Morocco’s return to the African Union (AU) after 33 years in the political and diplomatic wilderness has not gone down well with many patriotic Africans.
In this day and age it is simply unacceptable and beyond logic that one country should continue to illegally occupy another nation on very flimsy grounds.
Although 39 out of 54 countries at the AU gathering this week voted for Morocco’s pariah status to cease and for its return to the AU fold, Namibia, Botswana, Algeria, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and South Africa were against the vote, because of Rabat’s continued illegal occupation of the lands of the Sahrawi people.
The unresolved issue of Western Sahara is Africa’s oldest territorial dispute and Africans should not fold their hands and look the other way while Morocco continues its illegal colonial occupation and suppression of the aspirations of the people of Western Sahara.
With the same vigour and determination that fueled the campaign for Namibia’s independence internationally and in inspired appeals to free Nelson Mandela we should call for an end to Rabat’s illegal occupation.
Western Sahara’s independence movement, the Polisario Front, has ample support in Africa, where many countries – including Namibia – rightly regard this annexed territory as the continent’s last colony.
For years Rabat, like the South African regime of old, has claimed territorial rights over this piece of land rich in phosphates, fisheries, possibly large deposits of oil – and who knows what more?
There were insinuations that some African countries voted for Rabat’s return to the AU after they were swayed by donor money.
In the past Morocco has unconvincingly claimed it has the diplomatic clout and demeanour to settle Africa’s oldest land dispute, but there is suspicion that Rabat wants a solution on its own terms.
The only way the protracted issue can be resolved is to call the bona fide inhabitants – the long suffering Sahrawi – to hold a referendum in which they can choose between independence, integration, or alternatively, self-governance.
And since Rabat has now returned to the AU fold, let us hope African leaders will be much more principled and exert pressure on Rabat to resolve the issue of the status of Western Sahara.
For too long the issue has not received the necessary diplomatic and political support from Africa, apart from countries such as Namibia that have felt the yoke of colonialism and therefore sympathise with our brothers and sisters in Western Sahara.
Morocco was kicked out of the Organisation of African Unity – the forerunner of the AU – for violating the bloc’s values and founding principles after it colonised Sahrawi in 1975. Let us hope and ensure Rabat changes its colonialist traits and unconditionally give freedom to the Sahrawi.