Polisario representative Salama Mohamed Youssef travelled to Cairo this week for a biennial African Union meeting on transportation.
Rabat – Moroccan and Sahrawi flags were both seen in Cairo this past week at an African Union specialized committee meeting.
The AU had invited officials from both Morocco and the Polisario Front to the summit, which took place from April 14-18. Polisario was represented by its secretary-general of transport, Salama Mohamed Youssef, and Morocco’s secretary of state for transport, Najib Boulif, led the Rabat delegation.
While Polisario’s invitation to the meeting was not unexpected, since the self-proclaimed SADR is an AU member state, it does conjure up memories of past diplomatic tensions raised when delegations from both Morocco and the self-proclaimed SADR arrived at international summits.
The AU’s specialized technical committees are the primary bodies in charge of its program and project implementation and work in areas that range from women’s empowerment to security and defense. They meet every two years.
The specialized technical committee that met this week in Cairo was the committee on transport, infrastructure, energy, and tourism. It was billed as the “most prominent meeting of ministers responsible for transport,” bringing together the top transport officials of AU member states and hundreds of other professionals.
Attendance from many African nations was key to push the AU’s goals for transportation forward, said Cheikh Bedda, African Union commission director of infrastructure and energy. “Our collective effort is critical,” he emphasized in his opening remarks at the meeting.
For the AU, Polisario was included in that collective action.
Throughout the week, Youssef joined other top officials from dozens of African nations to construct a vision for transportation and energy in Africa. The committee placed a particular emphasis on infrastructure development. The continent was at an important crossroads, Bedda said.
“Whether it’s a new airport in Dakar in the West or a 300 MW wind farm in the East, major road and rail links in north, central and southern Africa, or energy generation and interconnection projects in various parts of the continent, infrastructure development in Africa is leaving a mark and making a difference in the lives of ordinary people,” he said.
This week was not the first time Polisario has provoked questions about Egypt’s stance on the Western Sahara conflict. In October 2018, a representative from Polisario attended an event at the Egyptian embassy in Ethiopia, although Egyptian Ambassador to Morocco Ashraf Ibrahim said that the individual sneaked into the event and was not invited.
Egypt officially supports Morocco’s stance on Western Sahara. The African Union has proclaimed its support for the UN’s role in the conflict, most recently when 37 AU countries attended a Moroccan conference in Marrakech in March on the issue.