The Significance of King Mohammed VI’s Historic Speech in Dakar 

Samir Bennis

New York - King Mohammed VI delivered a landmark speech on Sunday, November 6 on the 41th anniversary of the Green March. That is historic and unprecedented in Moroccan history.

For the first time, a Moroccan monarch has addressed the kingdom from outside of Morocco, and articulated Morocco’s African policy, calling upon on the newly elected government to give top priority to the continent in the next five years.

King Mohammed VI chose to deliver his annual speech from Senegal, a country that has long-standing bonds of brotherhood with Morocco. The strong relationship is reflected in Dakar’s long-held support of Rabat’s position on the Western Sahara.

Moroccans still remember the instrumental role that Senegal, a non-permanent member of the Security Council, played last April during the unprecedented diplomatic friction between Morocco and the United Nations Secretary General, after Ban Ki-moon described Morocco’s sovereignty over the Western Sahara as an “occupation.” Senegal, along with Egypt, Spain, and France, voiced support for Morocco and prevented the Security Council from siding with the UN chief.

That the Moroccan monarch chose to deliver his speech from another African country is a clear message that Morocco’s decision to reunite with its family on the continent is irreversible. The speech comes after King Mohammed VI’s announcement last July of Morocco’s intention to rejoin the African Union and put an end to the “empty chair” policy it had adopted since it withdrew from the Organization of African Unity (now called the African Union) in 1984.

King Mohammed VI followed this historic announcement with his first ever tour to East Africa in October. During this tour, the Moroccan king visited Rwanda and Tanzania, two countries that have diplomatic relations with the self-proclaimed Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR).

Interestingly, the King has shown his eagerness to share with the Moroccan people the outcome of his recent visits to East Africa, the steps he has taken to allow Morocco to return to the African Union, and the next stages of his tour to East Africa.

During this tour, Morocco signed 19 economic agreements with Rwanda and 22 with Tanzania. These agreements both increase Morocco’s leverage with these countries and contribute to their economic development. This strategy highlights Morocco’s leadership in south-south cooperation and echoes its calls in recent years that Africa must rely on its people to unleash its full economic potential and provide better living conditions to its peoples.

This strategy will likely influence these countries to reconsider their positions on the Western Sahara and perhaps sever their diplomatic relations with the so-called SADR.

That Morocco has decided to venture outside its comfort zone and reach out to countries where it has long suffered from a deficit of image means that the country is determined to expand its international influence to the whole African continent. This new foreign policy orientation also indicates that Morocco is aware that to strengthen its Western Sahara position, it must win the support of countries that have hitherto been outside of its traditional relations, and reclaim its seat within the African Union.

As the King stressed in his speech, this return to the African Union does not mean that Morocco will change its position on the Western Sahara. Rather, it signals that Morocco will fight the Polisario and its supporters from within and prevent them from using the AU as tool to put pressure on Morocco at the United Nations and in other international fora.

“Morocco’s return to its continental institutional family will not change our unwavering position regarding the Moroccan Sahara,” the King said in his Green March anniversary speech “To the contrary, it will enable us to defend our legitimate rights and correct the fallacies peddled by opponents of our territorial unity, particularly within the African Union.

Continuation of Morocco’s African policy 

Contrary to some observations, the orientation that King Mohammed VI has given to Morocco’s foreign policy is not a new one. It constitutes a continuation of the efforts he has been making since his coronation in 1999 to enable Morocco to recover its pivotal role and strategic importance on the African continent.

In the 16 years of his reign, the Moroccan monarch has made more than 35 visits to several African countries, especially in West Africa. These repetitive tours and the myriad of economic agreements that Morocco has signed with multiple African countries have enabled Morocco to renew progressively with its history when the country played the role of link of between the rest of the world and Africa.

The push that the monarch has given to Morocco’s foreign policy with the aim to build bridges with English-speaking Africa means that the country is now embarking on the second phase of a well thought out strategy to enable Morocco eventually to expand its  footprint on the whole continent, especially in the most influential countries. By developing this aggressive African policy, Morocco also seeks to obtain the status of the champion of Africa in international fora.

In recent years, Morocco has repeatedly spoken up on behalf of Africa and has drawn the attention of the international community to the endemic problems many countries of the continent are facing. During his speech before the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly in September 2015, King Mohammed VI called on the international community to adopt a goal-oriented and viable strategy to help African countries face the economic challenges that prevent them from overcoming their colonial past, unleash their economic potential, and provide better living conditions for their people.

“Morocco is calling on the United Nations organization and on regional and international financial institutions to draw up an action plan for economic transformation in Africa and provide steady resources to finance it,” the Moroccan monarch said at the time.

King Mohammed VI’s speech on Sunday comes on the eve of COP22, the UN’s annual conference on global climate change, which will be held in Morocco from November 7 to 18. This timing conveys a message that he intends to influence Africa to speak with one voice during the climate summit and that he will call on the international community to take Africa’s demands and concerns seriously, especially in terms of funding and transfer of technology. The African summit that King Mohammed VI is convening during the COP22 seeks to prompt the 54 African countries to develop a common position during the deliberations leading to the adoption of the summit’s final agreement.

