President Museveni has told the ongoing SADC Solidarity Conference on Western Sahara that Morocco must be told firmly and clearly that aggression towards Western Saharawi must stop, describing their actions as a mistake of an enemy who knows that when they fight, Africa disappears.
“As our freedom fighting beliefs we had certain perceptions in our culture. We have a Swahili saying; if somebody makes a mistake which is easy to solve, we say makosa – mistake. However, what Morocco did was not an oddly mistake. It was Ikyi nikipendo kya adui (This is an enemy action). This is not an ordinary mistake, it is an action that can only be done by the enemy and must stop.
Only the enemy can behave like this knowing that when we all fight over borders, Africa will disappear,” he said.
The President was Tuesday speaking alongside several heads of state and governments at a two day SADC Solidarity Conference on Western Sahara in Pretoria South Africa.
The 38th Ordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government of SADC approved the convening of a Conference on Solidarity with the Saharawi people. South Africa and Namibia are co-hosting the SADC Solidarity Conference with Western Sahara.
“We should be firm. At first Morocco said they had left us, we said okay for us we stay. During anti colonialist struggles, sometimes people fear to be divided. Sometimes being divided is good. Why force people to unite if they don’t want to … sometimes unity can bring disease. If somebody is sick and the other healthy you force them to unite you kill both. We have been divided before. We had the Casablanca group and Monorovia group; our elders were divided but fortunately they formed the African Union based on very strong principles in a very clever way,” he said.
Morocco does not recognise Western Sahara as a country but only as part of Morocco, an issue that has divided the AU.
Morocco returned to the African Union in January 2016 after an absence of thirty years.
Uganda has been vocal in its reservations towards Morocco’s return given its implications for Saharawi Republic which is a founding member of the OAU.
In this regard, Uganda has repeatedly stated that Morocco’s re-admittance should be on condition they agree to be bound by the AU Constitutive Charter which recognizes colonial borders.
Morocco agreed to the extent that the Constitutive Charter of the AU was aligned with their national constitution.
Their national constitution considers Western Sahara as part of Morocco. Uganda and several other countries believe this is an illegal occupation of another Member State’s territory.
Morocco would later carry out a concerted campaign to get re-admittance first and discuss the borders later.
Uganda and about nine other countries disagreed with that approach on the grounds that the UN Security Council itself had failed to resolve the issue.
Nonetheless as a minority voice, Uganda had to move along with the rest of the AU members who voted in favor.
The President said the founders of the African union realized that despite some weaknesses like some members not being serious and some jokers; but we are united.
“They formed a liberation committee of nine to liberate Africa, even when some of these were not not serious. I don’t want to recommend an approach of total division, we should not form liberation committee now or a group of front line states, but Morocco must be told firmly,” he said.
The President said at a panel chaired by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and attended by Hage Gottfried Geingob (Namibia), Brahim Ghali, (Saharawi Arab Demoratic Republic (SADR) and Emmerson Mnangagwa (Zimbabwe) that Africa was colonized because of internal weaknesses including bulkanisation. “Small kingdoms fighting one another. People who were colonized, many didn’t survive. In North America and South America same story. In Africa we survived because we were not dying easily. We survive in-spite of slave trade, colonialism, genocide, etc. We survived and struggled and eventually got independence because of many factors.”
He added: “When we got independence our leaders who met in Addis Ababa in 1963 took a wise decision and formed the African union. They said please lets leave colonial borders the way they are. They are nonsensical, don’t make sense not rational but if you try to change them, you will fight forever and will do nothing else,” he said.
Museveni said if it was not for this decision, Africa would be permanently at war. He said it was then that Africa transcended borders through economic integration forming blocks such as SADC, EAC, COMESA, ECOWAS etc.
“Some of our leaders including Mwalimu Nyerere, Abed Karume went further and formed a political union of Tanzania and Zanzibar through negotiations and free political will not by force.
Morocco and Mauritania annexed Western Sahara in 1975 after Spain, which had earlier colonised the territory, left. Resistance by the Polisario Front led to the formation of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic and the withdrawal of Mauritania from the conflict. In 2016, the then-U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had used the word occupation while referring to the Moroccan control of Western Sahara.