It is said that war starts in the minds of men and so does peace. The Algerian military – the true ruler of the country through direct and indirect interventionism – never stops demonstrating bellicosity and hostility towards Morocco, despite the latter’s repetitive calls for unconditional dialogue and the complete normalization of bilateral relations. And now that Algeria has formally ended diplomatic ties with Morocco, the potential for reconciliation appears less likely than ever.
It is true that the misunderstanding between the two countries started at the dawn of their independence, and grew significantly ever since, especially after Algeria’s unwavering support of the separatist movement in the south of Morocco, known as the POLISARIO. Still, what unites the two countries is much more than what divides them, and compromise is possible, or so the Moroccan decision-makers believe.
Morocco has continuously extended its hand for Algeria to shake up the status quo and put an end to the ongoing cold war between them since 1975. With the alarming arms race between the neighboring countries and their skyrocketing military expenditure, some analysts think that the Maghreb may be on the brink of a destructive war if the tensions uncontrollably escalate, God forbid. To eschew this scenario, Morocco’s monarch, Mohamed VI, has repeatedly stressed the priority of the Maghreb unity over all other alliances and called on Algeria to open a new chapter in their relations.
In his 2018 speech, on the 43rd occasion of the Green March anniversary, Mohamed VI said: “Let me point out – and God is my witness – that soon after I acceded to the throne, I asked earnestly and in good faith that the borders between our two countries be opened and that Moroccan-Algerian relations be normalized.” The King continued: “I should like to say today, in a very straightforward and responsible way, that Morocco stands ready for a direct and frank dialogue with our sister nation, Algeria, in order to settle the transient and objective differences impeding the development of relations between the two countries.”
King Mohamed VI’s normalization initiatives since 2008 have always been received by the Algerian official media with short-sighted and discourteous contempt.
The King’s normalization initiatives since 2008 have always been received by the Algerian official media with short-sighted and discourteous contempt, describing them as pathetic attempts at begging Algeria’s affability, and as a way for Morocco to move out of its regional isolation. Thus, at the official level, such overtures have fallen on deaf Algerian ears.
The friendly and pacific terminology characterizing the official Moroccan discourse towards Algeria, especially in the speeches of the highest authority in the land, is countered with a rhetoric that extensively borrows from the lexical fields of warfare, enmity, and conspiracy. In the most recent development, Algeria abruptly declared an end to diplomatic ties with Morocco on August 24. Algerian Foreign Minister Ramdane Lamamra claimed the decision was forced by repeated “hostile actions” from Morocco, despite all evidence to the contrary.
The move came shortly after Algeria announced its intention to reconsider relations with Morocco in mid-August, making it somewhat surprising. Yet, it also served as a reminder that with or without an occasion, Algerian officials never miss a chance to demonize and smear the Moroccan monarchy and what they call al-Makhzen (the elite), attributing almost every domestic failure to Morocco in a flagrant way, to export Algeria’s internal crises abroad. For example, in one of his speeches on November 15, 2020, Saïd Chengriha – Algeria’s military chief of staff – called Morocco the “traditional enemy,” brandishing his military muscles in a threatening tone.
For example, in one of his speeches on November 15, 2020, Saïd Chengriha – Algeria’s military chief of staff – called Morocco the “traditional enemy,” brandishing his military muscles in a threatening tone.
In a recent speech on August 12, upon his reception of the United Nations’ representative to Mali, Chengriha digressed again to reiterate the same rhetoric, describing Morocco as an “occupying and expansionist country” in reference to the conflict over the Moroccan Western Sahara. The disputed territory is considered by Algeria as a full-fledged republic, even though the United Nations has yet to make its final decision on the matter.
Today, 46 years after the outbreak of the conflict between Morocco and the Algeria-backed POLISARIO, many geopolitical shifts have taken place to the detriment of the already-dying separatist movement. The political and propagandist narrative on which the communist-inspired POLISARIO project was built, eventually collapsed following the fall of the USSR and the end of the Cold War. Accordingly, Morocco’s diplomacy has succeeded in neutralizing the support provided to the POLISARIO by many former communist countries such as Cuba, Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya, and Venezuela, among others. It has also worked in convincing many other countries to completely withdraw their recognition of the so-called Sahraoui Democratic Republic.
Morocco’s diplomacy has succeeded in neutralizing the support provided to the POLISARIO by many former communist countries.
Moreover, the win-win geostrategic move of Morocco towards Africa, through investing more than 5.4 billion Moroccan dirham (nearly US$700 million) as of 2019 in Sub-Saharan countries, made Morocco an “exporter of peace and security not just within the Maghreb, not just on the continent of Africa, but within the region,” as stated by General Michael J. Turley of the US forces. This glaringly contrasts the retrograde anachronism of the POLISARIO and Algeria, whose plans jeopardize the stability of the Maghreb. The African nations who have had enough of bloodshed, famine, and other war-induced tragedies have a better understanding now of what truly serves the welfare of the continent and its peoples, which has pushed many of them to express their explicit and unequivocal support of Morocco’s sovereignty over its Sahara and its territorial integrity.
To date, there are 16 African consulates established in the Moroccan Sahara, added to many others by Arab and Caribbean countries. Yet, the straw that broke the camel’s back in the eyes of Algeria officials was the American recognition of Morocco’s sovereignty over the Sahara on December 4, 2020, under the Trump administration—a recognition that the current administration still holds as valid.
Morocco is presently in a position of strength, not only because of the increasing international support for its serious, credible, and realistic autonomy proposal as the only basis for a just and lasting solution to the dispute, but also because of the national consensus on the issue of the Moroccan Sahara. In contrast, today’s less visionary and less regionally influential Algeria – preoccupied with ample social and economic challenges despite its abundant oil and gas reserves – should rethink its obsolete Cold War narratives, especially in regard to the issue of the Moroccan Sahara.
Today’s less visionary and less regionally influential Algeria should rethink its obsolete Cold War narratives.
Nevertheless, Morocco will always extend its hand to Algeria for peace and normal bilateral relations, because, as King Mohamed VI said in his Throne Day speech on July 31, 2021, “Morocco is keen to keep up its earnest efforts to promote security and stability at the African and the Euro-Mediterranean levels, and especially in the neighboring Maghreb region.”
A simple textual analysis of the King’s most recent speech will reveal to what extent the approach of peace is endorsed. Indeed, he reassured the Algerian people, saying: “To our brothers in Algeria, I say this: Morocco will never cause you any evil or problems. Nor will my country put you in peril or under threat. That is because what affects you affects us, and what befalls you harms us.”
In another context, the King affirmed that Algeria and Morocco “are more than just two neighboring countries: they are twins, complementing one another.” This consistent commitment to regional peace and to the prosperity of the Maghreb is indeed a brave attitude that history will preserve for posterity. The hopes, though forlorn, for a great and open Maghreb will always caress the minds of its peoples, and whenever the power of love overrules the love of power, the Maghreb will achieve unity, prosperity, and peace.