King Mohammed VI of Morocco visited Rwanda this week as part of his aggressive diplomatic push to be readmitted to the African Union (AU), 32 years after it withdrew from membership of the continental body.
The trip that was also to take him to Tanzania and Ethiopia. The move comes ahead of the next AU summit scheduled for January 2017 in Addis Ababa where the matter of Morocco’s admission is expected to be on the agenda.
The kingdom might however be forced to swallow its pride and accept to co-exist with the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), a semi-autonomous western Sahara region whose admission as a full member of the former OAU had pushed Morocco to withdraw from the organisation in 1984.
While some countries including Rwanda have expressed strong support for Morocco’s reintegration into the AU, they are not willing to trade this with a suspension of SADR from AU membership, a concession Morocco is understood to be making precedent to its return.
“Rwanda believes the wise thing to do for Morocco would be to return without conditions,” said Louise Mushikiwabo, Rwanda’s Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Morocco announced its wish to be readmitted to the AU last July at the 27th AU Summit in Kigali and the request was accompanied by a motion signed by 28 African States requesting the withdrawal of the SADR from AU.
Ms Mushikiwabo however said that the relatively young but fast growing relationship between Rwanda and Morocco should not be misconstrued to represent support for the kingdom’s desire to block the SADR’s claims to legitimacy on the African continent.
“Rwanda has friends, and continues to consolidate partnerships but doesn’t do so on anybody’s back; our foreign policy is such that those who have an issue with our friends are not necessarily our enemies,” she said.
The partially recognised SADR controls a strip of territory along Morocco’s Atlantic coast and claims sovereignty over the entire territory of western Sahara, but Morocco considers this region part of its territory.
Morocco and Rwanda signed 19 bilateral agreements covering the political, economic and financial sectors in a ceremony presided over by the 53 year old monarch and his host President Kagame.