afrol News, 24 May - The state visit by Moroccan King Mohammed VI in Senegal was set to intensify the good relationship between the two countries, created by Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade's withdrawal of recognition of the POLISARIO's claims to Western Sahara.
In a statement by the two head of states, the intention to "increase in a significant manner" the economic collaboration between Morocco and Senegal was underlined, noting that the cooperation at present was at a very low level. The statement was made by President Abdoulaye Wade and King Mohammed VI during the latter's two-days-visit to the Senegalese capital Dakar on 22 May.
Morocco's recent interest for cooperation with sub-Saharan countries stems from a new diplomatic initiative from Rabat, aiming at breaking the country's isolation on the African continent over the Western Sahara issue. The POLISARIO is recognised by the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) as the legitimate government of Western Sahara, a territory occupied by Morocco. Morocco therefore boycotts the OAU, but is presently searching for new African allies to break its deadlock on the issue.
The new strategy by King Mohammed VI, which took power in Morocco in 1999, seeks to persuade African nations, that recognised the POLISARIO as a state, reconsider their position, through luring them with economic and political aid. Several African nations, such as Sudan and Senegal, already back Morocco's claims over the Western Sahara and call for its return to OAU and the expulsion of the POLISARIO.
Senegal's President Abdoulaye Wade said recently in an interview with a Moroccan TV channel, "Africa should shelve the POLISARIO file and it should be clear that I back Morocco in this issue."
During the state visit of King Mohammed VI in Senegal, Abdoulaye Wade declared that his country wanted to intensify the bilateral economic cooperation in sectors such as banking, transportation, education, agriculture, infrastructure and telecom.
Senegal at present does not figure on the list of Morocco's 30 most important trade partners, a fact Wade and Mohammed VI wanted to change. In fact, trade relations even had suffered during the last years. Between 1998 and 1999, Senegalese exports to Morocco had lowered from an already modest 2,700 million Franc CFA to only 304 million CFA. Imports from Morocco had however increased from 7,200 Franc CFA to 8,000 million CFA in the same year.
During the meeting with the Senegalese President, the Moroccan King also praised Senegal for the recent successes in the regional integration process of Western Africa. The King said Morocco was preparing to sign a trade and investment treaty with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
Senegal's new policy towards Morocco and Western Sahara are seen as highly controversial in the region and within the OAU. Senegalese members of the opposition have referred to Wade's total change of policy as "financial prostitution" while the POLISARIO has refrained from comments.
King Mohammed VI's new diplomatic and financial initiative towards African nations however represents the first diplomatic successes Morocco has achieved on the Western Sahara issue since the major setback the country suffered when the POLISARIO was recognised by the OAU in 1982.