Jean-Jacques Cornish

Morocco joining the African Union will be messy

It was such a bad tempered and bitter departure 32 years ago that it is hardly surprising the return, if it happens at all, will be messy.
Morocco surprised many at the African Union summit in Kigali earlier this week, saying it wants to join the African Union
The host, President Paul Kagame, was not among those taken aback.
He received Morocco’s King Mohammed VI as an honoured guest in his capital earlier this year and conferred Rwanda’s high civic honour on the man known as M6.
Neither, presumably, did Morocco’s intention come out of the blue for the 28 African states that have supported the Kingdom becoming a member of the Africa Union.
Senegal is foremost among these.
President Macky Sall refers euphemistically to Morocco’s “independence tussle “with Western Sahara.
He spells out that the Kingdom wants the African- Union- recognised Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) suspended from the African Union before it is admitted.
African powers like Algeria and South Africa find such a notion  absolutely preposterous.
They take the conventional view that Morocco invaded the Western Sahara in 1976 and has been in illegal occupation of the country ever since.
The recognition of the SADR by the Organization of African Union in 1984 caused Morocco to walk out in a high dugeon.
The Kingdom has elected to be the only African country not to be a member of the continental body.
It continued this stance in 2002 when the African Union evolved out of the OAU.
The AU position is that the Western Sahara is the last colonial question in Africa.
So, Morocco has to end its occupation of  the SADR is it wants to join the AU.
It would be impossible to come into the African fold  as a colonial oppressor.
And it certainly cannot expect to be embraced by the continent do this  at the expense of established AU member the SADR.
The United States would like to see   Morocco join the AU. It regards this as a  “very important” step of a “strategic partner” of the USA that  would   “benefit the whole continent”.
However Washington has steered clear of talking about Moroccoo’s illegal occupation of an AU member.
In a message to the Kigali summit , King Mohammed VI said “Morocco’s friends have long been asking the Kingdom to return among them so that Morocco may take its natural place within its institutional family. That time has now come”
The King said Morocco would join the AU with without precondition – leaving it to its supporters to specify the desire for the expulsion of a member state.
The United Nations Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon refers to Morocco’s presence in the Western Sahara as an occuption.
Saharawi’s have been driven into refugee camps in Algeria, resulting in a humanitarian crisis.
So angered was Morocco by the Secretary General’s language that it expelled UN peacekeepers from areas of the occupied country under its  control.
The action was denounced by the African Union for setting   a “dangerous precedent” and threatening regional peace with recklessness and disregard for the Sahrawi people’s right to self-determination, 
The AU expects an apology from Morocco, adding that Morocco’s membership of the AU cannot come without pre-conditions.
At the very least, Morocco would have to keep its promise made when a delicate peace was brokered with the Saharawi guerrilla known as the Polisario Front in 1991to have a referendum in the SADR. 
The Saharawi accept  there may a case to be be made that no- one has a right to deny Morocco a seat in the African Union.
However, it is adamant  that no one has a right to deny the SADR  its sovereignty if that is what its people desire.
“Modern Africa cannot pretend to be blind to modern colonialism, violent and vile in nature. This situation should be fixed. Welcome back Morocco, but there is a lot of work to be done.”

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Jean-Jacques Cornish is a journalist and broadcaster who has been involved in the media all his adult life.

Starting as a reporter on his hometown newspaper, he moved briefly to then Rhodesia before returning to South Africa to become a parliamentary correspondent with the South African Press Association. He was sent to London as Sapa’s London editor and also served as special correspondent to the United Nations. He joined the then Argus group in London as political correspondent.

Returning to South Africa after 12 years abroad, he was assistant editor on the Pretoria News for a decade before becoming editor of the Star and SA Times for five years.

Since 1999 he’s been an independent journalist writing and broadcasting – mainly about Africa – for Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape
Talk, Radio France International, PressTV, Radio Live New Zealand, Business Day, Mail & Guardian, the BBC, Agence France Press,
Business in Africa, Leadership, India Today, the South African Institute for International Affairs and the Institute for Security Studies.

He has hosted current affairs talk shows on Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape Talk. He appears as an African affairs pundit on SABC Africa and CNBC Africa.
He lectured in contemporary studies to journalism students at the Tshwane University of Technology and the University of Pretoria.

He speaks on African affairs to corporate and other audiences.
He has been officially invited as a journalist to more than 30 countries. He was the winner of the 2007 SADC award for radio journalism.

He’s been a member of the EISA team observing elections in Somaliland, Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Egypt and Tunsiai.

In October 2009 he headed a group of 39 African journalists to the 60th anniversary celebrations of the Peoples’ Republic of China.

In January 2010 he joined a rescue and paramedical team to earthquake struck Haiti.

He is immediate past president of the Alliance Francaise of Pretoria.

Jean-Jacques is a director of Giant Media. The company was given access to Nelson Mandela in his retirement years until 2009.
He is co-producer of the hour-long documentary Mandela at 90 that was broadcast on BBC in January 2009.