King Mohammed VI of Morocco wrote a lengthy letter to the 27th Africa Union (AU) Summit in Rwanda in July 2016, indicating their intention to return to the AU. Morocco had initially walked away from the AU, which at the time was called the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), in 1984 as part of a protest against the AU’s recognition of Western Sahara as the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic.
Even when Morocco had walked away it continued to have a special status within the AU and enjoyed services available to AU members, such as the African Development Bank. This is a country which was rejected by the European Union, a country which once refused to host the African Cup of Nations due to the fears of Ebola-shunning fellow Africans. They have never seen themselves as part of the glorious African continent.
Nothing has changed to date. What then informs Morocco’s stunts and the voting patterns which transpired at the recent 28th AU summit in Ethiopia?
This time around the summit had five candidates with countries like Botswana, Kenya, Chad, Equatorial Guinea and Senegal having an interest in leading the commission. South Africa’s Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma had not availed herself once she had served a four-year term. She is the first woman to lead the 50-year-old continental organisation. Chad’s Foreign Minister Moussa Faki Mahamat was elected the new chair of the commission.
Disappointing is how a majority of African leaders have agreed with the return of Morocco to shunning the oppressed. In majority these are leaders who continue to oppress their own people in their respective countries. It is not shocking that Chad, Sudan, Tunisia and Equatorial Guinea see nothing wrong with the return of Morocco. They too have a longstanding history of abusing their people. As a people we note that countries like Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Algeria, Botswana, Namibia and South Africa were and are still opposed to this move by the AU. For they know how it feels to be oppressed in your own country.
The return is an insult to the people of Western Sahara and Africans in general. It is saddening because as a people, with our history of bloodshed, human slavery, and abuse of human rights, a country like Morocco can do as it pleases and African leaders affirm their actions. Their return is that affirmation. Their return compromises our leaders.
It is understood that Morocco has no plans to back down on their oppression against the people of the Western Sahara. Their return to the union is a plot to disadvantage and eventually push for the removal of Western Sahara out of the AU.
Before the election they were nowhere because in the Arab bloc they are suffocated, the EU rejected them and their only hope was the AU. African leaders are being used and have poor memories. They seek to silence the voice of the Sahrawi people. The move is going to set the continent back; the Sahrawi people must be liberated.
African leaders are faced with a huge problem: how will they manage the crisis of human rights abuse in the northern country and their illegal occupation? What these leaders have done is to undo the continuous positive efforts by member states in assisting the people of Western Sahara. They have played into a wrong gallery which says “African leaders care less about the well-being of their people”. They have affirmed a formalised apartheid.
As the new term for the recently elected Moussa Faki Mahamat starts, he enters office with a huge task at hand amid the already existing turmoil on the continent. His election will test his commitment to a better continent. DM
Rhulani Thembi Siweya is the founder of Africa Unmasked and an NEC member of the ANC Youth League. She writes in her personal capacity.