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Lesotho reiterates support for Western Sahara’s independence

Nthatuoa Koeshe

Newly appointed Foreign Affairs and International Relations minister ‘Matsepo Ramakoae has reiterated Lesotho’s support for the independence of Western   Sahara from Morocco.

She said the government will dispatch a special envoy to Western Sahara as well as the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and African Union (AU) to dispel “misrepresentations and distortions” regarding the country’s position on Western Sahara and to reiterate Lesotho’s principled position in support of that territory’s right to self-determination.

Her comments follow the recent controversy over the issue ignited by her predecessor Lesego Makgothi. Mr Makgothi stands accused of unliterally changing Lesotho’s long held foreign policy position in support of Western Sahara’s independence.

This after the Ministry of Foreign Affairs wrote to Morocco on 4 October 2019, saying it had decided to adopt what it called “constructive neutrality” on the issue of Western Sahara.

The move was widely interpreted as withdrawal of the support for the people of Western Sahara who have been clamouring for independence for close to five decades. It was condemned by some government ministers and diplomats including Communications, Science and Technology minister Thesele Maseribane and Lesotho’s ambassador to the African Union, Professor Mafa Sejanamane.

There were even unproven allegations that Mr Makgothi had been paid by Morocco to change Lesotho’s position on the issue.

In a statement this week, Ms Ramakoae who replaced Mr Makgothi on 21 May 2020, said Lesotho’s position was that Western Sahara should be allowed to decide in a referendum whether or not it wanted independence from Morocco.

“The Kingdom of Lesotho and Western Sahara maintain cordial bilateral relations and successive governments of Lesotho have maintained their support for Western Sahara’s right to self-determination,” Ms Ramakoae said.

“On the basis of our foreign policy which has remained virtually the same since independence, Lesotho has maintained her principled position to support the struggle for the people of Western Sahara

“It is regrettable that Western Sahara remains the only colony on the continent of Africa contrary to the principles of the United Nations Charter. The issue of Western Sahara is a question of decolonisation which remains to be completed on the basis of the exercise by the Saharawi people of their inalienable right to self-determination and independence.

“The Kingdom of Lesotho calls for the legitimate right to self-determination of those countries and nations that still do not enjoy self-determination in accordance with the United Nations principles and resolutions,” Ms Ramakoae said.

She said Lesotho’s foreign policy was collectively determined by the cabinet and any changes to the foreign policy could only be done collectively by the cabinet.

“With regard to the October 2019 diplomatic note, there was no cabinet decision to change Lesotho’s foreign policy or position on Western Sahara. As a matter of fact, the issue was never submitted for consideration by the cabinet. Therefore, any pronouncements made purporting to change Lesotho’s position on this issue are of no force and effect.

“The government therefore, pronounces Lesotho’s support for peaceful negotiations, aimed at holding the referendum between Western Sahara and Morocco on an equal footing and without pre-condition,” Ms Ramakoae said.

 

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