The King of Morocco, Mohammed VI, delivered a speech on Sunday evening on the occasion of the 47th anniversary of the Green March, a traditional event marking the important anniversary of Morocco's entry into the then Spanish province of Western Sahara, which began on 6 November 1975, just as Spain's imminent departure brought an end to the colonial period.
One of the main messages launched by the Alaouite king was aimed at the evolution of the Southern Provinces Development Programme, which is of great importance for Morocco because it seeks to develop in depth the southern part of the national territory and the area surrounding Western Sahara. A large part of the Moroccan state's efforts are aimed at boosting this area and creating well-being and wealth in the area, and at asserting the Kingdom's proposal to resolve the existing regional conflict, which involves broad autonomy for the territory under Moroccan sovereignty within the postulates set out by the United Nations (UN). This proposal has the backing of important countries such as the United States, Germany, the United Arab Emirates and Spain, some of which have even announced the opening of Consulates General in vital enclaves in the area such as Dakhla and Laayoune, something which reinforces the commitment to the territory. This is in contrast to a counter-initiative championed by Algeria and the Polisario Front, which advocates a referendum on independence for the Sahrawi people and does not enjoy the same international support as Morocco, which has developed more fruitful diplomatic efforts.
Mohammed VI urged the private sector to maintain its commitment to raise the level of productive investment in these provinces, which are very important for the Kingdom, which is demonstrated by the beginning of the speech in which the monarch indicated that "the commemoration of the 47th anniversary of the Green March is taking place within a decisive stage in the process of consolidating the Moroccan identity of the Sahara". "Indeed, if this eternal epic made the liberation of the land possible, the successive marches that we lead aim to honour the Moroccan citizen, particularly in these areas that are so dear to us. This is why our defence of the Moroccan character of the Sahara is based on a comprehensive vision that encompasses political and diplomatic action as well as the promotion of socio-economic and human development in the area", Mohammed VI explained.
"This is the context of the Development Programme for the Southern Provinces, which was signed under our Presidency in Laayoune in November 2015 and in Dakhla in February 2016," said the Alaouite King, who also explained that it is a "comprehensive development programme, with a budget of more than 77 billion dirhams, which seeks to launch a real socio-economic dynamic, creating employment and investment opportunities, and providing the necessary infrastructure and services to the area."
"This is an ambitious programme that responds to the concerns and desires of the inhabitants of the Southern Provinces, where the local and elected authorities are responsible for overseeing the implementation of their projects," said Mohammed VI. The Moroccan king also affirmed that 80% of the programme's budget has been implemented, with "positive results". Mohammed VI highlighted very important projects for the region such as the Tiznit-Dajla expressway, which has reached its final stages, as well as the connection of the area to the national electricity grid and the reinforcement of communication networks. The completion of the planned solar and wind power stations was also completed.
The Royal Court speech also announced the forthcoming start of work on the major port of Dakhla-Atlantique after completion of the various studies and administrative procedures.
On the economic front, the Alaouite monarch highlighted the materialisation of important projects in the fishing sector, which generate thousands of jobs for the local population. In the agricultural sector, he mentioned the more than 6,000 hectares of land made available to farmers in Dakhla and Boujdour. He also highlighted a number of other beneficial programmes for the area, including water and sanitation infrastructure developments, and even social and cultural projects.
"Throughout history, the Moroccan Sahara has been a human, spiritual, civilisational and economic link between Morocco and its African depths. Through the development action we are carrying out, we intend to consolidate this historical role, giving it greater openness about the future," the monarch said, demonstrating the great importance of Western Sahara for the Kingdom and the stable and royal plan that exists to make the territory progress in depth.
The King of Morocco also reiterated the Kingdom's commitment to the implementation of the Nigeria-Morocco gas pipeline project and indicated that the launching of the gas infrastructure project has taken place together with Muhammadu Buhari, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. "We are now happy to record the progress that this major project knows, in accordance with the agreed framework, signed in December 2016," the Moroccan king noted.
"The memorandum of understanding signed recently in Rabat with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and in Nouakchott with Mauritania and Senegal is a fundamental milestone in the process of implementing this project," explained Mohamed VI, who stressed the strong commitment of the countries involved to collaborate in the realisation of this "strategic project".
"Given the particular importance we attach to the partnership with West African countries, we consider that the Nigeria-Morocco gas pipeline goes beyond being a bilateral project between two brotherly countries. In view of the opportunities and guarantees it offers in the fields of energy security and economic, industrial and social development for the fifteen ECOWAS countries, in addition to Mauritania and Morocco, we want it to be a strategic project at the service of the entire West African region, whose population exceeds 440 million inhabitants," concluded Mohammed VI, demonstrating the great importance of the project for the African continent.
