The President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa on Wednesday pledged his government’s ‘unapologetic’ backing for the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) in Western Sahara which has been partially recognised.
Africa Daily News, New York reports that the disputed status of Western Sahara – a former Spanish colony widely seen as a ‘non-self-governing territory’ by the United Nations – has shown pity Morocco against the Algeria-backed pro-independence Polisario Front since the 1970s.
‘We are concerned about the silence that persists in the world about the struggle for self-determination for the people of Western Sahara,’ Ramaphosa said during a visit to Pretoria by Polisario leader Brahim Ghali.
‘We find that other struggles are articulated at a higher decibel…and that is why as South Africans we are clear, we are firm and we are unapologetic in relation to our support for Sahrawi people.’
‘It’s a just struggle, it’s a noble struggle, it’s an honourable struggle, a people who want to determine their own destiny through self-determination,’ said Ramaphosa, drawing a comparison with South Africa’s fight against the white minority apartheid regime.
The Polisario Front is campaigning for an independent state in Western Sahara, a vast stretch of phosphate-rich desert that was controlled by Spain between 1884 and 1975.
Africa Daily News, New York recalls that the Polisario proclaimed the SADR in 1976, placing it in conflict with Morocco, which considers Western Sahara to be part of its own territory.
Rabat controls nearly 80 percent of the territory and is pushing for autonomy under its sovereignty.
The international community has long backed a referendum to be held to decide the territory’s status.
But Morocco rejects any vote in which independence is an option, arguing that only granting autonomy is on the table for the sake of regional security.
The SADR is a member of the African Union and says it has been recognised by more than 80 countries.
The dynamics of the long-simmering conflict changed in 2020 when then-US president Donald Trump recognised Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara in exchange for the kingdom’s normalisation of relations with Israel.