Algeria appears anxious about the upcoming change in AU leadership from South Africa to the Democratic Republic of Congo, whose president expressed support for Morocco’s action in Guerguerat.
Rabat – In yet another display of Algeria’s blatant disregard for the prevailing African Union (AU) consensus on the Western Sahara political process, Algerian Foreign Minister Sabri Boukadoum implored the continental body to take back the file from the UN.
Boukadoum is the latest Algerian politician to defy African Union Decision 693 of July 2018, which limited the AU’s role in the conflict’s resolution to offering support to UN-led efforts in the political process.
The AU Peace and Security Council, which Algeria leads, must “assume its responsibilities” in Western Sahara amid “the total failure of the Troika mechanism” of the AU, Boukadoum said at the 21st extraordinary session of the AU Executive Council on Wednesday.
According to the Algerian News Agency (APS), Boukadoum told his African peers that recent events in Guerguerat “have posed serious challenges that could endanger peace and security in the whole region.”
The Algerian foreign minister is undoubtedly referring to Morocco’s action on November 13 to secure the Guerguerat border crossing that connects Morocco and Mauritania. After the UN failed to lift a Polisario-led blockade of the crossing, Morocco’s armed forces carried out a non-offensive operation to restore traffic, earning widespread support in Africa and abroad.
The support for Morocco’s action against the Algeria-backed Polisario militias unsurprisingly angered Algiers. Boukadoum said Wednesday that “Algeria takes note of the resurgence of armed hotbeds of tension in Africa, as well as the recurrent attempts to obscure the role of the African Union and of hampering it in the discharge of its responsibilities.”
He argued that the UN political process — which has grown in favor of Morocco’s Autonomy Plan and abandoned Polisario’s referendum pitch — is “at a total impasse.”
The only solution, in the Algerian foreign minister’s eyes, is for the AU Peace and Security Council to “assume the responsibility incumbent upon it, in accordance with the text of its protocol of establishment.”
Boukadoum’s appeal adds to other recent incidents within the organization that have exposed Algeria’s frustration with the AU’s hands-off approach to the Western Sahara conflict.
Smail Chergui is an Algerian diplomat who serves as the AU Commissioner for Peace and Security. He was responsible for drafting the statement the Peace and Security Commission would present at the 14th Extraordinary Session of the Assembly on Silencing the Guns on December 6.
He wrote in the French version of the draft declaration that the heads of state of the AU reiterate their “firm commitment to end to all the vicissitudes of colonialism in Africa and to quickly allow for self-determination for the people of Western Sahara.”
Chergui’s French statement also says the AU heads of state are determined to push for “the self-determination of the Sahrawi people” in “accordance with the relevant decisions of the AU.”
His English draft of the declaration, on the other hand, did not reference “self-determination” or the “Sahrawi people.”
AU Commission President Moussa Faki Mahamat previously warned Chergui against defying the AU’s prevailing consensus on the process to resolve the Sahara question, and the Algerian diplomat’s latest maneuver earned him yet another reprimand.
A similar incident occurred a few days after Morocco’s operation to secure the Guerguerat border crossing. Algerian politician Jamal Bouras, who is acting as interim president of the Pan-African Parliament (PAP), released a unilateral statement on the affair.
He said PAP, “which is the legislative organ of the African Union, is following with concern the recent and increasing tensions in Western Sahara, especially in the buffer zone in Guerguerat, which threatens the fragile truce that has been in place since 1991.”
His statement expressed PAP’s readiness to “accompany the African Union’s efforts to find permanent solutions to the Western Sahara conflict in accordance with international resolutions.”
Like those of Chergui and Boukadoum, Bouras’ statement was in clear defiance of the AU consensus on Western Sahara efforts.
With the UN process increasingly seeming to favor Morocco, Algeria is making last-ditch attempts to wield its role within the AU to shore up support for its Polisario Front.
Algeria appears anxious about the upcoming change in AU leadership, from South Africa, an ally of Algeria, to the Democratic Republic of Congo, whose President Felix Antoine Tshisekedi expressed support for Morocco’s action in Guerguerat and received a high-ranking Moroccan diplomat this week.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has tried but ultimately failed to pursue a pro-Polisario agenda during his tenure as AU president. The DRC’s ascension to the presidency in January 2021 poses yet another threat to Polisario’s cause on the African continent, where more and more countries are moving to Rabat’s corner.