Kenya risks a diplomatic spat with Morocco and other Arab states after it supported the African Union (AU) membership of Saharawi, which the Northern African country does not recognise as an independent state.
Foreign Affairs secretary Amina Mohamed on Sunday said that Kenya supports Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic’s quest for self-rule and its membership of the AU.
Last month, Arab countries, including Morocco, which is not a member of the AU, pulled out from the 4th Arab-African Summit in Equatorial Guinea, in protest against the participation of the Western Sahara state.
The countries that withdrew from the summit in solidarity with Morocco were Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, Sultanate of Oman, Jordan, Yemen and Somalia.
Speaking when she visited the Western Sahara country on Sunday, Ms Mohamed said self-determination of Saharawi was ingrained in Kenya’s ‘DNA’ and will not hesitate to support this country whose section of its territory is occupied by Morocco.
“Kenya fought for its self-determination and supports the people of Saharawi whose land is still occupied. The suffering the people of this country have undergone should come to an end,” said Ms Mohamed.
It remains to be seen whether three African countries — Egypt, Djibouti and Algeria — will vote for Ms Mohamed in her quest to be chair of Africa Union Commission (AUC). Egypt had earlier voiced its support for Ms Mohamed candidature.
The CS was in the country to deliver President Uhuru Kenyatta’s message requesting the Northern African state to support Ms Mohamed’s quest in clinching the top continental job.
Morocco took over most of Western Sahara in 1975 from colonial Spain, starting a guerilla war with the Saharawi people’s Polisario Front who say the desert territory on Africa’s northwest belongs to them.
A Western Sahara UN mission, known as MINURSO, has peacekeeping responsibilities in the region and organising a long-delayed referendum over the future of the territory, including on the question of Independence.
Morocco clashed with the UN recently when Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon used the term “occupation” during a visit to the region.
Morocco quit the AU in 1984 when Saharawi was admitted to the African Union.