separatist Polisario Front, the very idea of an “independent” Polisario-led country defies any semblance of the quid-pro-quo with which such support comes.
Simple facts and logic are enough to enable a civil discussion with friends abroad and explain Morocco’s perspective and motivations.
Yet for the CCME, the issue appears to need an academic solution. The organization is now starting to fund a select group of universities to organize training sessions for Moroccans abroad. Furthermore the group hopes to gather “scientific and historical knowledge” by funding university research programs.
The CCME appears to nearly imply that without its research there is not, at present, a solid case to be made for Morocco’s Western Sahara advocacy.
The fact that the CCME and its aligned universities profit from this program make these initiatives feel more like a search for desperately-needed funding than a concerted effort to supply a generation of enthusiastic Moroccans with the basic knowledge they need to explain the conflict.
Much remains unclear about the funds CCME intends to pump into a select group of Moroccan universities. No public statements have elaborated why CCME expects this initiative to help, who it will help, how much their budget is, or why the organizers chose some universities over others.
Yet most of all, the end-game remains vague: How will Morocco benefit from these academic ambitions, what do they endeavor to find, and how will it assist those who are eager to make Morocco’s case in the face of a deluge of fake news and misinformation?
For an organization that aims to fill gaps in knowledge, CCME appears to leave plenty of gaps itself when presenting its plans.
Old fashioned approach
Academic research can take years. For the result of the CCME’s research to have an effect, it could take up to half a decade before its findings can help assist the dialogue. And as Omar Hilale has shown, there is plenty of useful information available currently.
How the CCME’s old-fashioned approach aims to counter a constant barrage of online media in English and Spanish remains unclear. What enthusiastic young Moroccans need is simple factsheets and short audiovisual material that tells the history of Morocco in an appealing and accessible way.
We no longer live in a world where the content of leather-bound books dictates the final truth. Instead we need to arm enthusiastic young people, skilled at social media, to be able to calmly and effectively make Morocco’s case and counter the disinformation that fuels the barrage of foreign reporting and social media campaigns.
The truth is readily available. Puzzling it together is an altogether more arduous task. At Morocco World News we have attempted to present a clear overview of the conflict, but the country cannot have to depend on independent self-funded news sources to tell the national story.
The CCME would do well to explain their plans, and perhaps amend them to ensure Morocco can swiftly and effectively help its young voices tell its important story. The country needs enthusiastic yet disciplined voices who can explain the Western Sahara issue to their friends at home and abroad.
It is unfortunate that these efforts have to take place while misinformation continues to batter the truth on a daily basis. With these false narratives dominating Spanish and English language sources, the country needs to rapidly give its young people the voice they need.