The visit by Morocco’s King Mohammed VI to African countries, which was said to be the first of its kind since coronation in 1999, followed a lengthy letter to the African Union (AU) summit in Rwanda in which King declared his country’s intention to become a member of the union after the long time break with the body. After that letter, the Moroccan monarch planned and started touring some countries in Africa. These countries include: Nigeria, Zambia, Madagascar, Rwanda, Tanzania and Ethiopia. He is expected to visit South Sudan.
The first country to be visited by the King of Morocco was Rwanda where he signed 19 agreements with the Rwandan Government in a bid to strengthen bilateral ties and create opportunities for citizens of both nations. As a result of those 19 agreements, millions of dollars were given to Rwanda. After Rwanda, the Moroccan King further visited Ethiopia. The Office Cherifien des Phosphates (OCP) from his Country and the Ethiopian Ministry of Public Enterprise agreed on a partnership to develop a fertilizer complex initially costing $2.4 billion in Ethiopia to serve Africa markets, which are underserved in this critical sector.
According to the OCP statement, “This game-changing partnership is based on a common vision between Morocco and Ethiopia for sustainable agricultural development across Africa and reinforces economic ties between the two countries.
After Ethiopia, King Mohammed VI of Morocco visited Tanzania and committed himself to fund the construction of a mosque in Dar es Salaam as part of a series of bilateral agreements between Morocco and Tanzania. In addition, he agreed to assist Tanzania in funding the construction of a sports stadium in the capital Dodoma, which is expected to cost between eighty million ($80) and one hundred ($100) million US Dollars. The Moroccan king and the Tanzanian president John Magufuli signed a total of twenty two (22) agreements in areas such as political and religious cooperation, aviation, tourism, agriculture, oil and gas.
King Mohammed VI also visited Madagascar, Nigeria and Zambia where he left a lot of dollars. He is now set to visit South Sudan. As he had already done in all other African countries he visited, he is going to spend a lot of money in South Sudan and foster a bilateral relationship with the government of South Sudan.
Why is the Moroccan King spending these millions of dollars in various African Countries? What does he want to achieve? Though this question appears to be simple and straight forward that the King of Morocco is buying rights of the people of Western Sahara, there is a need to briefly delve into the history of the relationship between Western Sahara and Morocco. Giving the background to the present series of visits by the King of Morocco is necessary to ensure that the citizens of South Sudan are aware of the fact that the King’s visit and giving of money is not just a gesture of goodwill but it has strings attached.
The money that will be left in South Sudan will force South Sudan to do the wishes of Morocco contrary to the interests of the South Sudanese. This is explained by the fact that the visit is intended by the Moroccan King to get support from various African Countries, including South Sudan, in order to destroy the right of self-determination by the people of Western Sahara.
The intention of the visit has its genesis in the following circumstances. First of all, Morocco colonized the people of Western Sahara since the time the Spanish Colonial Masters left the territory on November 14, 1975. Up to now, Morocco is still a colonial master of the people of Western Sahara. Morocco broke away from the African Union (the AU or the OAU by then) in 1984 due to the fact that the African Union recognized the Western Sahara as a Republic separate from Morocco. The King of Morocco wants to visit South Sudan so that South Sudan supports Morocco’s bid to rejoining the AU.
For the past thirty three years, Morocco has been the only country in Africa that is not a member of the AU. This made it hard to secure the support of the countries to annex the Western Sahara. After failing to get a support from majority of the African countries that will enable it to formally annex Western Sahara to become part of Morocco, it now wants to buy its way back to the African Union so that as soon as it is inside the AU, it will manoeuvre its way around through bribing different African countries with millions of dollars to support its bid to formally annex Western Sahara.
Once, majority of the African Countries making up the African Union accept through bribery and trickery to endorse Morocco as the right owner of the territory making up Western Sahara and to pass a resolution to that effect, the rest of the world will have no any alternative but to follow what African Union has done. Therefore, Morocco will have stamped its authority over Western Sahara and consequently, the rights of the Sahrawi people to self-determination will have been bought with dirty and blood money given through bribery.
In order for the readers of this article to understand how Morocco ended up colonizing the Western Sahara, it is imperative to give more details of the background of the relationship between Western Sahara and Morocco. In this regard, Western Sahara, the disputed territory, is located in the Maghreb region of North Africa, bordered by Morocco to the north, Algeria to the northeast, Mauritania to the east and south, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. Its surface area covers 266,000 square kilometers (103,000 sq mi).
In terms of the population, Western Sahara is one of the most sparsely populated territories in the world, mainly consisting of desert flatlands. The population is estimated at just over five hundred thousand (500,000) (see; Department of Economic and Social Affairs Population Division (2009). “World Population Prospects, Table A.1” (PDF). 2008 revision. United Nations), of which nearly 40% live in Laayoune, the largest city in Western Sahara.
