THE liberation of the people of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) should be treated by Africa and the international community with the seriousness and urgency it deserves.
For Africa, most of which won back freedom from colonisers from different European countries, liberation cannot be fully celebrated when one of their own is still trapped in the clutches of foreign domination let alone by a fellow continental nation.
The SADR has been on the agenda of the United Nations since 1963 when the territory, known then as Spanish Sahara, was placed on the UN list of Non-Self-Governing Territories under Chapter XI of the UN Charter.
The de-colonisation process of Western Sahara was interrupted when Morocco invaded and occupied parts of the territory on October 31, 1975.
The SADR was proclaimed on February 27, 1976, and its provisional capital is Bir Lehlou.
When Sadc leaders converged in Pretoria, South Africa for the Solidarity Conference with the SADR on Monday and Tuesday, they emphasised the need for the SADR, like the rest of African countries, to enjoy her freedom and self-determination.
“The hosting of this conference is most timely as it comes just two days after the commemoration of the inaugural South African Liberation Day, at Cuito Cuanavale in Angola on 23 March. The remembrance of that defining battle, which changed the course of Southern Africa’s history, must reignite our resolve towards ensuring freedom of the people of the occupied state of Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic,” said President Mnangagwa in his address at the Solidarity Conference.
He lamented that while the withdrawal of colonial powers heralded the end of respective struggles for independence, the case was different for SADR.
“For most of us in Southern Africa and indeed in Africa as a whole, the withdrawal of European colonial powers heralded the end of our struggles for independence. It ushered the dawn of a new age, that social justice, self-determination and human dignity,” said President Mnangagwa.
“Sadly, this has not been the case for the people of the Saharawi who are yet to experience the glorious state, freedom or exercise the inalienable right to self-determination. The withdrawal of Spain in 1975 only paved way for other foreign interests to impose their will on them, prolonging their bitter struggle for independence and self- determination, which continues to this day.”
The Solidarity conference came at a time when Morocco was making manoeuvres to divide Sadc on the SADR issue, a move roundly condemned by the leaders and likeminded leaders from outside Sadc.
President Mnangagwa reminded Africa of the urgent need for the continent to ensure that the people of the SADR are granted the right to self- determination.
“We cannot continue to fail the people of Western Sahara. As leaders of African countries, we should unrelentingly persist to make clarion and emphatic calls to the world, that enough is enough,” he said.
Emphasising the urgency of the SADR matter, Namibian President Hage 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.
Critically, President Geingob called for unity among member states as they tackle the SADR issue.
“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 Saharawi people in their fight for freedom and self-determination or do we need a new approach?
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.
It is against this background that Africa must be united in the fight for the liberation of the SADR so that it, like the rest of the continent, could enjoy self-rule.
It is disheartening that while the struggle for the liberation of the SADR has dragged on for so many years, some powerful countries have seen that as an opportunity to exploit the country’s resources with no benefit to the locals.
Morocco, having been re-admitted to the African Union on 2017 should respect the rules of the continental bloc in particular the AU Constitutive Act which speaks on the requirement to respect each other’s territorial integrity.
The country must do the right thing and withdraw from SADR so that the people of the Western Sahara can enjoy their freedom.