President Yoweri Museveni did not mince words when he addressed the SADC Solidarity Conference with the people of Western Sahara in Pretoria on Tuesday.
Referring to Morocco’s convening of a last minute meeting on Western Sahara in Marrakech to coincide with SADC’s official solidarity conference in Pretoria, Museveni said, “This is an enemy action and it must stop. Only an enemy can behave in this manner.”
Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo told delegates that the very fact that Morocco thought it necessary to organise an alternative meeting was an indication that Morocco took the SADC Solidarity Conference seriously. “Without the action of SADC, the issue of Western Sahara was being left behind,” Obasanjo said.
Chairperson of the ANC Gwede Mantashe came out guns blazing against Morocco’s underhanded game saying, “Morocco has resources and is very good at using them to buy support. Only ten countries – most of them liberation movements in Southern Africa – had voted against Morocco becoming a member of the African Union.”
“Even during our own struggle people were bought by the other side, but the strength and unity of the masses ensured that the voices of the oppressed were heard,” Member of Parliament Mandla Mandela told Independent Media.
In a veiled criticism of SADC countries such as eSwatini, Zambia, Malawi and Madagascar, who had attended the Morocco meeting, the President of Namibia Hage Geingob said, “Morocco organised another meeting to coincide with this solidarity conference, and some SADC members are there. Is SADC united? Our aspirations as a continent won’t be achieved without the freedom of all of Africa’s people,” Geingob said.
In his opening remarks President Cyril Ramaphosa said that Oliver Tambo believed that it is the role of men and women of conscience to give voice to oppressed people everywhere.
“The world stood by South Africa, and today we stand with Western Sahara in their quest for self-determination. It has been 43 years since Western Sahara was annexed, and people have lived in the refugee camps since the 1970s. It is one of the longest running humanitarian crises in the world and the Saharawis are living in desperate conditions, relying completely on international aid. This is a blight on the human conscience, all the more so given that it was three decades ago that UN Resolution 621 called for a referendum,” Ramaphosa said.
The President of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic Brahim Ghali hailed the conference and said it was a reminder of the ruling of the European Court of Justic in 2016 and 2018 which specified that Western Sahara and Morocco are two separate and distinct states, and forbid the exploitation of the natural resources of Western Sahara without the consent of the Polisario Front. “It is a message to Morocco and the EU to stop the illegal plundering of our natural resources,” Ghali said.
The Solidarity Conference ultimately resolved that the AU must play a central role in the resolution of the Western Sahara issue, and it must be a standing item on the agenda at AU Summits. SADC agreed to hold regular solidarity conferences until the Saharawis are able to determine their own destiny. It has also called on the UN to develop a mechanism to stop the exploitation of Western Sahara’s resources.