South Africa has committed to continue walking with the people of Saharawi until they are free to live in their own land and able to determine their own future.
“We stress our commitment to support the people of West Saharawi. We have been with them for many years and we will continue to do so. We do this because we believe that every country must have its own self-determination and full freedom,” said President Jacob Zuma on Friday.
The president was addressing the media after official talks with Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic President Brahim Ghali who is on working visit to Pretoria.
The visit, which the two countries described as “frank and comradely”, aims to further strengthen and consolidate relations between South Africa and SADR, also known as Western Sahara.
The visit comes as SADR marks the 40th anniversary of the proclamation of the SADR, which was founded in 1976. It also comes as the continuing illegal occupation of Western Sahara by the Kingdom of Morocco.
Western Sahara is Africa’s longest-running territorial dispute and an issue of continental and international law and diplomatic controversy having been on the decolonisation agenda of the United Nations (UN) and African Union (AU) for more than fifty years.
Morocco contends that the Western Sahara, a former Spanish, is an integral part of its kingdom. On the other side the Polisario Front, which is campaigning for the territory’s independence, demands a referendum on self-determination.
The SADR is a full member of the AU, while Morocco withdrew from the AU, then the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in protest at the SADR’s inclusion.
Throughout the years, Pretoria has maintained the same position on the right to self-determination for the Saharawi people as enshrined in the UN Charter and the AU Constitutive Act.
As such, President Zuma noted with concern what he labelled as a prolonged lack of progress by the UN in finding a durable solution to the struggle for self-determination in the territory on the basis of international legality.
“We hope that the new secretary general of the UN will add new impetus to the on the process to conclude the implementation of its resolutions. This is the same view that is held by the continental body; the African Union.”
Date for the referendum
The AU has been calling on the UN General Assembly to determine a date for the holding of the referendum in accordance with the International Court of Justice’s advisory opinion of 16 October 1975.
It is also appealing for the enhanced and coordinated international action towards the organisation of a referendum, in compliance with the AU decisions and UN resolutions.
“We want to see our brothers and sisters free, running their country with no interference,” said President Zuma.
President Ghali described the visit as a meeting of two allies, friends and comrades in struggle.
‘Our meeting was fruitful. We have had an opportunity to learn from our brother President Zuma and exchanged views on many interesting topics.”
He vowed that the Saharawi people will not back down on their struggle for self-determination.
“The Saharawi people are struggling to recover the total sovereignty of its state on all its national territory. However we are here to reaffirm that the Saharawi people remain committed self-determination.”
President Ghali also expressed satisfaction with the level of bilateral relations his country has with Pretoria.
He looked forward to taking lessons and partnering with South Africa in growing the economy an industries in his country.
The two leaders also discussed global and continental issues as well as matters of mutual interest