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Morocco Should Reconsider Alliance with Saudi Arabia and UAE

Last Wednesday, June 13, Moroccans were disheartened to see their country lose the race to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup. Millions of Moroccans were aware that the Morocco 2026 bid could not compare to the joint proposal of the US, Canada, and Mexico, known as United 2026, in terms of existing infrastructure

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Last Wednesday, June 13, Moroccans were disheartened to see their country lose the race to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup. Millions of Moroccans were aware that the Morocco 2026 bid could not compare to the joint proposal of the US, Canada, and Mexico, known as United 2026, in terms of existing infrastructure. However, they were hopeful Morocco would create a surprise and win a majority of votes.

The Moroccan people pinned their hopes on the organization of the World Cup as an opportunity to boost Morocco’s economy, resulting in the creation of more than 100,000 jobs.

What Moroccans did not expect was that a country considered hitherto as a “brotherly” country and one of Morocco’s most strategic allies would betray them in the most brazen manner. Saudi Arabia left no stone unturned to prevent Morocco from organizing the World Cup. It not only announced support for the United 2026 bid, but intensified its efforts to persuade other countries to vote against Morocco.

What happened in Moscow and the power play that has been taking place in Saudi Arabia since Mohammed bin Salman became crown prince last June indicates that the relations between Morocco and Saudi and Arabia have taken a new turn.

The time has come for Morocco to officially and unequivocally announce its withdrawal from the Saudi-led coalition to oust the Houthi rebels in Yemen. At first, Morocco’s involvement stemmed from its belief that the war would be limited to air strikes lasting a short period of time.

Morocco’s participation was predicated on the premise that whatever harms the Saudis and Emiratis also harms Moroccans and vice-versa and that the strategic interests of the Saudis align with Morocco’s strategic interests.

However, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were not only fighting the Houthi rebel group, but also devastating the country as a whole while committing war crimes against the Yemeni people. The two countries are playing a dangerous game in Yemen and in other countries; they have a subversive agenda and seek to destabilize all the countries that do not fall in line with it.

For example, after Morocco supported them in their war against the Houthis in Yemen, Saudi Arabia and the UAE expected Morocco to side with them in their brazen blockade of Qatar. But Morocco acted wisely and decided to remain neutral, offering to help the opposing parties overcome their crisis.

Morocco’s decision to remain neutral was intentional. It reflects a new direction in Morocco’s foreign policy towards making decisions independently of Saudi Arabia.

The votes of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain against the Moroccan World Cup bid were clearly meant to punish Morocco’s decision to remain neutral in the Gulf crisis and act independently.

The new orientation of Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy under Mohammed bin Salman’s leadership is worrisome and risks plunging the whole Middle East and North Africa region into chaos and turmoil.

Morocco should by no means be associated with a country accused of committing war crimes in Yemen and of starving civilians there. Neither should Morocco be associated with the subversive agenda of the UAE and Saudi Arabia in the whole Arab world, be it in Qatar, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, Lebanon, or Syria.

To achieve this goal, the first step that Morocco should take is to withdraw completely from any alliance led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. No more Moroccan men should die to defend these countries. No more decision should be made to please the Saudis or Emiratis.

Morocco should never follow these two countries’ foreign policy agenda, which is mainly inspired and manipulated by the Washington-based right-wing research center “Foundation for the Defense of Democracies” (FDD). This is the same think tank that helped orchestrate the Saudi-Emirati media campaign against Qatar since 2011.

The center recommends policies for Riyadh and Abu Dhabi to adopt in the Arab world. The think tank was also behind the frenetic media and political campaign to convince the American president and his entourage to withdraw from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

This center and its financiers have one main goal: to achieve regime change in Iran and prevent Iran from acquiring the atomic bomb. One of the biggest financiers of the center is Sheldon Adelson, who serves first and foremost the Israeli agenda. Adelson was a major donor to President Trump’s presidential campaign, and was behind his decision to relocate the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

There are many reasons why Mohammed bin Salman considers Trump his first patron, which led him to betray Morocco. In addition to gaining U.S. support that helped Mohammed bin Salman seize power, Saudi Arabia’s goal is to convince the United States to overthrow the regime in Iran, which would be difficult and even impossible, given the strength of Iran.