The reason for its low population as seen above may be partly due to the fact that Western Sahara as already pointed out above is colonized and its people might have been absorbed in the general population of Morocco as they go into other Moroccan towns in search for basic services. The other reason may be due to the aridity of the land, which makes it unproductive hence forcing its inhabitants to go to areas far away from Western Sahara where they may carry out economic activities for their survival.
Having given the geographical location and the population of the Western Sahara, it is now time to explain the genesis of the colonization of the Western Sahara by Morocco. According to history, Western Sahara was occupied by Spain until the late 20th century and has been on the United Nations list of non-self-governing territories since 1963 after a Moroccan demand for the right over the territory. It is the most populous territory on that list, and by far the largest in area. In 1965, the UN General Assembly adopted its first resolution on Western Sahara, asking Spain to decolonize the territory. One year later, a new resolution was passed by the General Assembly requesting that a referendum be held by Spain on self-determination of the People of Western Sahara. Ten years later in 1975, Spain relinquished the administrative control of the territory to a joint administration by Morocco (which had formally claimed the territory since 1957) and Mauritania.
The consequence of putting the territory under the control of the two countries was a bad one. In 1979, a war erupted between the two countries and the Sahrawi national liberation movement, the Polisario Front, which proclaimed the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) with a government in exile in Tindouf, Algeria. After the conflict between Mauritania and Morocco over the territory, Mauritania withdrew and Morocco eventually secured de facto control over most of the territory (Western Sahara), including all the major cities and natural resources. However, the war conducted by the Polisario Front against Morocco continued.
After many years of conflict, a cease-fire was signed between Morocco and the Polisario Front under the supervision of the United Nations in 1991. From 1991 to date the UN still maintains a field mission which was mandated to organize a self-determination referendum which has not yet materialized up to now.
However as I have already pointed out above, it should be further noted that the reason for Morocco breaking away from the AU (which was by then OAU), was due to the fact the Polisario Front, the Separatist unilaterally declared Western Sahara as Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic which was admitted by the African Union (or the OAU by then). The move by the African Union to recognize the Western Sahara, which was a territory claimed by Morocco angered the Moroccan Government, which forced it to break away the AU same year.
It should be noted since that time King Hassan II, current King Mohammed’s father withdrew from the OAU in 1984 Morocco has never been a member. Hence, it was not until July, 2016, when Moroccan Foreign Minister Salaheddine Mezouar visited Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa. During that visit, Mezouar delivered a letter from King Mohammed to Ethiopian Prime Minister Haile Mariam Dessalines calling for improved “cooperation and bilateral relations between the two countries.”
At the same time, King Mohammed also announced in July 2016 in a message sent to an AU summit in the Rwandan capital, Kigali in which he stated that it was time for Morocco to retake its place in African Union.
The reasons for deciding to rejoin African Union were stated in that letter as the Al Jazeera reported it. Al Jazeera reported that, in his message, King Mohammed urged the AU to reconsider its stance on what he called the “phantom state,” saying that a political solution was being worked on under the supervision of the UN. The letter went on to state that Western Sahara is not a member of either the UN or the Arab League and added that “at least 34 countries do not recognize it. Then importantly, the King stressed in that letter that “on the Sahara issue, institutional Africa can no longer bear the burden of a historical error and a cumbersome legacy,” and then observed that through this historic act and return, Morocco wants to work within the AU to transcend divisions.” Thus according to the King as was pointed out in that letter, Morocco’s return to the AU would need to be validated by a vote.
The move of the Moroccan King in visiting various countries should not come as a surprise to anyone because it is a calculated move. As one of commentaries on the same issue observed, “the king of Morocco’s recent declaration that his country wants to return to the African Union after a 32-year absence appears to be a political manoeuvre to gain ground in the Western Sahara dispute” (see; Author Ayah Aman. Why Morocco really wants back in the African Union Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2016/07/morocco-join-african-union-western-sahara-dispute-egypt.html#ixzz4WRPAMBnP Posted July 27, 2016 Translator Cynthia Milan).
Having explained the rationale for Moroccan King Visits to and giving of millions of dollars to different African Countries as discussed above, it is my opinion that South Sudan should not receive any money from Morocco though it should only welcome the Moroccan King as party of comity between the two states. Receiving such blood money may amount to selling the right to self-determination of the people of Western Sahara and because of that South Sudan should decline to go into bilateral relationship with Morocco. “Blood money” should not be used by the King of Morocco to buy the right to eliminate the right to self-determination by the people of the Western Sahara through annexation.
