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Was Ramaphosa's speech to the AU in favor of Morocco or the Polisario ?

The 14th extraordinary session of the African Union «Silencing the Guns» Summit, held by videoconference, drew opposite reactions. Morocco and the Polisario were focused on the speech of the South African president who chairs the AU.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa. / DR
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The African Union (AU) held the fourteenth extraordinary session of the Summit by video conference on Sunday, discussing the theme «Silencing the Guns». A meeting during which African leaders agreed to extend the continent's 2020 target by another 10 years to achieve it. 

The meeting was marked by the opening speech of South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the AU, and which made Morocco and the Polisario react.

Congratulations from Morocco and the Polisario

In a story entitled «The South African President disavows Polisario separatists», Moroccan news agency MAP reported on Sunday that Cyril Ramaphosa «underlined, much to the distress of Morocco's adversaries, that the amendments to Decision 693 proposed at this summit confirm the provisions of the said decision».

«The statements of the South African head of state represent another success for Morocco in the face of the underhanded attempts and maneuvers of the enemies of the territorial integrity of the Kingdom, who are busy sowing divisions within the continent».

MAP

The news agency recalled that said decision «enshrines the exclusivity of the United Nations as a framework for the search for a solution to the regional conflict created over the Moroccan Sahara issue, while establishing the Troika mechanism to support the UN-led efforts for the settlement of this artificial dispute».

Meanwhile, the Polisario welcomed the speech of the South African president. The movement affirmed that at the end of the summit, a «draft resolution proposed by Lesotho and condemning Morocco» following the recent tensions in Guerguerate, would have been «supported by 12 African countries and approved unanimously». On Sunday, Brahim Ghali even reaffirmed the determination of his movement to continue on the path of arms, presenting the withdrawal of the Front from the ceasefire agreement of September 1991, as a «firm defense of the principles of the African Union».

Overinterpretation

However, during the opening speech of the President of the African Union, Cyril Ramaphosa was content to express his concern about the latest developments in the Sahara. «We equally express our grave concern about the current situation in Western Sahara, which demands that every effort is made to facilitate the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara», he said.

The South African President speech was also confusing for local media. According to South African newspaper The Citizen, «the South African leader also expressed concern about the situation in the Western Sahara where trouble flared up recently between Morocco and the Polisario rebels».

For its part, Chronicale indicated that «there has been an intense debate on the impasse between Western Sahara and Morocco», relaying the pro-Polisario plea of the president of Zimbabwe, Emmerson Mnangagwa.

The latter did not mention the words of Cyril Ramaphosa, although he is a great defender of the Polisario. Also relayed on the website of the South African presidency, his closing speech does not include any allusion to the Sahara.

The draft resolution in question, mentioned by the Polisario, can be summed up in two lines, where the conference «expresses its deep concern at the escalation of military tensions» between the two parties to the conflict and «asks the Peace and Security Council (…) to engage the two parties» in order to «prepare the conditions for a new ceasefire and achieve a just and lasting solution to the conflict».

However, the Front failed to mention that the Council, led for a few more months by Algerian diplomat Smail Chergui, cannot intervene on the Sahara issue, in accordance with resolution 693 adopted at the AU Summit in July 2018.

A few weeks before the replacement of Cyril Ramaphosa (close to Algiers) by Félix Antoine Tshisekedi (close to Rabat) at the head of the AU, the Polisario, which speaks of Morocco's isolation on the continental scene, has never been as isolated as it is now.

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