Jean-Jacques Cornish

Morocco assumes apartheid South Africa’s role as Africa’s bully boy

Morocco’s King Mohammed VI skipped Kenyan President William Ruto’s inauguration ceremony in Nairobi this week.

He’ll also miss  Angolan President João Lourenço’s inauguration in Luanda tomorrow.

Is this because Western Sahara President Brahim Ghali was and will be there?

Or is he embarrassed about his envoy being caught lying about a meeting he had with William Ruto last year.

My betting is the former. 

Moroccan officials shamelessly lie about their dealings – particularly their illegal occupation of the former Spanish colony.

They have been caught out many many times and continue regardless.

The Saharawi President was and will be treated with the pomp and protocol befitting a head of state in Nairobi and Luanda.

Morocco has been cautiously mum about it.

Rabat’s silence confirms my earlier assertion that Morocco has replaced its old friend apartheid South Africa as the African bully.

Last month it recalled its ambassador to Tunis when President Kais Saied received Brahim Ghali for the Japanese development summit known as the Tokyo International Conference on African Development.

In addution to withdrawing its ambassador, Morocco also slapped a unilateral  trade and sports boycott on Tunisia.

This means Morocco may not share in the $30 million dollars in development aid promised to Africa by Japan at TICAD, because Morocco shunned that gathering.

With the new trade boycott against its neighbour it loses one client for its major exports which are daggers, oranges and prostitutes.

Granted, not a major client. Tunisia is small enough to push around.

So angry was Morocco that it accused Tunisia of being in alliance with France and Algeria in seeking to  prolong the Western Sahara conflict.

Another lie, of course.

Morocco is solely responsible for the conflict in the country it has occupied in defiance of the international community since 1975.

Morocco could stop that conflict in a jot by agreeing to allow a referendum on self-determination among the the Saharawi’s under its occupation.

Indeed, Morocco’s  promise in 1991 to allow such referendum is what ended the 16-year war with Western Sahara following the occupation.

Sadly that has turned out to be yet another lie from Rabat.

I call Morocco a bully because it enthusiastically gets tough with Tunisia, which is a quarter the size of  the kingdom and has a GDP and  population  three times smaller.

It does this because it perceives Tunisia as having strayed from its impartial stance on Westerns Sahara.

When confronted with countries like Mozambique, Kenya, Angola and South Africa that muscularly support Western Sahara self determination, that  have diplomatic relations with the occupied nation and have received Brahim Ghali as its head of state,  Morocco is cravenly silent.

Last year Morocco’s ambassador to Nairobi, El Moktar Gambon emerged from a meeting with then Deputy  President William Ruto saying  his host had accepted that as a rotating member of the United Nations Security Council and a member of the African Peace and Security Council, Kenya should take an impartial stance on Western Sahara.

In fact, Kenya has repeatedly condemned Morocco’s occupation of the country and called it the last vestige of colonialism in Africa.

A furious Ruto nailed the ambassador’s lie and called on his foreign affairs department to take appropriate action.

He pointed out that a clip used by the ambassador to support his lie was in fact a clip of Ruto at a totally different event that had nothing to do with the Moroccan’s claims.

Plainly Morocco’s assertion that it will judge its friendship with African countries by their attitude to Western Sahara applies only to countries. smaller than itself.


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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.