The decision to take a confrontational stance against Iran was not made in Riyadh or Abu Dhabi, but in Washington, D.C. It was made and promoted by the FDD whose backers and experts make the reckless Saudi and Emirati leaders believe that the right path to challenge Iran’s subversive agenda in the region is to provoke regime change.

FDD’s ultimate goal is not to achieve the well-being and perennial stability of these two countries, but to eventually enable Israel to have the upper hand in the whole region. But the Saudis and the Emiratis take the bait.

In addition, Saudi Arabia lavishes billions on Trump and on many research centers, and lobbies to distract Americans from the JASTA Law enacted by the US Congress less than two years ago. The law gives the families of American victims of 9/11 the possibility to sue the Saudi government for its involvement in the terrorist attacks.

Moreover, Morocco, for which one of Jerusalem’s gates holds the name of its people “Moroccans’ Gate,” should not be linked to any policies aiming at abandoning the Palestinian people and betraying them in order to help the 32-year-old Saudi prince consolidate his power.

However, this does not mean that Morocco should enter into a tug-of-war with these countries. Rather, it must deal with them in a wise and pragmatic way, making foreign policy decisions that serve its strategic interests and that preserve its dignity and the dignity of its people.

Morocco’s bilateral relations with these countries should be built on mutual respect and mutual interest, rather than on empty slogans, blackmail, and provocations.

Commentator…Culled from Morocco World News

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Water Management: Morocco’s greatest threat or opportunity? By Jasper Hamann

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Morocco has its work cut out for itself when it comes to water management. While the country is rich in innovative agricultural thinking and houses high-tech institutes and is one of the world’s largest fertilizer producers, many of the country’s farmers continue to depend primarily on rainfall to supply water for agricultural production.

Morocco’s future outlook could be dire if it does not heed warnings about the ever-escalating climate crisis. As the world continues to output massive amounts of carbon and methane, droughts and extreme weather are increasingly becoming a part of daily life.

An Evolving Crisis

The last few years have aptly shown the destructive nature of the climate crisis, as Morocco has faced its worst drought in nearly half a century. While droughts were already common in the North African country, occurring on average every three years, the current trend shows that things are only going to get worse.

The UN’s sustainable development division has pointed to Morocco’s water scarcity as the  “main constraint on expansion” for its vital agricultural sector. While Morocco can have little impact on the evolution of the global climate crisis, local academics, businesses, and government are attempting to step up, and help the country prepare for what is to come.

Government Response

As one of Morocco’s top officials on this dossier, Minister of Equipment and Water Nizar Baraka in May pointed out that Morocco is set to lose 30% of its current water resources by 2050. Baraka has called for the need for the country to invest in water efficiency, and emphasized the need for “hydro-diplomacy,” to establish solid international agreements to prevent future water resources from dwindling water supplies.

Meanwhile, the government is mustering its financial resources to aim to protect Morocco’s water supply, while making satellite data available to better manage the country’s outdated irrigation networks.

In January, the cabinet allocated $260 million for its 2021-2022 water emergency plan, yet such amounts can only provide minor temporary solutions. The country’s Court of Auditors recognized this fact in a report in March, calling for massive structural funding to update irrigation, limit water waste, and protect domestic water resources.

 

 

Funding Solutions

But billions are needed to increase, not just protect, Morocco’s water supply. Minister Baraka recognizes this and has pointed to Morocco’s expansive coastline as a possible asset where futuristic desalination plants would help convert seawater into potable water resources.

Whether desalination will be a viable option for all of Morocco remains to be seen, as experts say this prospect depends on the cost to construct the plants, creating the (sustainable) energy needed to run them, and finding solutions for its waste product, brine.

As is common with Moroccan public projects, the country is not thinking small. Instead, it is constructing the world’s largest desalination plant in Casablanca, the success of which is likely to determine whether Morocco will repeat this strategy elsewhere.

Thought leaders

“Managing water is like managing your bank account,” Dr. Abdelghani Chehbouni, Professor at Mohammed VI Polytechnic University (UM6P), recently told MWN.

The professor is part of several key innovators and thought-leaders working to address Morocco’s growing water crisis. Solutions vary from simple low-tech changes, such as moving towards drip irrigation in Moroccan agriculture, to the ultra-high-tech ideas coming from the country’s foremost knowledge institutes.

UM6P, the country’s top research institute in this area, is building on the potential of AI machine learning, drones, and other innovative technology through its dedicated research institute, the International Water Research Institute (IWRI).

