Wednesday, July 05, 2017

African Union: First Face Off between Morocco and Algeria-Backed Polisario  
By Saad Eddine Lamzouwaq
Morocco World News
July 3, 2017 , 7:05 am

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Rabat – As was predicted, the African Union (AU) has turned into a battlefield between Morocco and the Polisario Front’s self-proclaimed Sahrawi Democratic Republic (SDR), which is backed by Algeria.

On Saturday, a first confrontation took place inside AU headquarters in Addis Ababa  over the wording in a human rights report by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) that referred to Western Sahara as “occupied territories”.

A paragraph in the report called for a mission to be sent to the area to evaluate the situation of human rights there. The text was adopted a week before by the AU’s Permanent Representatives Committee (PRC).

The Moroccan delegation objected the paragraph and demanded it be removed or modified, and this led to the Moroccan delegation becoming involved in heated verbal exchanges with the Sahrawi and Algerian delegations.

Mediation by Nigeria helped reach a consensus after SDR, backed by six AU member states, and Morocco, supported by 16 others, both stuck to their positions.

The News Agency of Nigeria cited Nigerian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, who said that Morocco had threatened to block the work of the Executive Council meeting. The council regroups the minister of foreign affairs of the member states.

Prior to its meeting on Sunday evening, the council adopted a new version that stated that while  some delegations had suggested sending a human rights evaluation mission to the territories referred to by the United Nations as Western Sahara and the AU as SDR, the proposal was rejected by other delegations.

Moroccan-French language news outlet TelQuel quoted Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Nasser Bourita, saying that the adopted text by the Executive Council takes the kingdom’s position into consideration.

“This no longer seems a decision by the PRC. The Executive Council clearly notes that there was a debate over the issue, and that some countries were for and other against [the proposal]”, he said.

Bourita also noted that ACHPR’s president, South African Faith Pansy Tlakula, wrote in her summary of the report that the commission shouldengage in “constructive dialogue” with Morocco to come up with a simple wording that would remove the term “occupied territories” while still expressing the position of the other party and that of the PRC.

The confrontation between Moroccan and SDR and Algeria will surely not be the last. The kingdom’s reintegration to the AU in late January was meant to be the beginning of a tireless crusade against Polisario Front and its sponsor, Algeria, inside the continental bloc, which Morocco left in 1984 as result of the recognition of SDR.

The reintegration was the result of years of quiet and active diplomatic efforts that saw the kingdom grow into a key political and economic partner for several countries in western and eastern Africa.

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