Western Sahara : Morocco eyes rapprochement with pro-Polisario southern Africa countries

After strengthening ties with Mozambique in March, and concluding agreements with seven SADC countries, Morocco lauded, Friday, the decision of Lesotho, a Southern Africa country. With the exception of South Africa, only Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe are committed to their unconditional support for the Polisario Front.

Polisario's head Brahim Ghali. / Ph. DR
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During the last couple of months, Morocco reinforced its attempts to maintain diplomatic ties with Latin American and African countries. Rabat emerged victorious, Friday, when the Kingdom of Lesotho, a Southern Africa country, announced that its suspended support for the Polisario Front.

In a statement sent to the Moroccan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the landlocked kingdom encircled by South Africa announced that it «supports the UN-led political process» and prefers to observe «positive neutrality» when it comes to regional and international meetings related to teh Western Sahara question.

A remarkable turnaround for Lesotho

Weeks before adopting said position, Lesotho’s Prime Minister called, on September 27, «for an end to the occupation and the declaration of independence for Western Sahara».

But while Tom Thabane played the role of a Polisario advocate at the UN General Assembly, Foreign Minister Lesego Makgothi met with his Moroccan counterpart Nasser Bourita on the sidelines of the UN meeting.

Lesotho’s decision is one of the fruitful outcomes of the Moroccan policy, which eyes rapprochement with Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries. In March, Morocco managed to attract eight countries from the regional group to a conference that supports the UN-led political process related to the Western Sahara issue.

In fact, Member states of SADC attended the ministerial conference on the African Union's role in supporting the UN-led political process in Marrakech, snubbing a parallel meeting held in South Africa to support the Polisario Front.

South Africa and Mozambique

In its diplomatic offensive, Morocco also eyes South Africa, one of the most influential members of SADC. In fact, the Kingdom appointed a new ambassador to the country after a long diplomatic crisis.

Without neglecting some of their political differences, especially those related to the Western Sahara conflict, Rabat and Pretoria have been trying for the past couple of years to strengthen their economic ties.

Indeed, in November 2018, the president of the General Confederation of Moroccan Enterprises (CGEM) Salaheddine Mezouar headed a Moroccan delegation that attended the Africa Investment Forum in Johannesburg, where several African investors had the chance to meet.

On July 15th in Casablanca, CGEM and the Ministry of African Cooperation organized the «Morocco-South Africa Business Dialogue». Former Deputy Finance Minister of the Government of South Africa Mcebisi Jonas, who is also Cyril Ramaphosa’s Special Envoy for Investment, attended the event.

The meeting in Casablanca was also attended by Jonathan Oppenheimer, a South African billionaire businessman and a close friend of Ramaphosa.

By relying on business, Rabat and Pretoria might be able to boost their economic ties as in the past. For the record, business relations between Morocco and South Africa started in the 1990s.

As for Mozambique, the rapprochement with Morocco seems to be on the right track. After President Filipe Nyusi snubbed SADC summit last March, he sent his foreign minister, José Condungua Pacheco, to Morocco to thank King Mohammed VI for supporting the victims of a hurricane that hit the country in March 2019.

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