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24.03.2018 Feature Article

The Geographical Metamorphosis of a Maghrebian Master: Morocco’s Bid For ECOWAS Membership Examined

The Geographical Metamorphosis of a Maghrebian Master: Morocco’s Bid For ECOWAS Membership Examined
LISTEN MAR 24, 2018

Abstract
The Economic Community of West African States’ (ECOWAS) Heads of State at their 2017 meeting in Monrovia, Liberia, received a membership application from the Kingdom of Morocco. The application has generated mixed reactions within and without the West African sub-region. The objective of this paper is to examine this bid by Morocco to join ECOWAS and its implications on the organization’s goals and objectives; African diplomacy; and particularly, its implications on Nigeria’s foreign policy and leadership position in West Africa. The paper argues that given the location of Morocco in North Africa and the geographical compartmentalization of African diplomatic space—North/Arab, East, West, Central, and Southern Africa—Morocco’s bid to access ECOWAS treaty is a geo-diplomatic aberration. Again, given Morocco’s no love lost relations with African countries on the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic independence question, her membership of ECOWAS is bound to generate controversies among member states that would impede the realization of ECOWAS goals and objectives. For Nigeria particularly, Morocco’s bid to join ECOWAS would lead to clash of leadership; manipulation of linguistic and religio-cultural differences inherent in the sub-region; and ultimately the intensification of primordial envies and jealousies that would hamper the realization of ECOWAS goals and objectives. To forestall the eventuation of unpleasant scenarios in the wake of Morocco’s admittance into ECOWAS, her membership application should be set aside.

Introduction
The Kingdom of Morocco on 4 June 2017 at the meeting of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Heads of State in Monrovia, the capital city of Liberia officially submitted its application to join ECOWAS. In the application, Morocco argued that its decision to join ECOWAS is borne out of the wider royal vision of King Mohammed VI to foster continental integration and understanding and for ECOWAS particularly “to crown the strong political, human, historical, religious and economic ties at all levels with ECOWAS member countries” (APA News). Morocco’s claim in seeking to join ECOWAS is economic and in line with its recently acclaimed African policy.

However, no sooner had Morocco’s application bid became public knowledge than a profusion of commentaries within and without (West) Africa rend the discursive arena. The trajectory of these discourses is a mixed grill. While others hailed the Moroccan step as a right step toward fostering intra-African economic integration (Ghosh, 2017; Salau, 2017; Lamzouwaq, 2017), many others kicked against it as harbinger of crisis (Akinyemi 2017; Ibrahim 2017). What does Morocco’s bid to join ECOWAS portend for the organization, for regional integration, and for Nigeria as a regional power?

The answer to this question is the major agenda of this paper. The Economic Community of West African States as the name clearly indicates and as stipulated in the organization’s legal instrument is solely an association of countries that are geographically located within West African geographical space. Morocco, located in North Africa is therefore, geographically and legally speaking, not qualified to be a member of ECOWAS. In the forty-two years of the existence of ECOWAS this is the first time a non-West African country is applying for membership. Why the sudden membership application by Morocco?

Because of the anomaly of Morocco’s membership application, a lot of conjectures have been advanced as the likely reasons. To some, it is to enhance intra-African trade, to others it is to destabilize Nigeria’s leadership position in the sub-region, and yet to others, it is to diplomatically ingratiate herself to West African countries with the view of mellowing the agitations for the total independence of Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic; a territory that Morocco claims is historically an integral part and parcel of its history, society, and geographical encompassment. The conjectures are profuse.

This paper argues that Morocco’s bid to join ECOWAS is wrong. It is geographically and legally anathematic. Morocco’s membership application appears to be more than meets the eyes. It is imbricated in a narrative of a sinister agenda; and this much, many commentators have adumbrated in their analysis. They posit the probability of Morocco’s manipulation of the linguistic, religious, cultural, political, and economic differences in the sub-region to advance her interests. In the event, this would cause disaffection amongst West African countries and hamper regional integration, stability, peace, and security. Morocco’s membership is therefore not the envisaged pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Furthermore, Morocco’s bid to join ECOWAS is seen as a major assault on Nigeria’s diplomatic credentials and leadership position as a West African regional power. Nigeria has been at the forefront of an Afrocentric, anticolonial, anti-imperial, progressive and dynamic foreign policy. This foreign policy posture runs contrary to that of Morocco that is oriented towards the industrialized countries of Europe, North America and Asia and decidedly imperialistic as in the case of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic that prompted Morocco’s exit from the Organization of African Union (OAU) in 1984. These dissonances in foreign policy perspectives have led to lukewarm relations between both countries. By proposing to join ECOWAS, Morocco appears to be positioning itself more strategically to engage Nigeria.

