President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, has vowed to offer what he has termed 'unapologetic' support for Western Sahara. He also slammed world leaders and the international community for double standards, saying they have continued to turn a blind eye to the country's plights.
The president believes that it is high time someone stood up in open support for the territory seeking independence from Morocco. Although there are many countries and leaders in Africa who support the independence struggle of Western Sahara, they have not matched their beliefs with actions. They do not show in their actions what they believe in their hearts.
In a statement yesterday, President Ramaphosa said his government supports "without hesitation" the self-proclaimed Sahrawi Arab Republic (SADR) in Western Sahara.
Algeria remains the only country in the African continent that has not wavered in its support for the Sahrawi Arab Republic (SADR) in Western Sahara for independence from Morocco. The Polisario Front (pro-independence) wants an independent state in Western Sahara, a vast desert area that Morocco considers part of its territory.
"We are concerned about the continuing silence in the world regarding the struggle for self-determination of the people of Western Sahara," Ramaphosa said during a visit to Pretoria by Polisario Front leader Brahim Ghali.
"We believe that other struggles are expressed more loudly ... and that is why as South Africans we clearly state that we are firm and unwavering in ... our support for the Sahrawi people," added the South African president.
"It is a just struggle, it is a noble struggle, it is an honorable struggle, a people that wants to decide its own destiny through self-determination," he said, comparing South Africa's struggle against the apartheid regime.
Western Sahara is a former Spanish colony, and the territory lies at the western end of the vast desert of the same name, which stretches along the Atlantic coast.
The Polisario, which proclaimed the SADR in 1976, continues to demand, with Algerian support, a self-determination referendum scheduled by the United Nations when a cease-fire was signed between the warring parties in 1991.
For its part, Morocco, which controls 80% of the territory, advocates autonomy for the territory, but under its exclusive sovereignty and rejects any referendum in which the question of independence would be asked.
Both sides are engaged in a bitter diplomatic battle to secure the support of their allies.
The United Nations, which considers Western Sahara a "non-self-governing territory" in the absence of a final settlement, has deployed a peacekeeping mission there, the Minurso.
However, although the African Union (AU) recognizes the Sahrawi Arab Republic as one of its members, the Union and other member states have done little or nothing to stand against the continued control of the territory by Algeria.
About Western Sahara
Western Sahara is a sparsely-populated area of mostly desert situated on the northwest coast of Africa.
A former Spanish colony, it was annexed by Morocco in 1975. Since then, it has been the subject of a long-running territorial dispute between Morocco and its indigenous Saharawi people, led by the Polisario Front.
A 16-year-long insurgency ended with a UN-brokered truce in 1991 and the promise of a referendum on independence which has yet to take place.
A buffer strip, or "berm" with landmines and fortifications, stretches the length of the disputed territory and separates the Moroccan-administered western portion from the eastern area controlled by the Polisario Front.
The Saharan Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), declared by the Polisario Front in 1976, is now recognized by many governments and is a full member of the African Union.
Home to phosphate reserves and rich fishing grounds off its coast, Western Sahara is also believed to have as yet untapped offshore oil deposits.
Credit: Africa News, BBC