African consulates in the Sahara, normalizing Morocco’s sovereignty over the territory

While it was accused of imposing a «fait accompli» policy in the province, Morocco sees in the opening of several consulates in the Sahara a new strategy that normalizes the country’s sovereignty on the territory. This strategy is expected to make of the cities of Laayoune and Dakhla political and economic hubs.

The inauguration of a Gambian consulate in Dakhla. / DR
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On Friday, the Republic of Gabon announced that it is opening two consulates in the southern provinces of Morocco. Diplomatic sources revealed that Libreville is planning to inaugurate two consulates in Laayoune and in Dakhla on the same day.

Gabon would be following in the footsteps of other African countries, including The Gambia, The Comoros and Cote d’Ivoire, which opened in June an honorary consulate in Laayoune.

«The Sahara is Moroccan and that is a historical fact, a constant diplomatic position and a national and administrative legal reality. This goes hand in hand with the delimitation of the Atlantic maritime borders», a senior diplomatic source told Yabiladi on Thursday.  

«This is not just a declaration but a reality which is being increasingly shared by countries that are ready to show it. Some do so by opening diplomatic positions, in press releases and statements or by supporting Morocco while others voice it through stronger diplomatic forms».

A senior diplomatic source

Several major events hosted by the southern provinces

Morocco’s new strategy was preceded by similar attempts in the past. In fact, in February 2005, Morocco held the first edition of its annual forum Crans Montana in Dakhla. In March 2014, Morocco held the sixth edition of the Morocco-European Union (EU) Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) in Dakhla as well as an international conference on «territorial intelligence» with the participation of foreign experts in 2012.

Other major events are expected to be held in the province, including the African Men's Handball Nations Championship, scheduled for 2022 in Laayoune, and the African Futsal Championship, which will be held in the same city from January 28th to February 7, 2020.

Moreover, Morocco intends to transform the region by organizing more economic and environmental events. In December 2019, Laayoune hosted the Morocco-China Investment Forum, organized by the Council of the region. In October 2019, the French Chamber of Industry and Commerce of France in Morocco (CFCIM) chose Dakhla to host its Morocco-France business forum.

But Morocco does not intend to stop there. «There will also be a meeting on the Pacific countries which will take place in February», the same source added.

The challenge is to make these cities regular destinations like Tangier or Agadir. «A consulate, for the case of Dakhla for example, is a representation localized at the level of what we consider as Africa’s door to Morocco because for us, Dakhla is for Africa what Tangier is for Europe», the same source argued.

If the comparison seems somewhat bold, our diplomatic source specifies his vision : «a lot of Morocco's trade with Africa goes through Dakhla, and the economic activity will be more and more important, with the new port».

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