Nduduzo Tshuma in Pretoria, South Africa
PRESIDENT Mnangagwa yesterday said African leaders cannot continue to fail the people of Western Sahara, the only nation on the continent under colonisation, and should unrelentingly persist to make clarion calls to the world that enough is enough.
Speaking at the Sadc Solidarity Conference with the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), also known as Western Sahara here, President Mnangagwa said the liberation of SADR should top the continent’s priorities.
The President’s sentiments came as Sadc leaders castigated efforts to divide Africa over SADR which has been colonised by Morocco since 1975.
“The quest for sustainable peace and collective prosperity in the implementation of Africa’s Agenda 2063 will not be fully realised, while the people of the Saharawi toil and suffer in a cycle of oppression and deprivation, perpetrated by another member of the African family. The liberation of the Saharawi people should stand at the forefront of our continental priorities,” he said.
“We completely reject, in toto, the notion that the African Union (AU) has no locus standi in the dispute over Western Sahara. The belligerent parties are African fighting over territory in Africa.
“The African Union and all member States have a vested interest in this matter. In this regard, we call on all AU member States to extend their full support to the former President of Mozambique, Joaquim Chissano, in the execution of his mandate as the AU High Representative to the Western Sahara.”
President Mnangagwa called Morocco to live up to the principles of the AU’s constitutive Act which they acceded to when they rejoined the continental body in 2017 stipulating that member states should respect Borders existing on achievement on independence.
“We further urge them to respect the international human rights laws, in respect to its application in occupied territories, notably the right to freedom of association, assembly, movement and expression. In the same spirit, the illegal exploration and exploitation of the natural resources of Western Sahara by foreign forces should cease.”
President Mnangagwa called for the SADR and Morocco to find each other when the second round of their talks begin.
“In the same vein, we appeal to the international community to help establish mechanisms to engage the various stakeholders and partners, including Morocco, to adhere to the AU Decisions and United Nations Resolutions in order to expedite the conclusive settlement of this dispute,” he said.
The President’s sentiments were echoed by his Sadc counterparts including South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and Namibian President Hage Geingob who spoke before him.
President Geingob who is also Sadc chairperson said the decolonisation of Africa will not be complete until the day the people of Western Sahara decide the fate of their future status, through a free and fair referendum.
“I am aware of growing divisions on our continent on this issue. There is an agenda to divide and by so doing, render our support for Western Sahara ineffective. These tactics were employed by countries which oppressed us and those who supported the inhumane oppression we endured.
“We are told that there is a parallel meeting being held in Morocco to coincide with our meeting here and some SADC members are there. We should therefore ask ourselves, are we, as SADC, united in support of the Sahrawi people in their fight for freedom and self-determination or do we need a new approach?
“I remind this gathering that SADC was opposed to the admission of the Kingdom of Morocco into the AU fold,” he said.
“However, the majority of AU members felt it best for Morocco to be included in the AU fraternity so that we can discuss this issue as brothers and sisters.
“Now that the Kingdom of Morocco has been admitted into the AU fraternity, we thought that we will work together, at African Union and United Nations level, to ensure that like all of us, the people of Western Sahara can enjoy their inalienable right to independence and self-determination.”
President Geingob Sadc’s call for the freedom of the people of Western Sahara is not aimed at dividing the continent but is aimed at fulfilling the dreams of Africa’s founding fathers on the sovereignty of all nations.
President Ramaphosa said despite successive Security Council resolutions and decisions of the Organisation of African Unity and African Union on the need for SADR’s self-determination, nothing has changed for the people of the Western Sahara.
“While we are here to express our unwavering solidarity with the just cause of our brothers and sisters, any actions going forward must be decided upon by the Saharawi people and not any external entity,” said President Ramaphosa.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni described the continued occupation of SADR by Morocco as a mistake that can only be done by an enemy.
“Morocco must be told very clear that this enemy action must stop,” the Ugandan leader said as he bemoaned lack of unity in tackling the SADR crisis.
Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo said until all of Africa is liberated, none of the nations should celebrate independence calling on all sub regional groups to work towards a lasting solution in SADR.
President Obasanjo called on South Africa, a member of the UN Security Council, to appraise the permanent members of the UNSC of the situation in SADR.
President Mnangagwa returned home last night where he was received at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport by his two deputies Cdes Constantino Chiwenga and Kembo Mohadi, senior government officials and service chiefs.