Maputo — Much to the annoyance of the Mozambican hosts, the Moroccan delegation to the ministerial meeting of TICAD (Tokyo International Conference on African Development), held in Maputo on Thursday and Friday, attempted physically to prevent the delegation from the Saharan Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) from entering the conference hall, thus provoking intervention by security guards.
The angry discussions between the heads of the two delegations degenerated into pushing and shoving. The Japanese organizers of the event tried to prevent any filming of the clash. According to a report in Monday's issue of the independent newssheet “Mediafax”, the Japanese shouted in English “no cameras, please!”, as they called on security guards for assistance. The security did indeed try to keep reporters at a distance.
No explanations were given for what had happened - although it seems clear that, after its re-admission to the African Union, Morocco is now trying to exclude the SADR from African events. Morocco has been in illegal occupation of most of the SADR since Spain withdrew from the territory in 1975. Mozambique has been a strong supporter of the right of the Saharan people to self-determination and independence.
At his Friday press conference on the TICAD meeting, Mozambican Foreign Minister Oldemiro Baloi described the incident as “a misunderstanding” and an attempt to “politicize” the event.
“I think there was a misunderstanding about the concept of this event”, he said. “It's an international, multilateral event with the purpose of promoting economic and social partnership between Africa and Japan. So it's not a forum to be politicized. People do politics at the United Nations, or at the African Union, but not here”.
Without naming them, Baloi said there were people who did not understand the nature of TICAD and resorted to violence “but we quickly showed this is not a banana republic and we imposed order”.
Baloi recognized that the meeting had run the risk of being sabotaged, but ended up as a success.
On Thursday, shortly before President Filipe Nyusi formally opened the meeting, Baloi had apologised to the participants and the organizers for the incident.