The membership application of Morocco is a major diplomatic overture to West Africa. It deserves to be dealt with decisively. To address the issues raised by Morocco’s membership application, this paper is compartmentalized into six parts to wit ECOWAS: Regional Integration and Development; Morocco- Africa Relations: What Manner of Relations?; Morocco’s Bid for ECOWAS Membership: Issues and Perspectives; Morocco in ECOWAS: Whither Nigeria?, and Conclusion.

ECOWAS: Regional Integration and Development

There has been a consciousness of regional integration in African since the early post-colonial period. The earliest attempt was pioneered by the francophone countries, partly on account of their geographical contiguity and shared monetary zone- the franc zone. Thus on the 9 June 1959, Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, and Cote d’Ivoire signed a convention in Paris to establish the very first custom union in the West African sub-region known as Union Douaniere de l’ Afrique de l’ Quest (UDAO) with headquarters in Cote d’Ivoire (Asante; 1986:47-48). The primary motive of UDAO was to integrate the economies of the states concerned through removal of laws governing inland taxes.

The UDAO framework collapsed and by June 1966 it was replaced by Union Douaniere et Economique de L’ Africa de L’ Quest with the same membership with the same agenda of economic integration through preferential treatment offered to each other (Ezenwe, 1984). Again, like a pack of cards it collapsed, paring way for the establishment of Commutate Economique de L’ Afrique de L’ Quest (CEAO) on 21 May 1970 in Bamako, Mali, and formally established on 17 April, 1973. The francophone countries had earlier on 12 May 1962 under the UDEAO framework sought to establish a West African Monetary Union (Union Monetarie Quest Africane-UMOA); actually it was to be the monetary arm of the UDEAO.

Another supra-regional initiative was the establishment in 1968 of the organization of the Senegal River states consisting of Guinea, Mali, Mauritania and Senegal; with the expressed objectives of furthering cooperative and peaceful relations, economic cooperation, coordinated planning and mobility of goods and services among the member states. Similarly, the Lake Chad Basin commission was established on 22 May 1964 by Chad, Niger, Nigeria and Cameroun; with the responsibility of collecting, evaluating and disseminating information on proposals made by the contracting parties, to advocate plans for the common projects and joint research programs; to maintain fusion with member states with a view to more effective use of water; to draw up common rules for navigation and to encourage the settlement of disputes among members (Omagu, 2001:29). Liberia and Sierra Leone also established a Mano River Union (MRU) with the agenda of integrating their economies, eliminating trade barriers, and common protection policy and cooperation.

From the foregoing scenario, it is clear that there have been spirited attempts by West African countries to forge a common platform for regional integration and developments, especially from the Francophone countries. The differences in colonial heritage, language, geography, economy, and society have had countervailing effect on the harmonization process, especially the interface between the Francophone and Anglophone countries. Progress was made in October 1966 by the initiative of the Economic Commission of Africa (ECA) to harmonize and integrate all the economies of the West African countries through the convening of the 7th Session of the United Nations Economic Commission of Africa (UNECA) in 1965. This session provided the framework for the hosting in October 1966 of the conference on Economic Cooperation in West Africa, held in Niamey, Chad, in October 1966 and “attended by eleven states which also recommended the establishment of a Permanent Transport and Energy Committee and the adoption of Articles of Association for a proposed Community” (Omagu 2001:32). The initiative planted in the consciousness of the West African countries the need to break down the artificial differences created by colonialism and build on shared cultural bonds as Africans.

