Morocco on a diplomatic charm offensive in East Africa

Saturday October 29 2016

The bid to diversify its investments, diplomatic outreach and the region’s fledging extractives and infrastructure projects has seen Morocco out on a diplomatic charm in East Africa, after a similar move in West Africa paid off with vast economic investments.

The countries recent economic agreements with Rwanda, Tanzania and Ethiopia ranging from economy, gas, railways, banking, manufacturing and minerals as it seeks a share of the regions budding extractives industries but hidden within is its diplomatic manoeuvers as it seeks to exploit the ongoing African Union leadership contest for its own historical gain.

Morocco King Mohammed VI was in Rwanda, Tanzania and Ethiopia as part of the country’s efforts to build diplomatic relation with the region and seek support for its readmission to the African Union (AU).

Morocco has been wooing African states in its bid to rejoin the African Union after it pulled out of the then the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in 1984 over the admission of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) as a full member of the body. Then Morocco protested that Sahrawi was part of its monarch.

READ: Morocco lobbies East Africa for re-entry into the African Union

Mid this year, Morocco sought for its readmission to the African union (AU) after its three decade hiatus over the Western Sahara controversy.


Interestingly, the Morocco’s leader’s itinerary didn’t include Kenya, yet early this year, Rabat had said that it considered Kenya a neutral negotiator that would push for its readmission into the AU.

Morocco special envoy Taieb Fassi Fihri said they considered Kenya as an honest and neutral broker who can partner with his country in achieving peace.

“All we want is our membership to be reinstated without pre-conditions. We want to be part and parcel of the African Union as we want to work for all people,” Mr Firhi said. Peter Fabricius, a consultant with the Institute of Security Studies say that Morocco push right now could be well timed because of M Dlamini Zuma’s exit, a figure Rabat has seen as an opponent in its move to have SADR membership at the AU suspended.

“The AU Constitutive Act does not have any provision for the expulsion of any Member State of the Union. The act itself can however be changed by two-thirds majority and this is Morocco’s game plan. It is the reason for this support seeking visit by Rabat,” Mr Fabricius said adding that with SADR out of the AU body, then its much sought referendum will be in doubt too, something Morocco has always wanted.

Morocco considers Western Sahara an important part of the kingdom while the Saharawi people want a referendum on independence. Outside of the AU agenda, the country is also keen on pushing its geopolitical supremacy battle with Algeria a notch higher as it tries to grow its economic influence outside of West Africa.

The two countries have been at loggerheads since Algeria decided to offer refuge to the Western Saharans’ national liberation movement. At the recent AU summit in Kigali, Algeria rejected any attempt to suspend SADR’s membership, a move that irked Rabat.

In Tanzania, Morocco signed an agreement to construct the Mtwara to Mbamba bay railway network that would link the coal and iron ore projects in Mchuchuma and Liganga.

The two countries also saw a code share agreement reached between Air Tanzania and Morocco’s Royal Air Maroc that will see direct flights between the two countries actualised.

Additional reporting by Beatrice Materu.