Arab Spring jolts North Africans into a Moorish Reunion: cous-cous medley back in fashion
None of the things that the Maghreb people were waiting for actually happened. Their hopes for holding the Maghreb summit in Tunisia evaporated and it seems that the clouds piling up in the region's sky will not be chased away before the end of the year. The mere holding of the summit has become a goal by itself in order to prove that the Maghreb entity is doing well. However, the failure to hold that summit indicates that there is a large problem; one that cannot be dismissed by merely shaking hands on television.
The Arab Spring was an incentive to revive the Maghreb spirit. However, this spring was tainted by clashes that broke among conflicting factions in Tunisia and Libya. In addition, the "stray bullet" that hit Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz shoved Nouakchott into a dark tunnel. This is also the case of Algeria, which is struggling to set its affairs straight following the power struggles within the Liberation front. As to the Moroccan experience, following the access of the Justice and Development party to power, the cabinet has been pressured to step down since the very beginning.
This means that the North African countries are still far from considering the Maghreb choice as a priority. Some issues came under the limelight concomitantly with the wave of stormy changes, such as opting for the democratic choice and abiding by the verdicts of the voting ballots. In addition, issues such as the identity problems, the horizons of the civil state, and the extent of linkage between responsibility and accountability were raised. However, the Maghreb structure failed to deal with the void that should have been filled through additional efforts and initiatives.
Perhaps it would have been better not to develop major hopes concerning the possible achievements of the Arab Spring in this context, since the Spring focused on the internal concerns with the aim of bringing about interim phases to allow people to catch their breath, cease to be passive, and take initiatives. However, the shaky old entities led to the proliferation of clashes and disputes just like any revolution. Perhaps it would have been better to wait for the final outcomes of the new, perilous developments before agreeing on shaky deadlines regarding a major issue that primarily requires stability. However, the following ambitious question can be raised: Doesn't the Maghreb Union constitute an axis for that stability since it can turn the region into a harmonious and integrated place that nurtures the balanced interests of the people and the countries?
The Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki was the most optimistic party since he exposed his five options, which included the freedoms of movement, residence, investment, the flow of goods, and commodities and voting. He also visited the region and announced the near coming of the Maghreb entente. Since then, the discussions were dynamically revived but no commitments were actually made. The different parties finally agreed on holding a Maghreb summit during this coming fall or prior to the end of the year at most. The planned for current and upcoming discussions revolve around the security related, economic, customs related and educational challenges.
Meanwhile, the political aspect was dismissed, even though this dimension represents a guarantee to clearing the air and bridging the rift away from the concept of wishful thinking. Due to the problematic situation in Mali and the African Coast countries, the Maghreb countries should have united at least in order to confront the armed and radical organizations on their southern and western borders. This is further consolidated by the belief that the international stand - as expressed by the relevant resolutions of the Security Council - tends to support any political intervention in order to settle the situation and preserve Mali's unity.
In addition, the relations of the Maghreb and the African countries that are concerned with these resolutions are characterized by a certain degree of balance. The Maghreb capitals were not required to join the African forces that were about to be formed. However, these capitals were no strangers to the repercussions of that crisis, the shrapnel of which flew in every direction, mainly the neighboring Maghreb, which had no immunity in the face of the chaos, the growing terrorism phenomenon, and the threat of the instability.
However, it should be noted that the constituent treaty of the Maghreb Union does not include a clause that allows for a military intervention outside the Maghreb Union unless one of its countries was jeopardized. The African dimension was probably present in the Maghreb initiative since the Union opened its doors at the beginning for some African and Arab countries that were deemed part of the Maghreb's natural extension. Although the Maghreb Union preceded the European Union, the Europeans ended up opening their doors wide to the Eastern European countries, which came from a totalitarian camp.
Meanwhile, the North African countries merely expressed their wish to attract other countries. Back in the time, Egypt was interested in joining the Maghreb Union. However, it figured that for every step forward, the Maghreb project was making two steps backward. Thus, Egypt ended up dismissing this geographic and human extension that was once considered to constitute an urgent need. However, the African policies of the Maghreb capitals were not all proceeding on the same track. On the European level, the region's partners pushed the countries of the Mediterranean basin to show more understanding and fraternity to the extent that the Maghreb Union was forced to keep up with the Europeans in the dialogue of the 5+5 structure.
Interestingly, the Maghreb people would pack and leave to a Mediterranean capital in order to meet up with their European counterparts; or they would welcome them in the Maghreb capitals; however, they wouldn't do the same for their Maghreb counterparts. Years have elapsed with no Maghreb summits. In less than two years, two decades would have elapsed where the children who were born since 1994 would have witnessed no events bringing them together under the realm of one common history.
What do you think of the revival of this old-school Maghreb alliance? Is it just an early response to the Arab Awakening or is the Maghreb Summit back to stay? Will it restore a sense of Moorish pride in North Africa?