Thus in April 1972, the heads of state Nigeria and Togo, General Yakubu Gowon and Gnassingbe Eyadema; signed a treaty to set up the West African Economic Community (Asante, 1986:55). Officials and experts of both countries toured the region mobilizing support for the regional organization from 1972 to 1975. Thus, on 23 June 1975, the treaty establishing ECOWAS was ratified by seven states of Ghana, Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire, Liberia, Nigeria, Togo and Burkina Faso. Subsequently, other West African countries kept on ratifying the treaty. Today, with the exception of Mauritania, all the fifteen countries in West Africa are members of ECOWAS. The countries are: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo .

Perhaps, it need be stated that barring the Nigeria civil war, ECOWAS would have come into effect earlier than 1975. The lessons of the war wizened Nigeria immeasurably. Some countries, notably Cote d’Ivoire supported Biafra, and its secessionist bid. This scenario reinforced the need for Nigeria to have a West African policy initiative that is decidedly integrative and to provide leadership given its factor endowments. And also, because of her anti-apartheid posture that earned her the status of a frontline state even though she was not geographically contiguous to Southern Africa, it proved more than necessary for Nigeria to forge close knit relations with her neighbours to wade off any potential threat of any enemy state infiltrating a West African state to violate her national interests.

The treaty establishing ECOWAS specifically outline its central objective to be to:

Promote the cooperation and integration, leading to the establishment of an Economic Union in West Africa in order to raise the living standards of its peoples, and to maintain and enhance economic stability, foster relations among member states and contribute to the progress and development of the African continent.

In order to actualize this lofty objective, member states agreed through stage by stage to ensure the actualization of the underlisted principles:

  1. Harmonizing, coordinating national polices and promoting integration programmes, projects and activities;
  2. Promoting the establishment of joint production and joint venture enterprises, establishing a common market
  3. Establishing an economic union through the adoption of common policies on the economic, financial, social and cultural sectors, and the creation of a single monetary zone, and
  4. Strengthen of relations and promoting the flow of information among population, organizations, media, businessmen and women, workers and trade unions.

Morocco-Africa Relations: What Manner of Relations?

Morocco is a constitutional monarchy and is officially known as the Kingdom of Morocco (Al Mamlakah al Maghribiyah) and is ruled by King Mohammed VI, who succeeded his father, King Hassan II, in 1999. It became independent from France on 2 March 1956 (Miller; 2013). Morocco is a developing economy built around agriculture, forestry, fishing, mineral resources, industry, and manufacturing. Morocco’s foreign economic relation is decidedly geared towards Europe and North America, especially the United States of America. For instance on 1 January 2006 she entered into a comprehensive bilateral free-trade agreement with the US making it the only second such Arab country to have such agreement with America; and also in December 1999, Morocco had a free-trade agreement with the European Union (EU).

While Morocco-EU and USA economic relations is buoyant and on the rise, it is not so with African countries. This asymmetrical economic relation with Africa is not as contentious as the political relations. Morocco’s foreign policy is chiefly oriented towards the Arab world, Europe, and North America. For instance in 2004, the United States of America designated Morocco as a non-member of the Non Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in recognition of its fight against terrorism; and in 2000, Morocco signed a comprehensive agreement with the European Union known as the EU-Morocco Association Agreement. Morocco’s relation with Africa has not been as rosy as these aforementioned relations. It has been hot and cold; controversial, suspicious, and tension soaked.

Morocco’s foreign policy also has an imperial and colonial agenda. And this is the major area it has problems with other African nations. At the core of these problems is the continuing occupation and colonization of Western Sahara by Morocco. The Western Sahara is a territory in the Maghreb, North Africa. It borders the North Atlantic Ocean, Algeria, Mauritania, and Morocco. The Western Sahara was a Spanish colony. The momentum and pressures of decolonization forced Spain to cede its control of the Sahara in 1976 to both Mauritania and Morocco for joint administration owing to their claims of its territorial ownership. In 1979, however, Mauritania withdrew from the Western Sahara. Morocco has refused to recognize the territorial integrity of the Western Sahara, arguing that it is an integral part and parcel of its territory (Shelly 2004; Jensen 2005).

