AU Remedies Biases on Sahara Issue

Morocco is reaping the benefits of its return to the African Union as the continental organization is gradually remedying its past biases in the Sahara issue by affirming that the UN is the sole body that can lead talks for a solution, while calling on Algeria and Mauritania to contribute to find a lasting settlement to the regional dispute.

This came in a proposal by the Chairperson of the AU’s Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat who submitted a report to the heads of state attending the AU’s summit in Nouakchott.

The report recognizes the primacy of Morocco’s autonomy initiative as a solution to the four-decade conflict.

It says that there is a need for the African Union to adopt a stance that backs the efforts led by the UN. This means AU has to give up its parallel processes on the issue.

Recommendation 12N of the report highlights that the role of the AU is to support UN efforts and the UN Secretary General’s Personal Envoy.

The report has only referred to the UN resolutions on the Sahara calling for the parties to engage in serious negotiations in good faith and with a spirit of compromise in order to reach a fair, lasting and mutually acceptable solution.

The AU’s Peace and Security Council, long instrumentalized by Algeria and its allies, was divested from treating the Sahara issue.

The report is a victory for Moroccan diplomacy and for the AU’s neutrality on the Sahara issue. It also calls on Algeria and Mauritania to contribute to a solution to the Sahara issue.

The terminology used by the Chairperson of the AU’s Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat in referring to the Sahara conflict stands in stark contrast to the subjective way the Sahara issue was tackled by his South African Predecessor Dlamini Zuma, who turned the AU into an enemy of Morocco’s territorial integrity.

Morocco has long been at odds with the AU over the issue as it deems that the Sahara is being tackled within the framework of the UN and considers that the AU, under pressure from Algeria, has prejudged the outcome of negotiations by recognizing a separatist entity.

Morocco’s election to the Peace and Security Council further strengthens the Kingdom’s stance at the Continental organization. The Council is the supreme decision making body on peace and security issues and has been chaired by Algeria since its creation. Hence, the pro-separatist stands of AU are poised to change with Morocco and its increasing circle of allies acting as a bulwark against attempts to use the organization for separatist purposes.

The Polisario and their Algerian mentors are feeling the heat of an imminent change in the AU in favor of Morocco. Actually, the winds of change started to be felt since July 2016 at the AU’s summit in Kigali, when 28 African states submitted a motion demanding the freeze of the membership of the Polisario in the pan-African organization.

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