Wide Angle

Sahara : Did the Kenyan deputy president make a U-turn on his support for Morocco’s autonomy plan ?

Kenyan media this week quoted a letter sent by William Ruto to the Foreign Affairs Ministry of his country where he denies the remarks allegedly attributed to him by MAP on the Sahara issue, after his meeting with the ambassador of Morocco in Nairobi on March 23.

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Kenya's deputy president William Ruto rejected this week the assertions of the Moroccan ambassador to his country of his support for the autonomy plan presented by Morocco, calling it the «best solution» to the territorial dispute. In a letter to his country's Foreign Affairs Minister, consulted by The Star newspaper, Ruto says through Chief Ambassador Ken Osinde that the claims are «false» and «urges the ministry to deal with the matter in accordance with government protocol».

«It has come to my attention that on  March 24, 2021 through an article published in a Moroccan news agency MAP, that certain claims were attributed to H.E the Deputy President. These claims were again repeated during a TV interview on  March 26, 2021 between MEDI 1 TV channel and Ambassador of the Kingdom of Morocco to Kenya, El Mokhtar Ghambou», read the letter from Chief Ambassador Ken Osinde. 

«Note that the clip played during the interview is from a different event attended by the Deputy President and has nothing to do with the claims made by the Ambassador», Osinde wrote in the letter dated April 12. «Kenya will continue backing the independence of the Sahrawi republic, clarifying that there were no divisions in the country’s top leadership on the contentious issue», the same source added.

Support for the autonomy plan proposed by Morocco

In a story published on March 24, Morocco’s national news agency MAP reported that a meeting was held on Tuesday March 23 between the deputy president of Kenya and the Moroccan ambassador in Nairobi. «I declare as deputy president of Kenya that the autonomy plan under Moroccan sovereignty in the southern provinces is the best solution to the Sahara issue», MAP reported, attributing these remarks to William Ruto. 

«The conflict around the Sahara is only an excuse to allow Algeria to continue squandering the wealth of its people on lost causes», the official agency added. 

The Moroccan embassy said on Tuesday that it had not yet received any communication from the Foreign Ministry, The Star added. «The Embassy will be happy to respond if the Foreign Ministry can provide us with further details. In the meantime, we will allow the protocol to take its course», the Moroccan embassy said. However, it confirmed that Ruto paid a courtesy visit to the Ambassador's residence where they addressed various issues of mutual interest to the two countries.

This is not the first time that diplomatic relations between Kenya and Morocco go through a similar incident. In June 2005, the Kingdom recalled its ambassador for consultations after Nairobi's decision to recognize the «Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic». In February 2014, Kenya's opening of a «Polisario diplomatic representation» angered Rabat, although Kenya was known to support the Polisario in Africa.

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