Kenya: Western Sahara’s Leader in Nairobi to Attend Ruto’s Inauguration

Nairobi — Brahim Ghali, the President of Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), a partially recognized State agitating for independence from Morocco, is among leaders in the country to attend President-Elect William Ruto’s inauguration.

Ghali arrived at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on Tuesday morning where he was received by officials from the Foreign Office.

Kenya is among 41 UN member states which recognize Sahrawi and has been at the forefront championing for the de-escalation of the conflict between Sahrawi and Morocco.

During its presidency of the African Union Peace and Security Council (AU PSC) in February, Kenya prioritized discussions on the contested Western Sahara territory with President Uhuru Kenyatta convening high-level talks on February 16.

The Western Sahara matter was highlighted among key issues President Kenyatta was expected to discuss with other Heads of State, the other being violent extremism according to a detailed work plan released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the time.

“A meeting at the Heads of State and Government level will be held on 16th February which among other things will discuss the situation in Western Sahara and follow up on the Nairobi declaration on Terrorism and Violent Extremism,” the ministry outlined in a detailed agenda document on February 7.

Kenya prioritizes Western Sahara, violent extremism in AU Security Council agenda

Sahrawi Republic has been seeking to transition form a semi-autonomous region to self-rule, a push that Morocco has vehemently objected opposing proposals for Western Sahara to decide its future through a referendum.

Talks on the matter have not yielded much consensus in the past despite Morocco having committed to open dialogue following its readmission to the African Union (AU) in January 2017 after a 33-year absence to protest the recognition of Western Sahara.

The Western Sahara question has threatened to destabilize the Kenya-Morocco ties in the past, the most significant incident occurring when Western Sahara opened an embassy in Kenya in February 2014.

Kenya was also forced to issue a clarification in April 2021after Ruto reportedly endorsed Sahrawi’s bid during a private audience El Mokhtar Ghambou, Morocco’s Ambassador to Kenya.

According to the Moroccan envoy, Ruto had during the said meeting maintained that Kenya should remain impartial and support a UN peace initiative on the matter.

“Kenya should never give up its neutrality and should rather work directly with the UN to support the peace process on the Sahara issue,” the envoy quoted Ruto as saying.

“As a non-permanent member of the Security Council, it is in Kenya’s interest to support the UN peace process regarding the Sahara issue in compliance with the Heads of States Decision 693.”

Amb Ken Osinde, then Chief of Staff in the Office of the Deputy President, subsequently wrote to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs refuting the claims published by Moroccan agencies and a number of regional news outlets amid simmering tension.

“It has come to our attention that on 24th March 2021, through an article published in a Moroccan news agency MAP, that certain claims were attributed to the Deputy President. These claims were repeated during a TV interview on 26th March 2021…

Note that the clip played during the interview is from a different event attended by the Deputy President and has nothing to do with the claims made by the Ambassador,” Osinde explained in a letter addressed to Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Raychelle Omamo.

“This communication is to inform you that these claims are false and urge the Ministry to deal with the matter in accordance to Government Protocol,” he appealed.

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