While Morocco is building its national arms industry, Algeria has finalized a $ 7 billion contract with Russia. A new arms race opposes the two North African neighbors. Why ?
On the sidelines of the Council of Ministers chaired by King Mohammed VI in Fez, this Monday, June 28, the Moroccan monarchy has deliberated on a future national armaments industry. Meanwhile, Algerian Chief of Staff Saïd Chengriha resuscitated Russian arms purchases made by his late predecessor. Indeed, an armament contract estimated to be worth $ 7 billion has been in suspense since the death of Ahmed Gaïd Salah.
The two neighbors of North Africa have been investing in military equipment, heavy weapons, military diplomacy and cyber defense in recent months. Several cases oppose Morocco and Algeria. In this case, the endless conflict in Western Sahara and the approach vis-à-vis Libya. But not only, because Algeria also intends to resume a more active role in the fight against terrorism in the Sahel. In addition, Chengriha's three-day visit to Moscow, preceded by that of Russian armaments bosses on June 17 in Algiers, addressed this subject among others.
If on the one hand, Algeria has a powerful army and a strategic alliance with Russia. Morocco, relies more on NATO, France and Israel in the development of its military force. The Moroccan monarchy is also provided with a particularly efficient intelligence service.
Algeria seeks to maintain its military domination
However, the military capabilities of the two countries are in no way comparable. Although Morocco has tried to bridge the gap in order to remain threatening, Algeria is the 6e arms importer to the world and owns Africa's second largest and logistically flexible army.
However, the arms race started with the advent of the new Sahrawi context. Morocco has declared its intentions to "crush the Polisario Front". Algeria, for its part, renewed its cooperation with Ibrahim Ghali, which sparked a diplomatic crisis between Morocco and Spain, then a dispute between Rabat and Berlin.
Algeria remained unfazed, however. The Algerian general staff is focusing on other fronts, such as those with its immediate neighbors. On the Libyan border, Algeria faces a "Mexican impasse" with the forces of Marshal Haftar. In Mauritania, Chengriha is trying to resuscitate Cemoc, an anti-terrorist military alliance bringing together Sahelian countries and Algeria. As for Mali, Algerian President Tebboune expressed that Algiers would be ready to take over Barkhane's place if France abandons Bamako.
These African fronts of “military diplomacy” are currently inaccessible to the Shereefian kingdom. The sovereignist diplomacy of the Moroccan monarchy deals more and more with the West, and less and less with African countries. This Moroccan exodus began with its diplomatic normalization with Israel, which had excluded Morocco from the project of the new Maghreb union and aggravated its relations with the countries of southern Africa, among others.
The hard line of Algerian military alliances has remained inflexible. A choice that the HCS and the Algerian State can afford thanks to remarkable national support and continuity of the State.
Algiers, the Mecca of revolutionaries
Algeria has over 300 years of resistance to invaders in its history. As well as a secular Pan-African capital, promoted by its status of "Mecca of revolutionaries". On the African level, despite a clear superiority of Morocco at the financial level, the Pan-African intelligentsia often presents Algeria as a giant.
Indeed, the Algerian army is a sleeping giant, which allowed the country to maintain its sovereignty during the cold war and until today. It is also one of the few former French colonies to stand up to French neocolonialism. Morocco, on the other hand, saw the counterpart intention hampered by the monarchist regime. And, therefore, the economic success of Mohamed VI is often represented as a personal success of the Moroccan sovereign. While in Algeria, despite political disagreements, the patriotism of the populations is a case study.
When it comes to military might, patriotism is a paramount factor. According to scholar Sümbül Kaya, highly militarized political regimes can only succeed through patriotism. It is this Algerian quality that promotes it in the eyes of its immediate neighbors and other African countries. While Morocco is making heavy concessions with its Western allies, in order to suddenly impose itself in Africa, Algeria maintains more fluid and transparent relations with other African countries.
So, while Morocco is building its oil pipeline which passes through the west coast of the continent, in order to sign its cooperation with Niger, Algeria is more direct. The Trans-Saharan connects all the Sahelian countries, from North Africa to Lagos, passing from Bamako to Agadez in Niger. This road axis is only one example among others. Because Algeria, for a country ruled by the military, is closer to Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Mauritania, Libya etc. than Morocco, which wants to be more "democratic".
Algiers hosted the first pan-African festival in 1969, Algeria for a time became the capital of Africa. pic.twitter.com/oHUL1372Av
- LET'S GO TO ALGERIA 🇩🇿 (@museumofalgeria) April 23, 2020
Morocco: pouring water into the sand
Then, if we compare the approach of Algeria and Morocco with regard to military intervention in the Sahel, Libya or the Sahara, the differences are even more profound. Algeria has donated a military academy in Mali, military equipment in Niger and supports the training of officers from all over sub-Saharan Africa, unconditionally.
Algeria has also refuted direct intervention in the Sahel. She did not interfere in the Libyan civil war beyond talks between her diplomats and the past GNU of el-Sarraj. Above all, Algiers would only consider a military deployment in the Sahel under the aegis of the African Union. And has always encouraged the Moroccan power to find a peaceful outcome with the Polisario Front.
Meanwhile, Moroccan diplomacy proclaims that Libya is "a North African problem". The Moroccan monarchy claims the "Moroccanness" of Western Sahara against the backdrop of American approval. In the Sahelian dossier, Morocco only participates in the framework of the G5 Sahel meetings which is, let us remember, a French initiative on the sidelines of the Sahel Alliance. Finally, apart from a few Tunisian officers that Morocco has included in its military exercises under NATO, the kingdom only collaborates militarily with Western countries, and Israel, of course.
So, not only do Morocco's arms purchases in no way bring it closer to Algerian military capacity. But, moreover, the objectives are quite different. The Moroccan monarchy considers the manufacture of weapons as an objective, while the Algerian state imports its weapons to maintain its relations with its African allies and to remain quick to intervene in the fragile regions of friendly countries.
🇲🇦 | Morocco launches into the production of weapons and light defensive devices.
Yesterday, during the ministerial council in Fez, the King gave his instructions for Morocco to start producing its own weapons and exporting them. pic.twitter.com/4oWZHmWJRP
- Sawt Al-Maghreb (@SawtAlMaghreb) June 29, 2021