The Kingdom of Morocco’s bilateral relations with West African countries are not of recent origin. These relations date back centuries to the time of different ruling dynasties that governed Morocco, such as the Almoravids and Almohads, as well as the current Alaoui dynasty that has ruled since 1666.
These previous rulers traded with sub-Saharan African countries and maintained close social and religious links. Relations continued despite challenges posed by a variety of political events, including the French protectorate and later decolonization debates.
‘’It is so good to be back home, after having been away for too long! It is a good day when you can show your affection for your beloved home! Africa is my continent, and my home. I am home at last and happily reunited with you. I have missed you all.
That is why, My Dear Brothers, Heads of State, I wanted to make this trip and to address you, without waiting for the protocol and legal procedure for the Kingdom to take its place again within the Organization to be finalized. The massive, outspoken support Morocco has received is proof of the solid bonds that unite us.
It was necessary to withdraw from the OAU; it has enabled Morocco’s action to be refocused in Africa to show how indispensable Africa is to Morocco and how indispensable Morocco is to Africa.
We have thought it through carefully and it is now so obvious! It is time to return home; at a time when the Kingdom is among the most developed African nations and when a majority of Member States looks forward to our return, we have decided to join our family again. A family we had not really left!
In fact, despite having been absent from the AU institutions for so many years, our links, which have never been severed, have remained strong and African sister nations have always been able to rely on us…’’ These were the words of His Majesty King Mohammed VI, in his Historic Speech to the Twenty – Seventh African Union (AU) Summit on 17 July 2016, announcing Morocco’s return to the African Union. Those words pronounced by the Moroccan King were backed by history and undisputable facts.
Even when Morocco left the African Union its relations with West Africa countries and its involvement in the continent’s security and development matters never ceased. Morocco has longstanding and excellent relations with a number of West African countries such as Gabon, Senegal, and Cote d’Ivoire to name but a few.
Morocco has been very proactive in addressing West African development and security challenges. Morocco’s current engagement in West Africa focuses on security cooperation, economic development, strengthening cultural ties, and capacity building.
The Kingdom’s commitment entails the exchange of experiences and expertise in sectors that are of importance to the socio-economic development of West African societies.
Security assistance forms an essential component of Morocco’s pivot to West African countries. Morocco’s reconnection with West Africa is not limited only to business contracts and official visits; many of Morocco’s economic initiatives over the last few years have been launched with an important social dimension in mind.
Over the last 20 years in particular, Morocco has adopted several initiatives to show solidarity with West African countries.
Morocco’s engagement in support of peace and stability in West Africa is outstanding. Morocco’s armed forces have participated in numerous peace missions in Africa since independence in 1956, and have provided military assistance to West African countries either under the umbrella of the UN or bilaterally to its allies since the 1960s.
For instance, Morocco contributed to the stability of Zaire (now the DRC) in 1977 by sending a large Moroccan military contingent.
Morocco has also contributed to UN peacekeeping forces in several West African countries including the Congo in 1960, the DRC in 1999 and in Cote d’Ivoire in 2004. Furthermore, Morocco has offered hundreds of military officers from West African armies opportunities to receive education and training in Moroccan military academies alongside Moroccan officers.
Morocco had been more like the regional security provider in West Africa. Over recent years, Morocco has contributed to peace and stability of the African sub-region that continues to face important challenges and significant threats.
In particular, a range of initiatives is under way to combat religious extremism, terrorism, and transnational organised crime including illicit drug trafficking, which remains a major threat to peace and security in the region.
Morocco’s contribution to counter extremism in West Africa and the Sahel region through initiatives promoting moderate Islam.
Morocco could be supported by Africa countries in tackling some key common challenges arising from these sub-regions of Africa.
By promoting a ‘tolerant’ and ‘modern’ Islam, Morocco actively involved in educating and training Tunisian, Malian and European imams (i.e. prayer leaders in Sunni Islam). They are committed to fight terrorism, not only through security cooperation (with its military intervention in Mali) but also through religious education.
Through both actions, the regime showed itself to the international community as willing to make an effort to solve international crises or issues it is involved in.
In recognition of its pivotal role in the fight against terrorism in Africa, the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT) have signed on October 6th an agreement with the Moroccan autorrities to establish an office in Rabat destined for counterterrorism training and cooperation in Africa.
During the Ebola crises.
Morocco showed its solidarity again during the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, which is considered to be one of the most severe, prolonged, and complicated outbreaks to have affected the region in decades.
When most international air carriers were suspending their flights to Western African airports over fear of virus contagion, Morocco’s air carrier, Royal Air Maroc (RAM), continued flights, including to the areas most affected by the Ebola epidemic; Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea.
The continuation of RAM flights in and out of Western African airports allowed international medical aid workers to arrive at the affected areas, and Western African citizens to stay connected with the world. Maintaining scheduled flights was also a clear message of solidarity with Western African countries.
This gesture was well-received by the political leadership in Western African capitals. During the High-Level International Conference on Ebola organised in Brussels in March 2015, Alpha Conde, the President of Guinea, praised Morocco’s stance for keeping its borders open, allowing the free movement of people.
During the COVID 19 pandemic
Morocco once again showed its solidarity with its African family during the current COVID 19 pandemic. When the western world predicted doom for the African continent, the Kingdom of Morocco championed a Pan-African initiative aimed at establishing an operational framework to accompany African countries in their various phases of managing the pandemic.
This is a pragmatic and action-oriented initiative, enabling the sharing of experiences and best practices to address the health, economic and social impact of the pandemic. This initiative brought hope, comfort and solidarity to the continent.
Sensing the urgent medical needs of the continent, several African countries received medical supplies and aid from the Moroccan government. The aid was intended to provide protective medical equipment to support 15 African countries in their efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
It was composed of nearly 8 million face masks, 900,000 visors, 600,000 hygiene caps, 60,000 coats, 30,000 liters of hydroalcoholic gel, as well as 75,000 packs of chloroquine and 15,000 packs of Azithromycin.
The 15 beneficiary countries are Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Comoros, Congo, Eswatini, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Malawi, Mauritania, Niger, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Senegal, Tanzania, Chad and Zambia. The protective medical gears and anti-covid-19 drugs sent by Morocco to several African countries helped them cope with the coronavirus pandemic.
Morocco also donated medical supplies to the African Union (AU) Commission in a bid to boost the capacity of Africa to enhance its response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The consignment included 500,000 face masks, 4,000 protective coats, 40,000 feminine hygiene cups, 60,000 visors and 2,000 liters of hydroalcoholic gel, all locally produced in Morocco by Moroccan companies.
Hard times always reveal true friends and Morocco never leaves his African brothers combating alone. These initiatives are clear indication of Morocco’s status as a reliable ally and partner for Western African countries.
PETER PANYIN ANAMAN