JOHANNESBURG – South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Tuesday that his government “has no hesitation” in supporting the self-proclaimed Sahrawi Arab Republic (SADR) in Western Sahara.
The Polisario (Independence) Front, backed by Algeria, wants an independent state in Western Sahara, a vast expanse of desert that Morocco considers part of its own territory.
“We are concerned about the silence that prevails in the world about the struggle for self-determination by the people of Western Sahara,” Ramaphosa said during a visit by Polisario Front leader Brahim Ghali to Pretoria.
“We believe that other fights are louder (…) and therefore as South Africans we make it clear that we are in it firmly and without hesitation […] our support for the Saharawi people,” added the South African President.
“It’s a just fight, it’s a noble fight, it’s an honorable fight, a people who want to decide their own fate,” he said, comparing it to South Africa’s fight against the apartheid regime.
A former Spanish colony, Western Sahara lies at the western end of the vast desert of the same name, which stretches along the Atlantic coast.
The Polisario, which proclaimed the SADR in 1976, continues to call for a UN-planned referendum on self-determination between the warring parties to be held in 1991, with the support of Algeria.
For its part, Morocco, which controls 80% of the territory, favors the autonomy of this territory, but under its exclusive sovereignty, and opposes any referendum raising the question of independence.
Both sides are waging a bitter diplomatic battle for the support of their allies.
The UN, which considers Western Sahara a “non-autonomous territory” in the absence of a final settlement, has deployed a peacekeeping mission there called Minurso.
The African Union (AU) recognizes the Sahrawi Arab Republic as one of its members.
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