Maghreb-Sub-Saharan Africa. Unreasonable assumptions of some German think tanks [Par Lahcen Haddad]

Isabel Werenfels, Senior Fellow in the Middle East and Africa Division of the Berlin-based Stiftung Wiesenschaftund Politik (German Institute for International and Security Affairs), recently wrote a short titled “Maghrebian Rivals on Sub-Saharan Africa: Looking Algeria and Tunisia”. study” published. Follow in the footsteps of Morocco. The so-called “study” is a white paper, not even a political note, although parts of it aspire to be.

It has no context and lacks scientific rigor, does not show in any way how its various assumptions are justified by facts or publications or political statements.

Nonetheless, the document is worth reviewing because it gives some idea of ​​how some German think tanks view the Maghreb’s relationship with sub-Saharan countries, as these views inform the decision-making process, particularly in Berlin. A time when Germany aspires to play an emerging role in the geo-strategic affairs of the Mediterranean and Africa.

The article provides interesting comparisons between the policies of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia in sub-Saharan Africa, but puts forward nonsensical, unfounded assumptions and therefore unnecessary policy recommendations. He declared that “Morocco is the Maghreb state with the most sophisticated sub-Saharan policy”, but its “sub-Saharan policy has heightened tensions with Algeria and fueled ambitions in Tunisia”.

Tensions between Morocco and Algeria were higher in the past, when diplomatic relations were broken and the two armies clashed in Western Sahara in the late seventies of the 20th century. Tensions over Western Sahara are tense nowadays, but only with regard to Morocco’s African strategy.

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It is true that Algiers is wary of Morocco’s successes in Africa, but its leaders are confident, nonetheless, arguing that Algeria may soon catch up, especially if oil prices rise again, and if it can capitalize on its gains. be able to redeem. , Nigeria, Ethiopia and Angola.

Isabel Werenfels’s political recommendation is as strange as the thesis: “The EU should consider these trends as an opportunity for African integration and the EU/Maghreb/Sub-Saharan triangular cooperation. It is a reflection of Algeria’s growing uselessness.” could thwart sentiment, strengthen the Tunisian economy, relativize Moroccan hegemony ambitions and thus reduce the rivalry’s negative dynamics.”

The author gives no evidence of Algeria’s growing sense of worthlessness: according to the declarations of its political leaders, it seems that Algeria considers itself at the center of things African, both economic and political. A sense of worthlessness on the part of the Algerians may be a good theory that could explain the attacks of the former Foreign Minister (Abdelkader Meshahel) on October 20, 2017 against Morocco’s successes in Africa. , RAM and CGEM response”, Le Reporter, 23/10/2017).

But the same Meshahel said at the same event (Algerian Business Leaders Summer University Forum), that Algeria is a story of economic successes unique in Africa. It would have been helpful if Isabelle Werenfels were intellectually and academically generous enough to tell us how she came to this conclusion, on what basis, what sources, what documents or information was classified or unclassified.

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The most absurd of all the hypotheses is “Moroccan hegemony ambitions.” The author mentions “Moroccan hegemony” secretly in the introduction, but never returns to the body of the text to provide evidence.

The alleged hegemony of Morocco is a recurring theme in Algeria’s opposition to Moroccan anti-colonial efforts in Western Sahara. Since France cut off much of the Eastern Sahara region from Morocco in 1955 and placed it under French control, hoping to remain in Algeria forever, Algeria still fears that Morocco may begin to claim the Sahara. Eastern when it consolidates its sovereignty over Western Sahara. Hence a representation of Morocco’s desire to fulfill its territorial integrity as an expansionist or hegemonic.

The Spaniards also adhere to this principle, especially when Morocco claims that Ceuta and Melilla are Moroccan cities occupied by Spain since the 16th century. Treating Morocco’s anti-colonial efforts as “hegemony” is not only a barely hidden proto-colonialism, but a perverse logic of role reversal so that the victims become executioners.

Because this is a recurring Algerian accusation and when it is combined with Algeria’s sense of worthlessness (a ridiculously sentimental statement), it becomes clear that Isabel Werenfels is very sensitive to attitudes from Algiers.

There’s nothing wrong or sinful in being pro-Algerian or having a soft spot for things Algerians (Isabelle Werenfels’s Twitter headline banner: “#Maghreb works at @SWP_MEA.’ Algerians have a soft spot) but academic criteria and Scholarly standards, both anchored very well in a long German tradition of rigorous research, must be observed when making statements of this nature, especially when one is aware that they may influence decision-makers.

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As I said above, in the absence of references and facts, the document is just a working white paper that does not deserve to be published by a serious organization like the StiftungWissenschaftundPolitik. Moroccan newspapers jokingly call it “Morocco to stop its African policy so that Algeria can catch it.” I would call it “a desperate call from a pro-Algerian writer to the EU to prevent Morocco from overtaking its neighbors in its African policy.” A bizarre call, sure. But what can you not do for your weak points, even if you are a seeker!

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