A war of independence has ensued between the Sahrawi militant nationalist organization, Polariso, and Morocco. A ceasefire was reached in 1991 (Zunes and Mundy 2010; Khadad 2017). Polariso has also declared, a Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) in exile with its headquarters in Tindoulf, Algeria. The war of nationalism has been intense and generated so much tension and acrimony within and without Africa. It has attracted the attention of the United Nations and other supranational organizations. In 1991, for instance, the United Nations instituted the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) under United Nations Security Council Resolution 690.

Morocco’s insistence on the colonization of the Western Sahara is contrary to all known legal proclamations. The issue of the legal status of Western Sahara is captured by Khadad (2017: 41) clearly in these words,

Western Sahara’s legal status is crystal clear. In 1963, it was officially recognized as a Non-Self-Governing Territory by the United Nations General Assembly under the UN Charter—a legal status it retains to this day. It is, in short, the last colony in Africa. In 1975, the International Court of Justice (ICI) affirmed the Saharawi people’s right to self-determination of territorial sovereignty between morocco and Western Sahara.

The Sahrawi question has been a sore point in Morocco’s external relations with the world. Majority of African countries especially given their history of colonialism are opposed to the Moroccan colonization of the Western Sahara.

The simmering tension in African-Moroccan relations exploded into a full blown diplomatic crisis at the 69th Council of Ministers Conference of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in February 1982. At the conference, Western Sahara was admitted as a member of the OAU. Morocco that had played a very strong role in the formation of the OAU saw this act as an affront on its sovereignty and territorial integrity. In reaction it immediately suspended its participation in OAU activities and in November 1984 officially withdrew her membership of OAU. Morocco has since this event not forgiven those countries and individuals it saw as being responsible for the admission of Western Sahara into OAU. Some of the countries that spearheaded the admission of the Western Sahara are Nigeria, Kenya, Algeria, and Libya. McNamee et al (2013:7) commenting on Moroccan bitterness states that

The overwhelming view within Morocco is that the decision was borne of back room deals and the strong-arming of many small and diplomatically weak African countries by others, especially Morocco’s neighbours Algeria and Libya. Special opprobrium is reserved for the then OAU Secretary General, Edem Kodjo.

After more than thirty three years of the severance of her relationship with the OAU now African Union (AU), Morocco, consequent upon her application, in July 2016, was at the 28th African Union Summit (22-31 January, 2017) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, re-admitted on 30 January, 2017 into its fold. Thirty-nine out of fifty four countries voted to re-admit Morocco after an ‘emotional and intense debate’ (Abubeker, AFP News; 2017). According to Lamine Baali, ambassador of Western Sahara to Ethiopia and the AU, (Mohamed, Aljazeera News; 2017) “Morocco has been admitted to join the AU with a view that it will become the 55th member of the continental body. That's made with the understanding that Western Sahara will remain a member of the AU.”

Ould Salek, the Foreign Affairs Minister of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) (Mohamed, Aljazeera News; 2017) stated that “from the moment that Morocco did not impose conditions ... we take their word for it and accept that Morocco be admitted to the African Union.” In his response, the King of Morocco, King Mohammed VI, (The National News, 2017) stated elatedly that “Africa is my home, and I am coming back home. I have missed you all”

But the question that lingers on is: why the sudden interest of Morocco in rejoining the AU? Analysts have offered a plethora of reasons. Gaffey (2017, Newsweek News Magazine) posits that:

According to analysts, two key benefits stick out in Morocco’s reintegration in the AU: the opportunity for greater trade with African countries, many of which are growing much faster than European states; and a potential means of resolving the continent’s last remaining colonial dispute—the status of Western Sahara, a territory Morocco claims as its own but that an independence movement says deserves autonomy. On the economic front, Morocco’s links with the rest of Africa are growing but still make up a small percentage of the country’s overall trade.

Not too long after it rejoined the AU, Morocco also applied to join the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Morocco is a stranger to the West African geographical region. This move is said to be informed by the new foreign policy drive of Morocco inspired by the royal vision of King Mohammed VI who enunciated what would appear to be its African policy at the Crans Montana Forum held in Dakhla, Morocco, from March 12-14, 2017 where he postulated that (Temsamani, 2017):

Morocco’s African policy is based on a comprehensive, integrated and inclusive approach designed to promote peace and stability, encourage sustainable human development and safeguard the cultural and spiritual identity of our populations, while respecting the universal values of human rights. Morocco has been working untiringly to help forge a modern, bold, entrepreneurial and open Africa; an African continent which is proud of its identity, which derives its vibrancy from its cultural heritage and which is capable of transcending outdated ideologies.