The annexation of Western Sahara to Morocco will be contrary to the International human rights law, which provides for the right to self-determination that was accorded to South Sudanese that led to their independence. In the same way, the right of self-determination of the people of Western Sahara was confirmed in the Advisory Opinion and Order of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on 16 October 1975.
The question referred to the ICJ was to determine whether the territory, prior to the Spanish colonization, was res nullius, or without legal tie to a sovereign, or whether such ties existed, and if they existed, whether such titles vested in either Morocco or Mauritania, or both. After an examination of evidence of political, military, religious, and economic ties between the claimants and the inhabitants of the territory before Spain‘s arrival, the judges found that the information before the Court does not support Morocco‘s claim to have exercised territorial sovereignty over Western Sahara. The Court explained that while the evidence showed that the Sultan exercised some authority over some, but only some, of the nomadic tribes of the region, it does not establish any tie of territorial sovereignty between Western Sahara and that State. It does not show that Morocco displayed effective and exclusive State activity in the Western Sahara. The Court‘s response to Mauritania‘s claim was also the same.
Moreover, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) observes that there is a need for the decolonization of Western Sahara and, in particular, recognition of the principle of self-determination through the free and genuine expression of the will of the peoples of the Territory.
The above decision of the ICJ is in line with the UN Charter, 1945 and the various United Nations Resolutions that refer to the principle of self-determination as belongs to peoples.
Hence, looking at the above laws on the right of the peoples to self-determination and in relation to the recognition of the Western Sahara as an Independent State means that the right of the people of Western Sahara to self-determination must be respected by all countries including South Sudan. If South Sudan receives blood money from the King of Morocco, it will have a negative implication on its foreign policy and the right to self-determination of the people of Western Sahara. South Sudan would have compromised its position on the right to Self-determination enjoyed by all the colonized peoples.
The position of South Sudan to support the right to self-determination enjoyed by all the peoples was confirmed in the ill-intended decision in the case of Palestine on 29, November, 2012. In that case South Sudan supported the right of the people of Palestine to self-determination in Designation accorded in 1988 resolution 43/17 by the UN General Assembly in New York. I have used the phrased “ill-intended” in the above paragraph because it was planned by some government officials to victimize South Sudanese Ambassador to the UN His Excellency, Amb. Nazario as Beny Gideon Mabor wrote about in his article entitled: South Sudan’s vote on Palestine UN Status: How Amb. Nazario is victimized.
As Sudantribune reported about the position of South Sudan on December 3, 2012 (WASHINGTON) “the Republic of South Sudan strongly defended its position on the status of Palestine in the United Nations, saying its vote in favour of the resolution was to support the right of self-determination of the Palestinians.”
Thus, South Sudan should not support Morocco in this case to enable Morocco to mutilate the right to self-determination by the people of Western Sahara. Besides, it is a sure deal that Morocco will never vote in favour of the people of Abyei to confirm their right to self-determination once it has been readmitted to African Union as that action will contradict its position on Western Sahara.
Since the international diplomacy is founded on reciprocity and comity, then South Sudan has a right to reject both the money from Morocco and its readmission to African Union unless Moroccan has recognized the Western Sahara as separate territory from Morocco. In doing that South Sudan would have saved its independence in decision making in regard to Morocco and its future interests in Abyei.
South Sudan must know that once one country has entered into bilateral relations with another country, the relations become a treaty which must be performed in good faith in accordance with article 26 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (VCLT), 1969. Any failure to act in accordance with the agreement will always have serious repercussions on the disobeying state. Knowing that, the best way South Sudan may avoid future negative implications of the treaty of that kind is to decline to go into bilateral relation with Morocco in the first place.
South Sudan should always be concerned with the protection of the interest of its citizens but not to please other countries. South Sudan should have learned a lesson from its voting in 2012 in favour of Palestine.
South Sudan does not have any foreign policy. The country depends on trial and error method in foreign relations, which in most cases put the country in a very critical position. The blind and unreasonable voting to support Palestine made the USA and Israel to begin being careful with South Sudan and also to look for a way to change the leadership in the country as South Sudan was showing to be more stubborn.
The only way South Sudan can avoid blunders in foreign relations is to formulate a clear foreign policy that guides its actions in relating with the other countries. Short of that, citizens of South Sudan will always be the victims of the actions of their leaders in relation to foreign policy.
South Sudan should not go into bilateral relationship with Moroccan King or with Morocco as a country because it will have a negative implication on South Sudanese and the country. Justice, liberty and prosperity should be our guide for God and my country.
By Daniel Juol Nhomngek,
NB// the authority can be reached through: firstname.lastname@example.org. The opinion expressed here is solely the view of the writer.