The new orientation Mohammed VI has given to Morocco’s foreign policy with the decision to return to the African Union ushers in a new era in which Algeria, the Polisario, and their supporters will no longer have a free hand to use the organization to their advantage. Morocco seems more determined than ever to play on its adversaries’ field and overcome their efforts over the last three decades to isolate it and undermine its proposed resolution to the Western Sahara conflict through a political and mutually acceptable arrangement.

Samir Bennis is the co-founder of and editor-in-chief of Morocco World News. You can follow him on Twitter @SamirBennis




  • The Moroccan Gold Eldorado

    The Moroccan Gold Eldorado, a Myth or a Reality?

    Rabat - Recently, a conspiracy theory video about a large gold discovery in Morocco is making rounds online. The video claims that a substantial gold reserve was discovered and is being extracted by a Canadian mining company called Maya Gold and Silver. We Moroccans are very proud human beings, we love our country and cherish...

  • Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani

    Qatar: How the Tables Are Turning in The Gulf

    Rabat - Amidst harsh sanctions and a long list of demands from its neighbors, Qatar’s ability to thrive under pressure may prove to be problematic for Saudi Arabia. As Saudi Arabia and its coalition attempt to wait out Qatar, the recent spat in the Gulf continues to become more and more global, and severely against...

  • FILE - In this Jan. 20, 2015 file photo, a plume of steam billows from the coal-fired Merrimack Station in Bow, N.H. If the nation doesn’t do more, the U.S. probably won’t quite meet the dramatic heat-trapping gas reduction goal it promised in last year’s Paris agreement to battle climate change, according to a new study. (AP Photo/Jim Cole, File)

    Climate Change : If You Can’t Measure It, You Can’t Fix It

    Chefchaouen - Climate change is happening at home and around the world. Chefchaouen is doing its part by embracing clean energy climate solutions and engaging its citizens in climate action. When it comes to fighting climate change, cities and local leaders are best positioned to lead that charge. Local leaders from coastal to landlocked communities are...

  • 20

    India Orders Internal Probe into Mistaken Use of Morocco-Spain Border Picture

    Hyderabad - The Indian Ministry of Interior on Wednesday ordered an internal investigation to find out how a picture of Morocco-Spain border was used in its annual report to show floodlights along the India-Pakistan border. What is most embarrassing is that the annual report of previous years was tabled during the Budget Session of Indian...

  • Amid Growing Tension, Thousands of Moroccans Stage Pro-Rif March in Rabat

    Neglect in Harsh Soil: The Deep Roots of the Rif Crisis

    Rabat - The ongoing protests in northern Morocco started almost eight months ago, but they have their origin in nearly a century of violent repression by the state. The Rif has, in spite of itself, got involved into a peaceful revolt since the death of the fishmonger Mohcine Fikri at the end of October 2016, a...

  • Tamim Bin Hamad al Thani emir of Qatar

    The Qatar Crisis: What Does It Mean?

    Rabat - The recent diplomatic fallout between Qatar and the rest of the Middle East could have serious economic and geopolitical consequences across the globe. Earlier this week, Qatar’s diplomatic crisis took an extreme turn as several Arab states severed diplomatic ties with the Gulf nation.  The original list of countries in the coalition against...

  • Moroccans spend Laylat al-Qadr, the 26th day of Ramadan, at the Hassan II mosque in Casablanca.

    Ramadan: Not just Abstinence from Daily Intakes 

    By Abdellatif Oudra Rabat - The observance of Ramadan, one of the five pillars of Islam, compels Muslims to fast from sunrise to sunset. But it is not just about abstaining from food or drink.  Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, is observed in commemoration of the revelation of Qur’an to the prophet Mohammad,...

  • Morocco Threatens to Terminate Agriculture Agreement with Europe

    Morocco and the EU: Managing the Future

    Rabat - Morocco enjoys proximity to Europe and is at an advantage of being favoured by the European Union as a close partner on political, economic, and cultural levels. Historical archives and political legacies tie Morocco directly with at least three influential European countries: France, Spain, and England. Demography, kinship, and immigration compel other EU...

  • The Educational and Cultural Implications of the Arab Spring

    The Educational and Cultural Implications of the Arab 'Spring'

    Rabat - In the last ten years or so, the Arab world has seen unprecedented collapses in the realms of politics and economy, among others. World NGOs regularly release area-specific rankings, in which Arab nations commonly rank at the bottom of lists in education, human rights, and income for instance while they top those of...

  • Thousands Hold Peaceful Demonstration in Memory of Mouhcine Fikri

    Al Hoceima and the Pedagogical Exercise

    Ottawa - What makes a democracy different from non-democracy? This is the classical and historical question asked by philosophers over the centuries and deeply questioned in the discipline of political science. Democracy cannot prevent inequality as the case in the United States where inequality is the highest globally. Democracy cannot stop corruption like in Brazil...