Morocco has quit the fourth Africa-Arab World Summit in Equatorial Guinea in protest against the presence of a delegation from the Polisario Front, a group seeking the independence of Western Sahara. The Moroccan delegation made the decision to walk out of the summit in Malabo on Wednesday to protest “the presence of the emblem of a puppet entity in the meeting rooms,” the Moroccan news agency MAP quoted Morocco’s Foreign Ministry as saying.
Morocco is a major investor in Africa. “Morocco has partnerships with Central Africa, West Africa and Southern Africa. We cannot allow such a blow,” said a commentator, whose name was not mentioned in news reports. Equatorial Guinea’s Africa 24 network, which is close to the government, censured Morocco’s decision to leave the summit.
Morocco has made an official request to rejoin the African Union (AU), more than four decades after leaving the pan-African bloc in protest against the membership of Western Sahara. The country withdrew from the AU in 1984, when the mineral-rich and sparsely populated Saharan Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), commonly known as Western Sahara, was accepted as a member.
Morocco annexed Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony, in 1975. It maintains that Western Sahara is an integral part of the kingdom, but the international community has not recognized the annexation. Western Sahara is home to the Algerian-backed Polisario Front, a Sahrawi rebel national liberation movement aiming to end Moroccan presence in the territory.
In 1991, Moroccan forces and Sahrawi rebels agreed on a UN-brokered truce and a referendum to settle the status of Western Sahara. However, the vote has never taken place. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, Jordan and Yemen as well as Somalia also left the one-day summit.