By Owei Lakemfa & Amadu Sesay
THE Society for International Relations Awareness SIRA), an association of professionals bound by their interest in Foreign Policy and International Relations, finds it preposterous that Morocco, a country located in North Africa, would apply to join the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS.
SIRA equally considers it ridiculous that ECOWAS, a regional grouping set up in 1975, and which is geographically delineated and accepted as such in International Law and Internal Politics, the United Nations and the African Union, would consider such an absurd application. By so doing, the Commission and indeed those members that sponsored the very conservative North African Kingdom and hereditary monarchy seemed to have turned globally accepted international norms and the logic of geography, on their heads. SIRA is of the view that the application by Morocco to accede to the ECOWAS Commission is not only divisive but extremely diversionary, especially at a time when West African leaders should busy themselves consolidating the gains of 42 years of regional integration, and to finding answers to the dire social, economic and security challenges confronting the region and its more than 300 million citizens.
2) After more than four decades of its existence, it is trite to say that ECOWAS is a regional organisation specifically set up to bridge the inherited colonial divides between the Anglophone and Francophone countries in West Africa, and to integrate their economies and people. The Moroccan application therefore violates not only the geographic contiguity logic of regionalism, but also the basic rules, objectives and aims of ECOWAS, as well as the expectations of its citizens.
3) The 2001 ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance is the backbone of the Organization’s policy on promoting and deepening democratic governance, and ECOWAS is presently pushing for a maximum two-term policy for Heads of State of Member Countries. This commendable effort is anchored on regular, free, fair and credible elections and multiparty politics. In contrast, Morocco is a traditional monarchy and a dictatorship, whose King rules in perpetuity until his demise, after which he is almost routinely succeeded by a member of the ruling family who becomes the next unelected Head of State. In other words, the political system in the Kingdom of Morocco is completely at variance with those of the 15 ECOWAS Member States.
4) Morocco is presently a member of the Arab Maghreb Union AMU, founded in Marrakech, Morocco, on February 17, 1989. However, this economic union has been unable to meet at Summit level since July 2008, due to unending disagreements over Morocco’s continuing occupation of neighbouring Western Sahara as well as disputes with another of its neighbours, Algeria. So, Morocco, which has had a long history of causing disputes in the defunct OAU, the African Union and the AMU, should not be allowed to inject such a poisonous political culture into ECOWAS. It is equally unacceptable that by considering Morocco’s admission, ECOWAS and its leaders appear to have abandoned the political struggle of the Sahrawi People for self-determination, as well as interest in protecting the phosphate and other resources of Western Sahara, which Morocco is exploiting because a free Western Sahara will need these resources for its own future development.
5) ECOWAS has made significant strides in regional cooperation and socio-economic integration, to admit a North African country, therefore, is to create a hybrid monster that has no logic in accepted international practice, and will mortally compromise the Organisation.
6) ECOWAS is governed by the 1979 Protocol on Free Movement of people and goods, admitting Morocco will complicate this key provision as Moroccans will claim a right to free movement across West Africa, as well as the right to have a Commissioner at the ECOWAS Headquarters in Abuja.
7) Admitting Morocco into ECOWAS is as ridiculous as admitting Israel, which is today playing surprising and unclear roles in the Region, including being invited to address the 51st ECOWAS Summit in Monrovia on 4th June, 2017.
8) It is not unlikely that Morocco is a surrogate, a ‘Trojan Horse’ of sorts that is being nurtured by enemies of West Africa and its people, to play a not too complementary role in ECOWAS. It is also doubtful that the West African leaders, who are naively trying to foist Morocco on the Region, are doing so for altruistic reasons. Otherwise, why would they turn the logic of regionalism on its head in the first place, and defy common geographical logic and accepted best practices? Whatever may be the case, the admission of Morocco will only have negative short, medium and long-term effects on ECOWAS and wellbeing of the people, and on the peace, stability and development of the Region.
9) West African countries and their leaders have a duty to protect ECOWAS and its enviable gains by emphatically rejecting Morocco’s membership of the Organisation. Any other action will be an unacceptable betrayal of the trust reposed in them by the citizens of West Africa.
10) Nigeria, which hosts the ECOWAS Secretariat, has made enormous sacrifices for its development and cohesion in the last forty years. As a major player in ECOWAS and in the Region, Nigeria has an unavoidable duty to protect the integrity of ECOWAS by ensuring that Morocco’s attempt to join the West African body is permanently stopped.
*Messr. Lakemfa and Saesay , Director of publicity & Vice chairman respectively of SIRA, wrote from Abuja.