Saturday, September 2, 2017 10:17 am
By Owei Lakemfa
With the 42-year old Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) meeting in December to decide on the divisive application of the North African Kingdom of Morocco to join, an all-inclusive public forum was held in Abuja.
Organised by the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) with support from the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, it drew diplomats, Labour leaders, intellectuals, civil society activists, ECOWAS officials and the international community. CDD Director, Idayat Hassan set the tone by pointing out that ECOWAS was transforming from an “ ECOWAS of Nations to an ECOWAS of Peoples” Implied is the fact that Morocco is a monarchical dictatorship.
ECOWAS Commission President, Marcel . A. De Souza gave the Opening Address delivered on his behalf by Dr. Babatunde Idowu. He said ECOWAS has had lots of achievements making it become attractive adding that the application of Morocco can be analyzed in that context.
Political scientist, Dr. Adewale Aderemi argued that economy cannot be the basis of admitting Morocco as even in Africa, it ranks sixth while Nigeria is the largest economy. The Moroccan economy he argued is very weak as it is not only agrarian but also weighed down by mass unemployment and huge debts. He said Morocco’s main trading partners are France, the European Union and Spain and so it is of little value to West African trade and that its benefit to ECOWAS is likely to be quite marginal. Dr. Aderemi explained that the phosphate Morocco is selling is like Blood Diamond as it is taken by force from Western Sahara, the African country it is colonizing.
The intellectual argued that Morocco’s twin motives for wanting to join ECOWAS are as a
proxy of its former colonial master, France and to get back at Nigeria for its principled support of Western Sahara independence.
Mr. John Odah, Secretary of the Organisation of Trade Unions in West Africa (OTUWA) pointed out that one of the basic principles of the Organisation of Africa Unity, now African Union (AU) was the decolonization of the continent. Morocco, he argued, should not have been welcome to the AU when it is still defying it by colonizing Western Sahara.
In my presentation, I argued that the dehumanization of the Saharawi by Monarchical Morocco, is no different from the dehumanization of Africans by the Apartheid regime. I made reference to the June 19, 2017 sentencing of 24 Saharawi to between 20 years, to life imprisonment by Morocco for voicing their demand for freedom. I pointed out that Morocco is the only country in the world I know, who deports its claimed citizens, as it did to the Saharawi liberation campaigner, Hajia Aminatu Haidar. That despite its atrocities in Western Sahara and against its own people, Morocco has not been sanctioned either by the United Nations which has a Mission, MINURSO in Western Sahara, nor by any of the Western countries who are loud on human rights.
I condemned the EU for entering into agreements with Morocco to exploit Saharawi resources pointing out that the West did the same thing supporting Apartheid and declaring freedom fighters like Nelson Mandela as “terrorists”
I argued that Morocco is ineligible to join ECOWAS because its application violates the ECOWAS Treaty which states the body is primarily to promote the integration of West Africa into “an economic union”
For those who may argue that Morocco has some resources it can bring to ECOWAS, I said since China and United States have more resources, ECOWAS may well invite them to join it rather than a dictatorship which will be an economic, cultural and political liability. I pointed out that Morocco already belongs to the Arab Maghreb Union (AMU) but that even with its Secretariat in Rabat, Morocco, the AMU has become moribund due to the aggression of Morocco which is in perpetual conflict with most of its neigbours.
Historian, Professor Issac Olawale Albert pointed out that Morocco’s monarchism cannot fit into West Africa’s democracy adding that Morocco’s entry will be divisive as it would weigh in on the Francophone against Anglophone. He also warned that with more Moroccans joining the Islamic State (ISIS) and that organization shifting to Africa, Morocco’s admission may worsen the war against Boko Haram terrorists implying that Moroccan terrorists may take advantage of the Free Movement Protocol in ECOWAS to come undetected to Nigeria and join the terrorists.
Retired Ambassador Dahiru Suleiman informed that after storming out of the OAU, Morocco in 1987 applied to join the EU but had its application literarily thrown to its face. Suleiman who was Nigerian Ambassador to Sudan said Morocco is involved in “Cheque Book Diplomacy” and that those promoting its application to join ECOWAS were doing so for private ends. He added: “I have been to Morocco several times and I can say the peace there is the peace of the graveyard”
Hajia Hauwa Mustapha of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) wondered if ECOWAS citizens should not challenge in court the move to admit Morocco, and if Western Sahara should also not be admitted if ECOWAS admits Morocco.
Professor Nuhu Yaqub, former Vice Chancellor of the Universities of Abuja and Sokoto State, argued that Morocco is a Trojan Horse and that the issue of admitting it should be subject to referendum.
Retired Ambassador Zango Abdu, said if ECOWAS were to follow clearly laid down procedures, Morocco’s application is “Dead on Arrival” Dr. Remi Aiyede of Ibadan University argued the application is part of Morocco’s efforts to position itself as a Regional player. Former Nigerian Ambassador to Libya, M.K. Ibrahim informed that when the Moroccan Monarch visited Nigeria in December 2007, with a 300-member delegation, 50 of them were Islamic clerics of a particular Sect adding that this was dangerous for Nigeria, a multi- religious country with multi-Islamic Sects.
The President of the Nigerian Political Science Association (NPSA) Professor Shuaib A. Ibrahim said the Regional Arab Maghreb Union Morocco founded, admits only Arabs, so why should it “become an interloper” wanting to join ECOWAS?
ECOWAS Commissioner, Shaibu Lawali said the Secretariat was not consulted on the issue of Morocco; that it was a political decision by the Heads of State which the Commission will have to implement if passed.
With the conference solidly opposed to Morocco, Dr. Habibu Yaya Bappah from ECOWAS said Morocco does not intend to join ECOWAS “immediately, but it will do so slowly” and asked if the Moroccan application will be favourably considered if it grants Western Sahara independence. The reaction was that Morocco will not be allowed to join ECOWAS under any condition.
The Conference decided that if by any subterfuge, Morocco is admitted into ECOWAS, there will be a mass mobilization of Nigerians to withdraw their country from ECOWAS and kick the organization and its Secretariat out of Nigeria.