12 March 2016

Western Sahara: Buhari Backs Western Sahara On Self-Determination From Morocco

PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari has thrown his weight behind the people of Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, SADR, otherwise called Western Sahara, stating that Nigeria would ensure the realization of their self-determination and independence.

He however said the secession would be pursued in full recognition of the several extant resolutions of the African Union, AU, on the right of the Sahrawi people for self-determination.

Checks by Vanguard indicated that the SADR is a partially recognized state that controls a thin strip of area in the Western Sahara region and claims sovereignty over the entire territory of Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony.

According to Wikipedia, the country was proclaimed by the Polisario Front on February 27, 1976, in Bir Lehlou, Western Sahara. The SADR government controls about 20-25% of the territory it claims and calls the territories under its control the Liberated Territories or the Free Zone. On the on the hand, Morocco controls and administers the rest of the disputed territory and calls the lands its Southern Provinces.

While SADR government considers the Moroccan-held territory to be occupied territory, Morocco also considers the much smaller SADR-held territory to be a buffer zone.

The claimed capital of the SADR is Laayoune, while the temporary capital which was due to the government incursion is Tifariti also previously known as Bir Lehlou.

Following the Spanish evacuation of Spanish Sahara, Spain, Morocco, and Mauritania signed the Madrid Accords on November 14, 1975, leading to both Morocco and Mauritania moving in to annex the territory of Western Sahara.

But because the United Nations did not recognize the development, Spain remained the administering power of Western Sahara.

Unfortunately, the lack of international recognition of both powers prompted war with the independence-seeking Polisario Front, claiming to represent the Sahrawi people.

The creation of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic was announced in Bir Lehlou in Western Sahara on February 27, 1976, as the Polisario declared the need for a new entity to fill what they considered a political void left by the departing Spanish colonisers.

Bir Lehlou remained in Polisario-held territory under the 1991 cease fire and has remained the government-in-exile's symbolic capital.

Also, Polisario has continued to claim the Moroccan-controlled city of El Aaiún as its actual capital as day-to-day business has continued to be conducted in the Tindouf refugee camps in Algeria which house most of the Sahrawi exile community.

Buhari's assurance

Meanwhile, receiving at State House, Abuja, on Friday, the the country's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohammed Salem Ould Salek who came as Special Envoy of SADR President, Mohammed Abdelaziz, president Buhari assured that outstanding issues on self-determination for the country would be painstakingly pursued.

The president recalled that he had given the same issue attention during his reign as a Military Head of State in 1984, also vowing to finish off from where he stopped.

He however thanked successive governments in Nigeria for staying committed on the matter.

"The issue first came up when I was in office as military head of state. After I left government, Nigeria remained steadfast on it.

"In my maiden outing at the UN General Assembly last September, the issue of Sahrawi was in my speech. You have no cause to doubt our commitment. We stand with our African Union colleagues on this issue.

"Nigeria will maintain focus till everything is finally resolved positively," the president said.

Speaking in response, the visiting Envoy expressed profound gratitude to president Buhari and Nigeria.

Remembering Nigeria's assistance, he said that his country would never forget the role Nigeria and its then military head of state, General Muhammadu Buhari played in recognizing his country in 1984, when it sought self-determination from Morocco.

"It paved the way for the UN to adopt several key resolutions on Western Sahara, elaborating a peace plan. History is now repeating itself, as you are the President of Nigeria at a time the Sahrawi issue is being put on the front burner again", he said.

Meanwhile, a statement by the Special Adviser to president Buhari on the media and publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina on the envoy's visited stated that "Since its inception, the SADR has been recognized by over 80 countries around the world, and in 1984 it became a full member of the Organization of African Unity, OAU and is a founding member of the African Union, AU."

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