The full text of King Mohammed VI's speech is reproduced below:
"Praise be to God,
May peace and blessings be upon the Prophet, His Kith and Kin
The commemoration of the forty-seventh anniversary of the Green March comes at a crucial time in the process to firmly establish the Moroccanness of the Sahara.
Whereas the glorious, epic Green March made it possible to liberate that part of our territory, the continuing marches I have been spearheading aim to make sure our citizens lead a dignified life, especially in those Saharan regions, which are dear to my heart.
Hence, our action to defend the Moroccanness of the Sahara is based on a holistic approach that combines not only political and diplomatic action, but also efforts to promote economic, social and human development in the region.
The development program for the southern provinces, signed during the ceremony I presided over in Laayun, in November 2015, and in Dakhla, in February 2016, is part of that endeavor.
This is an integrated development program, with a budget in excess of 77 billion dirhams. It aims to launch a real socio-economic dynamic, create jobs and investment opportunities, and provide the region with the infrastructure and facilities it needs.
It is an ambitious program which responds to the concerns and aspirations of the inhabitants of our southern provinces. The region's local governments and elected officials are in charge of implementing the projects included under the program.
Seven years into the program, it is gratifying to note that the expenditure commitment rate stands at about 80 per cent of the total budget allocated to it.
The Tiznit-Dakhla highway is in its final stages, the region’s connection to the national electricity grid has been completed and the communication networks consolidated and extended.
Similarly, the solar and wind power plants programmed have been completed as well.
The construction of the major Dakhla-Atlantic port will begin soon, once the various studies and administrative procedures are completed.
As regards the economy, which is the main driver of development, a number of projects have been completed concerning the valorization and processing of fish products – an industry that provides thousands of jobs to the region’s inhabitants.
In the agricultural sector, more than six thousand hectares have been developed in Dakhla and Boujdour and placed at the disposal of young farmers from the region.
The implementation rate of most projects planned in the phosphate, water and sanitation sectors is quite high.
In the social and cultural sectors, many achievements have been made in the areas relating to health, education and training, support for self - employment initiatives, and the promotion of the Hassani language and culture – both of which are key constituents of our cohesive national identity.
In this regard, and in keeping with a spirit of national responsibility, I invite the private sector to continue to be engaged in productive investment in these provinces, particularly in projects of a social nature.
I also call for new prospects of action to be opened up in order to promote the development dynamic in our southern provinces, especially in the most promising sectors, the blue economy and renewable energy.
Throughout history, the Moroccan Sahara has served as a link between Morocco and its African roots at the human, spiritual, cultural and economic levels.
Through our development agenda, we seek to consolidate this historical role and make sure the region is more open to the future.
This approach is in line with the special relations Morocco enjoys with other African countries, and which I am keen to strengthen in order to serve our peoples’ shared interests.
In this regard, and together with my brother, His Excellency Muhammadu Bukhari, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, we launched the Nigeria-Morocco Gas Pipeline Project (NMGP).
Today, I am pleased to note the progress made in this major project, in line with the terms of the contract signed in December 2016.
The Memorandum of Understanding signed recently in Rabat with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and in Nouakchott, with Mauritania and Senegal, is a key building block in the completion of this project.
That signing reflects the commitment of the countries concerned to contribute to the completion of this strategic project, and attests to their desire to see it through.
Considering the special importance I attach to the partnership with West African countries, I consider the Nigeria-Morocco Gas Pipeline Project to be more than just a bilateral project between two sister nations.
In fact, I want this to be a strategic project that benefits all of West Africa – a region which is home to more than 440 million people.
The NMGP provides opportunities as well as guarantees in terms of energy security and economic, industrial and social development for the fifteen ECOWAS Member Countries, as well as for Morocco and Mauritania.
This is a project for peace, for African economic integration and for co- development: a project for the present and for future generations.
Given the continental dimension of the NMGP, I consider it to be a major flagship project which will link Africa to Europe.
I also commend the support of regional and international financing institutions, which have expressed their wish to participate in its implementation.
I should like to stress how keen we are, in Morocco, to continue to work closely, responsibly and with the utmost degree of transparency with our brothers and sisters in Nigeria, as well as with all partners, in order to implement the NMGP as soon as possible.
I also wish to point out, once again, that we are open to all forms of constructive partnership for the implementation this major African project.
To continue to be faithful to the spirit of the Green March and to its everlasting oath, we need to remain mobilized and vigilant in order to defend our nation’s unity, achieve greater progress and strengthen Morocco’s bonds with its African roots.
Let us take this opportunity to pray that Almighty God bless the soul of the architect of the Green March, my revered father, His late Majesty King Hassan II – may he rest in peace – and of all our valiant martyrs.
I also wish to pay tribute to our Royal Armed Forces, the National Police, the Royal Gendarmerie, the local authorities, the Auxiliary Forces, and the Emergency Services for their dedication, under my leadership, in defending our country’s unity, security and stability.
Wassalamu alaikum warahmatullah wabarakatuh."