Africa: AU Terms Must Apply in Readmitting Morocco

The African Union is to decide on whether or not Morocco can be readmitted as a full member. Morocco quit the irganisation 32 years ago in protest over a decision to make the disputed territory of Western Sahara a member of the AU.

Morocco presented its application at the just-ended summit in Kigali, Rwanda. This is a welcome development and, as Morocco’s King Mohammed VI rightly put it in his message to the summit, his country needs to work within the AU to transcend retrogressive divisions.

But it will be important for the AU to tread cautiously on this. Of particular importance, members should address the problem that caused Morocco to quit.

Morocco, which considers Western Sahara an important part of the kingdom, was not happy when the then Organisation of African Union (OAU) – now AU – accepted Western Sahara as a new member. Morocco refuses to recognise Western Sahara as an independent country, and it has used military force to maintain a presence in the region.

International mediation strategies have not helped to resolve the stalemate. Until the time it applied for AU readmission, Morocco does not recognise Western Sahara as an independent state.

Last year, the Moroccan king insisted there would be no compromise on the kingdom’s claim to sovereignty over the Western Sahara, vowing that he would offer no more than autonomy to end the four-decade deadlock over the region.

On the brighter side though, Morocco’s request to re-join the institutional family might provide a new opportunity to negotiate. Maybe it is an indication that Morocco is softening its stance, and is now ready to leave Western Sahara.

The AU should, therefore, not be in haste, and can use the application to convince Morocco to accept Western Sahara’s sovereignty. Otherwise, there is no point in Morocco joining the bloc whose one member it does not recognise.

TIGHTEN BORDER SECURITY

Despite efforts being made to curb the flow of illegal immigrants through Tanzania, the country remains a major transit point for people leaving the Horn of Africa in the hope of rebuilding their lives in the south of the continent and elsewhere.

The trend is a matter of concern in eastern and southern Africa and calls for joint efforts to tighten security, especially now that terrorist attacks have become commonplace worldwide.

Hardly a month passes without reports of the interception and arrest of illegal immigrants in various parts of the country. Many are said to be on their way to southern Africa, but nobody knows how many have melted into local communities and made Tanzania their new home.

Taking into consideration the country’s long borders and many clandestine routes, it is important that security is also boosted along the common borders.

Border communities should be encouraged to be vigilant at all times so as to detect and report suspect strangers to local authorities. We also suggest the naming and shaming of dishonest immigration officials who condone human trafficking.

The recent shakeup of the Immigration Department is commendable, and we hope it will go a long way in addressing the problem of people in authority looking the other way as illegal immigrants enter and sometimes settle in the country.

Source: The Citizen.