- The government of Morocco has announced it will send 27 farming experts and technicians to Niger "to work with local experts", as part of an agreement between the two countries. Hailed as a praiseworthy "South-South cooperation programme", Morocco's aid to Niger is indeed a repay for Niamey's support of the Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara.
Morocco, one of the poorest nations in North Africa, recently has become noticed for its growing aid to sub-Saharan nations. This aid is however only channelled to a few countries, namely those who support Morocco's occupation of Western Sahara. Focus is in particular on Senegal, Benin and Niger. Morocco's King Mohammed VI visited these three countries in June last year.
Niger's President Mamadou Tandja is a personal friend of Morocco. He has paid several private visits to Rabat, including to get medical treatments. King Mohammed VI thus was received with all honours the last time he visited Niamey, with the Nigerien government seeing to that about 30,000 people greeted the monarch in the streets of the capital. Several cooperation accords were signed during the visit.
The Nigerien host in June last year did not have to publicly reaffirm his views on the Western Sahara conflict. Niger government officials on several occasions have stated that Niamey backs "Morocco's territorial integrity," which translates to the occupation of Western Sahara.
Niger has never recognised the exiled government of the Saharawi republic, which is a full-fledged member of the African Union (AU). Several poor African countries over the last years have also withdrawn their recognition of the government of Western Sahara, including Benin in 1997. Benin since that has started receiving Moroccan aid.
The close friendship between Rabat and Niamey however dates back to 1982, when the Morocco-Niger commission was set up. Niger, which is the world's second poorest country (after Sierra Leone), has supported Moroccan claims to Western Sahara since the 1980s and in exchange achieved the signing of a long row of development accords.
The latest award given the Niger government is the sending of 27 Moroccan farming experts and technicians to the country. The agreement is part of a so-called South-South Cooperation Programme, mostly paid for by the UN's UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the Islamic Development Bank. FAO today hailed the deal as a good example of cooperation among developing countries at different stages of development "to improve agricultural productivity and ensure access to food for all."
- With this agreement, the government of Morocco demonstrates once again its commitment to helping other African countries improve their food security, commented today Henri Carsalade of FAO. "Agreements such as this allow recipient countries to benefit from the relevant strengths, experience and expertise of other developing countries in a pragmatic and cost-effective manner and play a vital role in promoting solidarity among developing countries," added Mr Carsalade.
Also the Moroccan Ambassador to the UN agencies in Rome, Tajeddine Baddou, said he took pride in his country's beneficence through this project, paid for by the Islamic Development Bank. "The Moroccan experts will contribute greatly, as they have in the past, to increasing productivity and improving access to food in the communities in which they serve," the Ambassador said.
The Nigerien government meanwhile continues its lobbying within the AU to accept Morocco's points of views heard regarding the Western Sahara conflict. Morocco is the only African country not being member of the AU, protesting the membership of the Saharawi Republic. Countries like Benin, Niger and Senegal are urging the AU to drop its support to the Sahrawis and thus include Morocco. They however do not find much support.
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