It is this royal vision in Moroccan foreign policy, what Amrani (2017) refers to as ‘royal diplomacy’ that propelled it to apply for ECOWAS membership. Indeed, in its new royal foreign policy drive, it sees Africa’s geographical formations as relics of colonialism and arbitrary. According to King Mohammed VI (Temsamani, 2017) “the borders inherited from colonization often continue to be a major source of tension and conflict,” and that “Africa is a continent with growing and unsettling security issues”; but he stressed that “Africa’s tremendous human and natural resources should, instead, be a powerful catalyst for regional integration.” It is true that the geographical configurations of African nations are largely arbitrary but the location of countries in specific geographical regions is natural. Could this simple geographical fact have eluded Morocco in its bid to join ECOWAS? Or is its membership application a deliberate act of mischief. What are the issues surrounding Morocco’s application for ECOWAS? These questions form the subject matter of our next sub-unit.

Morocco’s Bid for ECOWAS Membership: Issues and Perspectives

Morocco’s membership application to join ECOWAS has generated wide-ranging commentaries issuing from varying perspectives. We have classified the issues and perspectives raised by the Moroccan move into six major areas. First, majority of the commentators agree that Morocco being a North African country is geographically not qualified to be a member of ECOWAS. It is a geographical aberration for Morocco to seek to join a West African organization. The treaty that established ECOWAS in Article 62 entitled Entry into Force, Ratification and Accession clearly states that ‘Any West African state may accede to this treaty on such terms and condition as the Authority may determine…” From the provisions of the ECOWAS Treaty, its membership is only opened to countries that are geographically located in the West African sub-region. It is only these countries that can accede to the treaty and also withdraw their membership. Morocco being a North African country is therefore geographically not qualified to be a member of the community.

More fundamentally, the Abuja Treaty of 1993 recognizes ECOWAS alongside other four regional groupings that constitute the building blocks for Africa’s diplomatic space. As Akinyemi (2017:14) puts it:

When elective and appointive posts and resources are being allocated by international institutions, does Morocco now benefit from the West Africa quota? This is not just a theoretical issue. Elections to seats at the Security Council, the World Court, various Commissions of the United Nations are distributed on regional basis. Morocco, as a member of Arab League, will benefit from the Arab League quota, and then have another bite at the West African quota, without other West African states benefitting from Arab quota.

Morocco is a member of the Arab Magreb Union (AMU) a geographical formation recognized in Africa diplomatic space and as such cannot also claim West Africa. It amounts to injecting confusion into the system. The Society for International Relations and Awareness (SIRA), an association of professionals bound by their interest in foreign policy and international relations also harped on this issue of geography. To SIRA (Owei and Sesay 2017:31), Morocco’s attempt to accede to the ECOWAS Treaty amounts to turning ‘globally accepted international norms and the logic of geography on their heads.’

Secondly, it is argued that Morocco is a hereditary monarchy and on account of this her bid to join ECOWAS contradicts the 2001 ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance that aims to deepen and consolidate democracy in the sub-region and at the moment is pushing for a maximum two-term policy for Heads of State of Member Countries (Owei and Sesay 2017).

Thirdly, Morocco is said to be a pathological hankerer for troubles (Ibrahim, 2017). Morocco’s role in the OAU and AMU are major point of reference. Ibrahim (2017: 78) lending credence to this point of view argues that

Morocco has a dubious distinction of causing dissension in any organization it belongs; it has done that in OAU and AMU and given the chance it will do the same thing in ECOWAS. Recall also how last year it led eight other Arab countries to withdraw from the 4th Arab-African Summit in Malabo, over the insistence of AU on the participation of Western Sahara.

