Maputo — The Mozambican government has strongly condemned the attempt by Morocco to prevent a delegation from the Saharan Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) from participating in last week's ministerial meeting in Maputo of TICAD (Tokyo International Conference on African Development).
On Thursday, the first day of the meeting, the Moroccan delegation, in full sight of journalists, attempted physically to stop the SADR delegation from entering the conference hall. An angry exchange between the two delegations degenerated into shoving and pushing, which was eventually broken up by security guards.
A statement issued on Monday by the Mozambican Foreign Ministry put the blame for the incident on the shoulders of Morocco.
It pointed out that the meeting had been jointly organized by the Japanese and Mozambican authorities who had reached a consensus that all members of the African Union would be invited to take part. That included both Morocco and the SADR.
When the Moroccan delegation tried to control access to the conference centre, “it usurped the powers of the co-organisers and the host country”, said the Ministry statement. Faced with acts of violence by the Moroccans, the Mozambican government “was obliged to maintain order to guarantee the security of the other participants and ensure that the event would be held”.
“Since Morocco is a member of the African Union, Mozambique expresses is revulsion at this behavior towards another member of the organization, which is an unacceptable violation of the principles which govern healthy relations between states”, the Ministry added.
The government valued its bilateral relations with Morocco, said the statement, “but condemns this deplorable action of the Moroccan delegation, which reveals a shocking lack of composure and of respect for the President of the Republic (Filipe Nyusi, who opened the meeting), for the nature of TICAD, and for the participants”.
Much of the territory of the SADR is still under illegal Moroccan occupation. The territory was once a Spanish colony, and its liberation movement, the Polisario Front, was founded to fight against Spanish colonial rule.
But when the Spaniards pulled out, in 1975, Morocco and Mauretania invaded, dividing the country between them. Mauretania had second thoughts and withdrew in 1976 - Morocco then grabbed those parts of the territory which Mauretania had occupied.
Strongly supported by many African countries, particularly Mozambique, the SADR was admitted to membership of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), the precursor to the AU. Morocco then abandoned the OAU, and for decades has been frustrating United Nations efforts to hold a referendum on the future of the Western Sahara.
Morocco rejoined the AU in January this year, and did not make its membership conditional on expelling the SADR. Both countries are now full members of the AU, leading to hopes that there might finally be a negotiated solution that would end the Moroccan occupation.