Of recent, The Gambia has undoubtedly turned to be a rare diplomatic ally of its kind to Morocco. The North African kingdom and its West African strategic partner have agreed on Tuesday to schedule a session of the two countries Joint Commission for Cooperation and an Economic Forum in Banjul at a date to be determined later.
Recently, the relations between the two countries evolved from excellent to sweet, with The Gambia’s Minister of Foreign affairs, Momodou Tangara, visiting Morocco twice in four months. His first visit was in November 2020. In February, Momodou Tangara conveyed a message from Gambia’s President, Adama Barrow, to King Mohammed VI of Morocco.
Morocco pockets Gambia’s support on Western Sahara.
Many countries adopt a cautious stance on Rabat’s territorial claims over Western Sahara, not to upset either Algeria, Mauritania, or Morocco. The Gambia is all in support of the latter.
Moroccan Security Forces at A Checkpoint in Guerguerat
In January 2020, The Gambia became the second State to open a consulate in the Western Sahara spot of Dahla after Guinea Conakry. Other African countries unreservedly supporting Morocco over the Western Sahara issue like The Gambia are Sao Tome and Principe, Cote d’Ivoire, Comoros, and Gabon. They each have a consulate in Laayoune.
In October 2020, the Western Sahara Polisario Front imposed a stand-off in Guerguerat, along the buffer zone with the Moroccan-Mauritanian border. Polisario militiamen blocked the traffic between Tangier to Dakar via Nouakchott for over a month. Like Equatorial Guinea, The Gambia openly applauded the decisive Morrocan military intervention to reopen the corridor.
But Morocco’s interests in building a strategic alliance with The Gambia go beyond the kingdom’s international quest to accept its territorial claims in Western Sahara. Since 2017, Morocco is intensely lobbying to join the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
Morocco’s passionate bid to join ECOWAS
Though the West African block agreed in principle to look into Morocco’s request to join ECOWAS, certain member countries continue to query what are Morocco’s real intentions and what ECOWAS member countries could benefit from such a membership?
More fundamental questions touching on the very identity of ECOWAS have also built momentum: Is Morocco part of West Africa? How to admit a new member country like Morocco? Would Morocco’s membership affect the principles and foundations of the ECOWAS institution?
Morocco building solid bilateral ties with The Gambia means the kingdom securing a voice to support its demand within ECOWAS member states.
During Tuesday video call, Morocco’s Foreign Affairs Minister Nasser Bourita and his Gambian counterpart Mamadou Tangara “expressed mutual interest in advancing both countries’ strategic communication and coordination in international platforms including the African Union (AU) and the United Nations (UN) as well as coordinating actions at the level of their permanent representatives in New York, Geneva, and the AU,” diplomatic sources have informed The Chronicle.
In addition, Momodou Tangara reiterated, “The Gambia’s steadfast support for both Morocco’s territorial integrity and the Autonomy Plan proposal on Western Sahara,” deeming it “credible.”
Mix gains for The Gambia as of now
The question is, what is The Gambia getting in return for its direct support to Morocco?
In November 2020, the two countries signed two cooperation agreements in health and diplomatic training.
On Tuesday, Morocco’s top diplomat pledged to support The Gambia on renewable energy, agriculture, infrastructure, training, water, education, and exchanging experience in water management and dam construction.