Malawi makes U-turn on Sahrawi recognition

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Malawi no longer recognizes the Sahrawi Arabic Democratic Republic (SADR), Foreign Affairs Minister Francis Kasaila has said.

This places the nation as the 35th one to make such an announcement.

Malawi established diplomatic relations with the SADR in 2002.

The SADR is a disputed territory claimed by both the Kingdom of Morocco and the Polisario Front. It is listed by the United Nations (UN), as a non-decolonized territory and is thus included in the United Nations List of Non-Self-Governing Territories.

Francis Kasaila

Kasaila (L) with Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita in Rabat. (Image credit- Morocco World News)

‘’Only a handful of the countries that proclaimed their backing to the Polisario and its pseudo republic at the height of the Cold War in the 1970s are still supporting the separatist movement. This waning support shows that African countries are increasingly aware of the reality of the Sahara issue and are making diplomatic decisions in accordance with international legality and the UN Charter, Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita said at the end of his meeting with his Malawian counterpart Francis Kasaila, in Rabat on Friday,’’ a post on Saharanews.com reads.

The SADR which controls about 20–25% of the territory also looks after a thin strip of area in the Western Sahara region and claims sovereignty over the entire territory of Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony.

SADR was proclaimed by the Polisario Front on February 27, 1976, in Bir Lehlou, Western Sahara, a former communist liberation force (modelled after that of Cuba) which has since reformed its ideological and political views.

In making the withdrawal, Malawi has joined in drumming up support to the UN efforts seeking to reach a lasting and mutually acceptable political solution to this regional dispute.

Malawi had also announced the withdrawal before it re-established the diplomatic ties in 2008 until 2014 when it rescinded the decision.

Meanwhile, political analyst, Wonderful Mkhutche has described the move by Malawi as something that the nation has pondered on and sees its beneficial to its dealings.

‘’ A country’s foreign policy is normally influenced by its interests. That is what makes this a strange situation. Morocco disputes the independence of SADR. Recently, Morocco rejoined the African Union after more than 30 years.’’ He said in an email response to Malawi24.

According to Mkhutche, there are no threats that Malawi would have having made this decision because it holds no partnerships with Morocco.

‘’ The situation does not threaten Malawi’s foreign interests in any way. Morocco re-joining the African Union is the main reason. It is now in a position to influence from within. This will isolate and suffocate SADR’s hopes for independence.’’ He added.

He added that the move shows that Malawi is conversant with its international polices.

Said Mkhutche‘’ By sacrificing the independence of SADR, of which it will never benefit from, over aligning itself with the African Union, where it benefits from, indicates sapience. It has also shown to the outside world the shape and direction of our foreign policy. We are not for political movements, rather, for countries and unions that best serve our interests. ‘’

The Polisario is first and foremost a nationalist organization, whose main goal is the independence of Western Sahara. It has stated that ideological disputes should be left for a future democratic Western Sahara to deal with. It views itself as a “front” encompassing all political trends in Sahrawi society, and not as a political party. As a consequence, there is no party programme.

However, the Sahrawi republic’s constitution gives a hint of the movement’s ideological context: in the early 1970s, Polisario adopted a vaguely socialist rhetoric, in line with most national liberation movements of the time, but this was eventually abandoned in favour of a non-politicized Sahrawi nationalism. By the late 1970s, references to socialism in the republic’s constitution were removed, and by 1991, the Polisario was explicitly pro-free-market.

The Polisario has stated that it will, when Sahrawi self-determination has been achieved, either function as a party within the context of a multi-party system, or be completely disbanded. This is to be decided by a Polisario Front congress upon the achievement of Western Sahara’s independence.

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