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Morocco loses out in Africa

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Saharawi President Mohamed Abdelaziz

Representing the north of Africa in Durban

Saharawi President Mohamed Abdelaziz

afrol News, 11 July - Morocco missed out on the establishment of the African Union (AU) in Durban this week while its archrival, the Sahrawi Republic, was given the prestige of representing North Africa. Morocco's occupation of Western Sahara is now also at the price of Pan African development initiatives, such as Nepad.

The president of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), Mohamed Abdelaziz, experienced one of his greatest diplomatic victories at the AU's constituting assembly in Durban (South Africa). In the public ceremony for the actual launching of the AU, five presidents representing the big regions of Africa intervened on behalf of their region. Abdelaziz intervened for North Africa and was later named one of the five Vice-Presidents of the new organisation.

The diplomatic setback hurt feelings in Morocco. The Moroccan state-controlled news agency Maghreb Arabe Presse (MAP) tried to play down the appearance of the President of "the puppet self-proclaimed Sahrawi republic," claiming it had alienated African representatives. MAP claims Tunisia and Egypt "withdrew from African Union Inaugural Session as 'RASD President' took the floor and "other delegations decry his address as ridiculous." The agency names negative responses from Burkina Faso, Senegal and Cameroon. 

An unnamed Cameroonian diplomat had told MAP that Abdelaziz' address was "an unfriendly act towards Morocco," that "Without Morocco, the African Union is lame." The Sahrawi President therefore seemed right when he told the Spanish news agency EFE that the creation of the AU "reinforces the Sahrawi cause." 

Morocco has invested much in improved diplomatic relations and bilateral trade with sub-Saharan African countries. Moroccan investments and access to Moroccan markets is however made dependent on support of Morocco's occupation of Western Sahara. Countries like Senegal and Burkina Faso have preferred Moroccan trade to Sahrawi independence.

Africa at large however demonstrated its continued will to fight for Western Sahara's decolonisation by honouring President Abdelaziz. The SADR was already recognised as a member country of the Organisation of African Unity (OUA) in 1984, a move that caused Morocco to leave the organisation. The loss of Morocco is not undisputed, as Morocco is seen as a potentially important trade partner and step-stone to European markets. 

This was also more than indicated by Senegalese President and Morocco-friend Abdoulaye Wade in his latest statement regarding the New Partnership for African Development (Nepad). Wade proposed linking Dakar and Morocco with a new highway and linking Morocco with Spain in an underwater tunnel. 

Apart from the large financing problems attached to the projects, the question over Western Sahara's independence is complicating the matter. Much of the highway would go through Moroccan-occupied Sahara. Further, Nepad is to become the AU's instrument of African development, but Morocco still refuses to join the AU over the Sahrawi issue.

Sources: Based on AU, Moroccan and Saharawi govts and afrol archives

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