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Sahara : SADC member states torn between a Polisario conference and a Marrakech meeting

As Marrakech is hosting an African meeting on the Western Sahara conflict, Pretoria chairs a SADC conference to support the Polisario. Some African countries have decided to send delegations to both Morocco and South Africa, trying to please both parties.

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The African ministerial conference, held Monday in Marrakech./Ph. DR

While Marrakech is chairing a ministerial conference on the African Union's role in supporting the UN-led political process, South Africa is currently hosting the Southern African Development Community (SADC) solidarity conference on Western Sahara.

The two-day conference opened Monday in Pretoria, is attended by SADC’s 12 member states, in addition to a Polisario delegation headed by Brahim Ghali. The meeting is also attended by Algerian Deputy Prime Minister Ramtane Lamamra and delegations from Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela.

The event, held a few days after the second Geneva round-table on Western Sahara, will be «demonstrating (South Africa’s) ongoing commitment to the struggle of the Saharawi people», announced Pretoria’s Foreign Minister Lindiwe Sisulu in an address made public in February.

In a communiqué published Monday, the South African International Relations and Cooperation department stressed that the «SADC Solidarity Conference with Western Sahara seeks, among other things, to reaffirm the right of the people of Western Sahara to self-determination in line with the principles of the Charter of the United Nations (UN)».

SADC member states in both Marrakech and Pretoria 

Meanwhile in Marrakech, 36 African delegations have decided to participate to Morocco’s own conference on Western Sahara. The meeting, held on March the 25th and chaired by Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita, addresses resolution 693, adopted by the African Union at its 31st summit in Nouakchott.

During this summit, AU leaders «curtailed» the Peace and Security Council’s work on the Western Sahara dispute and assigned a troika of heads of state to report directly to AU assembly.

However, some African countries have chosen to attend the two meetings, held on the same day in Marrakech and in Pretoria. In fact, some member states from the Southern African Development Community (SADC), an inter-governmental organization founded in 1992 and headquartered in Gaborone, Botswana, were present in both Morocco and South Africa while others opted for Marrakech only.

Angola, for example, sent a representative to Pretoria and, at the same time, assigned its ambassador to Rabat to attend the conference in Marrakech. Malawi, did the same thing, sending its Justice Minister to the SADC conference and its Foreign Affairs Minister to the Kingdom.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo, which is a member of SADC, followed the same strategy, sending one of its ministers to Pretoria and its deputy Foreign Minister to Morocco.

Furthermore, other SADC countries preferred to send delegations, only to Marrakech, including Comoros, Madagascar, Swaziland and Tanzania. Even Zambia, which was quite hesitant on its recognition of the Polisario in last couple of years, was among the African countries that sent its Foreign Affairs Minister to the Kingdom.

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