Will Morocco and Al­ge­ria ever make peace?

Af­ter with­draw­ing from the African Union’s (AU) pre­de­ces­sor 33 years ago over the sta­tus of West­ern Sa­hara – a re­gion sup­ported by Al­ge­ria that is seek­ing a self-de­ter­mi­na­tion vote – Morocco joined the AU on 30 Jan­uary

The Africa Report - - THE QUESTION -


It is pos­si­ble to say that the Maghreb’s two pow­er­houses are ir­rec­on­cil­able due to the West­ern Sa­hara quar­rel, the reg­u­lar ac­cu­sa­tions on drug smug­gling or the bit­ter ex­change around ter­ror­ism ex­port. But that de­nies the role and the say of both pop­u­la­tions, their re­spec­tive masses and their in­de­pen­dent, young, pro­gres­sive in­tel­li­gentsia. In the present day, there are two realms of re­al­ity when it comes to the Al­ge­rian-moroc­can stand­off. There is the in­sti­tu­tional dis­course which reigns at the helm of both neigh­bour­ing states, echoed by a servile me­dia which fu­els in its turn a sense of diplo­matic war­fare, mis­trust and ri­valry. Yet there is the street, filled with a dis­grun­tled pub­lic and an in­creas­ingly savvy youth who might buy into some of Al­giers’ or Ra­bat’s pro­pa­ganda, but can still see very clearly at ei­ther side of the bor­der that the two agents of this an­i­mos­ity are elit­ist, deca­dent regimes. When it comes to the ques­tion of West­ern Sa­hara, the vast ma­jor­ity of or­di­nary Al­ge­ri­ans and Moroc­cans do not en­dure a state of con­stant ob­ses­sive para­noia, con­di­tion­ing all in­ter­ac­tion be­tween the two par­ties to the feud. When they meet, they may agree or dis­agree over the fate of the Sa­ha­ran ter­ri­to­ries, but they would talk about a whole ar­ray of other is­sues, which hap­pen to be, more of­ten than not, shared griev­ances of so­cial in­jus­tice, po­lit­i­cal marginal­i­sa­tion, crack­down on dis­sent, and un­em­ploy­ment. A true rap­proche­ment may not be im­mi­nent, but it is prob­a­ble.


It ap­pears that the ri­valry be­tween Morocco and Al­ge­ria will not end in the fore­see­able fu­ture. There are com­plex is­sues as­so­ci­ated with the con­tra­dic­tory his­tor­i­cal and ide­o­log­i­cal paths of both coun­tries, and the dis­pute over the de­mar­ca­tion of bor­ders, as well as the is­sue of West­ern Sa­hara. Fur­ther­more, Al­ge­ria po­lit­i­cally and mil­i­tar­ily sup­ports the Polis­ario Front in line with the prin­ci­ples of de­coloni­sa­tion and the rights of the Sahrawi peo­ple to self-de­ter­mi­na­tion. In con­trast, Morocco’s claim to full sovereignty over West­ern Sa­hara is a di­rect threat to re­gional unity. De­spite the fact that Al­ge­ria was amongst the sup­port­ers for the re­turn of Morocco to the African Union (AU), it is not in­dica­tive of the pos­si­bil­ity of a po­lit­i­cal rap­proche­ment be­tween the two coun­tries. The Al­ge­rian ar­gu­ment would be that Morocco’s com­mit­ment to the prin­ci­ples of the AU im­plies that Morocco needs to aban­don its de­mands for the ex­pul­sion of the Sahrawi Arab Demo­cratic Re­pub­lic from the AU, which in it­self would be a tacit recog­ni­tion of the Sahrawi Re­pub­lic by Morocco.

Film­maker, doc­u­men­tary pho­tog­ra­pher & pro­ducer OUALID KHELIFI

HAMDY A. HAS­SAN Pro­fes­sor of po­lit­i­cal science, Cairo Univer­sity

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