President Zuma applauded the courage of the people of Western Sahara, in their fearless struggle for freedom and self-determination.
He also paid homage to the late President Mohammed Abdelaziz, who passed away last year, without the fight for freedom of his people being realised.
“It is unfathomable that Western Sahara, more than 55 years after the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Granting of the Independence of Colonial Countries, still remains colonised. The right to freedom and human dignity was the basis upon which a democratic South Africa was founded. As such, South Africa has consistently held that any contradiction of this sacred principle would constitute a grave betrayal of our own painful struggle and our commitment to the Charter of the United Nations and the Constitutive Act of the African Union,” said President Zuma.
The year 2017 marks the 40th Anniversary of the founding of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic during a time of increased uncertainty, suffering and turmoil in the SAHEL, North and West Africa and the Middle East, plagued by acts of terror and trans-national crime.
In the light of this, President Zuma said South Africa could not deny that the prevailing stalemate also had an impact on the security of the region. “It is also in this context that the AU rightly continues to appeal for an enhanced and coordinated international action towards the organisation of a referendum for self-determination, in compliance with the OAU/AU decisions and UN resolutions and to bring the project of decolonisation to its final conclusion,” he said.
South Africa will continue to support the work of the AU Special Envoy, former President Joaquim Chissano and the country remains convinced that the continuous colonial occupation of Western Sahara by Morocco constitutes a challenge to the principles of the United Nations Charter and the authority and credibility of the world body.
The President further appealed to all parties to respect the principles of international law.
In addition, South Africa commended the Frente Polisario, representing the people of Western Sahara, for their continued commitment towards the UN-led peace process and called for both parties to resume direct negotiations in good faith and without preconditions to achieve a mutually acceptable political solution, which will provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara.
President Zuma also called for an end to the illegal exploitation of resources in the Western Sahara occupied territories.
“We further call for an end to human rights abuses against the Saharawi people and for the extension of the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) to include the monitoring of human rights. Increased humanitarian support to the Saharawi refugees who continue to live in the harsh desert conditions due to the non-resolution of the conflict is critical,” added President Zuma.
President Zuma added: “We wish to assure you, Mr President, that we remain committed to continue to walk with the people of Western Sahara until you are free to live in your own land and able to determine your own future.”