29 March 2019

Ghana: 31 Countries Support Peace Between Morocco and Western Sahara

The finding of an amicable solution to the conflict between Morocco and western Sahara is back on the front burner of the African Union. To this end, thirty one countries including Ghana gathered in the Moroccan city of Marrakech to push for the implementation of resolution 693, which was passed by the AU in 2018 in Nouackchot, Mauritania. Addressing the conference, Ghana's minister for Foreign Affairs and regional integration, madam Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey assured Morocco and Western Sahara, that Ghana remains committed to finding peaceful resolution to the conflict in order to accelerate development in the region.

Western Sahara was colonized in 1884 by Spain and later became a province of Spain in 1934. But in 1975 Spain pulled out handing over administration of the territory to Morocco and Mauritania. This later degenerated into conflict and the Polisario Front with support of Algeria and Libya led an insurgency against Morocco and Mauritania for 16 years.

Ghana's minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, madam Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey meets her Moroccan counterpart, Mr Nasser Bourita

In 1979, Mauritania withdrew its forces from the disputed territory, and the Polisario Front and Morocco reached a ceasefire agreement in 1991. The Polisario Front declared the establishment of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, which was not admitted into the United Nations, but won limited recognition by a number of other states.

The Polisario Front controls about 20-25% of the Western Sahara territory, as the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), and claim sovereignty over the entire territory of Western Sahara, while Morocco controls and administers the rest of the disputed territory and calls these lands its Southern Provinces.

This protracted conflict led to the pulling out of Morocco from the predecessor of the AU, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), in 1984, in protest at the body's recognition of the Western Sahara. There have been several attempts by the UN to address the problem but now there seems to be an end in sight after the return of Morocco to the AU family 33 years on.

For the first time in several years, the UN Special Envoy for Western Sahara, former president of Germany, Mr. Horst Koehler managed to bring the protagonists together in Geneva, Switzerland to chart a new path and this culminated in the AU resolution 693 in Nouackchot, Mauritania in 2018. The latest meeting in Marrakech, Morocco is a follow up on the AU position and Ghana was represented by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and regional integration, madam Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey. She described the moves by Morocco and Polisario Front to end the long dispute as refreshing and pledged Ghana's support for a peaceful resolution.

Out of the fifty four countries in Africa thirty one were present including Nigeria in Marrakech and they resolved to push for peace in the Sahara region in order to deepen the Africa integration agenda aimed at bolstering intra regional trade via the continental free trade Cfta, platform. However, South Africa, Algeria and Egypt which is the current chair of the African Union were missing at the Marrakech conference.

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