Allowing her into the fold of ECOWAS would lead to disastrous consequences. It is said that since 2008, the Arab Magreb Union (AMU) that Morocco is a member has not met on account of “unending disagreements over Morocco’s continuing occupation of neighbouring Western Sahara as well as disputes with another of its neighbor, Algeria” (Ibrahim, 2017:78).

Also alluding to the troublesome nature of Morocco, SIRA (Owei and Sesay 2017:31) argues that “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’ and for non-altruistic reasons. The only way to forestall Morocco to “inject a poisonous political culture into ECOWAS” they argue is for the

West African countries and their leaders to protect ECOWAS and its enviable gains by emphatically rejecting Morocco’s membership of the Organization. Any other action will be an unacceptable betrayal of the trust reposed in them by the citizens of West Africa, (Owei and Sesay 2017:31).

Fourthly, it is argued that admitting Morocco into the fold of ECOWAS is an affront on the regional body’s organizational integrity. According to Fafowora (2017:48) “the central issue involved in the admission of Morocco is not about Nigeria’s influence in ECOWAS, but the integrity of the organization.” This is so because, for him, the primary reason for Morocco’s bid to join ECOWAS is to feather her imperial nest in the Western Sahara. As he puts it (2017: 48):

Morocco’s bid for admission into ECOWAS is based on unjustified political and economic considerations that are incompatible with the objectives of the organization. Morocco wants to join ECOWAS to use it as a political and diplomatic platform to promote its illegal annexation of Western Sahara and to subvert the legitimate aspirations of the people of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) to their independence, despite the dubious claims of Morocco to sovereignty over the state.

Fifthly, some notable foreign policy analysts are of the opinion that Morocco’s bid to join ECOWAS is aimed at Nigeria (Akinyemi 2017; Anyaoku 2017). The principal reason, they contend, is to whittle her leadership role and influence in the sub-region. This position is not without bases. Nigeria-Morocco relations have come a long way (Shuni, 2001:33). Both countries officially established diplomatic relations in 1969; and are economically and agriculturally endowed and have through a plethora of bilateral frameworks that seek to consolidate their relationships.

Recently, Nigeria and Morocco signed a steering committee to develop a sustainable crop insurance scheme (The Nation newspapers; 2017: 15). However, due to the radical divergences of the foreign policy stance of these countries especially on the Western Sahara, there appear to be no love lost between them. For instance, in 2015, the diplomatic relations between both countries almost broke down following the allege snub of the telephone call Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan made to his Moroccan counterpart King Mohammed VI (Pine; 2015). Even though Nigeria-Morocco relations have not been outrightly hostile, it nonetheless, has not been very warm. Indeed, the relations have been lukewarm: neither hot nor cold. It is on account of these tensions that many analysts see the move by Morocco to accede the ECOWSAS Treaty as an anti-Nigeria move.

Given this background, therefore, when Morocco applied for membership of ECOWAS in 2017, it raised apprehensions in Nigeria especially within the diplomatic community and the international relations academe. It also attracted immense media reportage, editorials and public commentaries (Blueprint 2017:5; Daily Sun 2017:15; Essen 2017: 4; Odunlami 2017: 31; Owei 2017:31; Punch 2017:18; The Nation 2017:15; Vanguard 2017:4). Bolaji Akinyemi (2017:3), former Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Minister, in a very telling title, ‘Admission of Morocco into ECOWAS is an anti-Nigeria move’ argued that the quest by Morocco to accede to the ECOWAS Treaty is in bad faith and a calculated attempt to diminish Nigeria’s influence in the global arena and the West African region where she is undoubtedly a regional power. Akinyemi (2017:3) states that in the face of this membership application by Morocco, ‘Nigeria has only one option: Let the West African Heads of State and Presidents drop this whole issue of expansion to the Mediterranean or Nigeria should serve notice that it would terminate, NOT SUSPEND, TERMINATE its membership of ECOWAS’ (emphasis in original).