Similarly, the country’s largest company, fertilizer and phosphate giant OCP Group is counting on technology to provide solutions to the growing problem facing Morocco and the rest of the world.

Private Sector

For its own operations, OCP has introduced one of the most far-reaching water conservation initiatives of any large corporation worldwide, aiming to exclusively use non-conventional water sources within a decade while already recycling much of its own water needs. “We’ll use zero fresh water by 2028,” the company has vowed.

OCP’s ambitions go far beyond its own operations, however, as the fertilizer company is investing heavily in domestic and continental initiatives to combat water stress while contributing to major international fora on the topic.

At the 2022 International Water Association’s Forum for Industrial Water Users this past Friday, OCP presented their most recent effort, an e-book to promote sustainable water use for industry.

In many ways, OCP Group’s operations present a microcosm of African water issues. Phosphate mining, transportation, and fertilizer production are water-intensive processes that mirror the growing need for water resources in Africa’s growing industrial sector and agriculture.

OCP’s approach however presents a sense of hope, as it is already applying some of the methods that governments across Africa are likely to depend on in the future.

Future African and Moroccan solutions can already be found in OCP’s current strategy of far-reaching water conservation, intensive use of desalination, and water treatment while generating much of the energy for these processes in a sustainable manner.

As Morocco, Africa, and the rest of the world scramble for solutions to growing water scarcity, Morocco’s efforts are increasingly tailored toward turning a threat into an opportunity and presenting an optimistic technology-driven vision for a sustainable future in an evolving global climate context.

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EAC presidents retire young, keep them busy and tap their knowledge by Charles Onyango-Obbo

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On Tuesday, former Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta handed power to his former deputy, William Ruto, at a colourful ceremony in Nairobi. Uhuru fell out with his deputy in 2018 and didn’t back him in the August 9 elections that Ruto won, allying with former prime minister and rival Raila Odinga instead.

Kenyatta was nevertheless gracious, showing up and doing his duty with a smile, and sitting expressionless through some awkward moments as new Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua, standing a few feet from him, shredded his record.

And off he went.

It was easy to miss one little significance of his exit.

At 60 years of age, Kenyatta was the youngest president to step down in Kenya. Both Daniel arap Moi and Mwai Kibaki retired just as their walking sticks beckoned.

Relative youthful retirement is a growing East African Community trend. Democratic Republic of Congo’s Joseph Kabila set the record in 2019 when he left the presidential palace at 49, remarkable considering that he in power for 18 years.

Burundi’s Pierre Nkurunziza, who died in June 2020, a few weeks before he was to step down following elections, was also younger than Uhuru, at 56 years.

In Somalia, a likely future EAC member, former president Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed (also known as Farmaajo), was sent packing at the age of 60, following elections in May after he was defeated by former president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud.

Previously, the youngest regular retirement in the EAC — that is, the big man is not chased by mutinous soldiers, rebels emerged from the bush, or angry street protestors — was by Julius Nyerere in Tanzania in 1985 at 64. Hard to believe for a man who left such a huge footprint on his country, Africa, and the world.

The World Health Organisation said in a recent report that life expectancy in Africa had increased by an average 10 years between 2000 and 2019.

The median age of death in Africa in 2000 was 46. By 2019 it was 56. WHO noted that while 56 was lower than the global life expectancy of 64, the 10-year increase was far higher than the overall global increase of five years.

This means by retiring today, well-fed and sufficiently medicated leaders who were on a trajectory to live much longer than the masses, anyway, could be around longer than the previous class.

If we count the leaders who stepped down and weren’t hounded off State House, Nyerere died in 1999 at 79. Kenya’s Mwai Kibaki died in April last year at 90. His predecessor, Moi, died in February 2020 at 95. There is something in Kenya’s soil. Their average age is 88. We add at least 10 years to that; then, the recent retirees will live at least 98.

If they don’t fall into depression, their planes don’t fall out of the sky, or their successors don’t hang them in a tragic turn of events, this means Kenyatta will be around until 2060. Kabila will be roaming DR Congo until 2074.

That’s a long time away. Considering that more youthful future leaders will join them, there is a need for a grand East African scheme to harvest their knowledge of statecraft and keep them meaningfully occupied. Any ideas?

Charles Onyango-Obbo is a journalist, writer, and curator of the “Wall of Great Africans”. Twitter@cobbo3

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