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A brief thought on the Africa-Arab Summit 2016

Morocco this week stormed out of the Africa-Arab Summit in Equatorial Guinea to protest the presence of Western Sahara, which it has forcefully and illegally occupied for over 40 years. This incident yet again demonstrates Morocco’s hidden agenda in seeking re-admission to the African Union: to use the continental body to deny the Saharawi people their universally recognized right to self-determination.

As usual the Moroccan Kingdom, participating in the Africa-Arab Summit held this week in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, tried to undermine the meeting by putting conditions on Africans, without which Morocco would withdraw from the Summit with its Arab supporters. Finally on 22 November 2016 Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Emirates, Yemen and Jordan withdrew from the meeting after they failed to impose their conditions on the African countries in attendance. But the quorum was met with the presence of the remaining Arab countries, so the joint Summit continued.

The Moroccan delegates were unhappy to see the name and flag of the Saharawi Republic (SADR), knowing that the authorities of the SADR had sovereignly decided not to take part in the meeting to avoid polemical debates, usually instigated by Moroccan delegates at such events.

Morocco complained about the presence of an empty chair and the name of the SADR in the meeting. It withdrew angrily, taking with it six Arab countries with the aim of pushing the whole meeting to failure.

Imagine what the Kingdom would do to all African Union meetings, programs, visions and principles if its application to rejoin the AU were accepted by the Heads of State and Governments in the coming future.

But all African countries were unanimous in refusing to submit to Morocco’s will. All African countries, without exception, refused to remove the paragraph Morocco was angry with in the draft final declaration, knowing that it simply refers to the African commitment to the Solemn Declaration adopted by African leaders during the 50th anniversary of the OAU/AU. All African delegates, who intervened, insisted on their commitment to the principles of the AU and refused to compromise as the seven Arab countries are accustomed to.

This Moroccan reaction to a paragraph in a declaration and the name of a Member State (SADR) can thus be read as a clear example of what Morocco is willing to do if it ever succeeds to get membership in the AU (Morocco applied for membership last September and the AU will have to decide about that in the near future). Africa will no more have space or time to discuss real issues and problems. It will rather be busy trying to accede to Moroccan desires and orders, and will have to work harder to appease Morocco’s constant wrath against any sort of opposition to its ideas and wishes. Because for the Kingdom a country is only a friend as long as it supports the Moroccan colonialist and expansionist dreams.

Once a decent government or person speaks in favor of the principles of solidarity, freedom, the right of the peoples to independence and self-determination, or in favor of the Saharawi people’s legitimate struggle, that government or person will be the worst enemy in the eyes of the Moroccan officials, and they will treat them as such.

So, it is time for Africa to uphold its principles and the goals set in the Constitutive Act of the African Union. Our African leaders, when they adopted the Act were “INSPIRED by the noble ideals which guided the founding fathers of our Continental Organization and generations of Pan-Africanists in their determination to promote unity, solidarity, cohesion and cooperation among the peoples of Africa and African States.” When they recalled “the heroic struggles waged by our peoples and our countries for political independence, human dignity and economic emancipation” they decided that the African Union would be established to achieve, the following objectives, among others:

“a) achieve greater unity and solidarity between the African countries and the peoples of Africa;

(b) defend the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of its Member States;

h) promote and protect human and peoples’ rights in accordance with the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and other relevant human rights instruments”.

All those objectives and many others stressed in the Act can only be built on robust and firm principles that consist the foundation of a unified and integrated Africa. Yet, Morocco, who wants to join the AU, is already violating some of the most important principles of the organization, such as:

“a) sovereign equality and interdependence among Member States of the Union.” Morocco believes it is a super-State that deserves special treatment in everything. It cannot sit with or be compared to the SADR or many other smaller African States. Since it left the OAU in 1984, Morocco worked hard to create many parallel African forum or institutions just to put the OAU/AU in trouble and hinder any sort of union or integration of Africa.

“(b) respect of borders existing on achievement of independence.” Morocco is the only African State that does not respect or recognize its own borders. In 1963 it tried to invade the western parts of the then freshly independent Algeria, and waged a war against that young state. From 1961 to 1969 it refused to recognize Mauritania because it considered it part of Morocco (and there are still some Moroccan politicians who periodically remind Mauritania that it is part of Morocco). In 1975 it invaded parts of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (geographically and politically known as Western Sahara) and refuses to respect more than 100 UN resolutions calling for the self-determination of the people of this last colony in Africa. If Africans disregard this principle during their treatment of the application of Morocco, they will be signing on the explosion of many border conflicts in Africa.

“e) peaceful resolution of conflicts among Member States of the Union”. Morocco has rejected all OAU/AU-UN peaceful proposals to decolonize Western Sahara. In all the recent speeches and statements of the Moroccan King, he openly declares that Western Sahara is a part of Morocco, and that his country will never accept a referendum on self-determination for the Saharawi people. That is in itself a clear and dangerous declaration of war against Saharawis and against all the principles of the AU.

“f) prohibition of the use of force or threat to use force among Member States of the Union.” Morocco used violent military force against the Saharawis to invade their territory in 1975, and is still using military force to maintain parts of the country and its people under control. All international and local human rights organizations condemn daily violations committed by the Moroccan colonial authorities against the Saharawi activists, peaceful demonstrators and civil population. These violations range from verbal assaults, to arbitrary arrests, disappearance, torture, illegal imprisonment, iniquitous trials against activists and political prisoners, to assassination and summary execution.

Briefly, in my humble opinion as a Saharawi citizen who has personally suffered oppression, imprisonment and torture by Moroccan authorities because of my political opinion and peaceful resistance and struggle in favor of the freedom and full independence of my partly-colonized country, I believe that the Moroccan regime’s goal for seeking membership of the African Union is no more than an attempt to control our organization to stop it from respecting its own principles. And in the case it fails to control it, then the alternative plan Morocco will seek is to destroy the AU from inside and fuel conflicts among its own members. That’s what Morocco wants; that’s what we as Africans must be aware of.

* Malainin Mohamed Lakhal is a freelance journalist and translator and a m of the Saharawi Natural Resource Watch (



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