Opinion

Morocco takes a step forward in the Maghreb geopolitical rivalry

Border between Morocco and Algeria

The Moroccan ambassador to the United Nations, Omar Hilale, has included the problem of Kabylia in the political agenda of mutual reproaches and demands between Morocco and Algeria.

Speaking in the general debate of the ministerial meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement, the Moroccan representative at the UN defended the right of the people of Kabylia to political "self-determination". "This is not an à la carte right, and if one wants to apply it to a self-proclaimed Cimmerian republic in the Algerian capital - in reference to SADR, recognised by more than thirty UN countries, but neither by the Security Council, nor by the UN General Assembly, nor by the European Union, nor by the European Union, nor by the United Nations, nor by the European Union, the Non-Aligned Movement, the Arab League or the Arab Maghreb Union - should also apply to the Kabyle people, "one of the oldest in Africa, who have long been under foreign occupation".

Exasperated by what they see as Algeria's stubbornness in defending "the right to self-determination of the Sahrawi people", certain personalities close to King Mohammed VI felt it was time to introduce the Kabylia issue into the bilateral equation. With this decision, conveyed in the form of an instruction to the Moroccan ambassador to the UN, the monarch's advisors have taken a dangerous and unforeseeable step.

Since the outbreak of armed conflict in the former Spanish colony in the 1970s, this is the first time Morocco has invoked the Kabylia issue and demanded the same right to self-determination that its Algerian geopolitical rivals demand for the Saharawis. At no time, even in the most tense moments between Rabat and Algiers, due to the intervening Sahara conflict, did Hassan II agree to bring the Kabylia problem into the bilateral geopolitical equation. Nor did his son, Mohammed VI, in the early years of his reign. Not only because the historic leader of the Kabyle movement par excellence, Ait Ahmed's Socialist Forces Front (FFS), had Moroccan family, but also because in the late monarch's vision of the state, introducing the right to decide for any of the populations and ethnic groups that make up the Maghreb mosaic throughout the whole of North Africa meant opening the Pandora's Box of state disintegration, institutional weakening and internal conflicts in the countries. A step that, in the current circumstances, Mohammed VI's entourage has taken. 

This decision to bring regionalist issues into the Maghreb geopolitical rivalry could have negative repercussions for all the countries in the geographical area: in Libya, where ethnic strife has already led to clashes between armed regional groups; in Tunisia, where the regionalist movement in the south is gaining strength in the face of the disintegration of the central state; and in Algeria, where the Kabylie movement is gaining strength in the face of the disintegration of the central state; In Algeria, where Kabyles, Mozabites, Tuaregs, Oranis, are waiting their turn to claim more autonomy or independence; in Morocco itself, where Rifians, Zenagas, Masmudis, Chauias, Meknassas, Dukalas, and so many other tribes, could be attracted by the mirage of independence.

For the Algerian military, faced with an explosive internal situation and a political regime strongly contested by the population that boycotts all electoral processes, Morocco's decision favours the country's entrenchment based on Algeria's strong nationalism. Mistaking Kabyle and, in general, Amazigh intransigence for a supposedly pro-independence aspiration is a serious error on the part of those pulling the strings of Algerian diplomacy, unprecedented in the country's history. 

Beyond the geopolitical rivalry between the two central states of the Maghreb, and the problems in suspense, some of them difficult to solve, the historical facts are there: the only weapons of their own manufactured by the Algerian revolutionaries in their struggle against the French colonial empire were made in Morocco, with the logistical and financial support of its elites, and the approval of Sultan Mohammed V and Crown Prince Mulay Hassan. Neither Algeria nor Morocco should forget this.