DURING the just ended marathon budget session of parliament, some lawmakers advised the executive to establish diplomatic relations with Morocco, a country which has long been considered as rogue by Organization of African Unity (currently known as African Union).
“During our recent visit to Morocco, we learnt about a number of opportunities which we as a country can exploit from the Arab nation. It’s time that the government should seriously consider to establish diplomatic relations with Morocco,” said Kilindi Member of Parliament (MP), Beatrice Shelukindo. Ms Shelukindo said while debating Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation budget estimates for 2012/13 the country is losing a lot by delaying to establish full diplomatic relations with the North African country whose occupation of Western Sahara has been a bone of contention with AU members.
“Let’s get out of this politics and engage Morocco for the benefit of our country,” Shelukindo argued.Morocco withdrew its membership of OAU in 1984 after it recognized a delegation of the Sahara Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), the shadow government of the Polisario, as legitimate. Morocco and Mauritania occupied different parts of Western Sahara in 1975 after Spain withdrew from the territory.
The OAU was angered by the two countries invasion of Western Sahara which was sanctioned by Spain through a tripartite agreement in 1975. Resistance from Polisario and protest from OAU convinced Mauritania to withdraw from Western Sahara in 1979 but Morocco ironically moved to occupy the entire country.As one of the front line countries opposed to colonialism, Tanzania sympathized with Polisario Front as was the position of the OAU and therefore Rabat was considered not to be a possible diplomatic ally of Dar es Salaam.
“Our position remains the same, we are still supporting the AU’s position on independence of Western Sahara but that does not mean that we cannot have diplomatic relations with Morocco,” Foreign Affairs Minister, Bernard Membe told parliament while winding up debate relating to his budget speech.
Mr Membe noted that as is the case with Israel which has mistreated Palestinian people for decades and continues to deny establishment of an independent Palestinian state as per United Nations resolutions, Tanzania continues to engage with the Jewish state diplomatically.
“We will deal with Morocco in the same manner that we deal with Israel while we support Palestinian right to independence, we have diplomatic ties with the Jewish nation,” Membe noted as many MPs from the Parliamentary Defence and Foreign Relations Committee led by its Chairman, Monduli MP, Edward Lowassa rallied behind the idea.
Mr Lowassa who led members of his committee who visited the Arab nation last April stressed that Dar es Salaam is solidly behind Morocco’s push to rejoin the AU while granting autonomy to Western Sahara prior to a referendum as agreed by joint UN/OAU in 1988.“We are in perfect harmony with the UN resolutions and Tanzania is satisfied with the autonomy proposal to the southern provinces put forward by Morocco as a solution to the Sahara issue.
We consider that the return of the Kingdom to AU can only encourage a swift settlement in its favour,” said Lowassa,.The former Tanzania Prime Minister told members of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence, Islamic Affairs and Moroccans Expatriates in parliament that, “the country has full willingness to punch its weight on the continental level, in particular, in order to provide the necessary support to Morocco to settle to the Sahara conflict that has dragged on for too long.”
Members of Lowassa’s committee also visited the Kingdom for the first time in late 2010 in what foreign analysts see as strengthen relations between the two countries which have been kept apart for several years because of the Western Sahara issue.As Ms Shelukindo argued, Morocco has a strong economy which can provide a good market for our exports especially commodities.
In brief, the Kingdom which is a middle income country with a gross domestic product (GDP) of over 90.5 billion US dollars has phosphate rock mining and processing, food processing, leather goods, textiles, selling of arts and crafts, construction and tourism as main industries. “I agree that we have got to tap this potential from Morocco as argued by MPs and promise that the government will seriously consider the proposal of having full diplomatic ties with Morocco,” Membe noted.
Press reports from Rabat quoted Moroccan First Vice President of Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence, Islamic Affairs and Moroccan Expatriates, Naima Farrah as saying that Rabat has full confidence in Dar es Salaam’s ability to help influence things in Western Sahara.“Morocco has withdrawn from the Organization of African Unity but not from Africa, where it remains grounded and maintains deep relationships with most countries of the continent,” Ms Farrah, said.In the Ministry’s budget estimates covering 2012/13, new Embassy consuls will be opened in Ankara, Turkey, Los Angeles and California in the US, Lubumbashi in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Guangzhou in China.Lawmakers approved Membe’s 98.33bn/- budget of which 81.68bn/- is for recurrent expenditure while 16.65bn/- fund development projects