Analysis

AU Chair calls for calm between Sarahawi Republic and Morocco

Cyril Ramaphosa, chairman of the African Union (AU) and president of South Africa, has called on Western Sahara and Morocco to ease their growing tension arising from a dispute on the buffer zone and return to negotiations.

In a statement on Thursday, Ramaphosa urged the two parties to uphold the settlement plan, which provides for a cease-fire and the holding of a referendum for the people of Western Sahara to exercise their right to self-determination.

He also called on the United Nation’s secretary-general to urgently appoint a special envoy to Western Sahara to address the underlying cause of tensions and assist with finding lasting peace in the region.


Formerly a Spanish colony, Western Sahara was annexed by Morocco, its northern neighbor in 1975, resulting in conflict between Morocco and Polisario Front that had initially been created to fight off Spain.

In 1991, the two sides agreed to a ceasefire following a UN-brokered truce and there was the promise a referendum on independence. Unfortunately, no agreement has been reached to date and negotiations between Morocco’s government and the Polisario Front have resulted in little progress.

The official statement issued by the Presidency of South Africa:

The Chairperson of the African Union (AU), His Excellency, the President of the Republic of South Africa, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa has been made aware of the growing tension between the Western Sahara and Morocco, arising from a dispute on the buffer zone.

President Ramaphosa has asked the two countries to ease tensions and return to the negotiations. He further urges all the parties to uphold the Settlement Plan, which provides for “a cease-fire” and the holding of a referendum for the people of Western Sahara to exercise their right to self-determination.

President Ramaphosa also called upon the United Nation’s Secretary-General to urgently appoint a Special Envoy to the Western Sahara to address all the underlying causes of tensions and assist with finding lasting peace in that region.

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