Emeka Anyaoku, former Commonwealth Secretary General also bemoaned Morocco’s attempt to accede to ECOWAS Treaty. He contended that acceptance of Morocco’s membership application by the sub-regional body in the first place is a clear demonstration of Nigeria’s loss of regional influence. According to him (2017: 50):

Nigeria’s loss of grips in ECOWAS was dramatized by its inability to veto the ECOWAS decision in principle to admit into its fold Morocco, a North African nation and member of the Arab Magreb Union (AMU).’ With the prospect of Morocco joining the ECOWAS, Nigeria would be risking a diminished influence in the sub region; it would also be opening itself up to Morocco’s inevitable determination to get its pound of flesh following Nigeria’s role in the admission of Western Sahara into the OAU/AU. And this is not to talk about the adverse economic consequences for Nigeria from Morocco’s membership of ECOWAS.

To preserve the mandate of ECOWAS from corruption, Anyaoku (20017; 50) is of the opinion that:

I believe that for its effectiveness and benefits of the future integration of its members, ECOWAS must remain a strictly geopolitical regional organization whose membership should be limited to only countries in the West African geographic space. Besides, extending ECOWAS membership to the Mediterranean Sea will inevitably dilute the organization’s integration movement.

Sixthly, it is important to point out the linguistic configuration of the West African region and its place in Morocco’s application to join ECOWAS. Of the fifteen member countries that make up ECOWAS, eight are French speaking (Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Togo, and Guinea); five English speaking (Gambia, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone); and two Portuguese speaking (Cape Verde and Guinea Bissau). Very importantly, too, Islam is a major religion in the sub-region. Morocco is French speaking and predominantly Islamic. Given this scenario, therefore, there is the looming possibility of Morocco manipulating these primordial cultural forces of shared colonial experience, religion and linguistic congruency to cause dissension within the ranks of members of the Community. In the strategic calculations of realpolitik diplomacy, the end rather than the means, is the ideological vision, and as such whatever resource is veritable in the conurbation of power and advantage is not spared. In the event of Morocco using these cultural resources at its disposal, tremendous harm would be wrought on the regional body politic, especially the ECOWAS agenda and regional integration.

It needs to be pointed out that Morocco’s membership of ECOWAS, contrary to the misgivings and permutations expressed by its antagonists, may not necessarily be detrimental to ECOWAS and Nigeria’s leadership and foreign policy drive. Indeed, there can be no doubt that eventually, Morocco’s membership of ECOWAS would promote and foster stronger economic, cultural, political and religious ties. The reasons for this optimism abounds. For instance, Morocco is one of the economically, culturally, and politically stable countries in Africa. Her expertise and advancements in the maritime economy, agriculture and manufacturing would stand countries of ECOWAS in good stead. In the event of her membership, therefore, economic ties and regional co-operation between African countries would be strengthened and enhanced and by so doing place them in a better position to compete globally. However, the contingent decimal is that all these advantages pale in comparison to the non-admittance of Morocco into ECOWAS. In view of this, therefore, the membership application of Morocco to accede ECOWAS treaty should be set aside.

Conclusion
This paper has demonstrated that Morocco’s bid to join ECOWAS is fundamentally flawed. Geographically, she is not a West African nation; geo-diplomatically she belongs to North Africa not West Africa. Morocco has a reputation for fermenting trouble. This much it has demonstrated in the African Maghreb Union (AMU) and Organization of African Unity (OAU) now African Union (AU) where it withdrew its membership in1984 on the issue of the Saharawi Arab democratic Republic. Morocco’s bid to join ECOWAS may in all probability lead to regional tensions and animosities especially between her and Nigeria, the sub-regional leader. In the event, this would impede the agenda of regional economic integration, unity and stability that is the driving force behind the establishment of ECOWAS.

In view of all these facts, the paper suggests that West African leaders should resist the overtures of Morocco to join ECOWAS. Those countries that are sponsoring her membership bid should refrain from doing so in the wider interest of the sub-region because ultimately it would undermine the body polity of the region and the long tortuous road to regional integration they have embarked upon since 1975. For Nigeria particularly, it has much to do to stem this Moroccan bid. As a regional leader, Morocco’s bid to join ECOWAS is a direct challenge to her leadership credentials and foreign policy posture. She therefore needs to stand up and rally round all the countries in the sub-region to set aside Morocco’s application.

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Atah Pine
Atah Pine, © 2018

The author has 2 publications published on Modern Ghana.Column: AtahPine

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